May 16, 2006
I have been thinking lately.
(For anyone out there who is parenting toddlers or children of any age you know that this can be a major accomplishment at times.)
So anyway, I was thinking about defiant yarn. It all started about two weeks ago at my knitting group when two of my dear friends commented on the wonkiness of the grey yarn I used to knit the Easy V sweater. I may not be the best knitter (yet) so some of the wonkiness was due to the work performed by my hands but there was a certain quality about the yarn that seemed to defy my desire to tame it into neat little V's and uniform rows. Now I know everyone out there has dealt with yarn that just won't obey and no matter how even your tension may be or how conscious you are of the way you are forming your stitches. Right?
Well, what about the sheep? This wool I was working with was raw. You could feel the lanolin and smell it's earthiness. Could there be any way that a defiant sheep could produce defiant yarn? Stick with me here folks I know it is a stretch and I might be anthropomorphizing but there was something very alive about this wool that wouldn't let me forget even for a second that it is a natural fiber. For this post I googled "sheep shearing" and hundreds of images came back of sheep wrapped tightly between the legs of a (usually) man seemingly ambivalent about what was occurring. Do all sheep submit to shearing? I have seen demonstrations before and I know that part of the art is knowing how to hold a sheep so they go into a transe of sorts but there must be a few of them out there who kick and holler and defy this process? I find myself imagining as I put on that grey sweater now that there was one son of a bitch, strong willed sheep out there bleating, "You're not taking my wool mister!"But maybe it isn't defiance that made this wool behave the way it did. As I was knitting tonight with the lovely 100% Merino sock yarn that Jess dyed for me I was amazed by it's complete and total submission to my intention for it. As pretty as it is and as much as I am enjoying knitting with it and as beautiful as the finished object will be I can't help but notice that it lacks the "soul" that the grey yarn has. There is a definate difference between free range animals raised for food both in nutrition and in essence. Could there also be a difference in the wool taken from a sheep of a small flock raised on a local farm as opposed to sheep raised for mass produced wool? I think so. Maybe a sheep raised on a small farm is allowed to just be a sheep, loved for exactly what it is and appreciated for what it can provide rather than just having dollar signs fixed on it pound for pound by some large scale operation, reduced to a factor in the profit equation. It retains it's integrity, it's character.
As spring rolls in and our gardens and farmer's markets start to swell with the bounty of hard work and harvest we begin to relish in the pleasure of preparing well grown foods. Perhaps at the same time we should also give pause to the small scale local fiber vixens in our neighborhood who are either doing there best to preserve a certain breed of sheep or just doing what they love by buying a skein or two of locally grown and raised wool, knitting something with it, and see if we feel a difference. There is an Eat Local Challenge for the month of May which I fully support and encourage. How about a Knit Local Challenge? Anyone game? It's easy to forget the origin of our craft as we peruse the aisles of tidy, colorful yarn in our local yarn shops but knitting is a craft deeply rooted in the earth. In cycles. I know I am going to get to know one of my local sheep farms this summer and I am lucky to live in an area where there are many. It just feels right. If anyone else is interested leave a comment. It would be so interesting to see what types of fibers are local in the global blogging world, eh?
manipulate leave you with a picture of half naked men shearing sheep who just might be at a local farm near you. Sorry, I just couldn't resist the picture.