Keep the Fleece – Helping Sustain a Global Itch

On December 20th, 2006, The United Nations General Assembly issued a brief press release officially declaring 2009 the International Year of Natural Fibres (IYNF)

Admittedly, the news did not send a seismic jolt around the world like the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. In fact, at that time of year, most people were so consumed by the spirit (and spirits) of the season they barely took note of the evening news.

And yet, for the millions of knitters, crocheters, spinners, and weavers to whom natural fibers represent a lifelong passion, if not a full-time profession, the idea that the United Nations would sit up and take note of the humble ball of yarn seems extraordinary. Was it possible that former Secretary General Kofi Anan was a closet crocheter?

Unless you typically walk around with a pair of size eight knitting needles stashed in your bag, or find yourself uncontrollably fondling brightly colored balls of yarn, the importance of the IYNF may not be readily apparent. But the production of natural fibers is critical to the livelihoods of millions.

Cotton accounts for the largest share of the natural fiber market with 25 million tons harvested annually as opposed to a seemingly meager 2.2 million tons of wool. In fact the world production of jute (grown in India and Bangladesh) exceeds wool at 2.5 million tons. When was the last time you saw someone knitting a little pink jute cardigan for their favorite grandchild?

In honor of the IYNF, an American non-profit organization called “Keep the Fleece” is sponsoring a contest to help raise awareness about the importance of natural fibers.

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire
Keep The Fleece at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Show.

Yarn shops, fiber enthusiasts, and those with a desire to do-good, are contributing to the World’s Longest Scarf. According to Linda Cortright, founder of Keep the Fleece and the editor and publisher of Wild Fibers Magazine ( as well as a member of the IYNF Steering Committee in Rome, Italy, “Everyone has been excited about the scarf. We suggested people donate one dollar for every row they knit. But for those who can’t knit, they give us five’s, ten’s and sometimes even twenty’s to help out.”

Keep the Fleece is also sponsoring a natural fiber contest and will host a two-day international tent at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival. To make a donation and learn more about natural fibers, please visit

Keep the Fleece

Linda Cortright


Sally Gray
Sally Gray is a writer, photographer and editor for NewsBlaze. Sally is also a highly skilled knitter, who makes exquisite sweaters, scarves and socks and loves to craft complex cables. Sally prefers photography to editing and editing to writing.