If you are reading any environmental posts you have likely noticed there is a lot of talk about the crash of the Monarch butterfly population last year. One of the big problems is the major food, milkweed, is being destroyed through massive agriculture and GMO crops and various practices that destroy the natural habitat for the milkweed plant. No milkweed, means no Monarchs, as the plant is crucial for caterpillar feeding. The Suzuki Foundation and others have a big push to get more of these beautiful plants into peoples gardens, school grounds and other areas to rebuild pollinator corridors for the butterflies. Before I was reading any of this I was already fascinated by the milkweed plant thanks to Joanne Touchette, who contacted me to see what I knew about processing milkweed into spinnable fibre ( the answer was nothing!) Joanne posted her amazing results on fb, and as I was in Quebec last fall, I brought home some common milkweed seeds- it doesn’t overwinter in BC with our cold wet season. Happily the Vancouver Park Board nursery agreed to start plants for me, and we should have about 100 common milkweeds for fibre research at MOP this summer!
the other exciting news is the cold hardy new Zealand flax plant is going to be coming to live at the MOP bed for weaving plants , and my early experiments with processing are really exciting indeed. A strong, very spinnable fibre is easy to source, here was my results of playing with end of season clippings…and this was before my pressure cooker came out! cooked fibers look even better, and since a pressure cooker is the closest I can come up with to the geothermal baths that the Maori use traditionally, why not? (Thanks to Vanessa from the cedar weaving group for that tip).
Last years flax, now linen, is being knit up- with luck I will have a tank top by summer endAnd Tracy Williams and I will begin the urban cloth project later this spring; processing and blending indigenous plants, invasive plants and agricultural crops into spun fibre for an installation on the land. stay tuned.