feats of gene selection

the fiber compendium; for the pursuit of education and knowledge (f.c.p.e.k.) is coming along nicely. there are some gaps, but with more time and searching i can hopefully fill them. i'm really glad i decided to collect samples of so many fibers.

it's really remarkable how many types of silk there are, the different ways it's spun, and how all parts are used (waste, stem, pupae). there's definitely a "waste not, want not" mindset when it comes to this fiber. it reminds me of the way some of the native americans viewed animals; that by not throwing away any part of it, the death was not meaningless and the animals' sacrifice was respected. the life of the silkworm isn't wasted by it's death; oftentimes they are a food source, and the fact that the entire amount of silk it spun is used in some form or other is a great testament to how the people doing sericulture view and respect the silkmoth. peduncle thread, spun from the stems of the tropical tasar cocoon, along with ghicha, spun from the waste silk of muga and eri cocoons, were some of the more interesting spun silks i came across.

one of the things i had thought before starting this project was that there weren't too many cellulose fibers used for spinning and weaving cloth; only ramie, hemp, linen, cotton, and washi. but, i have more cellulose samples than animal fibers; baste fibers can be found in many plants, and the resourcefulness of humans is really inspiring! people have gone to great lengths to create cloth, from the attusi (elm tree inner bark) clothing of the ainu people of northern japan, to nettle fiber which has been used throughout europe for centuries.

with the animal fiber i've collected i found the different hair types within one animals' coat to be interesting; coarse to downy soft, strongly pigmented to lighter pigmentation, with a variety of uses for each type. browns, fawns, and creamy whites are the dominant colors in protein fibers. the brown hues lend the animal warmth from the sun in cold environs, and hiding ability amongst grasses and trees, whereas the white coloring, which is perfect for dyeing, seems to be a trait humans breed for (as albinism in the wild isn't really a common or safe trait).

the unique characteristics of the many natural fibers lend themselves to a myriad of uses, and i question why humans need to invent synthetics, when what is already there is so functional. with some better husbandry, more effective natural resource use, and respect for the organism which creates the fiber, many of these natural fibers can be just as viable as synthetics. some synthetic fiber inventions such as neoprene, are impressive, and needed, but to create a synthetic which does the same as a natural fiber just seems wasteful (and, like any copy, is never as good as the real thing, imho).

interesting reads:
an article about silk varieties, and degumming
the book, fibre facts, by bette hochberg
ebook, dictionary of textiles, by louis harmuth
"peace" silk, or the mythical perfection postulation


  1. wow, great research. have you read "Riches from Rags"? It is the catalogue from an exhibition at the San Francisco Craft and Folk Art Museum. Excellent resource for Japanese baste fibres

  2. no, i haven't! i'll see if my college library has it, or can order it, it sounds like it will be a great visual and information book. thanks!

  3. Amazing job collecting all these fibers, what passion can I see behind all these samples.

  4. i do become obsessed when i have a new undertaking. although, it does come in handy!