Himalayan Wild Fibres

About a month ago, I came upon a great opportunity.  Saradippity of Ravelry found  this website and, curious, she e-mailed Ellie, the woman in charge of it, to see if she could buy some of the fibre.  It comes from the wild Himalayan stinging nettle, and has been traditionally harvested by Nepali men and women for generations.  The Himalayan Wild Fibres project is attempting to develop a market for this eco-friendly fibre, hopefully providing supplementary income to thousands of families.

This is the fibre:

Ellie’s reply was that no, the fibre is not available for sale, at least not yet.  However, she recognized that saradippity and the people of Ravelry represent a huge amount of textile expertise, not to mention a big slice of the potential market for any yarn that her enterprise produces.  Because the whole point is to create jobs for people in tiny villages, there aren’t going to be any huge mills built to deal with this stuff.  It’s manual technology all the way.  As such, Ellie suggested that saradippity gather a few people together to do a study of the fibre.  They get free samples of a fun new fibre to play with, and she gets all the results of thirty people’s experiments on yarn structure, blending with other fibres, different spinning and processing tools, and how it behaves when knitted, crocheted, and woven.  Which is where I come in.  I get to be one of the test people.

That alone is pretty cool, but that’s not the end of the story.  A few days ago Ellie found out about the Ethical Fashion Source Expo that’s happening in London (England, not Ontario) on October 6th.  She quickly contacted them and landed a spot.  But what to do?  All she has is some processed fibre, a bit of yarn, and maybe a Nepalese garment or two.  Not much for the Western fashion world to relate to.  Enter Team Ravelry!  As I type, fibre is winging its way here, and I and the others will be spinning/knitting/weaving samples and zipping them off to London for the Expo.  So.  Not only do I get to help with this awesome project, I get to display my work at an international exhibition.  Yay!

I’m expecting my bit of the fibre to arrive on Wednesday.  In the mean time, I’m spinning up a fine single of hemp to use for warp, then the nettle yarn will be weft.  I just have to come up with a fabric that will show it off as well as it possibly can.

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One Response to “Himalayan Wild Fibres”

  1. Danielle Says:

    Tee hee! That’s really cool! Hooray for exposure!!!

    On a random note, since I’m thinking about it – have you (or anyone else) ever tried dying with red onions? It did a wonderful job of dying my fingers as I chopped them at work over the summer. Though it did wash off fairly easily too.

    On another random note, you might be interested in reading a book called “Colour: Travels Through the Paintbox” by Victoria Finlay. One of my profs gave us some excerpts from it to read. The author was interested in how colours and pigments were traditionally produced, and so she traveled around the world collecting stories about the processes and importance of different colours in different places and cultures. I found it fascinating – I want to borrow the whole book from the prof.

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