Knitting, design, wool and other gatherings….

Some days, like today, I would like the right to just spell it out…


PrintI´ve just read the Rowan e-newsletter of Febuary 2014. It shows a few nice knitting designs, but mostly crochet designs which I care less about… this is after all a knitting blog! But what caught my interest was an article on page 7, about a new campaign; «Love Your Yarn Shop». I think that´s a great initiative, and I hereby pass the idea on to my LYS (local yarn shop)!

My LYS: «Sy med oss» offers a good range of Norwegian yarn + Kauni (Estonian). What I love about my LYS apart from their excellent knitting-cafè once a week, is being able to drop by, have a nice chat, search through the shelves filled with wool in all colours and qualities, being inspired by a new yarn or a showpiece, get a new knitting tool and get valuable advice from a person(s) that really know what they are talking about! And above of all; -they always greet you with a smile, and treat every «dumb» question with a positive attitude; «yes, I´ll see what I can do», -and «I´ll do some research and get back to you!». Contrary to; «No, we´re out!», or; «No, we can´t do that!», if they notice you at all…

I´ve been frequenting yarn shops since the age of 11, and seen a lot of horrendous behavior from yarn shop staff! Some even look you straight in the eyes while giving you crap advice they surely must know are, well …crap! Maybe I don´t look the part? Maybe I don´t look like a «knitter»? – whatever a knitter looks like…? Or maybe I don´t look rich enough to buy their precious yarn, which they guard like it is a costly treasure not yet ripe to leave the shelves!

At the age of 23 I had just finished my «Foolish Virgins» by Kaffe Fassett! I went to my LYS at that time, to get yarn for another intarsia-project I intended for a knitting contest. The woman behind the counter would not order an additional shade of my yarn of choice because «there are not enough room in the shelves for more yarn, and you probably won´t ever pick up your ordered yarn anyway! We can´t just order any yarn for any customer you know! And by the way, intarsia is best knitted in the round (?!), – if you knit this flat you´ll never finish it…!» I just looked at this middle-aged woman thinking: I am – at the age of 23 – a far more experienced knitter than you´ll ever be! …and left the shop. I had to wait a few months before I could buy my yarn in another shop (this was before the internet…), I finished my intarsia-project and came second in that knitting-contest!

Well, I am myself ehm, middle-aged (?!) now, and I probably finally «look the part», at least I get better treatment in the various yarn-shops…

I do not want to be «the angry customer»! I just don´t see the point in that! I want to support my local yarn shops! I want to buy local yarn from actual persons!

Which leads me to the main point of this post: Above all; I do not want to be «the angry knitter»! And I find myself becoming more and more angry… which is a contradiction given my age. Aren´t you supposed to get less angry with age?

I live in a country with on average the best educated women in the world. We have the highest income per capita in the whole universe, while the cost of yarn is on average compared to rest of the western world. Still, a lot of my fellow Norwegian women insists on their «right» to knit using mainly cheap, imported acrylic-based yarn! I´m member of a facebook-group called «Koftegruppa», and they recently had to close down a discussion-thread because the «acrylics-lovers» felt harassed!! Well, I followed that thread, and did not see any form of harassment among the comments, but if you feel the right to shout out to other knitters: «I use whatever yarn I like, -it´s all about the joy of knitting, and I don´t care about the yarn-industry or where the yarn comes from or how sustainable or local it is, just as long as it´s cheap!» -you should be prepared for opposition! Just as I´m ready for any opposition to this post! I know I´m stepping on toes here….

But ladies, -step it up will you?!!

There´s a saying in Norway: «Women are women worst!», meaning, I guess, we´re experts in keeping each other down, not supporting each other. In relation to knitting I say this because I´m seriously concerned about the local wool industry. There are only three Norwegian commercial yarn mills left! And most of the wool they use are foreign. Nothing wrong with foreign wool, but the status of Norwegian wool are very low. Sheep are kept only for the meat because the wool-price are low, and about 70% of our wool are destructed! And most of the remaing 30% are used as insulation. What a waste! And we´re also in the process of «loosing» the original types of sheep that we know to produce good quality wool, and we´re loosing valuable knowledge about these types of sheep! We can cheer on the enthusiasts for some more years, but eventually they´ll collectively realize that the «market» don´t appreciate their work… Now, I know that a few knitters can´t change the whole wool-industry, but we can make a small change by demanding better products! By buying locally you can help ensuring local employment and knowledge. By buying yarn from local mills you can help ensuring we still have 3 commercial mills left in Norway in 10 years time (or more…) and by buying locally you also support the local designers. Norwegian knitting designers carry a long and proud line of iconic designs, and I think they do a great job developing this design-heritage! If the mills close down, designers are left without their major support, and there will be fewer of them.

So next time you want to knit a garment, buy smart; buy locally, buy sustainable and don´t borrow the knitting-pattern from your neighbour, -buy it yourself to support the designer!

It´s possible to «save yourself poor», and I think that is exactly what we are doing at the moment!

yarn_store_dayoutlined_459_458I know my readers are mostly not Norwegian, so why do I address my concerns here on this blog? Well, first I think this applies world wide. There is a reason for launching campaigns like the brilliant British «Campaign for Wool». And someone clearly feels the need for campaigns like the before mentioned «Love Your Yarn Shop». As a dedicated knitter and wool lover I say: «Look to Britain!», -because they have managed to turn the whole wool industry into something overall sustainable and fashionable. So I know it´s possible!

Secondly; if you come to Norway as a tourist, and let´s say you want to travel through the beautiful, and now also on the World Heritage list; The famous Norwegian Fjords; all you´ll see are trees! I´m exaggerating here, but in a few years this will be the reality! If we continue to buy heaps of cheap acrylic yarn, the amount of sheep to keep the «forestation» on a sustainable level will be too low! All you´ll see are tunnells and trees! I know because I live here and see the changes from year to year!

8th of March is only a week away and for the first time in my life I´ll join the march! There are only two issues I´ll join the protest-march for; If my right to vote are threatened, or if my right to have an abortion are threatened! In my opinion these are the two main democratic rights for women! Our new right-wing coalition-government are, as far as I can see it, threatening my right to have an abortion by allowing medical physicians to chose if they want to refer patients wanting an abortion to the hospital, or not. In other words, -they want to allow doctors to refuse to give the help the patient needs! This might not be the biggest problem in the world, -you can go to another doctor, or go straight to the hospital and get the help you need, -but it´s the principal! If the right-wing female politicians act as «…women worst», and send a signal to all the other politicians, and to all the people of Norway, – that really, really scared women in a really, really difficult situation should feel even more scared and bewildered because they have the power to do so! What for?

I´ve never had to have an abortion, and being ehm, middle-aged (?!) I probably will never need one, but I´ll march for my daughter and all the other women that might need one! I´ll march for my basic democratic rights and I´ll march for women to stop being «…women worst!». Use whatever yarn you like, and vote whatever you like, but know the implications! And come on!, please don´t scream: «harassment!» if someone questions your right to imported acrylic yarn…. If you join me in the parade next Saturday we can shout «Harassment!!» together, and it will be worth it!!

The three Norwegian commercial wool mills:

Some Norwegian private wool mills:

Author: woolandgathering

I´m a dedicated knitter. I share my house with an unknown amount of wool. My kind of wool seems to multiply like quicksilver, -drop a skein to the floor and you get 10 in return….. (well… get is maybe an exaggeration….) So I keep on knitting to try to get on top of it, enjoying the process, the texture of the yarn and the endless possibilities in creating new garments.

7 thoughts on “Some days, like today, I would like the right to just spell it out…

  1. I agree, buying local can only be a good thing, wherever you live. As for local yarn stores, I’m ashamed to say that I rarely set foot in mine. It stocks mostly pastel-shade acrylics that I just know would actually SQUEAK when you tried to knit them, and the woman who runs it rarely bothers to put her stock on the shelves, so you have to climb over it as you cross the floor. Sounds as though you’re rather better resourced where you are.

    • Hi Twisted Yarn. Sounds to me you should no feel ashamed that you are not supporting your LYS. Luckily we have web shops, and it´s possible to buy sustainable and local on net! I´m guilty of buying most of my my yarn on the internet! I come from a small town, and if you knit a lot, the variety of yarn soon becomes too narrow. So I do both! And by doing so my knowledge of types of wool and the quality of the yarn are broadened.

  2. I love my LYS which is ever so helpful with my questions. I buy from it almost exclusively excepting when I travel and visit yarn shops in other locales. Too many issues with buying online. Love my LYS! Thanks for the interesting blog today. I hope to visit Norway someday as all of my ancestors came from there.

    • Thank you Tere! I also love my LYS, but in addition I buy online (..see my reply to The Twisted Yarn).
      I hope you get to visit your ancestors homeland soon. We´re celebrating the 200 yr anniversary of the constitution this year, and I recently watched a documentary where they addressed the emigration to America. Nearly half of the Norwegian population emigrated (800 000) from 1825 to 1920! We came second among the European countries, only “beaten” by the Irish (2 million). So we all have family that emigrated, though I don´t know any …too long ago, but my parents generation still talk about the “America-parcels” they received for xmas as late as the 50´s, containing chewing gum and precious toys you could not by in the stores in post WW2 Norway.

  3. Thank you for bringing this up! I was wondering when / if someone would EVER mention the weird thing about norwegian knitters (not all, luckily) not supporting local products, and even thinking that it is not important! I was so astounded to hear from my sheep-farming friend (and a knitter too) that they sold the wool for next to nothing (so they didn’t), and it was so much more value to sell the meat and the fur…
    Thank you for the statement about the real right to free abortion, too. I will also be on the barricades on saturday for this right, because it is important to have a real choice, whatever your choice is!

    • Thanks achka! Some Norwegian knitting-blogs are glowing “red” at the moment, all addressing this issue! Some time ago the yarn company Gjestal bought the famous wool mill and designwear company Dale Garn, an almost iconic institution in the Norwegian wool industy! They promised to incorporate Dale´s production in their own, securing the labour and the yarn itself. Instead they closed down the mill!!! I guess this made us all think, and gave us a much needed “wake-up call”! And it has also brought companies like Gjestals methods to the light. They import all their yarn, and are flooding the market with cheap, …and in my opinion useless yarn!
      What is discussed on the various knitting-blogs are the need for a classification system. You should be able to read from the yarn label where your yarn is produced, and where the wool comes from. A Norwegian yarn company like Viking of Norway has even put a Norwegian flag on their labels, though all their yarn and wool are imported!!
      We need a “wool-standard”, like “The Campaign for Wool” has been working for, for the British market. And if we consumers are just a bit more aware when we buy our yarn, I think we can make a difference!
      Good luck protesting on Saturday, I hope I don´t have to march alone in my small town, but if that what it takes…. 🙂
      And thank you for reblogging!!

  4. Reblogged this on Rød tråd and commented:
    Just because I have been on vacation, does not mean I have not been knitting, of course. But in the meantime, as I try to make some decent photos, I invite you to read this post from woolandgathering about loving your lys, and supporting local products, and also a bit about the right to free abortion in Norway. A right worth fighting for there, here and everywhere!

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