Friday, July 11, 2008

Knitting Green

Knitting has been there for me as a hobby (I thought) since college. But what keeps surprising me is how knitting seems to direct my work life (or career, as my mother would say). Even in college my trusty circular 6’s made hats for everyone I knew and earned me some pocket change. Then my customer service job at Garnet Hill morphed into supplier of knitted Christmas Stockings. The latest rounding back came last summer. I was dusting off my teaching certificate, getting ready to re-enter the field of education. Instead I got turned right around by two opposite phone calls, and now I’m back in another dimension of the world of knitting. And frankly, it’s a delight!

At O-Wool there is an additional twist that I also love and appreciate: the environmental focus. It is absolutely fascinating how quickly things get complicated when you add in the activity of environmental self-examination. When all wool was organic and spun in small batches by industrious neighbors, quantities and questions were small and intimate. Now that we have so much technological capability to enhance quality with chemicals and produce goods on a global scale, the line of questioning becomes frightfully complicated. Who wants to make the value decisions that please some people and disappoint others? I make them for myself, yes, but for a company that has investors to please and a reputation to there is a challenge. These are exactly the types of questions that Matt Mole, our founder, has been immersed in for the past decade. He has worked on the Global Textile Standards (GOTS), and with the Organic Trade Association (OTA) and continues to refine specifics of organic certification. This isn’t something that is ever completely finished.

I like to collect quotes that inspire me, and one of my favorites dates back to the 70’s, from Tom Bender’s appropriate technology publication Rain Magazine:

“ Appropriate technology reminds us that before we choose our tools and techniques we must choose our dreams and values, for some technologies serve them, while others make them unobtainable.”

I think some of us are feeling that word “unobtainable” in a stronger way than we have before. We are feeling the loss of pure waters, clean air, icecaps, traditional cultures, peaceful lifestyles and real political freedom. It has gotten to the point where MANY people are ready to speak out and act out in public about these concerns.

Actually isn’t it a weird coincidence? Both knitters and environmentalists were largely hidden and ignored by the mainstream buzz and media in the 70’s. They were there, and they were smart, but if you engaged them in public you were considered a bit strange: old fashioned or doomsdayish. Now it’s all so different. People of all ages, all professions, all religions across the whole continent are knitting in public AND talking about how to take real steps to address the losses in our natural environment. And why not?

I think the qualities of a knitter make a good environmentalist. Look at us... We don’t mind a bit of repetitious work, don’t mind backtracking sometimes (well not much), and always want to have more projects on hand that we can possibly get to. We want to share ideas, be in groups, learn new techniques and invent new designs. We want to make our own, wear our own, give our stuff away, and see it passed down to the next generation. Those simple little needles make some pretty great values and dreams obtainable!

Well, I feel like I’ve come full circle to some earlier parts of my “me”, but then again, it’s not a circle; it’s more like a spiral. Each time back around, things look a bit different, the circle is expanding to include (or just more yarn?!) But on this round at O-Wool,I am ready to embrace both the knitter and the environmentalist in me. And I know I am not alone!

This first post is dedicated to the wonderful grannies of Lincoln, VT who knit on Sundays, and create all sorts of awesome things including the beautiful antler basket (by Nancy Willis) pictured above.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

coming ... a new voice

As an employee of the Vermont Organic Fiber Company I have the pleasure of working with wool every day! I look forward to sharing some of the daily moments, observations and happenings of our global business here in rural Vermont.