Fodder for Thought: real wool…

A few years back, I visited Foothills Yarn and Fiber in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, located on the farm property of Cascade Alpacas (I post about it here).  It is really a great place, but my favorite part of the whole visit was the skein of DK baby alpaca that I bought tied up with a tag that had the alpaca’s name hand printed on it.  My little skein came from an alpaca named Alfalfa.

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Have you ever wondered about the fiber you knit with? Like, beyond its colorway, gauge, and feel and through to its roots? When I first started knitting, I didn’t think too much about the wool.  And frankly, when I first started, I didn’t really knit with a lot of real wool.  Most of what I cast-on was acrylic based and cheap.   Quickly, however, as my passion for knitting grew, I began to develop a richer taste for yarn and an appreciation for real fiber.  I began to appreciate the softness and beautiful halo the natural fibers gave to the work and how the colors seemed so much more milky and earthy–while vibrant at the same time.  However, that was just what I experienced while I was holding and working with the yarn.  There is still so much more to the fiber than that.

handinyarn+

You see, yarn is wool in its final stages.  Once we hold the yarn in our hands, its journey (and purpose) are almost completely fulfilled.  Yarn, knitting (crocheting, weaving, what have you), finished piece, in that order.  But before the yarn makes it into our hands, it’s grown on the big burly bodies of sheep, alpaca, goats, etc. and then sheared by skilled shearers who risk injury to themselves as well as the animal, but who take such great care because they love what they do.  The wool is then sent to a mill or spinner to be turned into plied yarn or roving (and more).  Then the dying is done (or not) to create a beautiful spectrum of all kinds of colors and multi-colors, or left in its beautiful natural hue.  Of course, all this may seem like common knowledge to most knitters, but it bears emphasizing just how amazing and completely deserving it is of our attention and appreciation as knitters.

skeins+yoke_01

There is such a strong push in the direction of slow living these days, and that’s a really good thing.  This slowing of life gives us time to see things more clearly and get to know ourselves and the world around us just a little better.  Knitting is slow.  Not always, of course, thanks to the genius of super bulky yarns, but overall the craft is a slowing and calming one.  Not only that, but it’s a craft that requires investment.  Sure there are ways to knit cheaply.  We all do it.  Joann, Michaels, etc. all provide cheap alternatives to fine fiber, but at what cost?  Isn’t the time we spend with our work worth the investment in good quality fiber from a traceable source?

>>>stepping up on to the soapbox<<<

Now, I know that this may seem a bit extreme.  Why break the bank to keep on knitting?  I get that.  Believe me.  The last sweater I knit (which was only the second garment I’ve knit) was from a budget yarn I picked up at Joann.  Mostly because it was cheap, and also because I didn’t want to invest too much money into something that may not turn out the way I’d like.  And that’s really crumby.  I mean, I ought to have enough faith in my skill to take a risk and invest in good, hearty, natural fiber so that my piece lasts and lasts (and really, there is such a thing as frogging my work—not the end of the world—a post on that to come shortly).  Sooooo, I think it’s time for me to take a step back and see what I can do to contribute to the fiber community in a way that helps support the foundation as well as promoting the idea of investing in quality material over heedlessly building a stash of synthetic fiber.   AND, at the same time supporting the LYS in my area (and the small farms and yarn vendors that I can shop online).

>>>stepping down from the soapbox<<<

 

Like I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been catching up on Woolful, listening to at least one episode every day (and if you are a knitter or crocheter {or fiber enthusiast of any kind} you need to check it out).  I guess that I really started to explore these thoughts while listening to the stories of so many people who live and work in fiber.  Their experiences and love for their work inspires me.  It makes me feel  a sense of pride in my craft in a way that transcends my WIPs and FOs that I share.  It’s a pride not only in what do with the yarn, but also in the amazing stories behind the yarn.  I’m proud to be able to share little stories of how the beautiful jewel-toned finger-less mitts I wear came from a baby alpaca that goes by Alfalfa.

bookandknitting

Suffice it to say, I’ve decided to dedicate some of my time in this woolly world of knitting getting to know and fostering a deeper appreciation for my fiber and ultimately my knitted work.  I have some really beautiful yarn in my stash just waiting to be knit into something lovely.  With each new stash-bust, I’ll do my due diligence and learn a thing or two about the source of the yarn  and share that with you here.  Maybe this will inspire you and others to take this journey with me.  If we can dig up a story in our work we will always have a story to tell.

Cheers and happy knitting!

Tayler

3 Comments

  1. mulchandmorecrafts

    As a spinner and dyer of wool,(and other natural fibers) I really appreciate that you have this point of view. I don’t always know the name of the source of my wool (sometimes it’s a large enough quantity that I know it’s more than one animal’s growth), but I do buy from local sources now (although some has come from other states and even Canada) since in the beginning of my spinning for production I didn’t have the knowledge of local sources and I ordered on-line.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. TheGreenhorn

      Absolutely. Knitting and real fiber is earthy and imperfect. Learning to gauge the work with hands and eyes is invaluable. It’s like making good sourdough bread. It’s all about the look, feel, and in the bread’s case, smell. Thank you for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

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