Notes from Windward: #64

Another example: The Chair of Fiber Arts

      Two sustainable fibers relevant to the Pacific Northwest are wool and linen; both of which are suitable subjects for study and sustainable practice at Windward. Using wool for outer garments, and linen for under garments, it's possible to meet one's clothing needs with materials grown and processed on site.

      Sustainable agriculture is founded on the use of certain animals to convert things humans don't want to eat into things they do want to eat and/or use. An example is the way our ducks turn bugs into eggs, downy feathers and meat, just as on a larger scale, our sheep turn grass into wool, meat and milk.

      Wool is no more uniform than, say, wood is. Suppose someone were to ask you, "Say, I've got a stack of wood. What can I make with it?" Before you could answer, the first thing you'd need to know would be, "Well, what kind of wood do you have?"

      Maybe their wood would be good for building a chest of drawers, or perhaps for making arrows, or a hand-made bucket. Different types of wood are used to make different types of things depending on the characteristics needed, and many traditional devices feature a variety of woods selected to take full advantage of the different characteristics of various wood types in order to make the different components within the product.

      So, too, with wool, which is why we have a variety of sheep in our flock, and not just one kind. We have sheep with fine, white wool that can be handspun into a scarf, and sheep with the coarse wool that is used to make persian carpets. We have sheep with wool that can be used to make a felt hat, and sheep with wool that is good for making socks because it won't felt up when you wear it. Wool characteristics differ even depending on what part of the sheep it comes from.

      The Chair of Fiber Arts would be responsible for taking our wool crop, grading and storing it for use in making a range of traditional products, or for use in the teaching of traditional crafts such as spinning, felting, weaving, fulling and dying.

      In support of this work, we not only have the sheep, but we have the gear needed to shear, wash, card and comb the wool. We have a spinning wheel to make yarn, and both a six-treadle cloth loom and a small tapestry loom for turning that yarn into fabic.

       What we don't have is someone who'd like to do this sort of craft as their primary focus, and then teach these skills to folks interested in preserving these ancient arts.

      Linen is not as well known as wool these days, but that's all the more reason to include it in a fiber arts program. Windward has the land to grow the flax, and construct the retting pools in which the stems break down to release the linen fibers. The heckling and spinning require different tools than those used for processing wool, but part of the advantage of this approach is that we have the room to store and use a range of such tools.


For an example of another potential Chair, Click Here

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 64