25 April, 2009

Keep the Fleece and Linda N. Cortright of Wild Fibers magazine

I had the pleasure of meeting Linda N. Cortright, editor of Wild Fibers magazine, at the Cestari Wool Fair 2009. She talked with me about her current passion, Keep the Fleece, that springs out of her desire to engage knitters and other fibre folk in celebrating the U.N. International Year of Natural Fibers by raising funds for Heifer International to build the world’s largest fibre flock.

People in need around the world get training and an animal that supplies fleece for clothing and income. Knitters get to contribute rows to the world’s longest scarf. That opportunity for hands-on contribution—that is, the scarf—is what creates the sense of personal engagement Cortright is seeking from participating donors. She feels that collaboration with Heifer International will put the maximum number of fibre animals into peoples’ hands.

Fibre animals are certainly her love. Her tone was animated, focused, and articulate as she spoke about Keep the Fleece’s aspects and the process she had gone through in determining that this form of fundraising and awareness raising was the best possible.

But then she spoke the names of fibre animals: “camels, and alpacas, and yaks, and goats, and sheep; they’re all important.” Her tone left the whys and the wherefores and slipped into bliss. Those names seemed to mean much more than a taxonomical list to her. I felt each had backstories, statistics, characteristics, and strong associations with all the fibre animals she has known personally in her extensive travels.

Cortright was most recently in Africa and scheduled to go later this year to Granville Island in Vancouver, British Columbia (B.C.), Canada. I, as a British Columbian, expressed my delight at hearing she was going to speak in one of my favourite places.

I took the opportunity to mention interest around B.C. in the 100 Mile Fibre Diet, where knitters and spinners confine their fibre selection to locally available material. Inspiration comes from Alicia Smith and J.B. MacKinnon’s 100 Mile Diet, Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and the locavore movement in food. You may have heard of people trying to reduce their “food miles.”

Cortright caught the idea and was interested, so I gave her the names of two groups on the Ravelry Beta Web site, The 100 Mile Fibre Diet group and Van Isle Fibre Lovers group, and a shop in Victoria, Knotty By Nature, that promote local fibre.

While in Vancouver, Cortright will lecture at Maiwa's Textile Symposium 2009.

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