Fibres are all around us. We use them in our industrial processes, shelter, inside our cars, and for many more uses. We often don’t realize how much fibre truly is around us in some fashion or another.
Fibre encompasses protein (animal) and cellulose (plant) fibres. Both have specific qualities that make them ideal for different situations.
Protein fibres include: sheep, alpaca, yak, llama, rabbit, goat, and even silkworm.
Wool is the most commonly know protein fibre.Clothing is often the first thing that we think of when we think of wool, but it can be used for many other things. Duvet filling, mattresses, insulation, and of course, for textiles. Most often wool has been blended with another fibre to create wool blends or the less expensive wool is considered scratchy. Many of the sheep raised in Canada are raised for meat. Their wool is not ideal for clothing manufacturing. Currently wool is not considered a valuable resources in Canadian farming. Often farmers ca’t recover their costs for shearing. We have relatively few wool processors and manufacturers in Canada that could do something with it even it is was more valued. Currently the majority of Canadian wool is sold to China, the worlds biggest wool buyer. China often determines what price is paid for wool.
Specialty fibres such as alpaca, angora, cashmere, allhave a placein the fibreshed as well. Often these truly are specialty fibres used in artisinal production and small scale processing – perfect for regional systems. These animals can fit into alternative farming operations from the urban rabbit farm, to the small scale angora goat farm.
Cellulose fibres include: bamboo, cotton, flax, hemp, even rayon is a natural fibre that is very process intensive.
Currently we do not grow all of these fibres in the Upper Canada Fibreshed, but possibility exists. Historically Canada did grow flax in a variety of regions and currently there are approximately 15,000 flax producers in Canada. Mainly flax is grown for the seed, but the interest in fibre is growing.
Hemp is another fibre that could have great potential in Canada. There is growing interest in hemp as a fibre crop. Although growing is an interest, there are no facilities in Canada to process hemp. Often this is a stumbling block in a fibre system. No way to make a final product.
To learn more about flax: Natural Fibres for a Green Economy