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Sustainable knitting: Crowd Farming Yarn from Spain

Sustainable and ethical fashion is very close to my heart and I always try to contribute my parts against exploitation and waste in/ through the fashion industry. In recent years, I have educated myself, joined campaigns by the Fashion Revolution Movement and try to inspire others to rethink their relation with fashion, too.

With my growing awareness about the dirty business in the global fashion industry I have begun to knit and sew my own garments. That way I can avoid that people – most times women – in developing countries are exploited just so that I can be chic. We all too easily forget that all clothing is handmade , and usually under terrible inhumane conditions for the sewists.

But how about the raw materials of my knitting and sewing projects? Where does my yarn come from, and under what conditions is it spun? Transparency is key to ensure that the wellbeing of humans, nature and animals is respected and of highest priority in the process.

Crowd farming – What’s that?!

I learnt about crowd farming through my Mum who purchases oranges, almonds and olive oil directly from small farmers to avoid intermediaries in the supply chain. The crowd farming initiative is the connecting link between farmers and consumers. Here’s how they describe their own task:

habe ich über meine Mutter kennengelernt, die u.a. Orangen, Mandeln und Olivenöl direkt über Kleinbauern bezieht und so Zwischenhandelsstationen verhindert. Die Crowdfarming-Initiative ist dabei das Vermittlungsglied zwischen Landwirt:innen und Kund:innen. Auf der Webseite beschreiben sie ihre eigene Aufgabe so:

The direct sale of food between farmers and consumers requires certain services for it to take place: a platform to offer and sell products on, logistics to transport packages, customer service (for our CrowdFarmers, as we call them), and advertising tools to make themselves known. These are the four services we provide to farmers.

Crowdfarming Manifesto

Nonetheless, a close connection between producers and consumers remains. before I buy a product or adopt a tree, I can get to know the farm or small enterprise in length. I have a face and a name for every farmer I buy from, and sometimes there’s even an option to visit.

But there’s more than just food …

Through the crowdfarming webpage, my Mum discovered the merino sheep flock at the Moheda de Abajo, South of Spain. Sheep are wonderful animals and very often closely connected to the local ecosystem. The browsing of the sheep is a natural tending process for the nature. The farmer Pablo Hinojosa, owner of the Moheda de Abajo, descripes the interplay of sheep and landscape like this:

Merino sheep have always been one of the cornerstones of Moheda, as we believe that they do an essential job in maintaining the dehesa pastureland, a unique ecosystem in the world and the basis of all our work on the farm.

Informationen auf www.crowdfarming.com

I am provided with the offer to adopt a sheep for about 74€/ Jahr, and can choose between a soft woven woollen blanket or 700g spun yarn as my produce. The choice was easy for me and I have eagerly waited for my yarn ever since the adoption day in May.

These long waiting times are intended part of the concept, since they mean planning security for the farmers. An aproximate delivery date is always provided. That way, buyers can plan, too.

Eagerly awaited: my yarn package in early December

Shortly before Christmas, the day has finally come: The mailman hands me a large yet light parcel. My wool is here. A little letter introduced the project again and provides caring instructions for my yarn.

As I open the parcel, a wonderful smell of sheep and nature flows into my nose. I admit, you need to like this smell, because it can take a good while before it vanishes. I spend a good while admiring the large yarn balls, before I let my hands sink into the big fluff.

The yarn consists of two strands and runs at 115m/ 100g, i.e. it falls into the category bulky or even super bulky. I haven’t knit this weight so far, since it easily costs twice at much in stores – and it’s not even guaranteed that it’s been produced ethically, fair and environmentally-friendly.

A special knit project: #GracePullover by Bayron Handmade

Every time I choose a knitting pattern, I considere different aspects.

I need to love the design of course and it needs to work well with my existing wardrobe.

But I also look at the designer. Do I share her values? Do diversity and inclusivity matter for her designs and her “marketing” (that includes her online presence). In short: Do I like to spend my money with that designer?

For my crowd farming yarn I wanted to knit a special garment, and I did not need to seach ong. The #GracePullover by Bayron Handmade has been in my favourites on Ravelry for a long time.

Denise Bayron of Bayron Handmade is a wonderful and inspiring designer. Here’s what she says about herself on her blog:

After 15 years of working as an executive in the fast fashion industry in NYC, she transitioned to patternmaking as a means of reconciling her love of fashion with a desire to live more sustainably. Making a wardrobe by hand enables one to source materials more sustainably and control the waste that is produced in the process

Denise Bayron: About at www.bayronhandmade.com

Grace is a cozy, simple, yet elegant Raglan jumper. It is knit from the top down. The design is cropped, but some length can easily be added. The instructions are clear and easy to follow and even the cable pattern is really simple. Denise provides a video tutorial to explain.

My knitting process

To make sure that I get my head through the neck opening, I went for an elastic cast on (the German Twisten Cast On). I usually use that one for hats or sleeve cuffs in bottom-up designs. Instead of purchasing different size cable needles size 8cm I used one pair knitting needles with an 80cm cable. The tighter parts of the sweater I knitted using the Magic Loop technique (neck, sleeves, …). That way I avoid buying new knitting needles that will just lie around otherwise.

The wool is easy and comfortable to work with. Since it’s 100% natural wool I (successfully!) try to wet splice, kind of felt in, my new ball instead of having to weave in the thick chunky strand. It works like magic!

I knit both the body and the sleeves longer, that’s a standard adjustment for me. I also went against the pattern’s recommendation to cast of loosely, because I really did not like the tent-like look it gave to my body. Instead, I sized down my needles and cast of really tightly around the waist. I like the silhouette this gives. For the sleeve cuff, I chose size 6mm (2 sizes down) needles. Here, I cast off loosely.

The final jumper is cozy and chic, and just perfect for the frosty January days we’re having here at the moment. The yarn is comfortable to wear and doesn’t itch, despite my rather sensitive skin.

And the best part? I’ve only used about 350g for my jumper which means … I have enough yarn left for an #Anydayvest by Lily Kate Makes. I have some special plans for that knit project though … fingers crossed it works as planned.

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2 Comments

  1. Press says:

    Hey! I love it! Great job 🙂 what size did you choose for the sweater?

    1. Marie Jelenka Kirchner says:

      Hi, thanks so much! I knitted the smallest size which is 10cm positive ease on me, but I did knit both bodice and sleeves a little longer. 🙂

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