Although I do purchase and review name brand yarns, I strongly prefer to buy yarn from indie sellers. I typically tend to buy my yarn online from small sellers and I intend to continue to do that. However, after reading Knit Local by Tanis Gray, I’ve been thinking more and more about the good reasons for buying yarn locally from fiber farms and West Coast yarn expos.
Here are ten good reasons I’ve found to buy local yarn:
1. Supports Small Yarn Businesses
I believe in the value and benefit of living a creative, entrepreneurial lifestyle. By purchasing my yarn from small sellers, I am able to support someone else’s continued ability to live that lifestyle. And by showing that I value it, I’m helping to create an environment around me that allows me to live in that way as well. Plus this builds my own connections with people in the community and that is always a good thing that enhances the quality of life.
2. Reduces Environmental Impact of Transportation
When you buy yarn from halfway around the world, it has to get to you through shipping and that has a big impact on the earth. Buying locally means significantly reduced transportation waste.
3. Reduced Eco Impact of Packaging
When I go to a local fiber festival or a handmade expo, I take along a tote bag. I buy the yarn straight from the seller and then stick it directly into my re-usable bag. There is no packaging. When I buy yarn that has to be shipped to me, it obviously has to be packaged. Many online indie sellers are great about using recycled packaging but that’s not always the case.
4. Other Eco Benefits.
The majority of small fiber farms engage in numerous activities that are sustainable and eco-friendly in comparison to factory yarn production. It’s of benefit to the farmer to do so. A farm that feeds its animals heavily processed foods, uses a lot of chemicals for dyeing yarn and houses their animals in a way that damages pastures isn’t going to do well financially and that’s why indie sellers aren’t typically running their farms this way.
5. Kinder Treatment of Animals
Me with an alpaca at Kathy Wither’s fiber farm, Tucson Wool Festival
Most of the yarn that I buy comes from animals. I love merino wool, which comes from sheep. I’m currently infatuated with baby alpaca yarn. Other sheep, goats and even yaks produce yarn. Someone who takes the time to operate their own local fiber farm, feeding their animals and caring for them and gathering their fiber, is usually someone who is going to give really good treatment to those animals. That may not be the case with fiber coming from a source you haven’t checked out.
6. Sometimes You Meet The Animals
There’s something fun about going to a fiber farm, meeting a sheep and then purchasing a skein of yarn that is from that same exact sheep. And even if you don’t get to meet the animal, you often get some info about it from small sellers. For example, I bought some baby alpaca yarn at a festival and the tag told me the names of the two animals that the yarn came from. This just feels good to me. I like it.
7. You Often Get a Higher Quality Product
Now this one definitely varies. I’ve bought big box yarn that was amazing and gotten indie yarn that wasn’t. In general, though, I’ve found that the commitment that an indie seller must have to creating, producing and marketing his or her product results in high-quality yarn. And I definitely thing that it comes with much higher quality customer service!! Additionally, when you buy locally, you are often buying in person and that means that you get to feel and see the yarn before you buy it which makes it easier to pick a product that you’ll love (easier than if you were shopping online, I mean).
8. Sometimes You Get More Innovative Products
I haven’t actually researched the history of possum fur yarn, corn yarn or making yarn with recycled materials but my bet is that all of these things came from the innovative hands of small businesses and independent crafters, not from moves made by big business.
9. You Feel More Tied To What You Make
Think about it … you go to the store and buy a whatever brand yarn for $3/ ball and make a scarf. Or you go to the local handmade convention, meet a yarn seller who tells you about the yarn and the animal it came from, hand pick the skein you want from several that have their own variations and then go home and make a scarf. Which product will you have stronger feelings about?
10. You Can Ask Questions
I think the best thing about buying yarn locally is that you can ask questions about the yarn and get answers from someone who truly does know the answers. You can ask how the yarn was milled or what was used to dye it or the best way to wash it or work with it. At the very least you’re going to get a good answer. But you might also get to hear really terrific stories and you’ll meet new people in the process.
What do you think is the best reason to buy local yarn?