New Yarn: From The Mountain ethical cashmere

With a name like Knit With Attitude, we are always on the look out for yarns and projects that are working to make the world a better place. For a long time we have had a policy of no cashmere, as most of it comes from China where the origin is impossible to trace and  the animal and human welfare conditions are impossible to guarantee. Even though cashmere is one of the most delicious fibres out there, we just couldn’t have it in the shop under those circumstances. It’s meant we’ve had to turn down carrying some really lovely blends as we just don’t know where the cashmere is coming from.

Skeins of yarn for marketing

You can imagine how we sat up and took notice when we heard of From The Mountain, a sustainably farmed hand spun cashmere from Afghanistan. How could we say no?! This is exactly the sort of project that we love to support.

goat-herd

Afghanistan has long been a producer of cashmere, but that quality was poor and most of it was used for carpets. In 2007 a US Agency for International Development (USAID) project called Accelerating Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) teamed up with Abdul Basir Hotak, a veteran of the cashmere industry in Afghanistan, to open the first scouring and de-hairing facility in the country. Then ASAP was able to work with herders to provide veterinary assistance and encouraged them to comb rather than shear their goats, thus improving herd health and the quality of the fibre.

Spinning-womenWith the quality of cashmere now markedly increased, they were able to reach out to the community of hand spinners in the region to spin the fibre to sell to knitters. After decades of conflict in Afghanistan, many women are now the heads of their families, with limited socially acceptable means of providing for them. Spinning cashmere on a drop spindle for From The Mountain pays them the fairest wage for their work compared to spinning for themselves or for the carpet industry. This fair wage is an alternative to farming illegal crops such as poppies for opium and heroin and creates a more stable and sustainable livelihood for over 100 women, and also allows them to stay home and still care for their children and relatives.

The yarn company From The Mountain was founded by Susan Inglis, who has worked on many projects with USAID over the last 25 years as a consultant connecting traditional textile workers in over 30 countries with new markets. She met Hotak through her work with USAID in 2011 and helped develop the yarn that would be spun by the home spinners. From The Mountain is the sole exporter of the yarn, maintaining close links with the production lines back in Afghanistan. With the region still by no means stable, this yarn can be difficult to get out of the country, and has occasionally had to be smuggled out, recent fighting in Kunduz caused 4 kilos to be turned back.

Spinning

The yarn itself is a lusciously soft sport weight made of 2 bouncy plies and available in 4 natural undyed shades. The colours are natural white, light grey, light brown and dark brown. It is an absolutely gorgeous and luxurious yarn that has an ever so slight thick and thin texture due to its hand spun nature. The 100g skeins have plenty of yardage, so while they are an indulgence, 1 skein goes a long way. From The Mountain have a number of free patterns on their website that take just 1 skein to help you get inspired!

Artisan Yarn – Sheep of Steel

Sheep of Steel is a collective of spinners through the UK working collaboratively in showcasing and selling unique, contemporary handspun yarns! Spinning is a valuable craft and art form worth conserving and promoting. Its process encourages investigation, understanding and appreciation of the raw materials, which are at the basis of every textile. Skillfully and sustainably produced, Sheep of Steel hope their handspun yarns are edgy and thought-provoking, which excite and engage when you use them to come up with your own unique creations. People, we’re talking art on hanks here, and I’m so happy to finally introduce their new collection at Knit with attitude!

Gotland in Royal Blue

Gotland in Royal Blue

Flamingo in Fluoro Lime

Flamingo in Fluoro Lime

Gotland in Yellow

Gotland in Yellow

Duck Egg

Duck Egg

Gotland in Scarlet

Gotland in Scarlet

Flamingo in Peach Mint

Flamingo in Peach Mint

A Hank of Art

Knit Night

Oh what a wonderful sunny week we’ve had in London, and it was in due time, the winter seemed to be going on forever. At Knit with attitude we have monthly knit nights, the second Thursday of every month, and this week we decided to move outside. After having spent the whole day at work inside, it was absolutely lovely to get to the park enjoying the last few hours of sunshine. And let me tell you; this is the stuff a proper knit night is made of!

Toxic Silk in Orange

This week I’ve also had the pleasure of introducing a new and very exciting range of yarns. Sheep of Steel is a collective of spinners through the UK working collaboratively in showcasing and selling unique, contemporary handspun yarns!

Herdwick Ninja POW!

Bamboo Alpaca

Their mission is to promote the use of fibres and the craft of spinning through showcasing and selling experimental, contemporary ranges of handspun yarn.
Spinning is a valuable craft and art form worth conserving and promoting. Its process encourages investigation, understanding and appreciation of the raw materials, which are at the basis of every textile. Skillfully and sustainably produced, Sheep of Steel hope that their handspun yarns are edgy, thought-provoking purchases, which will excite and engage you.

Sheep of Steel