Friday, 1 November 2013

I am a recovering Yarn Zombie

A little peek at the Peace Flag House stash.

I have an obsession with yarn.  I knit on the subway, on the beach, in class (I'm the teacher), in the car, on airplanes.  The last time I was in a movie theater I took my knitting.  Spinning wheels make me drool.  Looms are one of the most beautiful inventions of humynkind.  I adore sheep, alpacas, yak and any other animal growing a coat that could be made into a knittable, spinnable, weavable fiber.

When traveling I look for the fibers and textiles local to the area.  This summer I found linens in Belgium, cottons in Greece and wools in Iceland.  Last summer I found Gaspereau Valley Fibers in the Annapolis Valley,  Briggs and Little in New Brunswick and Green Mountain Spinnery in Vermont.
Returning home to Peace Flag House I started to wonder about our local fibers.  Shop after shop, I asked for yarns and fibers local to Ontario.  Time after time, shopkeepers told me they didn't carry any local fibers or yarns and what's more, they didn't know of any producers.

Striking Walmart workers protested unsafe working conditions and poor wages outside a Walmart store in Pico Rivera, Calif., Oct. 4, 2012. About 50 workers from nine stores in Los Angeles County walked off the job Thursday morning.What?!
When did knitting become a Walmart-ized hobby?  Did I miss the memo?  Had fiber production joined the growing list of Ontario's extinct local economies?
Full of fear, this fall I started paying closer attention to Ontario's rural areas like Grey County, looking for signs of small-scale, local fiber production.  I visited farmer's markets, explored dirt roads and stopped at farm gates with homemade signs.  Thankfully, the more I asked around, the more I discovered not only local producers but local fiber mills, handmade knitting needles, angora goat herds, off-the grid organic farms and alpacas making therapy visits to senior's homes.  While knitting is certainly part of the fiber-industrial complex, Ontario seems to have a small contingent of local fiber producers raising diverse animals and making beautiful yarns and rovings.

Despite my dedication to shopping Main Street over Big Box, this urban fiber freak was woefully ignorant of the treasures in our backyard.  Why was I so unaware?  When it comes to food I am a mindful consumer, carefully purchasing the foods for Peace Flag House based on locality, quality and growing practices.  But when it comes to yarn...

I turn into a Yarn Zombie.  When I want to knit a sweater ethical purchasing slides off me like dead skin and I become a consumption-driven yarn zombie, snarling 'local-schmocal' as I tear into sale racks of pretty colours and soft textures.

Wow. That was embarrassing to admit.

I've gained some perspective this fall.  In fact, I am now a recovering Yarn Zombie.  The more I discovered and met farmers choosing to invest their time and energy in producing small-scale, quality fiber products that value the animals, the land and the art of production, the more I saw the disconnect between my values and my actions.  I felt the growing need to shift my fiber art practices away from the global-industrial model and into processes that value the local, the social and environmental.  I needed to practice some personal Craftivism.

This form of Craftivism, rather than making public yarn bombing statements, focuses on consciously investing in the development of our local communities and economies, in sustainable farming practices and in products meant to last rather than become trash. 

Some members of Peace Flag House (aka Pascal) have agreed to help me take on this Craftivism challenge.  In my recovery as a consumerist Yarn Zombie I will be consciously leaving behind the fiber-industrial complex and stepping into the living world of the small and local.  Peace Flag House will be bridging the gap between rural farmers and all of us urban artisans by sourcing yarns and fibers, visiting farms and finding local producers of all things fiber arts.  And we'll be sharing the adventure!

Over the coming months we'll be doing a 'yarn crawl' around rural Ontario, documenting discoveries and sharing connections with stories and photos from the farms, mills and artisans we visit.  We'll be bringing yarns and fibers back to the city, sharing local fiber treasures with everyone.  Most importantly, we'll be investing in our time, attention and money in local economies and sustainable communities.  The reign of the Yarn Zombie is over.

Perhaps we'll even create our own urban-style, handmade farm-gate sign.


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