The Future is Fluffy

B. Lorraine Smith
8 min readFeb 27, 2020
Left to right: natural gray Ontario mohair fibre; hand-dyed, wheel-spun green Rambouillet sheep’s wool from upstate New York; natural white organic pima cotton that I grew indoors a few years back (seeds of unknown origin — spinners sometimes just hand each other stuff to experiment with one day, see photo below).

I want to tell you something about your underwear. But first, hold that thought.

I Spin

If one says, “I spin” in German it’s the equivalent of saying, “I’m crazy” — ich spinne. Well, I spin. Judge if you must. I happen to think spinning is key to our future. I also think that to succeed in this spinning madness we need to understand what we’re talking about. And yes, this has to do with your underwear, and our shift to a regenerative economy.

I am sometimes introduced as a weaver as shorthand for the kind of work I do across diverse teams and communities. I hear this term more and more among those of us working to connect the pieces of the future we want. But I think weaving is not always the right word. I think most times we actually mean spinning.

Don’t get me wrong: I love weaving! And I get the gist of the metaphor. But with an eye on fomenting regenerative business, I want to make sure we are using the best tools for the job.

By the way, I think you will love spinning, metaphorically speaking. And if you pick up an actual spindle, or treadle a wheel, or turn the crank of a charkha you’ll be in good change-maker company, including Donella Meadows and Mahatma Gandhi.

Mental Models Matter

Why pick on weaving with everything else going on? Because to create a major change, it’s important to question everything, even (especially?) the mental models we hold dear. And language is a potent piece of that. We need to pick our metaphors wisely in case they catch on. Witness leading change-maker John Elkington’s recall of the triple bottom line, a key tenet of the business-for-good industry of the last few decades.

I have been involved in that industry since 2003, bumping up against the paradigmatic problem John’s recall points out. Meanwhile, I have also been making stuff with string for an even longer time, and this habit informs some of my corporate work too, as I’ll explain below. But first, a word on my fluffy qualifications if I may: I have been knitting since the mid-1970s and designing my own pieces since the late 1980s; and I completed a six-year program that goes deep on every spinnable fibre imaginable (for example, we unreeled silk cocoons, scutched flax, and spun recycled PET, to name a few fibres). I…

B. Lorraine Smith

Recovering ESG "expert"; yarn spinner; distance runner; magical realist. Sensing a path to an economy serving life. also at