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Archive for October 15th, 2008

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

Mahatma Gandhi

A little over a year ago my younger sister was diagnosed with breast cancer.  A mastectomy was followed by a long course of chemotherapy and then radiation. I decided to knit her a shawl that she could wrap around herself the way my arms would if I were there to comfort and support her.

The first thing I did was look for the “right” yarn, which I now know was naive. The yarn had to have the correct colors, weight, and texture. I found two that I was going to narrow down to one. Then it hit me. Content. Fiber content.

Did I really want to give my sister a shawl made from heaven knows what chemicals? Wasn’t her chemotherapy enough exposure to chemicals for a lifetime? Thus began my research into and sole use of organic yarns or yarns made of natural fibers. What I learned about how yarns are made and dyed changed me as a knitter. It also changed how and why I choose a particular yarn for my projects.

I won’t bore you with too many details. The short of it: Chemicals play a large role in the manufacture of yarn. A much larger role than I had ever imagined. They even play a role in yarns made of all natural fibers. And unless the organic yarn is grown in a particular color (organic cotton yarns come to mind here) their “organic” status can be lost the minute the yarn hits the dye vat. If you want true organic yarn, it has to be organic from start to finish. Vegan dyes, natural dyes and dye procedures keep an organic yarn organic. (I am not going to start on mordants, though a yarn company’s use of and type of mordant does make a difference to me in selecting or not selecting a yarn.)

I very much believe in “going green”. I make my buying power agree with my sentiments. I buy yarn from companies that have small environmental footprints.

Next time you’re looking for yarn give one of the environmentally friendly ones a try.

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