Monday, February 27, 2006

Big shaggy dog

My neighbor, Hank, has a fondness for Mackenzie River huskies. Mackenzies are noted for being very large and strong (the dogs are freighters) and for having very thick, long coats: potentially excellent sources of wool. He had one of these enormous dogs, Sgt. Pepper, for many years. Sgt. Pepper looked like a giant malamute to me, and he was one of those dogs you could go right up to and hug and he loved it. Very tolerant, easygoing, gentle dog. The village was sad when he finally died of old age.

Then Hank got Scoby, not quite as big as Sgt. Pepper, but much shaggier. Scoby is also an even-tempered canine, and his fur is about a foot long on his flanks in the winter. I heard through the grapevine that Hank was looking for someone to take away the wool they would brush from him (and Scoby takes a LOT of brushing), so I called him up. Alas, Hank had given up and recently tossed a bunch of wool that he and Myrna had collected. But Scoby continues to shed (a lot), and Hank is quite willing to save more for me. So soon I will commence adventures in spinning!

Introduction

Hi all, my name is Donna and I'm a member of the Green Party in the US. I live in Colorado. A couple of years ago (I thought), I wrote an article about organic wool. I just found the file and it's from 2002, so I'll have to update it. But the general idea is still current so here's my conclusion from my research and a few links to places that sell organic or eco-friendly wool yarn.

Donna Druchunas
www.sheeptoshawl.com

SHOULD I BUY ORGANIC WOOL?
The benefits of certified organic and eco-friendly wool products are similar. Deciding whether or not to purchase only certified organic wool products is not simple.

For large-scale consumers and product manufacturers, buying certified organic wool may be the only viable method for ensuring eco-friendly products. In addition, consumer demand and export requirements may dictate that large-scale producers and manufacturers obtain organic certification.

For the small-sale consumer, there are options. When you buy certified organic products, you are supporting the organic industry and encouraging other wool producers to adopt practices that support a healthy environment. However, many small non-certified farmers and wool producers offer products equal or excel certified organic products in quality and ecological soundness.

For now, the best option may be to shop around and study the farming techniques and wool production processes used by the producers of fleece or yarn you are interested in purchasing.

SOURCES FOR ECO-FRIENDLY FLEECES AND YARNS
While this list is not comprehensive, it does include a variety wool growers, producers, and organizations across the spectrum of eco-friendly and organic methods. Organically certification is indicated by a *. For additional information on the practices of each farm or mill, visit their web sites.

* - places that had organic certification when I wrote the article

FARMS, FIBER AND YARN
Beaverslide Dry Goods, Montana--www.beaverslide.com
Marr Haven, Michigan--www.marrhaven.com
Spring Creek Organic Farm, Idaho--www.romneywool.com
Spruce Haven Farm, Meaford ON--www.bmts.com/~beggs
*Thirteen Mile Lamb & Wool Co., Montana--www.lambandwool.com

FIBER PROCESSING AND YARN
Bartlett Yarns, Maine--www.bartlettyarns.com
Belle Vallée Wools, Belle Vallée, ON--www.bvwools.com
Custom Woolen Mills, Carstairs, AB--www.customwoolenmills.com
*Green Mountain Spinnery, Vermont--www.spinnery.com
La Lana Wools, New Mexico--www.lalanawools.com (natural dyes)
*Taos Valley Wool Mill, New Mexico--www.taosfiber.com/woolmill/

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Eco+ Yarn

This is my first attempt at a yarn review, so please excuse any clumsiness on my part, and let me know what I can do to make this more useful to you.

This is the first attempt to use the yarn I mentioned in my post about the Local Yarn Store. Here are my thoughts on it so far.

First of all, I usually buy yarn which is already in a convenient form. This is only the second time I've had to wind a hank of yarn into a ball in order to use it. This took a long time, and ended up with a very large ball (fortunately I have a very patient and loving 10 year old, who was willing to act as my swift!). At some point in my future, a ball winder will undoubtedly become necessary.


Then, in my eagerness to do it 'right', I went ahead and swatched. I started off with size 11 needles (remember the package called for 10 1/2). I really wasn't satisfied with that, so I frogged the whole thing and jumped right down to size 9 (my largest circulars). I really like the look of the yarn at this tension. I think it will make a beautiful hat. At this point, the gauge was 16st/4", which works for the pattern that I'm using. I washed my swatch gently by hand, with Woolite, set it out to dry, and ironed it. Yup, still 4 st/inch, so it's good to go.

My biggest concern with this is that the hat will be a donation. It needs to be reasonably easy to care for, and wool, unfortunately, is titchier than synthetics. I think that, since it's a hat it won't need to be washed that often. Also, I'm giving it to a half-way house, not a homeless shelter, so I *know* the recipient will have access to facilities to care for it properly.

I *love* the feel of this yarn. It's light weight and soft, no scratchiness at all, and the color is rich and deep. I don't like the slight tendency to 'shed', and it's a bit light weight for a sweater, I would think. Still no explanation of why the name Eco, and whether this actually is organic or not. I wish we had 'Fair Trade' certification for yarn in the States.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Cast On!

If you don't already listen to the "Cast On" knitting podcast, this week (Episode 12: Green) is the perfect time to start. In the midst of her usual discussion of knitting, and "this week's sweater", hostess Brenda Dayne introduces a new, green, business model for advertising on podcasts.

Deirdre Flint's song is a 'must hear' as well.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Let's hear it for supporting your LYS!

Before now, I've only found organic yarn online.

Yesterday, I bought the following two yarns at my local yarn store:

1 skein Ecoknit yarn - 21 sts/4" 3.5mm needles (US size4) - 50g/100m. Grown in Peru. 100% organic cotton certified by EKO.
This particular skein is a tan to white. I plan to use it for dish towels, at least at first. It might also make some nice layette items down the line.

Also 1
skein of "Cascade Yarns ECO+" which is NOT certified. 14 stitches/4" on size 10 1/2 needles. 250g/437m. 100% Peruvian Highland Wool.
It was the last skein, and it was on sale, and I thought it would be a good investment for some charity knitting I want to do. I knew I wouldn't have a chance to research it first, so I picked it up. Checking through the blogosphere, it's bought by people who also look for certified organic.

It's going to be a while before I get a chance to start to swatch either of these. It's just nice to know that there is a local supply.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Sweater challenge

I've so far made three (3) scarves, two (2) hats and am working on a shawl. I am a rank beginner. Notwithstanding my neophyte knitter status, I am attempting an Icelandic sweater for my husband, made with Lopi 100% wool yarn. I'm having trouble finding much about how this yarn is made. I did find a review of the bulky weight yarn (I'm using the regular worsted) on Knitter's Review. And from Camilla Family Farm I found a bit of information about the colors and weights available, and found this:
ISTEX was formed in October 1991 to take over the scouring plant and yarn division of woolen manufacturer Alafoss...Istex is the only company in Iceland which selects its wool directly from farmers for washing and spinning into top-quality Lopi yarn. At sorting stations around the country, wool is gathered to be expertly graded according to colour and quality before being taken for washing at the company's scouring plant in the garden town of Hveragerdi.

While processing the wool, the use of detergents and artificial substances is kept to an absolute minimum, ensuring the preservation of natural wool fats.

Neither the ISTEX nor the Alafoss pages give much information on how the wool is treated. I found quite a lot about Icelandic sheep, however.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Knitting for Katrina

From Knitting for Change come these links on knitting or crocheting as a way to aid victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita:

Knit for Katrina is making blankets, and has patterns, guidelines, photos, and a forum on it. People from across the US are sending in squares to be assembled into blankets.

Purls of Hope has a beautiful site, with news, patterns, and information on what to send.

Go Knit, also known as Knitting Arts, also has a relief drive going.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Obligatory Knit Olympics Post

By now, every knitter who keeps up with the blogsphere has heard about the Knit Olympics. We've pretty much chosen patterns, bought our yarns, and made our swatches. All that's left is choosing 'Teams'. So, why not one of our very own? It's a great way to show everyone what we're all about.


Green Knitting Team

Who can join?

Anyone who's event fits any of these categories:

  1. Project knit (in part or in whole) with organic* yarns
  2. Project knit (in part or in whole) with Fair Trade yarns
  3. Project knit (in part or in whole) with recycled yarns
  4. Project will aid in reduction of waste or recycling (i.e. 'string' market bags to avoid using the plastic supermarket ones)
Post your comments here, describing your green project, and download our button to your own server. Deirdre and I hope that you will also explore the 'blog, and find other things that you like here.

I will update the blog with our team members.**



* For the chemists out there: Yes, I know that in chemical jargon the term 'organic' would encompass pretty much anything one could possibly knit with. Agricultural jargon is equally well established, and there should be no ambiguity in this context. The term originally meant 'deriving from organs' in any case.

** In the interest of full disclosure, I have a confession to make. Green Knitting is not, yet, a habit for me. I will be a cheerleader for this event, and use all of you as an inspiration to improve my own knitting. It's a learning process for all of us.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bundle Up New Orleans: Activism Opportunity

(This will be my last post today, promise.) This isn't a Green Party project, especially, but it's a place Greens could make a difference right away (well, not right away, it takes a while to knit or crochet a scarf or a pair of mittens). Here's the description of the project:
Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city at the end of summer, when few people were concerned about winterwear. And yet, now that winter is upon us, those who have been trying to put their lives back together are in need of hats, scarves, mittens, and other winterwear.

We will be partnering with distribution sites (such as churches, community clothing centers, senior centers, etc.) as those service agencies already know the needs and can properly distribute the goods we create. Distribution sites have not confirmed yet, although we expect commitments within another week or two.

There will also be collection boxes placed at sites both in Uptown New Orleans, as well as across the lake in Mandeville, thanks to individual members of the New Orleans Knitting Meetup.

We might try connecting up with Common Ground to see if they could use winter wear. It looks like they still need blankets and baby clothes. Take a look at their wish list.

Politically correct Pastafarian wear for the crochety

Okay, got this off of Skepchick via Knitting for Change:
a crochet pattern (sorta) for a Pastafarian Flying Spaghetti Monster (may you be touched by His Noodly Appendage) Hat! (the page is copyrighted, but I got permission to post the photo from Sparky, the creator of the not-quite-pattern)

Ah, but how to make such a deliciously ridiculous and pious piece of millinery politically (as well as religiously) radical?

Lessee:
1) use organic wool and recycled chenille (or better yet, real SILK chenille)
2) make sure your meatball yarn is dyed using organic natural dyes (tomato sauce might work, but it's probably not red enough; might have to use something else to get the right shade)
3) use wooden or shell buttons for the pupils

Activist knitting!

Here's an example from 2002 of how knitting can be a powerful statement for change:

G8 Protesters Turn to Knitting Blankets to Needle Heavy Security Presence
CALGARY -- Anti-globalization protestors hit the streets here to protest this year's Group of Eight summit, armed with knitting needles instead of the bottles, petrol bombs and stones that rocked last year's meeting in Italy.

More than 1,000 protesters turned to creative gimmicks Wednesday to press for Third World debt relief and to denounce corporate greed -- a stark contrast to the militancy expressed by the 150,000 protesters who descended on last July's G8 meeting in Genoa, Italy.

Last year, window-smashing and car-burning protesters left the streets of Genoa in tatters. One protester was shot dead by a policeman.

This year, several dozen protesters, seeking to needle the city's heavy police presence, gathered on a stretch of Calgary's main pedestrian street to collectively knit in protest.

"I'm knitting 12-inch (30 centimeter) squares that will get into blankets for the homeless," said 74-year-old Patricia Grinstead.

"What we're doing is symbolic. Another thing about the blankets is that they represent warmth and security because we feel we are losing our security."

Grant Neufeld, the young founder of the Revolutionary Knitting Circle, said knitting was symbolic of "community independence."

"We need as communities to be able to take care of ourselves because when we are not able to take care of ourselves, we end up dependent on others -- in this case the corporation -- to survive."

Here's another article, more recent, about guerilla knitting, that appeared in the Guardian on January 31.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Locally grown

One of the biggest, if not THE biggest user of petroleum is transportation. Cars, planes, trucks, ships: they use petroleum-based fuels, adding tremendously to air pollution and global warming. So buying whatever one can locally helps reduce one of the worst wastes of this valuable nonrenewable resource and helps keep the world healthier, to boot. Thus, getting your yarns from local sources is one way to help.

But where? Up here in the Frozen North, there aren't too many sheep, and musk oxen, though available, produce really expensive (tho' ever-so-wonderful) wool.

Ah, but there are lots of dogs. Rummaging around in my trunkful o' yarn the other day, I happened to discover a bag of soft doggy wool that I had saved many years ago from my Shetland sheepdog, Piccolo. She has long since gone to that squirrel-chasing forest in the sky, but her fur remains behind, possibly to keep me warm. I have a neighbor who mixes dog wool with angora rabbit wool and makes the most lovely soft and fuzzy hats with the blend. She says the dog wool is a bit slippery (and takes a few washes to reduce that wet-dog smell), but that it works fine in blends.

There's a book out there called Knitting with Dog Hair, and I found a couple of websites for businesses that specialize in knitting or spinning pet hair. One of them, VIP Fibers, even has free patterns. Dog hair is also called chiengora (chien = dog in French). If your interest is in spinning rather than knitting, here's some guidelines for spinning chiengora.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Welcome to the Green knitworld!

For those mad needleworkers among us who just can't keep our politics out of our handicraft, here is a knitting blog where we can share patterns, share our triumphs, and commiserate on our fiber flops. Links to organic and alternative fiber sources and to great Green blogs and websites are also here.

Got a pattern for a sweater with a green message? Found an excruciatingly politically correct cooperative making 100% organic hemp rya rugs? Post it here!