Editor’s Note: This is the fourth post in our ongoing Farm to Closet series where we’re following the journey of a sheep’s wool from a sustainably managed ranch in Patagonia as it’s spun, dyed, and knit into a finished beautiful piece. Read the first, second and third posts.
We’ve left the ranch in Patagonia, spun the tops, dyed the yarn and have now arrived at my favorite part of the journey – the one in which I can claim true expertise: knitting. It’s the part that yields the greatest rewards: a finished object (an “FO” in knit-speak) created under my own time and power.
Knitting is pretty much the ideal hobby. Don’t believe me? Here are my Top 5 Reasons Why Knitting Rules:
- It’s portable: Everything you need fits nicely into a project bag for when you’re on-the-go. I knit on planes (yes, the needles are okay to carry on), at the lake, in the car (as a passenger, of course!), anywhere.
- It’s social: Nothing is more fun than kibitzing with your friends while knitting. You can create something, compare projects, help each other out with patterns and cackle over a screening of Pitch Perfect all at the same time.
- It’s therapeutic: There’s a calmness to knitting. When other parts of my day don’t seem to go quite as expected, it’s cathartic to sit with my yarn and watch something come together in my hands.
- It’s creative: I guess this goes without saying, but knitting is a hobby with results. Whether you’re creating something for yourself or as a gift, the end product is an FO that you’ll be proud of for sure.
- It’s a chick magnet: Guys, I’m telling you, it’s time to learn to knit. Girls really dig dudes who knit. It’s like the cute little puppy of hobbies for us.
Now that I’ve convinced you that knitting is the best hobby ever, let’s continue our journey from sheep to shawl. What to do with this luscious yarn from the ranches of Ovis XXI in Patagonia?
I decided to use the yarn I dyed naturally with turmeric to make use of its amazing color. I poked around for a pattern that called to me (and believe me, they are infinite), and ultimately chose the gorgeous “Juneberry Triangle” lace shawl by knitwear designer, Jared Flood (See, guys? A dude who knits).
It took me just under two weeks to knit my shawl, which is pretty quick. The soft yarn was like butter on my wooden needles (I can’t stand metal or plastic needles – I sense a theme here). The gentle clack as the needles come together soothed me through the tenser moments of this season’s first final episodes of Breaking Bad. It kept me company on a bus ride to New York City. It saw the beach on Tybee Island in Georgia during a family vacation. It has a tale to tell all on its own.
Now, knitting lace is kind of like playing with Transformers – you start out with one thing, but with a little bending and moving, the stitches open up and you end up with something completely different. This phenomenon, known as “blooming,” is downright magical, which it makes it all the more rewarding. Through blocking (the final step of knitting, which sets the stitches and shape of your garment), your lace goes from a quivering jumble of stitches to an intricate pattern worthy of showing off.
I’ve made a lot of things over the decade that I’ve been knitting, many of which still make me say “wow” when I pull them from the closet. This piece, however… this piece is extra special to me.
When I wrap it around my neck I instantly think of those gorgeous sheep in Argentina and the ranchers who work so hard to raise them. I applaud their forward thinking and courageous efforts to restore their grasslands while still making a living. I pay respects to those who came far before me, tirelessly spinning fleece that would ultimately become clothing for their families. I recall the creativity of those who discovered the art of applying color in a way to beautify and diversify a necessity. And then there’s the knitting itself, which has hazy origins at best.
Somehow, in the 11th century (-ish), someone figured out how to loop strands of fiber over a sharpened stick, and the rest is history – I thank them for that.
Every inch of my fabric has a story – one I can trace from beginning to end – from the farm to my closet. The connection to each step runs deep, and uncovering each one has strengthened my understanding of and respect for how we are all inextricably linked to nature and its bounties…
All the more reason to keep it around for future generations, right? You bet. Now, let’s knit!
[All images © Lori Johnson]