Art Beat: Making Clothes Locally Again

Aug 30, 2018

Some of Lori Evesque's naturally dyed yarn
Credit Peter Robertson

When Lori Evesque earned her degree in food and biological process engineering at Purdue University, she didn’t see herself becoming a sheep farmer - yet. She began at Kraft as a food engineer. But that changed when she was asked to create a lighter and thinner waffle by adding wood pulp. That's right - wood pulp.


Evesque left the world of “Big Ag” and became an organic farmer, raising food for her family. But then something else caught her attention: the clothing she and her family were wearing.

“There has been a trend in the fashion industry over the last 20 or 30 years,” Evesque says. “It’s called ‘fast fashion.’ If you go to a clothing store and see something you want but aren’t the type of person to buy it immediately, you’ll check back in a week or two, and it’s not even in the sale bin. The stores want you to come in often and change your wardrobe.”

Evesque says the industry depends now on the concept that wardrobes must change completely over the seasons, if not more frequently. That means unsold or "out-of-date" clothing gets dumped into landfills or donated to charities. They can be overwhelmed and ship the surplus to third-world countries, ruining their domestic cloth and clothing industries.

Sheep on Lori Evesque's Allegan County farm
Credit Peter Robertson

Evesque has moved from being an organic grower to a sheep farmer who harvests her own wool, spins it, and dyes it using plants grown on the Evesque farm— called Natural Cycles Farm, LLC.

“I started dabbling with dyeing maybe 15 years ago,” Evesque says. “There are a lot of plants that can give color to fibers. There is a much smaller number of plants available that can give colors that are color-fast and life-fast, because we do like bright colors.”

Evesque belongs to the Michigan Sheep Producers Association, and she also frequently teaches classes and workshops on growing dye plants and producing dyes.

Evesque and her natural-dyed yarn can be found at the Natural Cycles Farm booth at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market.

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