In a world that seems to spin faster and faster out of control, shouldn’t we be looking for products that take time to unfold? Or products whose usefulness we savor? Shouldn’t we demand products that have stories to tell? Like good wine, a good design needs time to be a part of our lives, time to reach its full maturity.
~Natalie Chanin, EcoSalon
Oh, I'm a sucker for the story! Many excellent yarns are available to us knitters today--how do we begin to make a decision about what to knit with?
When I'm not knitting with my beloved Jamieson's Spindrift Shetland yarn, I love to buy yarn that fits into a larger vision of the world I'd like to inhabit. Two new yarns have come into my home in the last week that fit the bill:
First, Pioneer, introduced by A Verb for Keeping Warm yesterday. A light worsted yarn spun out of fleece from the Merino flock that Sally Fox is nurturing alongside her revolutionary colored cotton on her California farm. Pioneer is the result of years of effort that Kristine Vejar and Adrienne Rodriguez have put into building a truly local product that would support small flock keepers, support local mills, and build local economies. The yarn itself has that wonderful cottony feel that fine Merino offers; the colors show the depth that natural dyes can give.
I arrived at the inaugural party at A Verb for Keeping Warm within half an hour of its opening. I scooped up 9 skeins--with no apologies for the indulgence! I've got a cowl in mind based on a very old Navajo blanket I saw in Santa Fe, and a go-to vest for next winter. And I will love each piece for much more than its surface appeal--I will love it for Sally's unending hard work with the sheep, for Kristine's vision and investment. Judging from the crowd, I'm not the only one inspired by the California Wool Project--I'm hoping for its continued success. To read more about the project, check out Verb's blog.
Second, Lot #1 from The Great White Bale project. When Clara Parkes announced her plans for a 698# bale of fine Saxony Merino, offering spots in a months-long adventure from bale to yarn, I jumped! Members have been treated to bi-monthly posts documenting the travels of a bale of wool through every step of the process to finished yarn in the knitter's hands--a real education.
A few days ago, I also received the first hanks of yarn from the GWB project: the romantically named Lot #1, a heavy worsted/aran weight woolen spun yarn. I am so enjoying knitting with this! (You might be surprised to know that I do have a few size 10 needles in my closet--and I've got to tell you that things go a LOT faster on these than on the #2s I usually use!) Again, the yarn feels cottony soft, and I can't wait to finish my first project (a cowl) to see how it blooms after it is washed. Unlike Pioneer, this yarn is a one-of-a-kind yarn. Each has their purpose and place.
Each of these yarns has a story--finding the fleece, ferreting out the remaining facilities in the US that can handle the picking, washing, carding, and spinning, making decisions about the appropriate hand of the yarn, determining the best colors and how to develop those with an increasingly burdened environment in mind, figuring out how to move the product from place to place efficiently and cost effectively, without taking advantage of anyone. Transparent. Produced with integrity.
These stories are so much more interesting than the romantic gloss of an advertisement. It brings us to the thrill of the material world we inhabit, and reminds us that "66 people brought us this yarn."*
* This harks back to a Buddhist saying, "66 people brought me this food," a reminder that a large web of human effort is involved with the simplest object: from the obvious farmer, to picker, to trucker, to storekeeper, to the less obvious: the person who saved the seed generations ago, to the person who designed the roads that carried the food to the market, to the person who made the cooking pots, to the person who checks the gas lines that carry fuel to the stove.... We can only be grateful.