I want to share with you a lovely story that aired on ABC TV's Landline the weekend before last. If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen my link to this already. If you haven't watched this, please do.
Even if you're not from the 'country' or interested in anything remotely farmy, do watch this.
This is not just about farming or sheep, this is a story that is both uplifting and inspiring. It's about following your passion and believing in yourself. This is a story that will make you smile, and if you're a bit of a softie like me, you might even have a tear in your eye at the end.
It runs for a little over 16 minutes so won't take long.
ABCTV - Landline: A Sheep Called Alice
So did you watch?
Incredible, isn't it!
I've been playing with Nan Bray's wool for a little while now, swatching and knitting and seeing what it looks like in different stitch patterns. Patting and patting and patting it endlessly, not quite believing just how lovely and beautiful it is. If you joined me at The Craft Sessions, you no doubt got to meet some of the White Gum Wool and will know that I'm working on a pattern with it. And you may have seen the lovely yarn sample card with the most perfect yellow yarn ever. So I know Nan's wool and I appreciated that it was ethically produced, and I've a wee bit of an email correspondence with her, but I did not know her story. I did not know the full extent of just how ethical and lovely her approach to farming sheep is.
I love every thing about Nan's approach to farming, but I particularly love how she studied the sheep and saw from their feeding patterns that they knew the weeds to self-medicate, they just knew! I love that she treats them well and gets such amazing wool as a result. I love that this woman has decided to have a crack at sheep rearing and wool production, challenging so many long standing conventions and has succeeded so very very well. I loved her relationship with her stockman Davy and the faith he so clearly has in her. I found it incredible, that given his age, generation and experience, he was so readily able to listen to Nan and even learn from her. This is a man that has a mountain of experience and I think that would have been an incredible open-minded thing to do.
What wonderful people! They both brought a tear to my eye they were so inspiring.
I have to say, most of all, I love that the sheep don't have their tails docked. For some reason, that really resonated with me.
Until I discovered Nan's wool I was beginning to feel a little bit flat about the Australian yarn industry. At heart, I am a bit of a hippy greenie, I love something with an organic or ethical flavour. Add in some chai and mung beans and I'm set.
With the closing of WOOLganics and the demise of Pear Tree, I was pretty disheartened about the lack of a great Australian true gutsy wool base. For the country who famously rode to prosperity on the back of sheep, it seemed unfortunate that we were losing such great yarns. How could this be?
It also seemed a little like Australian yarn had lost its way and more and more knitters seemed to be turning to overseas yarn, with new and amazing yarns popping up every second day it seemed. The Aussie knitter knitting with a local yarn was becoming a rare thing, and I found that really sad. So much of the crafting revolution focuses on the ethical and the local aspect of crafting, and yet here we were the country of wool, losing such amazing yarns. It didn't seem right. How can the US have all these US born and bred yarns to suddenly showcase and here, we seemed to have forgotten about that sheep's back full of history. It's an unfair comparison, given the size and population of countries like the US in comparison to Australia, but it was hard not to think it.
We have so many terrific indie dyers down under but more and more I see them dyeing superwash merino, for some time there was no real option to be found for a beautiful plump hand wash yarn, let alone one with green credentials. Superwash has its place, but for me my true love will always be a true wool, left un-chemically treated and pure. So I've been heartened to see indie dyers dyeing up Nan's gorgeous wool and giving it their colour love. I have a few skeins here begging to be knit, and I look forward to seeing more indie dyers embracing the natural yarns now that we have two fabulous product on our shelves.
I came across Nan's yarns about the same time Susannah told me she had bought WOOLganics. That was one happy time, I must say! I think these two amazing women bring a much needed product to the Australian market, they fill that void that I feel was so dearly missing; a great ethical product that is wonderful to work with. A true real wool that is easy to access and can be (or should be) found in your LYS. It's renewed a bit of a spark for me, rekindled my love for knitting and yes, I've unearthed my hoarded WOOLganics and have been knitting with it. I will be talking a little bit more about a little something I have in the works in a future post.
If you're interested in purchasing either White Gum Wool or WOOLganics yarns, here are a couple of links to their web pages.
White Gum Wool
WOOLganics Organic Knitters Yarn
What I'd love to know is what other true "local" yarns do my readers love?
Are green or ethical considerations important to you when selecting your yarn?
It doesn't matter whether you're from Australia, New Zealand, the US or the Shetland Islands, I'd love to hear what local yarns you knit with and love. After all, local love anywhere is worth celebrating.
P.S. As an aside, I started writing this post a couple of days ago and only just had time to finish it this morning. As I was writing it, a knock came at the door and it was the postie delivering me those six balls of gorgeous yarn you see at the top of this post. How lovely is that!
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Textile artist, knitwear designer and teacher.
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