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Building FGF & Sourcing

Over the last couple of months, it’s become more clear what the future of Fuzzzy Green Fibers will hold. I’ve been having a lot of fun designing knitting patterns and will continue to do so when inspiration strikes. I quite enjoy how art + math = clothes. And rather than retailing yarn that is natural in some way (which was my only previous aspiration), I’ve decided to fill a hole in the yarn community that I personally have needed. I really want indie, hand-dyed yarn that is trendy, colorful and FUN but doesn’t have any trash in it – so I’m doing it myself. Sometimes I want a sock kit that has exciting colors… but I just don’t feel good about spending money on something with dyes, treatments, and fibers I don’t feel great about. There is a place for making concessions, but I don’t make them for things I knit for myself. Or hey maybe I want to do a faded sweater of some kind… but the only kits I can find are superwash, or I would really have to stretch the imagination and color palette accepability to make a cobbled-together fade look halfway decent. I love natural undyed neutral colors that still smell like the sheep it was shorn from, but I also want some neon speckles in my life. Oh and I need to use all of the colorway names stockpiled in my brain, and a neutral gray doesn’t lend itself well to a name like “Good God, Lemon!”

In addition to all of this, I think my “thing” is turning out to be project bags. I haven’t released any of them for sale yet since I’m waiting on labels for them, but I am in LOVE. I love all of the artistic, utility and ethical decisions I’ve made on each one. Hand tie-dyed organic cotton sturdy project bags? You may have to fight me so I don’t keep them all.

I’m super happy with what I’ve decided to do now, what I’ll do next, and my ultimate plans.

However, there’s this annoying little “not good enough” cricket chirping in my ear. I’m not so much concerned about the quality of my work or the aesthetic of certain things – that will all improve & evolve with time, experience, and preference. What my brain is goading me about is my sourcing for every. Little. Thing. Sometimes it feels like I’m not meeting the standards I’ve promised customers, and especially myself. I’m trying to use the least toxic, least environmentally impactful materials and processes I can. Of course it’s not perfect because I don’t live in fairyland. But even now in my research and development phase, my brain won’t let it go that it’s not good enough. Were your labels printed on recycled paper? Is the yarn you bought domestic? Would you feel safe eating your dye? Are your shipping supplies made from plastic rendered from things found in your own living room? NO BRAIN, NONE OF IT IS PERFECT. I guess I just wanted to get off my chest that I am a wee fledgling learning what it even means to sell products to people. As time goes on, I know I’ll source every last item as well as I can (most natural, least toxic, most local, most ethical). For now, my claims are true: no nylon, superwash, or heavy metal-containing dyes in my yarn; organic cotton fabric, US-made zippers & labels, and low-impact dyes for my bags.

I hope my art & enthusiasm will translate well to those interested in my products. I’m consciously planning and strategizing every day on improving all that is possible to improve. And every time I make an improvement that approaches my ideals (even if asymptotically), I’ll announce it with pride so all you other hippy-nonsense nerds like me can high five a tree or whatever.

<3 Larissa

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Crowd-Sourced Natural Yarn Directory

Do you enjoy natural yarn?

You don’t use yarn with superwash or synthetic fibers like acrylic or nylon?

Look no further!

I’ve collated yarn brands and their bases that fall under this broad “natural” category.

Organized by:

  • Company Name
  • Yarn Base Name
  • Yarn Weight
  • Fiber Content
  • Specific Sheep Breed(s) Included
  • Natural Plant Dye Used
  • Country of Company
  • Whether the yarn is ideal for socks
  • Organic Machine Washable Treatment
  • Whether you can buy it by the cone
  • Vegan Yarn
  • Indie Dyers
  • Novelty Yarn (Art Yarn, Handspun, etc)

And of course for your ease of purchasing/browsing, their website is linked with each base.

I’d love this list to be a living document! Please email me additional brands you know of (or corrections if I’ve gotten something wrong!).

You can access it 2 ways:

  1. Excel Spreadsheet Download
    • Sheet 1 is all bases & concurrent information
    • Sheet 2 is only the brand with its country and website
  2. Google Docs Spreadsheet
    • Sheet 1 is all bases & concurrent information
    • Sheet 2 is only the brand with its country and website

*Most recent update: September 23, 2018

Peruse at your leisure, alphabetize by whichever category you like… if you download the Excel file you can delete, reorganize, markup whatever you like!

I sincerely hope this is helpful. Any updates to the list will be announced through my Instagram account and will be reflected here.

Enjoy, happy knitting, okay, love you, bye!

Larissa

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Project Bags

I just wanted to make a quickie post about sewing project bags! I’ve made 5 so far in my life, 4 of which have zipper pockets inside (and I’m very proud of this, thank you very much). I’ve been using this tutorial for the bag and this video tutorial for the interior zippered pouch.

Fun fact: I haven’t bought any fabric for these! I’ve been able to use leftovers from previous projects (husband’s bow ties, our duvet cover) and household fabrics that weren’t living up to their destiny anymore (pillowcases, sheets, shower curtains, etc.).

I’m a big proponent for not letting things go to waste & reusing things. For example, I love the yarn I bought that was recycled from a thrift store sweater and I even bought a turkey roasting pan from Goodwill to dye yarn in!

I have a lot of ideas for bags in the future. I’ve been using some metal zippers in fun colors, and I’m enjoying playing around with fabrics and bag sizes & shapes. I think I’d actually like to sell them eventually. I need to work on professionalizing a lot of my work, but these bags are a lot of fun to make.

What say you? Do you like repurposed items getting a new life? I sure do!

Weena helping.
This went to my latest FibreShare partner. Hi Karissa!
I’m obsessed with these neon zippers.
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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.

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[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.

<3 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