Mendo Island Transition: Knitting a new future


From JOANNE POYOUROW
Transition US

My name is Joanne and I am a knitter. (Yep, it’s that serious)  For quite some time I have made excuses, telling myself that “knitting was one of those reskilling things” and it was a powerdown craft. But I got to thinking about it seriously this week.

Here, in the middle of urban Los Angeles, knitting is a pretty elitist hobby. It might be a “reskilling type of thing” good for necessary clothing-making somewhere out on a farm where there are plenty of goats and sheep. Or if I took to raising angora rabbits. Because when the serious hiccups in the economy come, when the darker transportation issues of peak oil set in, the boutique yarn stores I patronize today likely won’t be around anymore.

Although every seriously addicted knitter has her enormous stash of yarn, even that won’t last long under such circumstances.  Cotton takes too much acreage, and bamboo requires tons of processing before you can make it into yarn. I don’t think my neighbors would tolerate pigmy goats.  Newspaper we have in great supply, but it doesn’t make washable clothing.  I’ll be out of raw materials.  I have no sustainable supply.

Some of the Transition groups around here have been hosting Repurposing Old Clothes workshops. This is where everyone brings in something old from their closet, plus a spare bit of fabric or some trims. They put it all in a big pile. Then people start pulling garments from the pile — probably not the ones they brought with them. The workshop flows best when you invite someone with an eye for design to help put cool things together. Then out come the sewing machines (or the thread-and-needle). In a powerdown future in the middle of a city, I think we’ll have plenty of leftover mass-produced clothing that can be repurposed like this.

 But, alas, knitting yarn isn’t likely.

But wait. A few keystrokes online yield wonders. This fiber artist in Germany used old fabric scraps to spin absolutely BEAUTIFUL yarn. Hmmm, all I need is a drop spindle. How do you use one anyway? Ooh, YouTube has a spinning demonstration. Even how to make a drop spindle from materials around the home. Ahhh.

My daughter and I tried the spinning thing. With the fabric scraps. She got frustrated quickly, but after half an afternoon’s trial and error, I came out with some fairly nice looking rayon “yarn.”  The colors are pretty, even though my photography job isn’t.  I’ll bet that with a spinning lesson or two from a live person, I could get the texture better and figure out what “plying” means.  This stuff would do — nicely.

And what’s this? Here’s someone making yarn from old t-shirts. Now t-shirts — that’s a raw material I’m sure we’ll still have in a city long into the future. I tried it out. It is quite easy, and I don’t even need the drop spindle.

 Tshirts make a really chunky “yarn.” Might make a good potholder, but I doubt it would be very nice as a sweater. (6″ ruler in lead photo for scale)

The day’s adventure in crafting revealed that my “powerdown” skills weren’t quite what I thought they were. In order to preserve my favorite relaxation hobby, I should probably learn to spin. And instead of fancy, purchased roving, I’d better practice spinning fabric strips.

My tools aren’t all that I thought they were either. So much for skinny little sock needles. What I needed for this trial run were huge, strong #10 and #15 needles for knitting the chunky homemade “yarn.” Plastic won’t cope with the strength of it this homemade-from-old-garments stuff, so I’d better invest now in wood or metal needles while I can still get them.  And there are gorgeous art-quality drop spindles on Etsy.

Next for those angora rabbits …
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