Archive for September, 2007

Recently there’s been a bit of buzz on ravelry about a new little garment called the Pidge. Basically it’s an 1/8 of a scarf, with buttons, to be worn around the neck as a sort of collar:

The makers of the Pidge describe themselves as environmentally friendly, because aside from the Italian cashmere yarn, each Pidge is made with domestic materials and produced using no electricity, aside from the “handful of halogen lights illuminating the knitting studio.” Want one of your own? They’re only $275-$425.

I’ve been keeping my eye on the Pidge site for a couple of weeks now. For one thing, I don’t buy their “eco-friendly” line. First their claim that the Pidges are produced using no electricity aside from a handful of halogen lights. Well, as these pictures of their “atelier” show, that handful is a large overhead lighting system:

And as for the claim that there’s no other electricity involved, how about the TV, microwave, and coffee maker?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume they have some sort of climate control (heating, AC) as well. And there’s nothing wrong with that–I believe people should have a comfortable working environment. But it does blow a big hole in their “no electricity” claim. They’re hardly making these things by firelight in a cave.

My other bone to pick is the use of Italian cashmere. To quote the website: “Excepting its fine Italian cashmere, the elements of every individual Pidge–from each scarf’s unique fire-branded wooden buttons to its textile-cut fasteners and unique patterns–are all conceived, designed, and created domestically.” A few weeks ago they mentioned that they use Karabella yarns in making the Pidges, though that information has since been removed from their website. Karabella is an Italian yarn producer and like most Italian textile companies, they import their cashmere from central Asia (China and Mongolia). The cashmere is spun into yarn in Italy and exported to retailers around the world. So, the makers of the “environmentally friendly” Pidge are using fibre that travelled from China to Italy and finally to Connecticut–just imagine all the fuel (and electricity!) used to transport and process the primary material for the Pidge. Sure, the other elements of the Pidge (buttons and fasteners) are made domestically, but that doesn’t change the fact that probably 90% of each Pidge is imported cashmere yarn.

More about cashmere: although it’s grown on a goat, it’s usually done in such a way that it cannot be considered a sustainable resource. Most of the world’s cashmere is, as I said, produced in central Asia, where the goats are wreaking havoc on their environment: eating all the available vegetation and damaging topsoil. Asian cashmere goats are often underfed as well, since it results in production of a finer, softer fibre. There are North American farmers who are raising cashmere sustainably, but it’s harder to find and certainly not to be found in the Pidge.

However, in the end, I doubt that the people willing to shell out $400 for a fraction of a scarf are the type to be overly concerned with whether their Pidge is really “green” or not. It’s become trendy to be eco-conscious (whether genuinely so or not), and I doubt the Pidge is the only high-end garment being marketed as green despite dubious claims of sustainability. For me it’s all the more reason to research where my money’s going to, and if in doubt, I’ll knit my own 1/8 scarf.


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knitting for babies

This has been a big year for babies among my friends. So far four have been born, with another four due between now and February. This works out well for me, since I love knitting for babies and now have plenty of kids to foist my creations on. The great thing about knitting for kids is that the projects tend to be small and therefore a convenient way to try new things (when you have to rip out an entire sleeve’s worth of knitting on your first sweater, it’s a lot less grief if that sweater is toddler-sized). It’s also an outlet for any urges you may have to knit something “cute”–assuming, of course, that your grown-up acquaintances aren’t clamouring for you to make them a pair of booties with pom-poms.

Sometimes it’s hard to decide what to knit for friends’ kids, though. Take these fruit hats. Yes, those are baby hats made to look like little strawberries, plums, etc. Pretty cute, I thought, and I planned to file them away for future projects, but then I heard a couple of parents say how creepy they are. And yeah, maybe you wouldn’t want your child’s head to look like something edible. Good point there.

A lot of people like to give silly nicknames to their unborn baby, which I find cute and funny. I actually nicknamed my co-worker’s unborn baby, and she was good-natured enough to laugh at my choice of “Cletus” rather than refuse to speak to me ever again. Anyway, this brings me to my next dilemma: is it okay to knit an item related to the in utero nickname? Most people never use the nickname again after the kid is born, and don’t want other people using it either. However, a friend of mine referred to her daughter as “the Squid” before she was born, and I was so very tempted to make her this squid hat. In the end, I knit her something else and filed away the squid pattern in case a marine biologist friend of mine ever decides to have kids.

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soon to be featured

As of sometime in October, I will be selling my knitted items through Indyish, a Montreal-based group of independent artists. Indyish’s focus is on being sustainable and giving support to “folks who make stuff”, as they put it. I’m excited to be a part of it and I’ll post when my stuff becomes available there!

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Alpaca toque

Remember that handspun alpaca yarn I made? Well, I went ahead a knit a toque with it. I knit it on size 8 (US) needles and used a mock cable pattern in place of ribbing. The decreasing at the top was done using a somewhat unorthodox P4tog method, but I like the look it gives with the mock cables being suddenly ended rather than narrowed into single knit stitches. This toque is incredibly soft and warm!

Being worn:

A close up of the decreasing:

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Cabled toque

This knit up incredibly fast–just a few days. I used Jaeger Shetland yarn in grey tweed (recycled from a handknit sweater I bought, much too large for me ever to wear) and adapted this pattern. The original called for bulky yarn on US 10.5 needles, but I added an extra pattern repeat and used US 7’s instead to make up for the lighter gauge of yarn. Since it took less than a full skein of yarn, I think it’d be a good project to use up the single orphan skeins of yarn in my stash. You know, the ones you buy because they’re on sale and there may be only one but you’ll find something to make with it, right? Yeah, I have a lot of those.

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handspun alpaca

A while back a member of my old guild had some alpaca fibre she was giving away. She said it was only good for felting and most of it was coarse leg hair, but one bag had some extremely soft chocolate brown fibre. Naturally, I snatched it up and squirrelled it away for future use. I think the reason she labelled it “only good for felting” was the staple length–only 1-2″. One of alpaca’s selling points seems to be its potential to have a much longer staple length than wool: I often see sellers of alpaca fleece claiming (much like the ads in the back of certain shady alternative newspapers) lengths of 8, 9, even 10 inches. The sheer length of the fibre, combined with its incredible softness, makes up for the fact that it can never match wool’s crimp and elasticity. As a result, spinners go nuts over the stuff.

So I had a bag of reject-but-not-really alpaca fibre, what to do with it? Well, I blended some of it with wool to make some thrummed mittens I’ll write about later. But I also spun it by the handful, point-of-twist style, on my wonky rented Ashford Traditional wheel. The result was a couple of skeins of a very soft, very warm yarn probably well suited for a ribbed hat or scarf (ribbing would help counteract alpaca’s tendency to lose its shape). It’s also pretty consistent in thickness despite being fuzzy and haloed. Like the yarn in my last post, I plan to sell it, possibly knitted up into hat form first.

fyi, those are size 3 (US) needles to show the thickness of the yarn.

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handspun yarn

Finally, some of my handspun yarn:

This is Blue Faced Leicester wool, spun to a heavy worsted/chunky gauge and dyed with grape kool-aid (I’m planning to sell it, and only the barest scrap of decency is keeping me from naming it ‘Jonestown’). I actually have two skeins of it, the smaller shown here; right now I’m not sure whether to sell it as is or knit it up into a hat or mittens first. I’m getting away from working with dyed fibre as much as possible, but this yarn is incredibly soft and I do like the variation in colour. Some detail:

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