I've been doing a lot of knitting lately, to be sure, but on top of the projects I'm working on for Christmas (which is approaching much more swiftly than I'd like), I've also been doing a lot of research. Two weeks ago the first Woolful podcast came to be, and I was so excited to listen to it, and also so challenged. This happened again with the second podcast, and again as I read Ashley Yousling's post about superwash wool.
I feel like there has been a pretty natural progression the more serious that I become about knitting and other fiber arts, that I just sort of naturally have started to gravitate towards more natural fibers & yarns, but all the research I've been doing has been bringing those feelings into much sharper focus. In Kylie Gusset's interview with Woolful, she talked a lot about her company, Tonofwool, but even moreso towards the end of her interview about the wool industry in general. That 80% of the merino wool in the world, regardless of where it is produced, is processed in China. That chemical dyes that are used to dye the yarn are often harmful to the environment and the people living in the communities where the factories reside. That superwash wool gets that way because the fibers are actually coated in plastic to resist felting in the wash. I realized that as far as sourcing goes for the wool that I knit with, I had very little idea about where it came from originally or how it was made.
As a knitter, my most important questions about the fibers I work with have been, "How does it feel?" and "what colors does it come in?" and "do I have enough of it to finish this shawl?". But with as with being a conscious consumer in all things, I'm trying to become more fiber-conscious about the fibers that I'm buying, and asking for this Christmas.
Before I read the history of Brooklyn Tweed and how their two yarns came to be, I had no idea that finding wool that was sourced, dyed and processed all in America was so rare. Or even, finding wool and other fibers that are processed in their country of origin at all, or act transparently about where their fibers are processed at least. And I think at the end of the day, that's really what I want: transparency. I want to know that the money I'm spending on these fibers are going to companies that support sustainable practices for the environment, that treat their workers fairly, that treat the animals they come from with respect, and that strive to connect the consumer with their process as much as possible.
This summer, I was pleasantly surprised when I went to my local farmer's market and discovered that a vendor there not only brought vegetables from her farm, but had brought wool yarn from sheep on her farm native to NC! I made a hat that week and it was one of my favorite projects to date. My most recent project was knit in O-Wool, a company that has a real commitment to organic and sustainable fiber processes. Every time I knit with these natural fibers, it's so rewarding. And as tempted as I might be by the acrylic blends that go on super sale this time of year, I'm trying to remember these projects as I shop, and how the money I spend on yarn sends a real message this holiday season about what I value as a consumer.
I suppose I just needed to ramble about all this for a bit, and get my messy thoughts out of my head to process them in a way that makes sense. To get them out there. But I'd love to hear thoughts that others have about choosing the fibers they work with in their knitting, and what kinds of factors influence those decisions.
Bye for now.