On the fiber trail
In my interview with Dale MacAusland for the story on page 42, the managing director MacAusland’s Woollen Mills Ltd. in Bloomfield, Prince Edward Island, observed that sheep farmers in Atlantic Canada don’t have much interest in wool, especially when the price for lamb is good. That may be true. MacAusland was speaking from his own experience in sourcing wool directly from farmers for making blankets.
But then, on a family holiday in P.E.I. this summer, I picked up a bunch of brochures from the tourist office in Cavendish. The one that jumped out at me (apart from the brochure for MacAusland’s Woollen Mills, which I had wanted to find) was promoting the “P.E.I. Fibre Trail.” (Confusion alert: Our magazine uses the spelling “fiber” not “fibre.”) It promised to lead trail followers to 13 “artisans and producers of the finest P.E.I. fibres and yarns.” Not all fibers promoted on this trail are from sheep; some are marram grass, seaweed, cattails, and flax made into paper. There are also mohair and Qiviut, the underwool of the muskox. But most are ovine.
I was impressed by the density of fiber-based enterprises on the Island and resolved to follow the trail on a future trip, when the beaches beckon less and the weather is cooler. In the meantime, as soon as this magazine goes to the printer I am off to the Pictou area of Nova Scotia to see Delia Burge’s handiwork and her Wensleydales.
I am wondering, however, whether Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have something akin to the “P.E.I. Fibre Trail,” either in print, online, or in the realm of local knowledge. In any case, as editor of Atlantic Beef & Sheep, I would like to take readers, issue by issue, on the ovine fiber trail through Atlantic Canada, showcasing farmers who raise sheep primarily or partly for fiber, and noting the ways their wool is put to use by spinners, weavers, and knitters, or where it ends up if sent to a depot. Please send your story ideas and “fiber trail” suggestions to email@example.com as we add a bit more wool to the mix of beef and sheep. Thank you.