Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Fiber and qiviut workshops hosted at conference

The Alaska Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Anchorage featured full-day workshops on fiber and on qiviut production for the first time.
SNRE Assistant Professor Jan Rowell, who helped coordinate both workshops, said they were supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Federal State Marketing Improvement Program. The program provides funding to explore new market opportunities.
Qiviut-blended yarn was displayed at the Sustainable Agriculture Conference.
Carrie Hull of the Natural Fiber Producers Cooperative taught the preconference fiber workshop on Feb. 22. The workshop offered tools, practical experience and knowledge for fiber producers, mills and artisans. It provided a hands-on opportunity for participants to learn fiber sorting and preparation skills that allow them to classify and organize their yearly fiber harvest for production, to identify herd health and management issues and improve breeding decisions. Hull also talked about the qualities and characteristics of a good yarn and how to work with artisans or commercial mills to create a quality yarn.
Rowell said 23 individuals attended Hull’s workshop. “It was great,” she said. “She was just great.”
Wattum hopes to process fleece from two alpaca she is raising.
Copper is on the left, and Blizzard on the right.
Kate Wattum, who is opening a milling operation in Fairbanks, said the workshop was outstanding. It had lots of information about preparing, sorting and grading fibers, and it provided an opportunity to meet others from around the state interested in the developing fiber market.
“It was so much crammed into one day,” she said. “It could have been a week long.”
Wattum said the Coyote Trail Farm & Fiber Mill will process fiber from a variety of plants and animals, including alpaca, llama, muskox, yak, sheep, dogs, angora rabbits, cotton, flax and hemp.  The mill will be installed in Goldstream Valley this October.
Rowell said the goal of the quiviut special session was to bring representatives of different aspects of the qiviut industry together to share knowledge and to raise awareness of quality issues. Participants included producers, processors, retailers and artists who make products from the soft underwool harvested from muskox. Qiviut producers were invited to bring samples of their work and to talk about their successes and struggles.
 “There’s so many people getting into the qiviut industry in Alaska,” said Rowell.  “Now is a good time to get a snapshot of the industry.”

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