Being a Knitwear Designer with no yarn to knit with
Yarn Line Up Autumn/Winter 2018
For those of you who know me in person, or fellow designer makers I keep in touch with, I know a few of you have noticed that my online shop has remained un-updated for the best part of a year, and before sharing some new work I have with you, I wanted to give a bit of the story into why my ‘business’ doesn’t run in the usual way, with product ranges that remain constant, and a host of fairs and events or exhibitions under my belt each year. This is because, this year it took me 10 months to source yarns that met my ethical criteria.
Being a knitwear designer with no yarn to knit with is quite tricky.
If you’re familiar with my work you’ll know that I only use yarns which meet several criteria in terms of traceability, animal welfare, sustainability and fair trade, which are some of the broader umbrellas under which my yarns sit, and they are part of the solution to specific issues under these umbrella terms. You can read about these criteria on my ethical knitwear page. Within these criteria, there are a number of avenues I can pursue in order to track down my yarns, and this is where the time this year came in.
I’ve noticed, with enthusiasm, an increase in interest from other designer makers in ethical sourcing of their materials, and also, the ever growing ethical fashion community who make up a still surprisingly small, but mighty, community who quite rightly demand facts and transparency, which I am really happy to be able to give, and so I’d like to share a bit about what is involved in my process of ethical sourcing.
Since finishing my one retail show of the year last November, and finding that my supplier of traceable, British, single farm alpaca was no longer going to be supplying yarn, 90% of my time has gone into the sourcing of my yarns, back and forth emails and calls to leads I’ve had on smallholdings that I’ve heard about through word of mouth, looking into working with mills, working on the best way to include colour in my work in terms of dyes and who to work with on that, and going around multiple yarn fairs asking every vendor about slaughter free yarns and traceability. It took me roughly these 10 months of this year to end up with some cones of yarn finally making their way to my studio, and also in that time, I’ve been observing the tussle of opinions over wool as a sustainable material. I have some thoughts on this, which I hope are measured but that I am sure are not all inclusive of the complicated issues around this, and I’d love to hear more from you on these topics too, and for this to be an evolving part of my work which is an open conversation.
Alongside my surprise new full time job of yarn sourcing, not knitting, I saw one of Kristen Leo’s informative videos, where she shared information really accessibly about the most harmful materials in the fashion/textiles industry and talked about some of the issues with wool. I’m a huge fan of Kristen’s work, how she shares information about so many different areas of ethical fashion and is an advocate and ambassador for change. I watched her video with great interest as she included several concerns about wool, all of which I share, but that happily, none of which affect the yarns I work with. It was another catalyst for me wanting to open up a conversation around this, the use of wool is a specific part and perhaps a part of the fashion industry nightmare that might seem small, but that I’ve found myself addressing very specifically, and that I’ve found to be one part of a domino effect that could improve the current fashion industries complicated and overwhelming web. It’s one small part that I’ve seen and thought, actually we can fix all of those issues, and if we try to find solutions for one thing at a time, that’s where I believe the huge improvement that we’re already seeing is coming from. I think it’s vital to solve the ethical issues with wool, given that, unlike leather and Pinatex for example, there are currently no alternative materials with the same qualities as wool, and ‘wool’ alternatives that are being used are causing a knock on effect of huge environmental issues (e.g. acrylic, more on this in an upcoming post).
So in the coming weeks I’m going to be sharing some information, probably far too long and detailed, about why the yarns I source aren’t affected by the issues mentioned in Kristen’s video, which include mulesing, wool as a meat by-product, mass production, and affordability. This last issue, I do agree is a real and problematic one, there’ll be more on that to come. I was going to start by sharing some of my thinking about that now, but having accidentally written 4239 words about affordability and ethical products, I think I’m going to come back to that! I thought a good place to start instead, is by sharing with you my Yarn Line Up for my products this autumn.
It feels very siginificant to share these yarns with you, the product of the best part of this years work, I hope you’ll appreciate them as much as I do.
I will be launching my new web shop, with all products made by hand, using these yarns, really soon. Sign up below to be notified.