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U.N. declares 2009 International Year of Natural Fibres

By Ardeana Hamlin, BDN Staff

Happy new year. This is the year to keep the fleece.

The General Assembly of the United Nations has designated 2009 as the International Year of Natural Fibres. The resolution was adopted Nov. 25, 2005, and states that “the diverse range of natural fibers produced by many countries provides an important source of income for farmers, and thus can play an important role in contributing to food security and in eradicating poverty.” The resolution calls on governments, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector to support the resolution.

The objectives of the International Year of National Fibres is to bring attention to and stimulate demand for natural fibers, to encourage governments to respond appropriately to problems facing natural fiber industries, to foster international partnership among natural fiber industries, and to promote the sustainability of those industries.

Sounds good to me, but what does all of that mean for you and me? Well, for starters, there’s “Keep the Fleece,” an international natural fiber contest open to anyone. The deadline for entering the contest is Saturday, Aug. 15. Judging takes place online until finalists are chosen, then items created for the contest are sent for the final phase of judging.

Final judging will be done by a panel of international experts in October at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival. Want to earn extra points? Provide a photo of yourself with the animal or plant the fiber is derived from, a photo of the animal that produced the fleece or picture of the animal if it lives on your farm.

Here are a few of the categories contestants may enter: Like a Virgin: fiber from a young animal such as baby alpaca; Eats, Shoots and Leaves: plant fibers including but not limited to cotton, hemp, jute and coconut; Camelot: fiber from guanaco, vicuna, alpaca, llama and camel; GI Joe: any style garment made for a man; Treks and Tracks: 100 percent yak, bison or musk ox; and Pro-create: any natural-fiber garment made by a professional designer. Visit www.keepthefleece.com to learn all the salient details.

In the Bangor region, Fiber Maine-ia will be the vehicle by which fiber aficionados celebrate and participate in the International Year of Natural Fibres.

These are some of the activities being organized, according to Mary Bird, chairwoman of the Friends of Dr. Edith Marion Patch at the University of Maine:

• Monthly brown bag lunch lectures at the UM Page Farm and Home Museum on fiber production and use in Maine.

• Monthly workshops on fiber farming, processing and multicultural fiber arts.

• Development of fiber-related curriculum kits for use in elementary school classrooms in Maine.

• Exhibits and programs related to textiles and textile tools at the Page Farm and Home Museum and the Lord Hall Gallery at the University of Maine.

• A weeklong fiber day camp for children.

• Teacher professional development workshops on the agricultural, social, economic and artistic aspects of fiber.

• A possible Senior College course on fiber in Maine.

• Public programming during Maine Fiber Arts Weekend in August.

• Revival of Maine’s participation in the national Make It With Wool contest.

• A Fiber Maine-ia Web site linking users to resources in Maine.

• A statewide fiber conference to be held in October.

These events still are being organized and more details will be forthcoming.

These are some of the organizations involved in planning and coordinating events to celebrate International Year of Natural Fibres: Friends of Dr. Edith Marion Patch, University of Maine Page Farm and Home Museum, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Heart of Maine Resource Conservation and Development, Maine Fiberarts, Maine Folklife Center, USDA Farm Service Agency, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Women in Agriculture, University of Maine art department, Maine Discovery Museum, and the Maine Sheep Breeders Association.

One of the many great things about the International Year of Natural Fibres is that we knitters, crocheters and fiber artists now have a really good excuse for acquiring LOTS more yarn and fabric — we’re contributing to the health of the world fiber economy!


The Bangor Area Sewing Guild will conduct a class for sewing with specialty fabrics at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 10, at the Hampden Municipal Center, Western Avenue. The project of the day will be to make an insulated bag. Necessary fabrics and supplies will be available for purchase the morning of the class. The cost is $10 for guild members, $15 for others. Call Kathy Childs at 941-8815 to register.

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