Figuring Out My Place in the Knitting World

When my son was a year old, I finally stopped working my Job. I worked from home, and with a medical resident for a husband, nursing, unsteady and pricey childcare (which sometimes did not stop virtual meeting attendees from hearing baby screams) and just general burn-burn-burnout, I decided enough was enough. After I stopped working my capital J Job to stay home full time with my son, it became pretty clear that I wasn’t planning on looking for a Real Job again. But now that he’s 2, I’m not so up to my eyeballs in life. I’m actually considering doing something MORE with my time and it’s really exciting to feel that way again – because let me tell you, I thought the feeling of barely treading water successfully wasn’t going to end.

I’ve said before that the knitting and fiber community is one of the most inclusive and encouraging that I know of. In it, I’ve found something that is entirely my own. It wasn’t thrust upon me and I’m not doing it for anyone but myself. At this point in my knitting journey, I’m considering where to go from here. I’d like to take this passionate hobby of mine and go more in a more career-oriented direction. I have more aspirations and ideas than fingers and toes, so it’s proving difficult to focus on one thing or even decide what I could focus on.

Pattern Designing – I’ve already dipped my toe into the pattern designing waters with a free little baby hat pattern that details how to achieve jogless stripes and a Game of Thrones-inspired shawl pattern. Patterns are really time-consuming to write (for me), but they are a really great way to express an idea that I need to get out of my head. And it’s nice passive income, should I be lucky enough to sell some copies! Designing is one thing I can do right now that doesn’t really cost me money. The cost of yarn to knit a sample is minimal (plus I either keep it or gift it), the time it takes to write and perfect a pattern doesn’t actively cost money, and it’s done during times when I couldn’t really be doing anything productive anyway. Waiting for inspiration to strike and getting in a fist-fight with impostor syndrome make it a bit of a slow process, but it at least feels like I’m doing something and contributing (since my kiddo is currently playing with buttons and in no way wants my interference).

Photography – There are definitely some skills I need to learn to up my game. I do like to do things properly and to seem professional. A lot of people in the knitting community communicate their ideas and designs through photography on Instagram. It’s a bit disheartening to lose followers because you’re pretty sure your pictures aren’t fancy enough. So I probably need to learn about photography, especially as I design more patterns.

Natural Dyeing – My ultimate goal is to have sheep raised by myself & my bff Renee whose wool we’ll have milled into yarn which we will then dye with plants we grew ourselves… but holy guacamole are there a lot of steps and dollars between here and there, so I’m not thinking about that just yet. What I am going to work on in the meantime is growing some dye plants in my yard to experiment with colors and techniques. Just for funsies.

Retailing Yarn – My big endeavor, possibly in a year or so, will be to start an online yarn retail shop. I know there are a lot of them, but I’m hoping mine will be unique in an inclusive way. There are a lot of people out there who, like me, are environmentally-conscious. Therefore, I’d like to carry many different types and brands of yarn all in one place that has an environmental advantage. Whether a patron is looking for non-superwash, local/domestic, plant-dyed, breed-specific yarn or wool from holistically managed sheep, I hope they’ll find what they want with me. This won’t be able to get off the ground for a while since I’ll need a significant amount of capital to get started, but I’m very much looking forward to this. I’m collecting a long list of brands to reach out to in the future, and I hope I get moral support from the fiber community :).

I have a lot on my mind about how I can make my hobby into a business, as you can see. For now, I’ll be working a little bit every day – selfish-knitting, writing patterns, playing with dye, figuring out What Is A Photography. And living. I’ll be doing that too.

[GUEST POST] – Regenerative Agriculture and the Role of Fiber-Producing Animals

I know you know, dear reader, that I’m a hippy and I prefer non-superwash yarn from sheep raised in the US. Being a knitter means a lot of things to me like creating art, taking my support away from fast-trash-fashion, and keeping my mind busy with calculating angles and counting stitches. But mostly, I see an opportunity for the knitting community to make the world better. Yes, better through seeing more technicolor sweaters around, but most impactfully, through the way the fiber animals are raised.

My BFF Renee has written all about going beyond expecting the animals to be treated humanely – about what we should know to be the gold standard and express that we support the efforts of the shepherds and farmers who raise the animals in this manner.

❤ Larissa

What does it mean to be a conscious consumer of animal fiber?  It’s safe to say that the animals involved in production of fiber should be treated humanely, fed a biologically-appropriate & organic diet, and given plenty of green space to roam.  These factors add up to “happy fiber”, a product we consumers can feel good about.  However, given the current state of our planet due to the uprising of industrial farming, perhaps we must take our ethical sourcing one step further.

Through the practices of contained animal feedlots, unmanaged grazing of livestock, monocropping, and heavy fertilizer/pesticide/herbicide use, we find that our soil is depleted of nutrients, our water supply is dwindling, and atmospheric CO2 is climbing (a contributing factor to global warming).  This isn’t great news for the future of our fiber and food supply; successful agriculture requires nutrient-rich soil, water, and a steady climate.  It’s no surprise that the natural world is getting out of whack; we’ve done a pretty poor job of working within the natural laws.  We impose our own systems that fight natural processes rather than work with them.

Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, let’s visit the upside; things don’t have to continue this way.  Through holistic management and rotational grazing of animals, we can undo many of these wrongs that industrial agriculture imposes on the earth.  Rotational grazing is the process of quickly moving large numbers and high densities of animals through many small pastures (rotations occur anywhere from a day to a week).  This practice is intense, but disperses nutrients over the land, improves overall soil fertility, controls unwanted plants, enhances water retention, sequesters carbon dioxide out of the air and into the soil, and decreases the spread of parasites among the herd.  The effects of managing animals in this way are the goals of regenerative agriculture. “Do no harm” is then advanced to “improve what we’ve got”.  While it’s obviously a good thing to support sustainable and organic producers, we’re at the point in which looking beyond sustainable is necessary to reverse the damage to our soil and our atmosphere.

To get an idea of how greater soil fertility is reached through rotational grazing, let’s first consider how the bodies of ruminant grazers work. Fiber animals such as goats and sheep are mobile fermentation machines. They eat plants (grasses, shrubs, trees) which get fermented during digestion by microbes in their gut. What comes out on the other end is nutrient-rich poop that gets deposited back into the soil.  Their hooves act as miniature tills, breaking apart the top layer of soil, allowing nutrients and water to disperse downwards.  The soil now has a greater richness in microbial life than before, which means greater fertility. Microbes work symbiotically with plant roots, feeding the plant and depositing the plant’s carbon into the soil. Grazers and grasslands are co-evolved, and they completely rely on one another to flourish.  The land needs grazers to move nutrients around.  For example, the top of a hill or mountain tends to be more nutrient-poor than the base, considering rain and erosion drives the nutrients downwards.  How else, than through animals moving up and down in elevation, could nutrients cycle back up, against gravity, to the top? Given enough time and proper management, nearly any piece of depleted land can get transformed to viable farmland with the help of grazers.

The physical act of grazing by fiber-producing animals on managed grasslands retains water and sequesters carbon. To get a full perspective, consider the average fiber pasture in which the animals are given a very large area to roam, and they are rotated rarely, if at all.  The grass, therefore, stays quite short (usually only a couple of inches tall) since the ground is rarely given a rest from constant grazing. The roots of these grasses are also very shallow, since roots only grow deep when grasses grow tall. Now consider a pasture that is managed within a regenerative practice; a large herd of animals is rotated intensively through a large number of small pastures. This allows most of the grass to be resting at any given time, so the grass has the opportunity to grow tall. Consequently, the roots grow deeper into the ground. This is of huge importance because plants have the ability to transfer carbon out of the atmosphere and into the ground through their roots. The deeper the roots, the more carbon pumping, the less carbon in our air, and the deeper water can trickle easily.  It’s no surprise that this latter practice of rotation is a good representation of how grazers move in the wild; almost always on the move due to predation and seeking areas with more abundant grass.  If every farm practiced rotational grazing of their fiber animals, imagine the potential to reverse global climate change! (Now imagine if there were tax incentives for carbon sequestration on your land … but I won’t get too political). Everyone imagines that the best way to reverse global warming is to plant hundreds of trees, but grasses actually have a stronger ability to sequester carbon, so why not start with the millions of acres of animal pasture that already exists in the US? After all, the majority of this land is unusable to grow plans on due to poor water availability, topography, altitude, and poor soil quality.

We have a dizzying number of fiber options online and in stores, and knowing which buzzwords to look for can be tough.  Choosing fiber from organically-raised animals is a great start, but we can challenge our producers to do more.  The best way to go about this ethical consumption, as with anything, is to know your farmer and know their practices.  You may not be able to meet them in-person, but a quick phone call or email with a short list of questions (How many pastures do you rotate your sheep through?  How quickly are your goats rotated?  Do you test your soil?) will let them know that there is a demand for animal fiber from regenerative practices.  If we are to continue using our land as a resource for creating goods, we must take steps to build its fertility and vitality.  As Bill Mollison famously says, “Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.”  If we move our fiber animals through the land in a way they naturally move in the wild, the biology of the soil with thrive, the environment and climate will being to correct, and the knitting community will help drive the revitalization of the Earth.

Renee Harding

[PATTERN] Three-Eyed Raven

Winter is coming.

Well, winter came. Winter is here.

I am so excited to share this pattern with you all! This pattern ended up being the perfect homage to a very captivating character from Game of Thrones. For those of you who are Game of Thrones fans, I think you’ll love this as much as I do. I also sincerely hope this isn’t a spoiler to anyone, but Bran Stark becomes the next Three-Eyed Raven. He seems like he’s shaping up to be the character that the future of Westeros hinges upon in the rest of the series.

This beautiful pattern is a shawl that encapsulates three foundational aspects of what it means to be Bran Stark.

  1. Since he is from the North, being a Stark of Winterfell, he and his fellow Northerners wear fur cloaks. The warm natural tones and addition of a mohair blend suggest the furry warmth of the necessary skins he must wear to be the most senior male Stark in Winterfell.
  2. As the Three-Eyed Raven, he is connected to and channels his power through the Weirwood trees of the North and beyond The Wall. Throughout the shawl, branches of the Weirwood spread to connect the wolf-like Stark aspects and the etherial Three-Eyed Raven.
  3. Bran becomes the Raven itself. The lace in this shawl is called “Raven” which symbolizes the duties that Bran must take on. The lace pattern even looks like a raven’s skull.



Protect yourself from the frigid Northern cold and connect through the Weirwoods as the Three-Eyed Raven!

Buy the pattern from Ravelry here!

Enjoy! ❤ Larissa