What does it mean when we call a yarn "ethically-sourced?" Ethics can be defined as a branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions . Many times ethics is simply defined as "moral principles" but are ethics and morals truly synonymous? Actually, morals describes one's particular values concerning what is right and what is wrong. Ethics is big picture, morals perhaps more on an individual level.
Yet we continue to hear the term "ethically-sourced" yarn. Over 10 years ago, I started thinking about "where does yarn come from?" I wanted to create a labeling system so that when you went into a yarn store you could be assured that good things happened in the process of making this yarn. I wanted a system that would be like the fair trade symbol you see on your coffee beans or on the label of a t-shirt. Then terms like "organic" and "green" became popular and enter the oh-so popular term yet perhaps more elusive "sustainable."
Over the years, I let my dream of creating a labeling system fade away but recently it's been making a comeback...at least the idea perhaps not a labeling system. So, I set off to identify yarns that were ethically-sourced. Easy answer right...yarns that are from domestic (US) sheep, milled, dyed and available for purchase in the US. I thought I was finished and now all I needed to do was create a list of yarns that met this criteria.
Then Project Peace happened and I realized that my definition of ethically-sourced was rather egocentric. Sure, I want to support yarn made in my country but really, everything else made around the world is now not ethically-sourced? So, I began to revamp my response.
For 2017, I made a commitment to use "ethically-sourced" yarns in my new pattern designs. But this also meant being more mindful about what does this really mean. Throughout the year I'll be highlighting yarns that I think fit this definition, at least to me. I'll also be providing some definitions of "organic," "sustainable," and other commonly used words in this arena. By the end of the year we will have a algorithm to guide our decision-making process and a list of yarns that fit the criteria.
But bottom-line here's what I finally figured out...you have to decide what's important to you when you decide to make a yarn purchase. Just like I said at the beginning of the post it's about working through what is "right" and "wrong" when it comes to yarn. My list of reasons may be different than yours or a knitter at your guild but ultimately it's your choice.
For me, I want to support people that are connected and close to the entire process...they know where the sheep are from, how they are treated, the location of the mill is chosen for a solid reason, and dyed close by. Now this doesn't mean it has to be US yarn as Shetland yarns could easily be an example. However, I also know that I think it's important to support small businesses but does that mean once a yarn makes it big it's no longer of value to me? What I thought would be a relatively easy problem to solve has become very complicated. But it does get simpler when we bring it down to the individual. What's important to you? not me but you.
Last week, I asked you what was the most important factor when purchasing yarn. Some responses were as I expected...color, texture, smell, and cost. What surprised me were the number of people that said the following:
- I'll only buy what's available from my local yarn store
- I want to support women-operated businesses
- purchase only from local indie dyers or yarn that comes with a story
"Local" and "women" were very common responses. I was really surprised by this as I honestly thought everyone would say "color." This is a very caring and compassionate group so it shouldn't surprise me as we are, after all, a "kindness of knitters."
While I did feel that my original response to "ethically-sourced" was not global enough, the fact remains it is a possible and viable answer. It may be important to you to buy a yarn that is sourced from domestic sheep as well as milled and dyed in the US. There has been increasing popularity in American yarns; a recent article in Vogue Knitting (Winter 2016/17) highlights many examples. Here are a few of my favorites ranging from now larger companies to smaller ones from rustic to elegant.
I absolutely love Thirteen Mile as they are from Montana and have a mill on site. The yarn is on the rustic side and if you like the smell of yarn this will certainly be a treat. There are amazing natural shades as well as rich plant-dyed colors. This farm is what is called "predator-friendly" which means the principal protection against native predators are guard dogs. Lethal control methods against coyotes, bears, wolves, mountain lions are not used. This ranch is an excellent example of Aldo Leopold's "land ethic" as the goal is to learn how to coexist with native species while caring for the land. Now, that's a fine example of an ethically-sourced yarn and something I can stand behind.
Later this week, I'll announce the winners from the give-away so if you haven't left a reply from last weeks post "Connections" there's still time. Remember the more people that reply the more I'm giving away!
I was hopeful that my "surprise" would be ready to reveal tomorrow on Valentine's Day, a delightful knitted treat to share with all of you. Well, sickness and fatigue had it's way in my household this weekend and a plethora of work-related deadlines last week and more this week. So, my ambition was a bit deterred but not forgotten. I'll send an email later this week when I'm ready to share and I'll announce the winners.
An observation...when there is a give-away there are a lot of posts. I completely get this HOWEVER I've also noticed that with lots of comments there is a stronger sense of community. People get inspired by all the chatter and it brings a ray of sunshine to many people reading the blog. All of you are making a difference in the lives of so many people...just by taking the time to share something positive about peace, knitting, people etc. So please, keep sharing...the more you share the greater the ripple that is felt by many.
Mindful Monday Tip #7
Let's get creative today. Since we are talking about yarn why not find meaningful words that begin with Y-A-R-N L-O-V-E. You could doodle, write a poem, make sentences... the sky is the limit. We did a similar activity with the word "peace" last December. But this time, really think about what's important to you when it comes to yarn.