new videos
hot off the press!  
    more about rocket
mass heaters here.

more videos from
the PDC here.
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

A book on designing a permaculture farm with a focus on Fiber?  RSS feed

 
Donal MacCoon
Posts: 18
Location: Madison, WI
4
forest garden tiny house wofati
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi all,

I've read numerous books on many aspects of permaculture but haven't really found one that focuses on fiber. Is there such a book or DVD or article, etc?

Thanks!
 
Dawn Montague
Posts: 8
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I can't find any books, but there are some blogs and articles. You may know about some of these already. There is a permies thread here: http://www.permies.com/t/19122/natural-fibers-materials/Holistic-Fiber-Farm. One of the links in that thread is to a blog about a permaculture farm with alpacas. Here is a podcast on the topic (woolful.com): http://woolful.com/episode-13-organic-fiber-realizing-dreams-regeneration-and-permaculture/. It is the last half that may be more interesting for permaculture. Sasha Duerr of permacouture.org seems to specialize in plant dyes that come from the by-products of food. Her blog is really interesting. Nothing necessarily about building a permaculture farm, but somebody has to be the pioneer. Maybe it's you

I would be interested in such a book or series of articles, too. My ideal farm would provide food, fuel, fiber, dye plants and medicine. Hope to have it soon.
 
Donal MacCoon
Posts: 18
Location: Madison, WI
4
forest garden tiny house wofati
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks so much, Dawn. I'll check them out!
 
r ranson
master steward
Posts: 6016
Location: Left Coast Canada
749
books chicken tiny house
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If there is a specific aspect of fibre growing that interests you, I may be able to suggest a book or two that come close to permaculture principles. But I haven't found one that focuses on it as a whole. It would be a fun book to write though.

If you have any specific (or general) questions, feel free to ask. The people here know all sorts of useful things.

My farm is excessively fibre focused, so I might be able to help too. The main thing I do these days is grow (wool, flax, nettles, alpaca, llama) and spin. But I've done most textiles in my day, and have tried many experiments on growing fibre in a sustainable way.

edited for clarity
 
Donal MacCoon
Posts: 18
Location: Madison, WI
4
forest garden tiny house wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you. My questions are vague right now which is why I'd love an intro book. Basically, wanting to know how to provide enough fiber for clothing while synergizing other yields. So, for example, some discussion about animal and plants useful for fibers but that can also work well in food systems.
 
r ranson
master steward
Posts: 6016
Location: Left Coast Canada
749
books chicken tiny house
  • Likes 16
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hmmm... Introduction. I can give a short summary of the things I wish I knew when I first started farming fibre. Maybe something here will interest you.

The first thing to consider is where you live. What you grow will depend entirely on that. So, for example, you wouldn't want to grow cotton if you live too far north or south, as cotton is not frost hardy, and it also depends on day length to produce fibre.

Learning about your local fibreshed may be the best way to get started (or Fibershed for those in the US). In all likelihood there will already be people growing fibre in your area, have a look around and see if anything inspires you.

I can't stress enough how important it is to start with something that grows well in your area.


Flax & Linen: This is insanely easy to grow where I live and requires very little if any irrigation. It's sewn early, while the soil is still damp and cool, then takes off when the summer hits. Processing the plant into cloth is a challenging learning curve - but not that hard when you get the hang of it. People who already know how to work with wool tend to have the most trouble learning. Till the earth, broadcast the seeds, grow the stuff, pull it up and dry it, ripple it, rett it, break, scrutch and hackle, then and only then can we spin it. The seeds you can save for next year's planting (seeds last about one year, upto five if properly dried - see Carol deppe's book resilient gardener on how to dry seeds for long term storage) or for eating, or for animal feed. Fibre flax won't produce as many seeds as seed flax and seed flax won't produce as nice a fibre as fibre flax.

This is my favourite fibre to wear next to my skin, and the most comfortable in warm weather. It requires very little soil fertility, but benefits from a bit of animal manure. There aren't many pests that bother flax either. For this reason, flax is well suited for organic growing techniques.

Nettles: If you live somewhere where stinging nettles grow wild, then take advantage of them. They love marshy, poorly drained, acidic, nutrient rich soil... the low marsh downhill from the compost heap. Nettles double as food for critters, food for humans, medicine for humans and livestock, dye plant, soil builder, and a fibre plant. Some people have strong allergic reactions to the sting, but the sting (supposedly) goes away when the plant is dried.

I've had limited success processing the fibre from nettles. It was very common in the middle ages, but there seems to be very limited information on how to do this. It's very similar to flax, and was often used interchangeably in the early medieval period. There are some slight differences that crop up when processing nettles to fibre. The retting and breaking is the same, but from there, it differs than linen.

Judith Mccuin has some information about how first nations on the West Coast processed nettles in one of her books.

Cotton: The plant grows well enough where I live, but it's only hardy to about 10 degrees C. So I grow it in pots and bring them inside in the winter. The day length is wrong here for the cotton flowers to set. There are some lovely natural cotton colours, green, brown, white, cream, &c. I've worked with it, and it's very enjoyable. A charkha wheel or a spindle wheel work well for making cotton thread.

Hemp, jute, sizel, &c. I haven't tried these, but they are possible depending on what part of the world you are in.

Llama: Llamas are wonderful guardian animals. Once you start keeping a few large livestock, you would probably get a llama. The llama berries (poo) are excellent on the garden. Very good for increasing the hardiness and circulation of the plants, and it requires no aging time. You apply it right out of the llama if you like. Llamas also make excellent pack animals.

A lot of people scoff at llama fibre, but I find it can be lovely. One of the biggest problems with llamas (AND EVERY FIBRE ANIMAL) is that the farmers don't seem to realize how much influence diet and minerals have on the quality of the fibre. Sure they are hardy and can live on very sparse picking, spending a few extra dollars on mineral supplements will transform the fleece from compost to award winning fibre.

Alpaca: A lot like llamas, only less useful. They make fibre, alpaca berries, and work. You can spend the big bucks and get a $40,000 alpaca, or you can rescue an abused one for free and pamper it back to good health and after a couple of years, create the most gorgeous fibre.


Both llama and alpaca fibre are about 4 times more insulating than wool. The fibre has very little crimp and a lot of weight per volume, which means that any garment made from 100% llama or alpaca fibre will hang heavy. This fibre is usually mixed with at least 30% sheeps wool, quite often a 70/30 mix wool/alpaca is popular.


Sheep: Sheep are awesome!

I love my sheep. They make manure, they mow the grass, they act in entertaining ways, they make wool, make milk and they make tasty dinners.

Once you get into fibre animals you will need to decide if you want to eat them or not. If not, then don't bother breeding them. This is my opinion. You breed sheep, it makes more sheep, if you don't 'rid yourself of the extra sheep, then you will VERY QUICKLY have too many for the land, their health will suffer, you have poor quality wool. If you don't want to eat your sheep, then see if you can find some rescue animals, and make certain the males have been wethered (balls gone).

The biggest advantage of growing sheep is that most of the cottage industry tools are designed for processing sheeps wool, or as it's know in the fibre world: WOOL. All other animals produce fibre/fiber. In English, after about the 1650s, wool refers to only sheep's fibre, although the term 'wool' was popular term for yarn in the first half of the 20th C. it was only used as a clever way of mislabeling the new synthetic fibres.

There are lots of ways one can go with sheep. One way is to find a good fibre sheep that does well in your climate. Heritage breeds will fetch a higher selling price for raw fleece, as most handspinners are well trained to want only specific kinds of wool. Specific rare breeds will also make the lambs easier to sell for breeding - you get less money this way than for meet, and you won't sell them all, but it's an option. The downside of this is that these sheep usually have a very limited genetic diversity and are more prone to problems. Depending on the breed you can't register the animal if it has mixed genetics, so if you are going purebred rout, then this is a problem you would have to live with.

What I'm doing is creating my own landrace of sheep. I've choses some starter ewes that have good genetics, then I choose a ram each year from a variety of sheep that have the traits I want. I want small sheep, with good health, easy birthing, high twinning rate, but low triplets or singles, excellent handspinning fibre, more or less a single colour per sheep, but a variety of colours within the flock, and delicious, tender adult meat. The downside of this, is that selling my fleece to spinners is very difficult as they aren't farmers and don't understand how to work with a fleece that isn't a specific breed.

With sheep, the quality of the fibre is only half genetics, the rest is care and proper mineral supplementation (which changes on location and time of year).

Goat: There are fibre goats. I've never met one. General goat care is all about training the humans to interact with the goats correctly so the goats don't become violent, and proper nutrition. I'm guessing fibre goats are the same.

Bunnies: This is your second most space saving critter.

You wouldn't think it, but the smaller the livestock is, the more time one needs to dedicate to keeping it healthy. Fibre bunnies are very time consuming.

Bunnies breed like rabbits and can very quickly become overcrowded. Most fibre bunnies don't produce good meat... so... what are you going to do with the excess bunnies? Build 8 new cages the first year, 50 new cages the next, 1500 the year after that? Breeding rabbits requires thinking about what will happen to these critters. The most horrible thing I've seen happen to bunnies is someone gets three, breeds them, changes their mind about killing them, has almost 20 rabbits living in the space barely adequate for 3.

Bunnies are tricky, but can be very rewarding if you do it right. Angora (the fibre from angora rabbits, fibre from angora goats is called something else) is a very sought after fibre and can fetch quite a decent price IF you know where to sell it. If you get a rabbit that makes good meat as well as fibre, they are the most efficient producers of animal protein of any livestock.

Looking at bunnies from a permaculture point of view is very interesting. When I raised meat rabbits I hated that the rabbits were breed to eat only commercial feed and couldn't stomach a handful of greens. Yet, when my dad was a kid, the rabbits only ate greens. There is a lot of interesting work being done with rabbits, and if I was growing them again, I think I would probably catch a wild one, make certain it's health was pristine, then breed it in with my domestic ones to increase their genetic diversity.

If one's never cared for livestock before - and pets don't count - rabbits are a good starting point. One or two fibre rabbits, not a breeding pair, learn to care for them, brush them daily, keep their nails trimmed, &c and so on.

Silk: Most common silk producing moths are either Bombex (eats mulberry) or Tussah (eats oak). You can buy the larvie pretty easily and it only requires a few cubic feet to raise them... and access to fresh trees.

There is another option for growing silk moths, and I suspect this is going to become very popular soon, is to grow indigenous moths. Where I live, the polyphemus moth is native, and will willingly eat about 2 dozen different kinds of native trees that thrive around here. They produce a large cocoon, but not as fine a silk as the more traditional moths. I suspect a bit of breading will greatly improve the quality of the silk. One of the popular methods, is to make a bag from remae and cover a branch or seedling of a tree with it, put the worms on that tree. Since it's a native species, one one that poses little threat to agricultural plants, a couple of escapees are not considered harmful. I prefer to grow mine inside just because I feel bad about letting domestic animals into the wild. Most places in North America have native silk producing moths.

Dye plants: A big part of a permaculture fibre farm would include dye plants. When I started with dying, I focused on plants that already grow in my area, then branched out to some of the other more common ones. Just a note, many dye plants can easily become invasive species.

Skills and equipment to transform fibre into cloth: How far do you want to go? Do you want to send your fibre off to the local fibre mill and get it back ready to spin, or do you want to wash and process every stage of fibre prep. If the latter, it takes a lot of time while you are learning. I can talk more about this, depending on what kind of fibre you are interested in.

Some styles of making cloth include felting, weaving, knotting, knitting, crochet, and a whole lot more. Each requires different equipment, and if you are making yarn, each benefits from different style of yarn making - all this stuff about a balanced yarn, and how you 'should' make yarn, only apply to the first few hundred yard. Making yarn for specific tasks, usually break all the rules they teach you as a novice. A lot of people have difficulty understanding this, but the end results are vastly improved if you can break your training and customize your spinning to the task.

The Big Book of Handspinning will help you here, but I warn you, it's highly technical.

Selling: This is the part most farmers have trouble with. I came to farming from the fibre world, so I already knew the members of the local guild, what shops have a focus on local artisans, &c. Most of what I sell is actually handspun yarns for knitters. My favourite yarns to spin are very fine weaving yarns however.


Resources:

<---how do I make video go happy?

a bunch of videos about fibresheds

Fibershed

TransistionVictoria, Flax to Linen Group

Flax culture, from flower to fabric by Mavis Atton

The magic of linen : flax seed to woven cloth by, Heinrich

The Intentional Spinner

Tough Love For Rams - if you have any male sheep or goats, intact or otherwise.

In Sheep's Clothing - a hand spinners guide to sheep breeds

Fleece and Fibre Sourcebook

Wormspit - everything you want to know about raising moths

Harvesting Colour

Big Book of Handspinning



Anything peak your curiosity?
 
Donal MacCoon
Posts: 18
Location: Madison, WI
4
forest garden tiny house wofati
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So totally blown away by your excellent, thoughtful, helpful response!! Wow! Perhaps you are the one to write the book! Thanks so much!
 
r ranson
master steward
Posts: 6016
Location: Left Coast Canada
749
books chicken tiny house
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Donal MacCoon wrote:So totally blown away by your excellent, thoughtful, helpful response!! Wow! Perhaps you are the one to write the book! Thanks so much!


blushes

Thank you.

I think it would be loads of fun to write a book like that... if I could get my arse in gear. I seem to get stuck after about 20 pages of type whenever I sit down to write a book. I always figured it would be a cooking book, but now that you bring up this idea... As soon as I figure out what this permaculture thing is, I could probably cram together enough info to write a first draft. If I could get my act together.

I miss university where they gave me an assignment, there was a deadline, I wrote a paper, then there was the next assignment. I think I need more discipline than I can give myself, especially when there are so many fun farming things to do.

The other problem is dyslexia. I doubt any editor would put up with my lousy writing style and spelling, not when there are far better writers out there to choose from.


Any more questions about fibre farming feel free to ask. I realized I didn't put much focus on integrating fibre into a food production system - which I think was your main question. It's easy so long as you let the animal do what's natural to it instead of trying to make it fit your needs. A bit hard to explain without another long post full of examples, but once you get it, it works wonderfully well.

There are also a large number of other fibre sources one can work into a system, from trees to fibre dogs, from camels to muskox... The possibilities are huge.

 
Jennifer Richardson
Posts: 166
Location: Columbus, Texas, USA (Colorado County). Zone 8b, verging on Zone 9. Humid subtropical, drought prone
25
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
R Ranson,

I just wanted to thank you as well for that incredible post! I have been lurking and watching this thread, as getting into fiber farming is something I'd like to do in the future (I do some handwork and needlework, so it would be great to source my own materials, and I have a few hundred acres to work with that could be much better utilized than they are now).

I really think that a book such as you and Donal MacCoon were discussing could fill a niche which is sadly empty in the permaculture world, and would be really valuable. If you ever do decide to undertake that project, I thought I'd just throw it out there that I used to make a very modest living in college by editing others' theses and Ph.D. dissertations (I was an English literature major), so if you wanted someone to sort of "pre-edit" such a book before it was handled by a professional editor, I would be totally willing to do that (for free, of course--I would consider it a privilege to help with such a project). Do feel free to contact me any time now or in the future by "Purple Mooseage" or here in the forums if that's something you'd be interested in.

Now, off to check out some of the resources you listed!
 
r ranson
master steward
Posts: 6016
Location: Left Coast Canada
749
books chicken tiny house
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've been thinking about this a great deal. Working on the farm, I find myself saying, 'that would be great info for the book' or 'it's funny that so and so fibre artest didn't realize this animal produced that fibre, I wonder if that would be something that needs writing about' and 'wow, this mineral mix makes such a difference to the fibre quality' and 'oh my, my first batch of flax retting turned out perfectly, I want to tell every random stranger that drives by my place to stop and look at this amazing flax retting'.

Writing a book seems hard, but writing a 'paper' wouldn't be. A book is like a series of related papers that we call 'chapters'... right? Why don't I test myself and see if I can write a chapter on this topic? ... but there is so much to write about.

Question: What would be the topic you would like to read about first? What chapter in this book of permaculture fibre farming would you flip to when you first pick up the not-yet-exciting book on the topic?


 
Donal MacCoon
Posts: 18
Location: Madison, WI
4
forest garden tiny house wofati
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I love the overview you gave in reply to this post. I'd love to read an overview chapter that also talked about the pros and cons about particular animals for the rest of the permaculture system. This wouldn't be the focus of the book, but probably just touch on this latter topic with references for more reading. I want to figure out what animals to use for fiber but also how they synergize with other aspects of the system and produce other yields (e.g., meat, milk).

Also, any writing I've done has been greatly facilitated by breaking it up into smaller pieces. In essence, what I'd like is perhaps the hardest one, though, the big picture integrative one that makes me then look up more detail later in the book. As in..."Oh, cool. So maybe sheep followed by poultry. Let me find out more about sheep and poultry."

So psyched you might write up some of your knowledge!
 
Jennifer Richardson
Posts: 166
Location: Columbus, Texas, USA (Colorado County). Zone 8b, verging on Zone 9. Humid subtropical, drought prone
25
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just found the notification for this topic buried in my inbox, so this reply is rather late, but...

I would love to know about any perennial fiber plants that exist--is seems that they're mostly all annuals? Or maybe just native and/or naturalized plants--something that I don't have to re-plant every year, heh. In conversations with Jay C. White Cloud, he mentioned that Spanish moss was used for fiber, being used to make incredible horse blankets, among other things. It is common here in the South (although our local population was declined severely), and it is a perennial, but it's the only perennial fiber plant I'm aware of currently. Bamboo yarn is also readily available in craft stores, etc., but I haven't seen anything on how to process it on a home scale into fiber--which would be wonderful!

And secondarily, my interest is (perhaps somewhat predictably) in the intersection of food & fiber, so plants like flax (I see you posted a topic on that, which I am about to go check out), and also food animals that are also good for fiber.
 
r ranson
master steward
Posts: 6016
Location: Left Coast Canada
749
books chicken tiny house
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You would need a good home chemistry lab to create bamboo yarn. Many of these new textiles marketed as eco-friendly are actually RAYON. Fibres like soy silk, milk silk, bamboo fibre, corn silk, mulberry silk (not to be confused with bombyx silk which is made by moth larvae fed mulberry leaves) and seacell are all made by (oversimplifying here) extracting the proteins, and chemically or physically transforming them into spinnable fibres. It's takes quite a high amount of energy, and the waste produced can be quite damaging to the local water supply. What makes these fibres eco-friendly is that they are usually produced using a fast renewable resource, like bamboo, or by transforming a waste product from other industrial manufacturing - soy silk is often made from the waste from large scale tofu making.

There are other possible problems with these new rayons, like some of the more popular ones are made from plants that are genetically engineered, like soy and corn, and/or have a high agricultural chemical input. On top of that, people who are allergic to these plants as food can also have a reaction to the fibre. For example, I am highly sensitive to soy in my diet. If I touch soy silk, I get blisters, even if I have no idea what the fibre is before I touch it. It's great fun at yarn parties, when we put on blindfolds and play guess that fibre - I always seem to get the soy silk which makes me win instantly and then not be able to spin/knit for the next few days due to blisters.


The only perennial plant fibre I know that is commonly used is cotton. Unlike most plants, with cotton we spin the fluffy stuff from around the seed instead of the plant itself. Most other plants are bast fibres, meaning we extract the long fibres from the stems or leaves of the plant - thus destroying the aboveground part of the plant to do so. Something like stinging nettles, has roots that survive underground, so I guess it would be considered perennial as well. I don't know about sizel and jute, as it won't grow here.

It would be interesting to create a perennial fibre flax. The perennial flax plants I've seen are far too branchy and put too much energy into flower production to be any use for fibre, but with a bit of breeding, it may be possible. I would love to try it, but first I need to get my hands on some perennial flax seed.

There are some trees that are also used for making fibre, cedar being the common example where I live, however, if done incorrectly it can cause permanent damage or death to the tree.

If you are fortunate enough to live somewhere where Kudzu grows, I understand it doesn't need to be replanted as it is enthusiastic about claiming every inch of land for its own. I don't know what the finished fibre would be like, as sadly we don't have kudzu here. I would grow it, except I don't know if future owners of the land would take the care to prevent it from becoming an invasive species. It's an incredible plant; good animal fodder, people food, basket making, and fibre making.







I'm away from the internet for about two weeks, but when I get back I hope to focus more attention on this idea. See you guys when the internet returns.


 
Jennifer Richardson
Posts: 166
Location: Columbus, Texas, USA (Colorado County). Zone 8b, verging on Zone 9. Humid subtropical, drought prone
25
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I...actually had no idea that cotton was a perennial, so that's embarrassing! But it grows well here (in fact a good bit of our land used to be in cotton when my dad was young), so I might try that. IDK about pest problems, though--Wikipedia says it's often grown as an annual for that reason, I don't know how well that would be compensated for in a permaculture system, but maybe worth a shot.

I don't think we have kudzu here currently (although I assume it's coming eventually...*dun dun dun*)--I didn't realize it was so useful, it seems so universally hated.

A perennial fiber flax sounds amazing! I would love to here more about that if you attempt it.
 
r ranson
master steward
Posts: 6016
Location: Left Coast Canada
749
books chicken tiny house
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Finally getting back to this idea. I'm at that summer lull between planting out my fall/winter veg and when my summer harvest comes in.

Unfortunately, I also got a new loom and have been weaving up my handspun yarn. I love it, but one can only have so many scarves. It's time to learn more about weaving clothing.

Back to focusing on writing. I think I'll start with the animals and how they work into a permaculture system. What do you think, should I post here, or share with some of you privately? If there is a chance of this becoming something more than just a conversation...?
 
Jennifer Richardson
Posts: 166
Location: Columbus, Texas, USA (Colorado County). Zone 8b, verging on Zone 9. Humid subtropical, drought prone
25
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm excited about the idea of learning more about the fiber-producing animals--I've been thinking of adding some to my system off and on for a while now (in the imaginary time I have to actually do new things), but can't decide which. Sheep? Goats? Alpacas? Rabbits? (I don't think the rabbits would appreciate our Texas heat, though). The idea of a browsing animal that might help control pasture weeds is appealing, but we have had issues with goats escaping in the past, and redoing miles and miles of mostly three-strand cattle fencing is not a prospect I want to contemplate. There seem to be a surprising number of Alpaca farms in Texas, so I may have to look into that a bit more--I know zilch about alpacas.

I think people would really appreciate you sharing such info here, but if you are thinking of publishing a book later, I don't know what issues might arise...I know of a couple of bloggers who have published in book form info that was previously published or hashed out on the web (with some editing and modification). Jacob at early retirement extreme and John Michael Greer of The Archdruid Report are two that come to mind. Maybe someone with more experience can chime in on that issue.
 
Jennifer Richardson
Posts: 166
Location: Columbus, Texas, USA (Colorado County). Zone 8b, verging on Zone 9. Humid subtropical, drought prone
25
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So, just noticed in your thread about wool insulation that Jay C. White Cloud mentioned using bison fiber, which I didn't know was a done thing...cursory Googling seems to indicate that there are a few folks doing it, I don't know what the quality of the fiber is or how easy to work with...but replacing our cattle with native bison is one of my fondest ambitions for the ranch, and if there was a fiber yield as well, that would be incredible--even worth upgrading the fencing for!
 
r ranson
master steward
Posts: 6016
Location: Left Coast Canada
749
books chicken tiny house
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Bison is an interesting fibre. Not one I'm fully up on, but I can give you some of the basics.

The fibre used for spinning is the downy undercoat from the bison, not the ... I've never met a bison but apparently they have harry outer coat to shed water and a fluffy, fine undercoat to keep them warm, the one we want is the fluffy warm one.

Bison fibre is one of the most expensive fibres at the moment, one fibre company sells it at almost fourty dollars US per oz. It is usually spun woolen long draw to make the most of it's warming quality. There are a few mills that work with it, but they are few and far between. Some people say it's the warmest fibre out there, but I've read the same remarks about several other dozen fibres.

I've tried a tiny bit of bison fibre once, it feels very much like baby camel fibre in way of texture and warmth. Of course, not everyone here has had a chance to get their paws on baby camel fibre... so, how else to describe it? Very light weight fluffy stuff, that feels hot in the hand, and gets all over your clothing. Feels like you are holding a hot cloud it's that light. It is frustrating to spin with if you are use to working with wool. I like using a spindle wheel, charkha spinning wheel, or a supported spindle where you spin off the tip (not hook).

That's all I actually KNOW about bison, although I have heard a few things that may be true, or may just be wild imaginings.

Some people have suggested that the bison shed their undercoat at least once a year, and deposit it on the fence when they scratch themselves - something like people say about old breeds of sheep. Of course, with sheep, the fibre on the fence is all felted and mucky, so I can't imagine this is a very successful way to gather bison fibre either.

Other people suggest that the farmer goes up to the bison and combs them each day to get the undercoat out - something like we can do with a goat. Then again, my very limited understanding of bison suggests that they may be slightly larger and slightly less tame than a domesticated goat. Something about being very large and wanting large areas to wander with limited contact with people? You know more than I do about this.

The other roomer I have heard is that the fibre is gathered after the slaughter but before the animal is skinned. Somehow, be it combing, shearing, or some other magic, the undercoat is removed from the skin. Since the fibre is considered a waste product, it makes bison fibre that much more eco-friendly. Again, I have no idea if this is an actual thing or just a story going around.

I'm sorry I don't know more about this fibre... yet. It's always been out of my price range. I'll keep my eyes and ears open and see if I can discover some more accurate information. In the mean time, this site may be a useful read.
 
Jennifer Richardson
Posts: 166
Location: Columbus, Texas, USA (Colorado County). Zone 8b, verging on Zone 9. Humid subtropical, drought prone
25
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you very much for the info and the link to that website! I just emailed them and asked how they harvest the undercoat, so hopefully I will hear back and can report the answer here.
 
Jennifer Richardson
Posts: 166
Location: Columbus, Texas, USA (Colorado County). Zone 8b, verging on Zone 9. Humid subtropical, drought prone
25
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
They seem like really nice, helpful people. Here is what they had to say about harvesting the fiber:

harvesting the fiber off live [bison] is difficult and dangerous, big hydraulic squeeze chutes make it barely possible. Mostly we work with shed fiber, by placing street sweeper brushes on fence posts, and harvesting it that way. You don't get much per bison, so raising them strictly for fiber is pretty much not worth it. If you harvest a 1/2 lb of shed fiber per animal, that would be lucky. Then after scouring and dehairing it yields 4-6 oz. Most of the fiber we get is from the packing plants, and taken off hides.




 
Jennifer Richardson
Posts: 166
Location: Columbus, Texas, USA (Colorado County). Zone 8b, verging on Zone 9. Humid subtropical, drought prone
25
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Came across some info that I thought I'd share about a plant we call bloodweed, AKA giant ragweed, AKA Ambrosia trifida, which is a native weed we have in very great abundance.

Apparently the stems can be retted and used for cordage/rope; the fibers are very long (it really is giant)--often over six feet. It can also be woven or used as thread.

It also (according to the internet; no one poison themselves on my account) has edible seed kernels and greens, and possibly stems.

The leaves can reportedly be used as a very pretty light green dye for wool, and the red sap (hence the name bloodweed) makes a good stain (for your hands, too.)

It also has medicinal uses, mostly topical, but reportedly Native Americans used it internally for some things too. Anecdotal reports for a topical remedy for poison ivy and minor cuts are very favorable.

It thrives under a variety of conditions (to say the least).

Some more info:

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Ambrosia+trifida

https://books.google.com/books?id=GdmGAAAAQBAJ&pg=PA48&lpg=PA48&dq=dye+giant+ragweed&source=bl&ots=CSJwW4DXm8&sig=5M9urLFUJ31FcxVn-YcnciYOcis&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CEsQ6AEwCmoVChMIkcuij8WnxwIVE3uSCh0-uQOm#v=onepage&q=dye%20giant%20ragweed&f=false

https://books.google.com/books?id=cf9d4lHo0ocC&pg=PA28&lpg=PA28&dq=make+dye+from+bloodweed&source=bl&ots=F-f2sUPNJj&sig=w8U-1jHB84MRTve9oBvfqJW2MjU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAWoVChMI5p_BjMWnxwIVijySCh24rgwi#v=onepage&q=make%20dye%20from%20bloodweed&f=false

 
Linda Listing
Posts: 43
Location: Western PA
urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just a few thoughts:

I am working on integrating plants from The Weaver's Garden by Rita Buchanon in my permaculture beds. So far, mostly dyeplants like false indigo, coreopsis, and bloodroot. These are native to my area. The book is a good source of plants to experiment with. Another book with North American dye plants is The Craft of the Dyer by Karen Leigh Casselman.

In my travels, I've spoken to a gentleman in northern Kansas who raises cotton. He claims it is the furthest north you can raise the plant. Cotton is fussy, bugs, water, fungus. Peruvian cotton is not. Look for Gossypium barbadense.

I've also run into a gentleman from Arkansas who raises Yucca for fiber. This is an under utilized plant. http://stoneageskills.com/articles/yuccafibers.html
It's something to consider.

Linda Listing
Fiber Artist
Zone 6
 
Len Ovens
pollinator
Posts: 1452
Location: Vancouver Island
29
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Not totally related... but I have noticed that my feet smell a lot less the more wool content the socks have. That my "plastic" shirts already smell really bad after just a few hours of work, but cotton shirts are ok even at the end of the day.

I have some cheap croc-like clogs, I used to get cracked feet when I wore them, then I put pure felted wool insoles in them and the problem has gone away. Leather is good too.

Natural fibers are not only good for using things close at hand, but it seems they are healthier too. I think that the bacteria that lives on the natural fibers is more compatible with our skin than the bacteria that eats plastics...
 
David Lucey
Posts: 1
Location: North Snohomish County, WA 48.2°N Zone 8a
bee chicken rabbit
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm very late to the party, but this is a fantastic thread, thank you.

To comment on something from months ago: Angora goats are the source of mohair. I don't raise them personally, but have several friends that raise them commercially. they are a smaller goat, and their temperament varies, just like all goats.

You have to be a bit more gentle about their forage due to the nature of the fiber. Goats love stemmy plants, so if there are brambles on your pasture you end up with a matted mess - full of twigs and thorns to boot. I suppose you could start the spring with some brushers to deal with the brambles then put the angoras onto it.

Other than being a very soft fleece, mohair is valued by doll makers since the fiber is very similar to a fine human hair. I can't compare it to bison or camel down for softness, but it's pretty darn soft and it sells for between four and ten US dollars an ounce, depending on quality.

Here are some pictures I found of raw mohair: https://www.etsy.com/shop/EurekaMohair

Again, thanks for the great thread.
 
Susan Doyon
Posts: 149
Location: Massachusetts
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I used to have angoras for fiber ,( now I buy from other growers , one day I may go back I miss the goats )

one controlled way to prep new areas with out having the goats stuck in the brambles and such is to use cattle or hog fencing panels they clip together and with a few temporary posts every 3-4 panels they can be used to slowly advance goats across acreage to be cleared . goats love to browse and will reach through the pannel and strip the leaves from brush and then you can come along and snip back the unwanted rose or brambles to smaller bush shapes . then advance the panels and as the goats are eating the next section the bushes they ate last week will be growing new leaves . This is really important if you want to sell your fiber .dyers and spinners that buy mohair wool or camilid fibers do not want burs ,spear grass or thorns , because it is painful to process mohair with these in it
If you decide to get into mohair doll hair give me a shout it is what I do full time . know that the price for goat hair depends on the preparation and quality . so raw hair is low and washed brings more . washed and dyed sells better and washed dyed and sorted curls even better . and if you get very good at mohair prep and learn to do long combed locks for the doll makers it can bring 30 to 90 or more Dollars per finished oz .
Sue ( shop.mohairwig is my full time web site I am a full time fiber worker)
 
Hans Quistorff
pollinator
Posts: 772
Location: Longbranch, WA
42
chicken goat rabbit solar tiny house wofati
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have a field of flax that self sows and some of it seems to be perennial. In the past it has produced tall stalks and I have shared some with the fiber arts people locally. This year was a drought so the stalks are quite short. The field is clay soil and floods up to a foot deep some winters. The flax seems to be able to grow in the water like rice. If I mow the grass high when it is in pollen stage and taller than the flax The flax begins to dominate.
I plan to mow the field wit the riding lawn mower during the next dry spell to spread the seed because the plants are so short this year. I could harvest some seed if someone is interested. I am in the same climate zone as the Victoria group just a little further south in the Salish Sea.

I like using the flax for mulch because the fibers last longer than grass fibers. That is one of the reasons I have been managing this field to favor the flax. The seed is too fine I think to use for food. It has an umbrella for the wind to spread the seed but usually gets to wet for it to do so here. I may plant some golden flax where I was thinking of trying rice and see what it does.
 
dara finnegan
Posts: 24
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Fantastic thread here! I am a wool fiber nutty myself, however have used dog hair when our great pyrenees blew his undercoat in the spring. I would comb him out over several days and get quite a bit of fur, the wash it, let it dry and then card while blending with wool. Very warm knitted products would result. Has anyone here done anything with sunflower stalks? Very long tough fiber. I would be interested to hear.
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
pollinator
Posts: 561
Location: Meppel (Drenthe, the Netherlands)
65
bike dog forest garden urban
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This subjects gets me so excited, even emotional! I'm interested in textiles all of my life (made dolls' clothes already as a young girl). Two years long I had an education to become a teacher in textile arts. There even were years when I did the spinning and weaving (in the early '80s, when it was sort of 'hip').
I tried to stop making clothes and household textile things; 'it takes too much time' was the excuse ... But still I knit and crochet (when I have nothing else to do). And now I see, in this really interesting thread (especially the video) it does NOT take too much time. This is time well spent!
I can ride my bicycle to the sheep farm and buy their wool (spin it myself or buy the homespun yarn they sell). It's only some kilometers from here (although they are not really organic, sure not permaculture). I know someone who makes felt, maybe we could design felt colthing together? And what about interesting permies in my region to grow some flax, fibre-hemp, or even stinging nettles (they grow very well in this region)?
Thank you!
 
Chadwick Holmes
Posts: 618
Location: Volant, PA
27
forest garden fungi goat trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have angora goats if there are any specific questions you can pm me, I'll try to be helpful!


This is Sofie
image.jpg
[Thumbnail for image.jpg]
 
r ranson
master steward
Posts: 6016
Location: Left Coast Canada
749
books chicken tiny house
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hans Quistorff wrote:I have a field of flax that self sows and some of it seems to be perennial. In the past it has produced tall stalks and I have shared some with the fiber arts people locally. This year was a drought so the stalks are quite short. The field is clay soil and floods up to a foot deep some winters. The flax seems to be able to grow in the water like rice. If I mow the grass high when it is in pollen stage and taller than the flax The flax begins to dominate.
I plan to mow the field wit the riding lawn mower during the next dry spell to spread the seed because the plants are so short this year. I could harvest some seed if someone is interested. I am in the same climate zone as the Victoria group just a little further south in the Salish Sea.

I like using the flax for mulch because the fibers last longer than grass fibers. That is one of the reasons I have been managing this field to favor the flax. The seed is too fine I think to use for food. It has an umbrella for the wind to spread the seed but usually gets to wet for it to do so here. I may plant some golden flax where I was thinking of trying rice and see what it does.



Harvest seeds! ME! ME! I'm Interested.

Although I'm curious about the umbrella. The flax I've met has the seeds contained in pods like this.





Images borrowed from my blog.

Do yours look like this? Either way, I'm very interested.
 
Hans Quistorff
pollinator
Posts: 772
Location: Longbranch, WA
42
chicken goat rabbit solar tiny house wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I promptly went down and took some pictures and harvested a bundle for you.



I will allow them to dry for a while then mail them to you so that you can harvest the seed and test the fiber.

I went to your blog to see the detail of your seed heads and they are quite different. Mine form seeds like a lettuce closing around the seed and developing the umbrella then opening for the wind to scatter them.

Where the field dried out the flax is growing now and blooming and may grow all winter if the ground doesn't freeze.

Hopfully the pictures will come through from ViewNX2.
 
Wyatt Brush
Posts: 56
Location: Meade County, South Dakota
greening the desert hugelkultur trees
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
R Ranson, PLEASE write that book! I would LOVE to have a book of that kind of information! I have been interested in fibers and textiles all of my life. One of my first incomes growing up, was selling stuff that I crocheted. I have also done a little weaving. I have wanted to raise silk worms since I was just a little kid. I found that a local moth also makes silk, so I caught one or two, but Mom was not keen on them, so I never raised any for silk. Here is the Wikipedia link to the Cecropia moth: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyalophora_cecropia According to the moth book that I had, the silk is inferior to the silk from the Bombyx moths, but the cocoons are huge. I wonder if you know of anybody that has tried to use Cecropia silk? The main attraction to me was that they could eat leaves of trees that I actually had access to, and I could catch the caterpillars myself, instead of having to mail order them. The caterpillars and moths are also very stunning to look at!
 
Linda Listing
Posts: 43
Location: Western PA
urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In Wild Fiber Magazine, they've covered everything from raising silk in Afganistan to growing industrial hemp in Colorado. If you are not familiar with the magazine, its like the National Geographic of the fiber world. You can find it at http://www.wildfibersmagazine.com/#! It will get you thinking about culture and sustainability.
 
r ranson
master steward
Posts: 6016
Location: Left Coast Canada
749
books chicken tiny house
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I love wild silk moths. My plan for this winter is to take many walks in the woods and go cocoon hunting.

I've worked with Polyphemus and Atlas moth cocoons and they both produce lovely fibre. From my research, Cecropia should also be a nice silk to work with.


Is domestic silk better than wild silk? It's difficult to say... better how?

Bombyx silk is white so it takes the dye better, it is also better suited for mechanical processing. On the whole, I suspect Bombyx reels better than wild silk - but I haven't done it myself yet so it may not be any different.

Wild silk seems to require a longer cooking time to degum the silk before working with it. see wormspit's page for more on what that means

Wild silk tends to be golden, brown, green or grey, depending on what the caterpillar ate.

The texture of wild silk is often slightly less smooth than domestic silk. My personal feeling is that if you are going to make something by hand in this day and age, it should have a very slight handmade look to it - so having a slightly uneven texture to an otherwise strong fabric is very desireable. It shows that this is not some sweatshop bit of cloth. The texture of wild silk is gorgeous! In my opinion.

Don't mistake texture for lack of integrity. With practice, a textured cloth can be strong and hard wearing - far more so than most commercially manufactured clothing.

Processing by hand, my experience shows very little difference between domestic and wild cocoons. Making Mawatas or silk hankies is the easiest to do at home and requires the least amount of equipment. These require a different technique to spin than commercially prepared silk, and can be a bit difficult for experienced spinners to get the hang of - their hands are use to dealing with wool and often have trouble unlearning what works for wool before learning what works for silk.


Thanks for the encouragement. Winter is just about upon us again so I should have lots of time to write now.
 
Chris Badgett
pollinator
Posts: 289
Location: Whitefish, Montana
10
  • Likes 1 Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Awesome thread!

I just want to put it out there that if anyone out there wants to partner up and do an online course on fiber farming, we can help at http://organiclifeguru.com

It could be on permaculture fiber farm design or something like sustainable or organic fiber farming basics.

The main benefits of partnering with Organic Life Guru is that we can take care of the video recording, editing, online course creation, marketing, selling, accounting, and you benefit by exposure to the existing audience we have that comes from the other course authors on our site.

Just throwing it out there if anybody is interested.
 
Joylynn Hardesty
Posts: 246
Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
17
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hans Quistorff wrote:
I plan to mow the field wit the riding lawn mower during the next dry spell to spread the seed because the plants are so short this year. I could harvest some seed if someone is interested.


Yes please! Please!
 
Niele da Kine
Posts: 49
Location: Zone 11B Moku Nui Hawaii
6
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
R Ranson wrote:<SNIP>
Bunnies: This is your second most space saving critter.

You wouldn't think it, but the smaller the livestock is, the more time one needs to dedicate to keeping it healthy. Fibre bunnies are very time consuming.

Bunnies breed like rabbits and can very quickly become overcrowded. Most fibre bunnies don't produce good meat... so... what are you going to do with the excess bunnies? Build 8 new cages the first year, 50 new cages the next, 1500 the year after that? Breeding rabbits requires thinking about what will happen to these critters. The most horrible thing I've seen happen to bunnies is someone gets three, breeds them, changes their mind about killing them, has almost 20 rabbits living in the space barely adequate for 3.

Bunnies are tricky, but can be very rewarding if you do it right. Angora (the fibre from angora rabbits, fibre from angora goats is called something else) is a very sought after fibre and can fetch quite a decent price IF you know where to sell it. If you get a rabbit that makes good meat as well as fibre, they are the most efficient producers of animal protein of any livestock.

Looking at bunnies from a permaculture point of view is very interesting. When I raised meat rabbits I hated that the rabbits were breed to eat only commercial feed and couldn't stomach a handful of greens. Yet, when my dad was a kid, the rabbits only ate greens. There is a lot of interesting work being done with rabbits, and if I was growing them again, I think I would probably catch a wild one, make certain it's health was pristine, then breed it in with my domestic ones to increase their genetic diversity.

If one's never cared for livestock before - and pets don't count - rabbits are a good starting point. One or two fibre rabbits, not a breeding pair, learn to care for them, brush them daily, keep their nails trimmed, &c and so on.<SNIP>


Overpopulation probably won't be overly much of a problem right away, even with a male/female pair. Fiber bunnies are a bit trickier to breed than the meat or pet breeds. If they don't have a hair cut before they meet, sometimes there's so much wool in the way that they can't meet where it matters so no offspring. They also have smaller litters than meat breeds. I also suspect the serious meat breeders have been selecting does that are good mothers. Not all angora does are good mothers. Most are, but not all. But, when starting out, it's best to get two does. They should live together pretty happily and not multiply all over the place. Two males will occasionally fight so it's best to get two females or get neutered males.

I'm not sure about the bunnies actually being bred to only eat commercial feed, the English angoras here eat a lot of forage as well as the pellets. They are amazingly healthy and the feed costs are much less if they're eating forage. There's a lot of things you can grow to feed your bunnies and the bunny manure is excellent for gardens. There's a complete synergy between bunnies and gardens. Garden weeds feed bunnies, bunny manure feeds gardens and everyone wins. If you do a Google search on "tropical rabbit raising" it's easy to get a list of bunny safe forages. Mulberry leaves are good for them and that grows in a lot of areas.

I don't think the catching a wild rabbit to interbreed with domestic rabbits will work, wild rabbits have a different number of chromosomes than domestic ones so they can't crossbreed from what I've heard.

IMHO, it's a complete myth that you have to brush a fiber bunny daily. You actually don't have to brush them at all, brushes don't work that well in that dense of a coat. A wire toothed comb will work, but even then, if the bunny is properly bred, it shouldn't mat up very much. After they've been sheared, they don't need any coat maintenance for about eight weeks. Then minimal combing for mats about once a week to every ten days or so for four to six weeks, then harvest the wool again. At least, that's what we do here, YMMV. I do sell the bunnies who have coats that aren't easy maintenance, though so there are differences in how much each bunny requires for coat maintenance. We keep them as livestock for fiber production so they don't get as much cuddle time as folks who only have one pet bunny, but even as livestock, I suspect they get a lot more cuddle time than most livestock.

Angoras are amazingly docile. We start picking ours up when they are about an hour old and handle them from then on. They don't get handled daily, but about once a week, they'll get picked up and held a bit. Although when there's baby buns, there's usually lots of folks who want to visit the bunnies so the baby buns get held more frequently. Which according to proper bunny yard health and security, we probably shouldn't let all the folks visit with the bunnies, but oh well. Kids really love the little bunnies although they aren't with them unsupervised since we don't want anyone or anybunny damaged.



When they are this young, they don't get visitors and we don't even let visitors into the bunny yard. The does don't get alarmed and eat their young or anything, but it does put stress on them so we limit visitors until the babies get to this stage:



By the time the babies are about that big, then visitors are good for them since it gets them used to humans of different shapes and sizes.


I would think that if you're gonna do a book on a permaculture fiber farm, don't you think a series would be better than trying to get everything into just one book?
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
pollinator
Posts: 561
Location: Meppel (Drenthe, the Netherlands)
65
bike dog forest garden urban
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
As a result of this topic (and the video of Fibershed), we started a group here in the Netherlands. It's becoming somewhat like Fibershed, but not exactly. It's not only about fibers and textiles, but also some woodcraft a.a. This Monday we opened a Facebook group: Permanet (NL). We did some promotion in different Dutch permaculture FB groups, and now (last time I looked) we are 48 people. The FB group's goal is to see who's interested, what skills or materials they can offer, and their opinion on the way to go on as a network.
In my opinion ít started very well. We're communicating about what's important for us, and what we do not want. Meanwhile some guys are thinking about how the website of this network has to look and to function.

I see the first need there is: more knowledge about stinging nettles. They grow here very easily. But what to do with them to get the real nettle fiber?
 
r ranson
master steward
Posts: 6016
Location: Left Coast Canada
749
books chicken tiny house
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Niele da Kine That's a great post about bunnies.

Most of what I learned was from the local group that raises meat rabbits - and their prejudices against fibre animals. I'm very glad for the first hand knowledge you share with us.
 
Wyatt Brush
Posts: 56
Location: Meade County, South Dakota
greening the desert hugelkultur trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey, R Ranson, have you started the book yet? No pressure, I am just curious.
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!