Thursday, July 3, 2008

new book!

A couple of weeks ago, I met Joanne Seiff, who is the author of a really wonderful-sounding, not-yet-published book, Fiber Gathering. It's coming out next March. It's all about fiber festivals in the US, including the MD Sheep and Wool Festival, Rhinebeck, the Black Sheep Gathering and more.The book will have projects, patterns, and loads of photos from ten fiber festivals. Does she have the best job in the world or what?

I'm hoping to have her here for a workshop and book signing around March of next year. Details to come!

She's got another book project in the works but it's too soon to say much about, except that it's about sustainability issues in the yarn/fiber/knitting world.

That's something that's been on my mind for a while, as I'm an active participant in the distribution chain, being a yarn shop owner. I want to be aware about everything I stock: is it environmentally benign or harmful? How far did this yarn have to travel to get to my customer's hands? How many harmful chemicals, toxic dyes, or exploited workers were involved in its production? What is the true cost of this product? (the photo below is from the Briggs and Little mill in New Brunswick, Canada, producers of reasonably earth-friendly yarns).

I've handled many a "fun" yarn in my day, without thinking about bigger issues, but the fair trade and sustainability are words that are driving my inventory choices more and more. I don't have answers, but I think it's essential to be aware of these issues.

on soapbox—opinion alert— acrylic yarn is just plain bad for the environment. It's not just that it comes from oil, but that it lasts forever. I'm really concerned about the stuff we're throwing into our children's future, in the name of crafting—off soapbox

It's great to see that the major yarn companies are starting to respond to environmental issues. Organic and low impact crafting materials should be available to everyone.

Check out Joanne's website here. Here she is with Harry.


Joanne said...

Wow, thanks for the lovely post! What a thoughtful piece of writing about environmental issues! One weird little side note about acrylic. It does last a long time, but from what I've been reading, it's made from the byproducts of the petroleum industry. So, until we don't use any oil at all? Maybe it isn't such a bad thing to have acrylic up our sleeves as an alternative fiber...because that byproduct might go to waste if we condemn acrylic. Not because I love acrylic, because I don't, but it IS hardwearing. There are so many uses for it--it's machine washable, it lasts forever, and it dyes in bright colors. In combination with sustainably raised fibers, it may extend the life of things like cotton or wool. (especially in wool socks?)

One of the things I'm trying hard to do as I write this new book is to take a moderate path. We can make so many helpful and positive changes in what we stock, buy, consume and recycle--but we won't get many others to join the crowd if we shut down debate entirely. Plus, I'm going to bet that you're wearing something synthetic--with a man-made acrylic, elastic, nylon or spandex in it? I certainly am..and it's hard to buy clothes without it. Just a thought. I'm not out there promoting Red Heart, definitely not, but it is worth thinking about this in context.

What an interesting post you offered! I am looking forward to seeing and talking to you again soon. :)

ellen said...

Hm, looks like I could do some deeper fact finding : ) My understanding was that it was not a byproduct--but I guess you know better on that score!

Yes, it's impossible to not wear synthetics at all. Though consider the life of Tasha Tudor... Handwoven drawstring cami-knickers, anyone? I really want to cut back every bit that I possibly can though, and still I'm holding the line on stocking it for the shop. Can't deal with the guilt.

AtI hope it comes across here that this is a personal choice, and I'm not condemning anyone who chooses to do otherwise.

See ya!

Andrea M said...

Hi Ellen!

Love your soapbox! I do have to wonder if tencel, or others have similar properties as to what Joanne is speaking of which - that can be used instead of acrylic and provides a biodegradable option.

That being said - I think Joanne's stance on having people THINK before they bring things into their lives - for me it's the food side of that argument - this is all a GOOD thing for people to start reading about!

Will be by the shop soon!