Vitality of Domestic Fibers

This week was National Agriculture Week, a celebration of our food and fiber systems.

With fiber systems always in mind, I took time to learn more about USDA fiber farm statistics. I previously only saw information about wool and mohair, and was excited to find information about alpaca farms. This led me to revisit the Alpaca Owner’s Association where they go into more detail about the huacaya and suri alpaca fiber quality in the U.S. The availability of this information is great, and coincides with the assessment of wool quality in California by Fibershed. In a sample of 18,900 huacaya alpacas, the more common breed, the average fiber diameter was 23.6 microns; for suri alpacas, the rarer breed, the sample of 3,300 alpacas had an average diameter of 26.6 microns. The fibers can be used for outer-layer clothing.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been looking forward to hand-spinning alpaca top that I purchased from the Autumn Mist Alpaca Mill during the Little York Fiber Festival in Fall 2014. I blended alpaca fibers with Shetland sheep wool that I got from the Winter Recess Fiber Arts Festival. Below are some photographs of my spinning process. I also integrated a gold necklace that broke this summer. I want it to have a continual life along the alpaca and wool fibers that are living extensions of the fiber animals.

This week I also volunteered to assist during two wool lab sessions for the Animal Science 3800: Sheep course at Cornell. The lab rotated to give students the opportunity to get hands-on experience with carding, hand-spinning, felting, and dyeing. It was great to meet animal science students, and see them quickly catch on to hand-spinning on my drop spindle. The timing of this lab aligned well with National Agriculture Week.

This week the Northern California Fibershed also announced upcoming events for Fall 2015. The Grow Your Jeans event on Oct. 3 will feature local organic indigo and cotton. A fashion show will present Fibershed denim, along with one-of-a-kind tops made of local fibers. The date for the annual Fibershed Wool & Fine Fiber Symposium is also set for Nov. 7. Fibershed’s novel and continuing community-based events provides hope for the future of local fibers, clothing, and textile economies.

Everyday should be National Agriculture Day based on our inherent relationships with fiber, clothing, and food systems.

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