Archive for the ‘green materials’ Category

A bad economy

July 11, 2009

means a lot more Ebay goin on in my life.

I’m selling some yarn!  Check it out.  The first listing I’m doing is for 5 skeins of Lorna’s Laces Green Line DK Wool in Hope.  I may be adding some more in the next few days, which I’ll post about here as well.

This large bit of yarn is the 2nd half of a big batch I bought some time ago–the 1st half you may remember became my Cabled Capecho, which I love love love.  This yarn is wonderful (100% organic merino wool) but I’m not sure I want to knit with the same color again–hence the sellage.

It’s definitely time to downsize, and save, and sacrifice, and a whole bunch of other unsexy things, but this may just be someone’s opportunity to grab some yarn they may have bought anyway, but WAY cheaper.  Or your opportunity to impulse buy…ya know, whatever’s good for you.

End shameless advertisement.



April 19, 2009

Dear Friends,

I want to apologize for my extended absence.  I have been in a weird little funk for a few months now…I think perhaps called “winter”.  A few days ago something turned–shifted–in a major way.  I was home sick in bed Sunday watching unbelievably and unjustifiably bad “reality” TV on (yes, I clearly sought it out enough to first see if MTV showed the episodes online and then to subsequently watch them online) and then magically decided to sew a shirt.  It sounds minor, but there was a palpable click, turn, shift in my mental state of being.  Like I was re-excited, re-motivated and reinvigorated.  Going to work the next day didn’t seem so painful and it actually got interesting for me again. All the extra obligations in my life stopped feeling so burdensome and actually seemed like the opportunities I thought they were when I first took them on…not that I’ve really gotten moving on them, but at least my mind and spirit are on board again.

A lot of this is really just seasonal.  I think it’s getting worse as I get older and I’m seeing why people retire in Florida.  I’m always ok at the beginning…even hopeful that I’ll enjoy it a little.  But it never sticks.  The bare branches, the grey skies,  the fact that I literally would get around 15 hours a week of exposure to even a hint of sunshine, all concentrated on the weekend (I work in a windowless office where it’s easy to forget that there even is an outside with weather and sun).  And although spring has taken a long time to come this year, once it did, my will to live made a full 180.  What’s strange is every year it’s such a surprise as though I have absolutely no long term memory.  Maybe it’s because I do feel like it’s getting worse, but maybe I only feel like it’s getting worse because I can’t seem to remember that this is obviously going to happen every year…so I’m caught off guard and then strangely shocked that I could be so seasonally affected.  It’s the hope that gets in the way–the hope that this year I will like winter.  I’m not much of an optimist, so whenever I attempt it it really throws the rest of my brain functions, like logical reasoning, out of whack.

And now, I will share the first piece of physical proof that things are looking up.

I think I’m getting more patient, detail-oriented and just better at this with each project…which is ****ing fantastic.  On this one, I made up the (relatively simple) pattern using an old shirt for fit and an Anthropologie shirt for the design.  I’m still in the copying stage, so I can build up techniques and then go crazy with my own designs later.  My case in point that I don’t know what I’m doing yet is facings. Facings!!!!  Arghh!  I didn’t realize until I had no fabric left that it would have been far better to have done an all-in-one facing than separate armhole and neckline facings, which when overlapped get a little bulky.  It’s not too bad in this case since the fabric is Liberty of London cotton lawn, which is very light.  But I also had a lot of trouble keeping the damn facings down, which forced to me do some research on proper techniques.  Hence the (organic) lace trim to weigh the facings down a little and this simple, yet surprisingly effective little trick called understitching.  Ultimately, this was the first time the inside of the piece looks just about as neat as the outside. Maybe my laziness is seasonal, too.  Here’s hoping…

Speaking of hope and change…I’m hoping to come back to this space with greater regularity…my life has been consumed lately with the purchase of a new bicycle (or I should say the saga of an attempted purchase), which is a story/issue I want to share soon…

Until then, happy Spring!!!!!

Day #12, A Year of Non-Denominational and Green Hand-makery

January 16, 2009

For my final day in this 12 day series (that extended about 18 days in reality…), I offer you my 2008,  year in review: My first year of green knitting.

As you all know, my goal for 2008 was to only use yarns meeting at least one of my green criteria:

1. Organic

2. Least resource-intensive production (for example, the growing of flax for linen requires little to no pesticides naturally–so while it may not have the organic label, for all intents and purposes, it meets that criteria).  I did try and take into account the resource intensive process of producing yarns from the plant fibers.

3. Natural dyes

4.  Socially responsible (non profit cooperatives, for instance)

5. Otherwise sustainably sourced, such as bamboo, which is rapidly renewable and can actually help prevent soil erosion.

6. Locally sourced raw material

7. Recycled material

8.  From a small farm or is otherwise animal-friendly

Within all five categories are products that are not as “green” as I would ideally prefer, meaning the producers don’t limit their impact on the environment nearly as much as I would like.  However, it is impossible to live a life without impact, either negative or positive, so as time wore on I eased my expectations a little.  Overall, I think I did a decent job sticking to my goals and discovered that there are many more choices than I ever expected–from organic cotton and wool to soy silks, bamboo, and hemp.  Even as the year progressed I would notice more and more “eco-friendly” products come on the market than I could even keep track of.

So I thought I would share some of my findings.

First, there are some great online shops that specialize in green/organic yarns:

Annie Sherburne — For me, this site has served as a fantastic source of information.

A Second Chance — Great shop selling recycled/reclaimed yarn from old sweaters, items handmade from reclaimed materials, vintage clothing, etc.  I really love that the shop is completely dedicated to materials that deserve a second chance–I can’t stress enough that this is as green as it gets.  Also, 10% of each sale goes to (a microfinance organization).

Blonde Chicken Boutique — Tara of Blonde Chicken specifically sources animal and earth friendly fibers and creates beautiful, unique yarns.  I’ve worked with her on some custom yarn and she was extremely helpful.

COLORBOMB Creations — This shop sells really interesting, crazy yarns, three of which are tagged with the COLORBOMB Greenish™ label: ‘(S)craptastic’, ‘Shaganator, and ‘Raggedy’, all made from 100% repurposed/reclaimed materials (like mill ends and vintage yarns, scraps and threads). Like I’ve said before–recycled/repurposed is my favorite kind of eco material.

defaceReconstruct — Lovely Etsy shop with recycled yarns and other pretty goodies.

Earth Friendly Yarns — Self explanatory, decent selection.

Freecycle — A great place to find yarn ready to be discarded by others, therefore not requiring any new production (and it’s associated impacts) for your project–the most eco-friendly option in my opinion.  Even organic production pollutes…it’s just way better than conventional.

Hands and Notions — Yarns come from small family farms and have minimal processing (I haven’t bought anything from here yet, so can’t review personally).

Insubordiknit — She uses alternative fibers, such as soysilk and tussah silk, and eco yarns, like organic cotton to create very cool, funky yarns.

Knit for Brains — Lots o’ vegan yarns (bamboo, hemp, soysilk), but also a great selection of pretty organic cotton.

Martha’s Vinyard Fiber Farm — The purveyor of the oh so fabulous yarn CSA…which I never joined.  Someday…

Midnight Sky Fibers — Has a great menu structure so you can shop according to your values: local (if you’re Pacific NW), vegan, undyed, etc).  They also have this amazing “Recycling” option, where if you add it to your order you are pledging that you will recycle the packaging that your order comes in and you get a discount!  Very cool.

Naturesong Yarns — One of my favorite collection of shops (with Colorsong Yarns), which specifically offers naturally dyed or organic yarns (like Habu and Fleece Artist).

Near Sea Naturals — A fantastic online shop where all knitting supplies and sewing supplies are eco-friendly, from sustainably produced knitting needles to natural elastic and organic thread.  There are also yarns grouped by fiber (animal fibers you can feel good about, plant fibers you can also feel very good about, and blends) and fabrics grouped by type–all of which, yes, you can feel good about.

The Yarn Grove — Great selection of “natural, organic, and hand-dyed yarns.”  Not everything meets my criteria, but there’s a lot of good stuff.

Second, there are a number of Organic Cottons and Blends, and throughout 2008 it seemed like the different brands with organic cotton lines were exploding.  I’m only going to comment on the ones I’ve used, which are quite a few…

Be Sweet Bambino Yarn — This yarn is 70% organic cotton and 30% bamboo.  I LOVE this yarn.  It is so soft, the colors are incredibly rich, and it’s just beautiful with a cloud of cotton wrapped with shiny, gorgeous bamboo.  DK weight.

Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton — This yarn is incredibly soft and I will definitely use it again.  My one complaint is the pilling (which is not insignificant), but again, I would more than consider it for future projects because of the softness, the rich colors and organicness.  It’s also nice that it’s a bulky weight, as many of the other cottons are DK (like their newish Organic Skinny Cotton).

EcoKnit Organic Cotton

K1C2 Recycled Cotton — I haven’t used this, but love the idea of creating recycled cotton yarn.  I wish there was more of this!

Lion Organic Cotton

Inca Cotton

Malabrigo Limited Edition Organic Cotton — Really smooth and beautiful in very rich colors.  It’s not as soft as other organic cottons, but that makes it great for more polished pieces.  There definitely won’t be any pilling with this yarn.  It’s a DK weight, and I highly recommend it.

Nashua Natural Focus Ecologie Cotton (naturally dyed)

Pakucho Organic Cotton

Rowan Pure Life Organic Cotton — Very soft and smooth, with an almost bamboo or silk-like sheen.  I love this yarn, but definitely recommend buying all your yarn from the same dye lot, as the  natural colors can vary significantly.  Also a DK weight.

Sublime Organic Cotton

Tahki Eco-Friendly Yarns

Third, there are a number of fibers that lend themselves to production processes that have a less negative impact than other commonly used knitting materials, such as Linen and other Alternative Fibers:

Berroco Naturlin Yarn

The Fibre Co Organik

(Louet is obviously a major manufacturer of linen yarn, which I decided met my green goals since the production of flax would generally meet organic standards, but is not worth the hassle of certification to many producers.  More information on the benefits of linen here)

Fourth, Organic Wools, etc:

Fleece Artist Organic Wool

Green Mountain Spinnery

Lorna’s Laces Green Line Worsted — I really love this yarn and plan to use the DK weight again and the worsted weight for the first time at some point in the near future.  The colors are chic and the yarn is soft and smooth–really very beautiful.  I highly recommend this yarn–it’s definitely in my top 10, possibly even 5.

(There are many others that I haven’t tried, like the O Wools, but they are available at the shops listed above)

And, last (but certainly not least), Socially Responsible:

Frog Tree Yarns — This company is non-profit and you can tell from the prices–which are extremely affordable for some very very nice yarns.  I’ve used their Merino Melange, which is incredibly soft and lovely, and their fingering weight alpaca, which is equally nice.  I highly recommend these yarns.

Be Sweet — Another favorite of mine in this category. The yarns are gorgeous, great quality, and supportive of job creation for mostly women in South African villages.  The only problem I have found is that they can be difficult to find and are not cheap.

(I also put companies like Manos del Uruguay and Malabrigo in here, because they are small family businesses or support cooperatives.)

There is a fantastic knitting green resource here, with a matrix of many, many different green yarns to give you an idea of what’s out there and what you can try.  Hopefully you can piece them together with some reviews to see what would work best for you.

If you have recommendations you’d like to add, I’d love to hear them.  I’ll continue to update this post with new findings and recommendations.

Day #9, Tomato Petal

January 8, 2009

Hi everyone.

I really wanted to change the course of these next couple of days to write about some substantive goings on, particularly in the realm of normal everyday people making an environmental difference….but I’m sick and busy with a lot of work and other professional goings on.

So, like yesterday, I present to you an ongoing project: my Petal, pattern by Stephanie Japel.  I was inspired by this version (on Ravelry) by Ravelry user Natsuko.  I am basically making the exact same thing, even with her sizing modification using size 6 needles rather 7s.  I loved her entire creation, dress and all and realized I had some perfect Be Sweet Bambino in Coral that needed to be frogged from a yarn-eating Twinkle project that I would probably never ever wear after taking the photos of it for this blog (kind of like my Vogue Twinkle Dress).  I was initially going to make the Gitane Tunic Dress from the new Town and Country book, but after spending $100 on Bambino in black and coral for this project, a quarter of the way through I realized I would still need about $75 more of yarn to actually finish.  The whole thing definitely seemed not so worth the money and trouble.  I still think it’s beautiful and think it would actually be better (by which I mean at all wearable and at all affordable) if I modified the pattern to use 3 strands of yarn instead of 4 and used smaller needles to get a less chunky final product.  But that seemed like a lot of effort…

So I frogged what I had and am going strong on this little cardigan.

A note on the yarn.

It’s INCREDIBLE.  In all ways.  It meets so much of my criteria: socially responsible, organic, low impact dyes, alternative fiber (bamboo); but it’s also crazy soft and the colors are beautiful and rich.  Even if it weren’t “good” and “green”, the yarn itself is just gorgeous and soft like a cloud.  Most perfect for baby stuff, so I just ordered a bunch to make a baby blanket for a friend.

Almost there, friends…3 more days!

Day #7: Smelling the Flowers

January 5, 2009

This a bit of an unusual FO, though I’ve mentioned it before…homemade deodorant.  I have many, many issues with conventional deodorant, particularly that all I can find in the women’s “deodorant” section is antiperspirant.  My problem with antiperspirant is that it is full of chemicals and even metals that may cause me health problems that researchers are unsure about now, but are studying, such as the link between aluminum and alzheimers.

I also just generally find it unhealthy to block the natural, toxin-eliminating process of sweating.  And I find it curious that it is virtually impossible to find just deodorant for women (not the chemical and aluminum filled anti-perspirants), yet the aluminum-free options for men are plentiful.  For some time I was using men’s Speedstick as my only moderately effective option, but I got a little tired of smelling like my dad and a little resentful that as a woman it wasn’t enough to just smell nice, but I wasn’t allowed to even sweat at all either.  There are of course the natural alternatives that don’t impose such mandates, Tom’s, Jason, and many others, but to be perfectly honest they did absolutely nothing for me.  Perhaps I am unusually smelly, but it became a huge problem.

And then I found it.  Amy Karol’s Angry Chicken blog saved my life with this homemade deodorant recipe.  It’s suprisingly simple (shea butter, cocoa butter, baking soda, corn starch, vitamin E, and whatever essential oils you’d like to smell like) and is even more surprisingly effective.  I followed the recipe exactly, with the same oils and using a half pint mason jar, which lasts me a few months.  The only thing I may add for next time is vegetable glycerin, which others had commented would be good for additional softness. The recipe fills the jar with a cream deodorant that you rub on.  A pea-sized ball takes my smelly pits through a whole day and it’s literally the only thing that has ever been 100% effective–no stink. At all. Even through the 100 degree DC summers.

It won’t keep you from sweating, but like I said, for most of us, sweating is meant to happen–and it’s a good thing.

Another great thing about homemade deodorant is eliminating a lot of unnecessary plastic packaging (though you will still have some from the materials to make a few batches of deodorant) and reclaiming certain products for the homemade realm that I think we’ve all been conditioned to believe we must buy from large companies.  This is true of many things that are so laden with chemicals, that I personally actually believed they had to be made that way to be effective–like shampoo, face lotion, lip balm, and many others.  It’s great to break down these products to what we actually need from them and make a product to do just that, simply and naturally.  Like using baking soda to neutralize odor–we all know it does this, but for some reason it’s become difficult to make that next leap of putting it on my pits.

Another plus–I actually find the recipe easier than walking to the store to buy myself deodorant.

Day #6…Half way there!

January 2, 2009

Ok folks, this is getting difficult.  I knew I didn’t have twelve finished products to share with you, but I forged on with the charade.  So now begins the I-must-atone-for-my-lies-and-show-you-the-myriad-of-ongoing-projects-I-have-which-illustrate-my-inability-to-commit portion of… Twelve Days of Non-Denominational blah blah blah.

I would actually have a great FO to show you had the yarn not completely betrayed me.

Here sits my completely knitted, seamed and otherwise lovely Phildar Meshy Sweater.

It sits soaking in a bucket, anxiously awaiting either its death or ascension to glory at the hands of this first-time dyer.  You will notice that even while it sits in a large bucket of water, it is comprised of two distinct colors–a very light grey and a darker grey-blue.

This was unintentional and not completely my fault.  The yarn I used is Rowan Purelife in Logwood–for the entire sweater, but from two different sources.  In my research, I have found that logwood is very prone to fade and rub off, and natural dyes in general can produce extremely different results in different dye lots.  I still believe the yarn itself is fantastic, I just caution all of you organic knitters out there to buy all the yarn you think you’ll need at once, from the same dye lot.

Because if not, you must delve deeply into the world of natural dyeing in order to fix your beautifully knitted sweater that now looks like a colorblock 80s mess.  I’ll give you full documentation of my dyeing endeavor once it’s completed, but let me tell you–it’s not what I thought it would be.  Dyers will laugh, but I seriously thought I’d just squirt some color into a bucket of water and stick my sweater in it for an hour or so.  But no no no.  I have to scour, then pre-mordant, and then dye.  I have no measuring implements, so it will be improvised.

I’m fully prepared for my sweater to die.  from the dyeing.

Possibly in memoriam, I wish to say that this sweater became kind of annoying to knit.  Quite a bit of knitting through back loops and the excitement of dropping stitches doesn’t come until the end.  That being said, I really am happy with the design, fit, and shape.  It’s very cool and…I think I’m realizing that I may shed tears if I kill my sweater.

The only thing that was a real problem was the sleeves.  According to my non-French-speaking translation of this French pattern, the sleeves are given no shape whatsoever–I mean no armhole shaping at all, just tubes of sleeve.  It looks surprisingly nice on, but when I followed the pattern exactly, the armholes were too small.  My fix was to still drop the appropriate stitches at the end, but pick them up again after creating the ladders and knit a couple of more rows–so no stitches were lost and the armholes would be almost twice as large.  They’re still a little tight, but fit decently.

I’m hoping to get to dyeing this week, so I’ll report back.

Let’s cross our fingers for a real FO, rather than a eulogy.

See you Monday for Day #7!

Day #3, Come a little bit clocher

December 30, 2008

I couldn’t resist.

This is the Sideways Grande Cloche from Laura Irwin’s Boutique Knits.  The yarn is Berroco Cuzco in Hunter Green, which is a blend of superfine alpaca and Peruvian wool.

I felt I could use this yarn because of the origin of the wool: Peru.  This is important when considering the primary argument of organizations like PETA (one I generally appreciate on the whole) to not use wool, which is that the raising and shearing of sheep for wool is a cruel and inhumane process.  The problem with this argument is that is rests on a practice called “mulesing“, which “is the surgical removal of strips of wool-bearing skin from around the breech (buttocks) of a sheep.”  It’s done to prevent flystrike, which is very gross disease where a fly lays eggs in dirty, moist, protected living tissue (like the bum of a sheep), the eggs hatch, and then the larvae tear up the poor sheep’s tissue causing sores, lesions, bacterial infections and can lead to death.  Flystrike only affects merinos in Australia, since sheep are not naturally supposed to be in the relatively warm Australian environment.

The point is, if mulesing is one’s reason for not using wool (which is completely legitimate), there are ways to guarantee your wool did not come from a mulesed sheep–basically to not buy merino wool that comes from Australia, which is what I try and do. I do want to note that I believe that vegans do not wear wool for reasons beyond this (which are also completely legitimate).  I also want to note that mulesing is being phased out in Australia by 2010, which is right around the corner (!!).

I will fully admit that I don’t actually know if the Cuzco is a good animal-friendly yarn beyond the fact that mulesing did not occur.  The proper thing to have done would be to find a small fiber farm with a good reputation.  Next time.

In any case, I did really like the yarn–soft and beautiful.  And the pattern I thought was genius and very different than any hat pattern I had used in the past.  Knit flat and seamed up the side with a fake cable–I was actually surprised when I read through the pattern.  Not at all what I would have expected.  The shape is quite interesting as well, with a flat top and long body.  It’s surprisingly flattering and functional.

Laura Irwin’s entire book is full of interesting, innovative construction.  Some are things I would never think to make with materials I wouldn’t think to use.  Yet it’s all so much simpler than I would have expected.  Full of surprise, in other words.

Ok, once again, see you tomorrow for Day #4!

Twelve Days of Non-Denominational Hand Makery, Day 1.

December 28, 2008

In the long writing dry spell I found a considerable amount of time to make things, by hand.  I partook in hand-makery, if you will.  (This is not my high point in my long line of making up of words, but I felt like “crafting” wasn’t the right word anymore–and I couldn’t think of one singular noun that meant “artful making of clothing”–which is how I like to think of it.)

In honor of the holidays I am beginning a journey a la the Twelve Days of Christmas.  However, this will be non-denominational (like me) and will involve the making of things by hand (like I like to do).  The Twelve Days of things I have made and not yet shared.

I don’t think I actually have twelve things to share…but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

So here we go.

#1   The St. Tropez Pullover

The pattern comes from Wenlan Chia’s 3rd and rumored final knitting book, Twinkle’s Town and Country Knits.  (Though there are even better rumors about a Twinkle sewing book…hopefully soon…)

The yarn is Twinkle’s super big Soft Chunky in French Grey.

This was wholly successful.  I consider this my most eco-friendly creation because while the yarn is just plain old wool (made in China), it comes recycled from my Shopping Tunic, which I finally accepted made me look like a baby elephant.  So I frogged it to  make this sweater that is one of only two Twinkle creations that I wear with any real frequency.  It’s actually flattering.  The length is perfect, the pattern is simple but pretty, the color is lovely and versatile, and the shape somehow doesn’t add 30 pounds like most of the other Twinkle patterns I’ve made.  I only made one change to the pattern, which was to not add the button on the collar.  It seemed unnecessary.

See you tomorrow, for Day #2 of….

Twelve Days of Non-Denominational Hand-Makery!

The cold is coming

August 25, 2008

and I’m ready.

This has been an unusually mild August here in DC, which may be a good thing to most…but for this lover of heat and humidity has been a little irritating.

The fall is always a little scary for me.  It’s a time where I am living under a constant cloud of the impending frigidity of winter.  And this August has felt like everything is just coming a little too fast…

Knitting has actually made this condition of fear and anxiety better by at least giving me something to look forward to — wearing all the lovely, warm sweaters I’ve knit.

So I’m ready.

with a nice sweater coat ready for fall.

It’s pattern #43 from Vogue Knitting, Fall 2007, the Diagonal Stitch Coat by Wenlan Chia.

My green goal for the year doesn’t allow me to use the Twinkle Soft Chunky that this pattern called for, so I doubled stranded Blue Sky Alpacas Dyed Organic Cotton instead.  And I definitely like it better.  First, the BSA Organic Cotton (100% organic cotton) is amazingly soft and has a shine to it that is really beautiful.  So while it created a fabric that is slightly heavier than using the Twinkle wool, it’s not as fluffy and as…huge.  It’s also quite warm without being suffocating, which I often feel in some of the pieces I’ve made with the Twinkle yarn.  And lastly, while the cotton does pill, it’s not nearly as bad as the Soft Chunky, which I really hate about that yarn (it’s so lovely until I wear it a few times and then…less beautiful).  So, in conclusion, I loved the yarn and highly recommend it as a good Twinkle substitute.  Though definitely welcome suggestions for green bulky-weight yarn.

Pretty and Smart.

June 16, 2008

It is an exciting day.  While frantically searching for the yarn I need to make an emergency bolero/shrug/whatever for a wedding I’m going to in a couple of weeks (Habu’s laceweight bamboo in wine in case anyone has some and they want to sell it to me, please please), I came across something amazing on one of my favorite sites,  Fleece Artist Organic Wool.  Fleece Artist and Handmaiden make some of the most beautiful handpainted yarns I’ve ever seen.  The colors are rich and interesting, but until now they didn’t meet my criteria for 2008: organic, local, socially responsible, or (in a pinch) naturally dyed.  Until now.  Naturesong says this about it:

It really is creamy soft, it is not superwashed, so you can use it for felting if you feel so inspired, it comes from sheep raised organically, and was processed in a certified organic mill. Its DK weight is ideal for just about everything and, now that it is robed in Fleece Artist’s flowing colorways, well, life doesn’t get much better than this.

Too bad the other thing (besides buying “green” materials) is buying less materials.  It looks like everyone’s coming out with their green yarn lines, which is fantastic but also tempting to the point of possibly negating all the positive effects of buying green by buying too much.  I just recently bought some unneeded Malabrigo Limited Edition Organic Cotton, which is lovely and comes in lovely colors.  My excuse is the limited edition really put that fear into me–God forbid I miss out…or have a strong will.

So one of you will have to let me know more about this stuff….at least for now.