Deep Roots, Natural Fibers: Spin Off Winter 2024

Our Winter issue gets to the heart of handspinning, exploring how natural fibers connect global communities.

Kate Larson Nov 27, 2023 - 3 min read

Deep Roots, Natural Fibers: Spin Off Winter 2024 Primary Image

The artisans of the Association Tithrite in Ait Hamza, Morocco, gather outside their workshop to celebrate twiza—the practice of working together to accomplish a labor-intensive task. Photo by Yassine Bouhouch

The natural fibers we work with—cotton, wool, flax, hemp, and silk, for example—have traveled along with us throughout human history and carry complex stories. Each has, at times, been raised sustainably and processed by makers respected in their communities. Each also has ties to periods of breathtaking extraction and harm.

However, we can also find people today using these plants and animals as a tool to improve the world around them. In this Deep Roots issue, many of the authors are intensely dedicated to not only helping others understand histories, cultures, and landscapes, but also to helping people like you and me connect with them through our spinning fingers. We can participate in making these hopeful visions for the future a reality.

Finewool sheep grazing near Shaniko, Oregon. Photo courtesy of Shaniko Wool Company

The world is teeming with natural fibers; this issue alone will take you to a dozen countries. A. Sabine Schröder-Gravendyck introduces us to the Skudde, a rare European short-tailed sheep that has found a revival in landscape restoration efforts. Jeanne Carver, a force in the American wool industry, shares her work in creating Responsible Wool Standard certified Shaniko wool; we hope you’ll give it a spin! Chitra Balasubramaniam explores sheep breeds in India, which has the world’s second largest population of sheep (Surprised? I was.)

Left: Three antique flax stricks from Austria, courtesy of Christiane Seufferlein. The type of retting impacts the color of the flax. Right: Barbara Kelly-Landry knitted her shawl from a mix of Southdown and flax. Photos by Matt Graves

Dr. Annamarie Hatcher takes us back tens of thousands of years to explore the roots of plant fibers, while Barbara Kelly-Landry walks us through blending flax with wool or silk for a drapey yet cozy wrap. Emily Robison shares how her work with Micronesian communities has inspired her to process plants found near her home in Puerto Rico, and Jacqueline Harp is here to help you successfully process suri alpaca.

And on the cover, we have Nikyle Begay’s Navajo-Churro ewe and lamb looking fiercely into the future. Natural fibers can endure with our support, so let’s get spinning.


Ready to explore this issue? Get your copy of Spin Off Winter 2024 by subscribing today or purchasing this issue from our online shop.

Kate Larson, editor of Spin Off, teaches handspinning around the country and spends as many hours as life allows in the barn with her beloved flock of Border Leicesters.