Fashion Revolution No. 3 // Separating the threads


This week (and most weeks) I've been thinking about yarn- especially as I work on the hat pattern I'm currently writing. Pattern writing doesn't require a yarn recommendation, but I think it's helpful for knitters who might not have a massive stash or access to a physical yarn store where they can feel things out. For this pattern I've been leaning towards Cascade yarn so I emailed their customer service reps for information about their production and sourcing methods and heard back promptly:

Peruvian Highland Wool used for Cascade 220 is a result of an unintentional cross breeding between Merino sheep and the local sheep owned by the indigenous people who live on the high sierra of Peru at an altitude of approximately 11,000 to 12,000 feet. Cascade Yarns imports approximately 80% of the highland wool produced in Peru. Its high loft makes it light to wear and the long staple makes it resistant to pilling. Our yarns are dyed with Oeko-Tex Standard 100 dyes that meet or exceed global safety standards.

We receive many questions regarding the conditions of the animals that our yarns are sourced from and the working conditions of the mills where we purchase our yarns. The animals are treated extremely well, (like family!) and are allowed a very free range style of life. They have shepherds that watch over them and they are extra special to all the little girls in the families as pets. The mill workers are treated fairly and make a competitive wage. They are also provided with safety equipment such as ear and eye protection and masks to keep the wool from irritating the lungs. We care about our producers and do our best to make sure they are up to date in safety and eco-friendly procedures.

That didn't totally answer my questions, and now I have more. Such as: what about the other 20%, where does that come from? Good that the animals are treated well, and the mill workers paid fairly (what is fair?) but what about the farmers, are they paid a fair price for the wool? Do they own the sheep and have a say in where the wool goes? Do they own the land? Where are the mills, and are the workers paid fairly by U.S. standards, or by the standards of the country where they are (if it's not the U.S.)? 

I like Cascade yarns because they are affordable (red flag!), but also because they are a solid and practical choice for hard wearing garments. Their alarmingly affordable prices (plus frequent sales at Webs) and generous yardage makes them accessible to people who cannot afford to knit a $200 sweater any more than they can afford to buy one. So I'm torn. 

Here's another interesting yarn conversation that I'm learning things from. And here's Part 2.

This lady is doing recycled yarn in a super professional (about to be more so!) way, check her out!

Image: "Plant Magic" cowls knit in Cascade 220. The top sections of each are naturally dyed with indigo and pokeweed.