Friday, December 17, 2010

Ethical clothing, the slow cloth movement, and fiber CSAs

chipped whorl
Unspun fiber, drop spindle, and finished yarn.

You've heard of slow food movement, right? You know, that whole grow-it-yourself, extreme locavore food sourcing thing. Well, there's also a slow cloth movement!

Slow cloth is all about ethical sourcing of clothing, a topic rarely on the forefront of people's minds. Aside from fur and sometimes leather, it's easy to forget where our clothing comes from. Let's look at a ten-dollar t-shirt from H&M. Someone (or a group of someones) had to grow, harvest, and process the cotton from plant, to thread, to cloth, and to garment. Was that someone paid a decent living wage? Was the cotton grown and processed in an environmentally-friendly manner? Good questions.

I knit. I really like knitting. I've made hats, scarves, sweaters, gloves, shawls, coffee cozies.... People often ask me if I'd be willing to sell these things, especially the coffee cozies. I answer them in the form of a question: "Would you pay twenty dollars for one?" This usually shuts them up. I explain that if I paid myself San Francisco minimum wage for the two hours that it takes me to knit a coffee cozy, the finished product would be worth twenty dollars of my time. Who would pay that for a coffee cozy?

I have also learned how to spin my own yarn. I have a much more intimate relationship with my yarn now. I'm slowly turning into a locavore fiber artist, keeping an eye out for nearby sheep farms and small fiber producers who treat their animals right.

Just as locavore foodies can buy into a CSA (community-supported agriculture, or the veggie box), now fiber artists can buy into fiber CSAs, just like this one, from Sheep Gal! The idea is that you chip in to a farm or a collective of farms and reserve a share of yarn and/or unspun fiber after shearing time. It's a great way to support your farmers to enjoy happy wool from happy sheep.

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