It’s August, we’ve had several very hot days. What am I doing? Thinking of the next sweater I want to knit. This in and of itself makes absolutely no sense. But I’m not the only one doing this. It is for some bizarre reason the thing that happens at the end of the summer every year. Maybe it’s the back to school mentality or the light changing in the evenings saying fall is coming but I turn to knitting wool things, precisely when it really hot. Also sometimes think about Christmas. But that’s harder to explain.
Anyways, part of the reason I’m so excited this time around is I actually have two sweaters worth of yarn in my stash. I don’t hoard yarn, most of my stash is leftovers, but in the past year I’ve bought two sweaters worth of yarn for special reasons. And I’m very excited to use them.
The first yarn is from Seacolors yarns, by Nanney Kennedy. I met Nan at the Gore Place Sheep Shearing Festival in the spring. It was my first real ‘show’ where I had a booth and was selling my yarns. She pulled up late in a Prius, pulled the most amazing amount of stuff out of it and set up a booth that you’d swear took a U-Haul, and when the crowds died down we got to talking. She’s got lots and lots of yarns, all from local sheep (her sheep, in Washington, ME) and dyes it with solar dying processes. She was explaining some of it, and is doing a lot of research (for real, like with a research grant and everything!) on improving the dye vats. Anyways, the point is she was really cool, and I liked her philosophy and way of doing things, so I bought a giant one pound pile of wool, enough for a sweater for me. I think it’ll be a simple raglan cowl neck like Frances Revisited.
The second yarn I’ve got that I’m excited to use is one I bought very recently on our trip to Montana. It’s 1000 yards of Thirteen Mile Yarns. In addition to being organically grown, it’s certified predator friendly. It’s then spun locally on a small scale and then naturally dyed. It’s in an awesome burnt orange color and I can’t wait to knit it up. Still thinking about a pattern for this one, but I can’t wait to get into this one.
All of this brings me to the title of the post. All knitters have come across people who will say things like “that’s cool you knit/spin. Must be way cheaper than buying sweaters, hunh?” Well, no. Both of these bunches of wool cost me around $100. And you know what? It’s worth it. To me. I recently had a conversation with a co-worker (at my real job), where it came up that I sold yarn. She was asking “well, cool. Why would someone want hand spun as opposed to commercially spun yarns?” And I could devote a whole book to this question. To me it’s totally worth it. The whole reason I bought a wheel in the first place was after buying handspun yarn and loving the feel of it. It’s just different. There is a place for everything. Color changes are different with handspun than with commercial yarns. You can get exactly what you want. There are some things that you cannot replicate with a machine. There’s some thing really great, a connection, about a yarn that has already passed through someone elses hands (or your own if you spin) before you even get it. In these cases the yarn is worth it to me. Not only because I’ve met or visited the people or places it’s come from, but because it’s my chance to vote and say yes. I want someone to make something that is as gentle to the environment as possible. I want to say thank you to Thirteen Mile Farm for making a yarn who ‘celebrates the diversity of what grass can grow, and what people can create, close to home. [Their] solar hot water system, semi-worsted spinning on small-scale machinery, and plant-based hand-dyeing are consistent with the land and the flock management outside” (from the label). This is stuff that’s important to me.
And it’s not cheap. We’re used to going to Target and getting a tee shirt or sweater for $15. But someone else is paying the rest of that price. Someone else is working for a dollar a day or whatever to make that cheaply, and these people are more likely to live in an environment which will be ruined by rising sea levels or reduced glacier water reserves from the fossil fuels which are used to carry materials to them, run machines, bring it to you, etc. Just read about cashmere a little. Nothing is free, someone is paying for it. We’re going to be paying for it also. I agree with Kate Davies totally in her posts about the cost of clothes and makes me think a lot more about where mine come from. Anyways, here’s my small vote that it’s worth it to me to have materials and clothes made in a way that sustains the values I believe in.
I’m privileged to be able to spend $100 on a sweaters worth of yarn. But there are small choices from clothes to food to housing to energy use that we all can make everyday to vote. Maybe someday it’ll all add up to enough.