Friday, 30 November 2012

Dyes, Pies and Whys

Dyes and pies: that’s how I’ve labelled the blackberries in the freezer, and it’s a good job I kept some, as this year’s crop has been extremely low because of the weather. I’ve sneaked a few out of the ‘dyes’ bag – the better ones – to make up the deficit in the ‘pies’ bag, but I’m going to regret that when I reach for the dyepot this weekend. I wish it was as easy to turn wool bright colours as it is to grow plants which create an intensely colourful backdrop in winter time.  

My natural dyepot experiences have so far produced subtle colours rather than the deep and consistent shades you get from World of Wool’s artistic palette of colours. I therefore tend to use the commercially-dyed material for yarns to put in my Etsy shop, and the natural dyes, which can be a bit flighty if I haven’t measured things properly, for my own home use. Suppliers like World of Wool are good at doing their due diligence, but when I was asked by a prospective Etsy customer in the USA recently about shipments, and discovered what their regulations demanded of suppliers, I found I still have a lot of learning to do about sourcing.

It wasn’t just the transport issue – bulky yarns like mine seem to require ‘volumetric’ costing by shippers, thus extra expense – it’s that apparently I need to be able to identify the origins of every single component I use, which, with the fluffy stuff I make, can be quite a lot! If I’m thoughtful about what I’ve got to do to assure my very small supply chain, imagine how hard it is for fashion designers and even more for retailers, though at least they should have the resources to make active choices. According to Greenpeace’ report ‘Toxic Threads’, launched last week, some of them are falling down on the job.

The side-effects of industrial-scale dyeing processes can be added to the issue of ‘wool miles’, raised previously on this blog, as something that we as spinners ought to think more about. So my challenge for 2013 is to find ways of applying some form of ‘life cycle analysis’ to my woolly materials, in the same way as I advocate its use to others in a manufacturing context. I’m willing to give it a try as I believe the planet is worth saving, and as a gardener too I feel I ought to be doing more to help. Plants are valuable, and climate change will affect their growth patterns and our abilities to harvest and use them as our ancestors did. So here’s wishing you a thoughtful week, bending your mind to ways and means to make a difference, examining your own ‘whys’, and possibly your dyes and pies too.

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