The War on Wool

This week, the trending topic in several knitting groups has been the discussion of a 3 year old, graphic video produced by PETA, of sheep being abused during sheering. There is no disagreement with the fact that the sheep featured in this video are being horribly abused by those handling them, most of the video shows one individual, that I hope is no longer working with any type of animal. However, I will argue against PETA’s claims that the actions of a few in this video do not represent the actions of the many.

I have a personal objection to PETA, and their tactics. Animals should never be cruelly treated, but I refuse to consider the opinion of an organization that publicly claims to protect animals on one hand, but has documented, and convincing evidence of abuse and unwarranted euthanization of animals on the other. I have no intention of further discussing the merits/faults of PETA any further. I’m also not interested in discussing the vegan lifestyles vs. those that use/consume animal products.

That said, let’s remove PETA from the rest of this post.

There is no doubt, that no matter the animal industry, there is a chance an animal will be treated badly by an ill-educated, frustrated, careless, or flat out cruel individual. It is the responsibility of us as consumers to research our purchases to verify that they come from providers with excellent track records concerning animal welfare. If companies can’t provide information on their sources, we as consumers, should be demanding that information become public, or simply purchase from providers that are open with information. Change can be slow, but look at what has happened in the beef, pork, and poultry industries over the past 20-years when individuals demanded better treatment of these animals. Those industries are still far from perfect but there is continued improvement.

There is no doubt, that sheep farmers are out to be profitable, but having poorly cared for animals that are neglected, starved, over crowded, stressed or abused is like a store owner smashing all of their inventory and attempting to sell it. From an economic standpoint it makes absolutely no sense to mistreat livestock. Stressed sheep will not grow a good fleece and a bloody fleece also impacts its value. A single video is not representative of a massive, worldwide industry. I am also not naive to the fact that once an animal can no longer grow a quality fleece it will often be sent to slaughter for its meat. Livestock, no matter the type do not have retirement plans, but as living beings should be treated with respect.

I’ve seen my share of fleece providing animals sheered, and all of those experiences have been very similar. The animal is lightly restrained but standing, or placed on its side, the sheering itself is quick and as soon as that’s over, the animal is released and off it goes a few pounds lighter. The animals don’t seem overly stressed but there has been the occasional animal that doesn’t want to cooperate. Those animals have been held more firmly but once again, nothing I would consider abusive. The recent comparison that wool collection is as evil as the fur industry are simply incorrect. Sheering, done correctly, does not harm the animal. The animal is free to go, live its life and grow more wool. The fur industry requires the death of an animal for its entire skin.

This is also one of those topics were the “shop local” mindset goes a long way. There is no doubt in my mind that small family farms will always treat an animal with more care than a large corporate entities.

What those that claim wool collection is abusive tend to forget is most sheep herds are not “natural” breeds. Like most types of livestock they have been bred to produce a consumable resource be it meat or fleece. Most sheep require sheering or they will overheat, risk skin infections, and maggot infestations. What do these groups expect to do with these millions of animals if wool collection was immediately outlawed? Allow them to suffer and then die in pasture? It is our responsibility as the humans that have modified these animals from their natural state to care for them ethically, and in this case, that requires sheering performed correctly and appropriate times of the year. Wool, as far as fiber goes, is a 100% natural, renewable, and biodegradable material. Many of the alternative fibers, such as acrylics, are not environmentally responsible.

I encourage everyone to do their own research and form their own opinions, but I will continue to use, wear, and knit wool.

Classes Vs. KALs: What’s the Difference Anyway?

snake knittingWhat’s the difference between a class and a knitalong (KAL)?  This question has come up a lot in my knitting life lately since I began offering both options since beginning to teach group classes earlier this year.

A knitting class is easy to define.  Classes are situations where students will be learning specific knitting techniques, styles, or working through a complex pattern with the assistance of a hands-on teacher.  There’s several ways classes can be taught.  Some lead participants through a pattern row by row, step by step, others encourage a go-at-your-own-pace situation and will come to you as you reach a certain point and give individualized instruction.  In both scenarios you’ll have a certain amount of homework to try to complete before the next session.  I’m a fan of option two, with my own classes, I’ve seen a range of skill levels within the same class and feel that if I taught a row by row style class a more advanced student will inevitably get bored and shank me with a needle.  I don’t need any extra holes in my body at this point.

Knitalongs are a different beast.  KALs are group meetings where multiple participants will sign up to work on the same project togther, and if need be, help each other.   KALs are an opportunity to work through a project you know is within your skill level but you may be a little nervous about, or just a project you think is awesome and would like to work along with peers.  KALs typically do not offer the benefit of the dedicated teacher from a knitting class, in fact the KAL leader is most likely going to be sitting at the table working on their own version of the KAL project with you.

Hopefully that clears some things up.



Are You Knitworthy?

I had to come up for a bit of air in the middle of a knitting marathon.

I have two projects that I need to have completed, blocked, and packaged for gifts before the 20th.  They aren’t simple projects either!

I’m working on the Knitangle Shawl  and need to start a Nine Dwindling Cables Hat.  Both will be given to work acquaintances as gifts at a conference.  The shawl is going to a woman leaving her current, very secure job, to begin her own business.  It’s a good luck gift.  The hat, it going to the wife of an acquaintance that is having brain surgery shortly before the conference.

I’ve given away more of my knit projects over the years than I have kept.  I find more joy in the act of knitting than the finished project in most cases, and in the case of these two gifts, knowing the backgrounds of the recipents, they would apreciate hand-made items.

The longer I knit, the more I realize that there are some folks that just aren’t knitworthy.  For anyone uninitiated, knitting a project can take a good amount of time, and good yarns aren’t cheap.  It’s not unusual to drop $40-70 into a shawl.  $20-35 into a hat.  Sweaters?  If you receive a hand knitted sweater from anyone you wear that thing no matter what it looks like, that knitter not only sunk tons of personal time into making it but easily sunk $100-200 if not more into the yarn.  But once again, it’s the process of making the item most of the time, cost becomes a factor when I’m not certain how the recipient feels about my handiwork.

I don’t mean to come across as snobbish with gift giving but nothing drives me nuttier than making a gift for someone and then finding out that the gift sits unused in a drawer somewhere because the recipient doesn’t want the item to get damaged or begin to look worn.  My own mother has been removed from the knitworthy list.  I even knitted very pink gifts (I LOATHE PINK) for her, she wont use them.

So, what do you folks think?  Who’s on your knitworthy list?  What will get someone removed from it?

Time to get back to work.  If I’m sitting I’m knitting until this projects are done.

WIPed: Norah’s Vintage Afghan

Has anyone noticed, I’m not a single project type of woman yet?  This one is a bit of a beast, consisting of 20 different cabled squares, and it will take a while to complete.  It’s not on a list to rush and finish,  because it holds a special place in time.

My younger brother passed in November of 2014 not long before his 30th birthday.  It was sudden, and traumatic for the family.  After receiving the worst phone call in my life at 5:15 am the morning he died, I packed up and drove the six hours home to be with my family.  The bulk of the funeral arrangements fell into my lap with the assistance of a good friend that worked in the funeral industry, we managed to get everything put together, hitting several road blocks from the funeral director in my hometown.  To put it bluntly this funeral director took the hit to his pocket book personally, since I was advised by my friend in the industry on how to make the funeral affordable for the family, and decided to take his frustrations out first on my mother, and then on me after he was told to never speak to my mother again.  I wasn’t allowed to grieve with my family that week at home, I felt the need to be the strong one, the protector, and if need be the warrior to keep as much off my parents as I could.  There was no restful sleep, little food, and a great deal of coffee keeping me going.

After a week, I told my family it was time to go back home, so I could have my own space to grieve.  Not  only was I mourning the death of a brother, I was also remembering my grandmother’s struggling last breaths just two months before. 

After making it home, I left the house to pick up a few items to get through the week, and in the hour I was gone, my neighbor put a bag full of yarn, on my door with a note saying, “you’ll know what to do with this.”  I broke down when I walked into the door, the exhaustion, the trauma, the grief, hit like a tidal wave.  My neighbor was right, she knew I needed to make something.

I tried a few different patterns, tried to create a few of my own, nothing seemed right.  I put the yarn aside, and would look at it now and then.  I wasn’t really dealing with loosing my brother, it was easier to pick back into day-to-day life and not process it.

Late this past summer, the kind neighbor passed due to several complications associated with lupus.  Another death, not as painful as loosing a brother and grandmother, bit painful none the less.  She was an amazing woman. This fall the bag of yarn came out of the stash box again, and a new pattern hunt began, and then I saw Norah’s Vintage Afghan, and it seemed to fit.  The pattern sat on my desk for a full two weeks before I knitted the first square.  Thoughts of the people I’ve lost in my life kept coming to mind.  I began to start dealing with the losses while working those needles.

The second square has been started, but this project can only be worked on a bit of a time.  Once again, memories came to mind, and there are times it hurts, and times it makes me smile.  So a bit at a time, a bit at a time, a bit at a time, and one day it’ll be finished.


Norah’s Vintage Afghan by Berroco.


Lion Brand Heartland
Since acrylics don’t block well I found gauge and then went up two needle sizes.  There is more than enough of this yarn to accommodate the increase in size, and the knit piece that’s completed is laying fairly flat.  There will be a little hot steam blocking at the end to flatten out any rolled spots but there is little anticipation of a problem.

Cast on Date: 

October 2016

Projected Completion Date:

A honest, who knows?