"Closing the Loops"
Weavercreep liked touching things.
He enjoyed holding small objects in his hands,
rubbing his fingers over them as he spoke.
If there was wire or string, yarn or thread,
anything thin and flexible then he would
pick it up and weave it between his fingers
or tie it into knots or wrap it around something.
It was one of the things that made people
tend to think of him as creepy.
He would play with the wirefloss
even though he wasn't very good
at making anything out of it.
When he went to pick up laundry,
he would always clean the lint traps
because he liked to handle the fluffy stuff.
It was one of the things that made people
appreciate him, because nobody else
remembered to clean the traps.
One day he found Shuttlecock there,
emptying the lint traps after all,
except that she's staring at
two hands full of lint
Crying was not good.
Weavercreep was not good with crying.
He needed to know if something was really wrong,
though, like call-a-repairman wrong.
"Did something break?" he asked.
"The supply lines," said Shuttlecock.
Oh. No wonder she was crying.
A queasy feeling crept through his stomach
as he thought about how everything
in the Lacuna had come from
the Galactic Arms, neither
of whom liked them anymore.
They were slowly splicing together
some trade arrangements, but
they couldn't rely on those for everything,
not like they used to with the supply lines
where you just requisitioned things
and they usually arrived.
The need to support themselves was
urgent, and it made them a bit desperate.
Now they had to learn how to make
things for themselves, and fast,
before they ran out of anything critical.
"What are we running out of?"
Weavercreep asked Shuttlecock.
"Textiles," she said. "We're not out yet --
we still have stockpiled uniforms -- but
those things wear out in time. We've been
looking for stores of things like fabric and
thread that were used for on-site alterations.
Most of the yarn, thread, string, bootlaces, and
other stuff like that was in one storeroom that
had a leak, so lots of the supplies got ruined."
Ruined supplies were never good.
"So now what do we do?" he said.
"I was thinking, I used to hear stories
about how people made yarn from fluff,"
Shuttlecock said, kneading the lint.
Weavercreep took some of it from her
and tried twisting it together. It fell apart.
"I don't think this will work," he said.
"Yeah, that's basically when I broke down,"
she admitted, looking away from him.
"Maybe we need something more," he said.
"Longer bits or stickier bits so it stays spun?"
"Maybe," said Shuttlecock. "We need to find
ways of closing the loops, so that we don't
keep loosing the things we have to waste.
I suppose we could try looking it up."
Weavercreep was good at looking up information.
He looked up lint, fibers, spinning, weaving,
knitting, crocheting, and other crafts.
Then he looked up supply and demand,
resource cycles, open loops and closed loops,
and how to make a system more sustainable.
What he discovered was that fibers needed
something called "catch" in order to spin well,
which consisted of such factors as curliness,
length, and whether or not they had scales.
Lint, it turned out, had very short fibers
with a lot of fluff, and at least some of it --
the natural fibers -- would have scales.
So perhaps it really would stick together
if they spun it along with something else,
which meant they could use lint as filler
to stretch out other fiber and make it
fluffier, heavier, and thus warmer.
Then Weavercreep stumbled across
a whole list of things that could be done
with lint, and one of those was making paper.
Even though "paperwork" consisted
almost entirely of electronic forms now,
actual paper still had plenty of uses,
and their supply was limited. But linen
had been used to make paper before
tree pulp ever was, and in fact all kinds
of plant matter could be made to work.
Weavercreep tried his hand at papermaking first,
because they already had the supplies for that,
and put out the word that long soft fibers
were wanted for a sustainability project.
He learned that he disliked making paper.
It was wet and nasty and took forever to dry.
Plus it was way too much work for too little result.
Some of the other people who tried papermaking
enjoyed it, though, so that was a useful discovery.
Someone turned up a large bale of plant fluff
that had been used as packing material from
a farming planet, and Weavercreep used that
along with the lint to make long loose rolls.
Then he used the instructions he found
to make a drop-spindle and spin some yarn.
Weavercreep discovered that the lint
actually contained more than just fluff.
It held loosed threads and other snippets
that came off in the wash, which mixed with
the new fiber to create fascinating changes
in texture and color as yarn grew longer.
He fell in love with that yarn.
He had spent his life coding programs, and
he was good at weaving the ones and zeros,
but this. Oh this. It was something that he
could touch and not be told to stop touching.
It flowed over his fingertips in a long river of
little bumps as if the yarn was touching him back.
When Weavercreep had enough yarn,
he began to experiment with knitting
and crocheting and weaving. It was
much easier than working with wirefloss,
which had been too slippery for his taste.
He liked something he could sink his hands into,
something that would cling to itself and help him
shape it into sweaters and fingerless gloves.
Weavercreep began to wonder if it might
be possible to make their own fiber.
Certainly the synthetics had potential,
if the raw materials could be obtained.
Plants seemed unlikely, as the varieties
listed took up considerable space.
So did most animals -- sheep, goats,
and even outrageous ones like alpaca --
but then he found out that two small animals
also produced wool, angora rabbits and chinchillas.
If they could import either of those into the Lacuna,
it would introduce another raw material for crafts,
which meant they could be more self-sustaining
and less dependent on outside resources.
Independence, they were all learning,
relied largely on closing the loops.
* * *
Contact comfort is a vital need for humans, which explains why we like touching soft fluffy things. Autistic people often have sensory processing disorders which make them seek or avoid certain things. Touch-dominant people or kinesthetic learners show a similar need to handle things all the time. Fidget toys made for children and adults can give people a safe outlet.
Open-loop systems take input, run it through the steps, and discard it at the far end so that they require a constant supply of new materials and energy. Closed-loop systems capture materials and energy so that the output of one step becomes the input for another, circling back to the beginning, so that little is lost. Closed-loop systems appear in sustainable consumption and permaculture, inspired by natural cycles. The Lacuna began as an open-loop system with everything brought from the outside, but must evolve toward a zero-waste approach in order to survive.
Dryer lint may be reused in many ways, including for yarn or paper. See a lovely skein of lint yarn. Other textile scraps may be spun also, such as silk trimmings or yarn ends. Here is some dryer lint paper.
Sensory play is important for all children. Browse some ideas, including this yarn bin. Yarn can also be used for therapy.
Fibers for spinning need to have "catch" which is the quality of holding a twist securely. A drop spindle is an easy way to turn loose fiber into usable yarn. Learn how to make a drop spindle and spin yarn.
Knitting is easy to learn. Slubby yarn has lumps that create interesting texture.
Animals raised for their fiber include chinchillas and angora rabbits.