22 September, 2009

Local Fibre is like Local Food

If you remember my post from yesterday, I'd run into someone I knew who's vendor at a farmers' market, and I was telling her that I'd taken up the drop spindle.

Well, I took my drop spindle and wool to that farmers' market and got to show her. She was fascinated, and so were a number of other vendors.

One asked if the roving came that way off the sheep. I described how wool comes off in locks like locks of hair which then get put through a machine to make the continuous strip of wool roving.

There was a boy who saw the drop spindle spinning and said wow. That's always fun.

One shopper didn't just ask the usual "how long does spinning take." He wanted to know what the cost benefit worked out to.

I said the raw material was maybe about a third the cost of yarn but you had to account for labour. Spinning was like vegetable gardening, I said: you buy tools and you have to learn what to do and then you put a lot of labour in. I allowed that there was the possibility of spending so much it wouldn't be cost effective, unless you're really disciplined.

He supposed that if someone gave you the wool that would make spinning economical and I agreed, saying that would be like picking walnuts up off the side of the road (to continue the gardening metaphor).

In my experience, it hasn't been the cost of fibre that's gotten me so much as the cost of wool cards, wool combs, knitting needles, and that superfluous drop spindle I bought because it's so pretty.

From stories other people have told me, it isn't the fibre for them either but the additions they've had to build on the house to hold their stash, the six spinning wheels, multiple looms, knitting machines, and so on.

It was cool to talk at the market to people who are interested in local food and say, hey, pretty much anything you can say about local food is true of local fibre. There are heritage breeds. You can get a variety of breeds or strains and promote biodiversity. There are local producers who can tell you how the fibre was raised. Buying local fibre supports the local economy. As with cooking food from a famers' market, spinning local fibre is a chance to have more control and involvement in the way you meet your daily needs.

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