Thursday, September 27, 2018

Knitting myself a new direction...Thoughts on polar fleece

A couple of months ago I said to Tony, "I think I'm having a crisis."  He was very concerned and agreed to hear me out.  The next line out of my mouth had the word, "knitting" in it and with that one word I instantly lost credibility.  I guess my idea of a crisis and his idea of a crisis were a bit different and after confirming that I didn't want to go off and live in an Ashram he proceeded to mock me mercilessly.  The mocking continues to this day.  And so, I am forced to turn to my cyber friends for support.  You guys will take me seriously, right?

As you probably know by now, I began knitting a little less than a year ago...and I haven't stopped.  I just keep knitting and knitting and knitting.  And with every stitch my ideas of what I want to do and what I want to make and what I don't want to make have turned upside down.  My concept of value has turned upside down.  These thoughts have been mixed with fear because what I no longer want to make is very much connected to how I earn my living and what I want to make is, well, slow.  Really slow. 

 I have avoided writing about this because the thoughts have been so jumbled up in my head and intermingled with fear.  But, this summer has been incredible.  People have come to visit me from near and far and have been buying the hats that I feared were too time consuming to sell at a fair price. So, I feel a bit braver and I will share my dreams of The Hat Junkie's future.

I have to begin with polar fleece, that snuggly, warm, affordable and oh so appealing fabric.  It is made from recycled plastic bottles.  Pretty cool, eh?  I have always thought so.  It has been the staple of my business for over 20 years.   But it seems that polar fleece has a down side. Every time it is washed it sheds tiny micro fibres.  These tiny little bits of plastic make their way into our water and into the bodies of sea animals.  In fact, the majority of plastic in our oceans is coming from micro fibres.  These micro fibres are also ending up on our fields and in our own bodies.  It's not healthy and it's not sustainable.

There, I said it.  That was the hard part.  But here's the thing.  I have bolts of the stuff and I have had many long internal debates about what is the right the thing to do.  I'll spare you the inner dialogue and go straight to my conclusion.  I will use it up.  The fabric exists.  The worst environmental damage comes when the fleece is washed.  Hats do not need to be washed very often, so I have decided to keep making polar fleece hats with what I have and to not buy any more as the colours disappear.

It's a tricky thing to write a blog that encourages my customers to not buy what I am making.  But the world is nuanced.  It wouldn't be environmentally friendly to throw away what has already been made.  In many ways I still love my fleece hats.  Finding a secondary use of plastic is nothing to be sneezed at.  They are wonderful hats for cancer patients. There are women who are sensitive to animal fibres.  They are affordable.   I'm very aware that we cannot get through life without impacting our environment, even when we use  the grooviest of textiles.  Dyeing fabric, processing fabric, it all has an impact.  So, while I do feel the need to take a new direction I also feel that we need to use up what we have and not get overly preachy about our choices.  I'll be selling fleece hats for some time to come.  If you already own one or you would like one, well, enjoy it.  While I believe we need to think differently about our future fashion choices it would be really silly to throw what currently exists into the garbage.

This brings me to the present and where I am going, but I'm not sure that this can all be digested in one blog post, so I'll continue this post in a day or so.

I'll leave you with some of my favourite photos from this summer with a hint to my new direction.