I was in need of a good long day in the country. So this Saturday, my grandma and I got out of the city for the day and went to the Fall Open House at Esther’s Place, a fiber studio and retreat center. My first visit to Esther’s was actually four years ago when I was a freshman in college. At the time I was doing a lot of felting and needed some dyed wool for a blanket piece I was working on. New to the city of Chicago and the surrounding area, I researched and researched different resources to find wool-this is when I came upon Esther’s.
About an hour and a half drive from my apartment in Chicago, Esther’s is located in the charming town of Big Rock, Illinois and run by a mother-daughter team, Donna and Natasha Lehrer. With a beautiful restored 19th century Victorian building as the fiber studio and the retreat center, and the farm just three miles down the road, you feel as if you have been transported to a simpler time. When we arrived to Esther’s, Donna was quick to offer us tea and there were cookies and homemade zucchini bread on the table. My grandma and I explored the shop and the studio, and then we went on a 1:30 pm farm tour with Natasha. On the tour we got to feed some sheep. I met a very friendly chicken named Maude, as well as two ponies and an adorable barn cat.
With about fifty sheep on their farm as well as sourcing from other local Illinois flocks, they offer high quality, local, and sustainable home-dyed roving, perfect for any felting project. In addition, they sell American-made spinning wheels, weaving looms, and a variety of felting and knitting supplies.
What particularly interests me in Esther’s is their pride and genuine dedication to their American-made products. Esther’s sells wool from their own flock, as well as other Illinois flocks and is partnered with the USDA to promote wool, particularly that which our nations produces. “In 1965, 95% of the clothing in a typical American’s closet was made in America, today less then 5% of our clothes are made here.” (From the Fibershed website) I think it is important to question: where are the materials we are using coming from? Especially the textiles we are wearing? What are their origins?
If you also live in the Chicago area and would like to support Esther's you can find more information about classes, events, and their products on their website. And be sure to like them on Facebook. If you do not live in Chicago, there are a variety of different resources you can use to find a local wool provider near you.
Please check out Fibershed. “The mission of Fibershed is to change the way we clothe ourselves by supporting the creation of local textile cultures that enhance ecological balance, and utilize regional agriculture while strengthening local economies and communities.” (From the Fibershed website) Located in North California Fibershed is a great resource for learning more about local textile production.
Also the American Sheep Industry Association is a great resource to learn more about American wool.
Local Harvest is also a great resource. By entering your city and what you are looking for it will help you find many different sustainable goods-including wool!
Til next week,