The Slow Yarn Movement: an overview
Emerging from the myriad of inspirational “slow movements” so purposefully making a statement these days, comes the slow yarn movement. And of course I’m a huge fan (surprise!). I’m a fan of all of them really – slow food, slow fashion, slow life, slow textiles. I’ve often thought I was always meant to have lived in the 1800’s. Maybe in a previous life I did.
The slow yarn movement is such an important step towards a more sustainable way of doing fiber arts – including crochet. After spending the first 3 parts of this series exploring all the challenges facing sustainable crochet, we’ll finally round the bend and spend the last 3 talking about the encouraging, fun and approachable ways to make our crochet more eco-friendly and sustainable.
What we’ll talk about in this 6-part series:
- Sustainable crochet: what is it and why do it?
- The nemesis of sustainable crochet: yarn
- The cotton conundrum: organic vs. conventional cotton
- The slow yarn movement: an overview
- 10 tips to more sustainable crochet
- My top 10 under $10 favorite sustainable yarns
What we’ll talk about in this article – part 4 of 6:
- The 4 concepts behind the slow yarn movement (my interpretation)
- Your empowerment
Creatively combining the spheres of craft and activism, comes craftivism. The term was coined by writer Besty Greer who gave it it’s definition which is, “craftivism is a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper & your quest for justice more infinite.”
I love that so much.
We’ve talked a lot about the challenges surrounding sustainable crochet in the first 3 parts of this series. And as consumers we can feel like we can’t do anything about these daunting issues. We can feel helpless. But incredibly, you’re not helpless AT ALL. The ideals behind the slow yarn movement introduce a deep and rich way of looking at your craft in an intentional and meaningful way.
Every time we purchase something we make a vote. I vote for companies that respect their employees and treat them fairly. I vote for farmers that respect the earth and the marvelous natural resources it provides for us. I vote for suppliers who source fibers made from happy animals who are well cared for and treated with gratitude for the wool and hair they’re giving us. I vote for sustainable yarn.
Will you join me?
Let’s go on a joint quest to slow down and consider with intention, the importance of our craft. “Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” – Eddie Cantor
This is our evolution from crafters to craftivists.
You are a craftsman
Crochet isn’t just a hobby, it’s a skill used by a craftsperson. You.
And if you asked me (which you sort of are because you’re reading this), it’s so much more than that. You’re investing your intrinsic resources into your craft: time + money + emotional energy. These things are extremely valuable. So put a pin in this one and keep the concept of craftsmanship front and center as we move forward in this conversation.
How many times have you purchased a $29 dollar sweater from a big-box department store and held it lovingly in your hands and thought, “wow, this sweater is so well crafted.”
Yea, me neither. Because it’s not.
That sweater was made by massive machines working at top speed, using the cheapest fabric, in a factory emitting massive amounts of pollutants, being manned by workers who are being exploited and shipped across the seas for us to buy for “40% off”.
And all for what? So we can buy cheap, trendy clothing and look cute for the next 6-12 months until the next trend comes out and then we’re at it again. And the last outfit ultimately ends up in the landfill. It’s kind of embarrassing really. And most of us didn’t even stop to think about it until 2013 when the Rana Plaza clothing factory in Bangladesh collapsed and killed over 1,100 workers and injured thousands more. It gave us a sobering reality check about what is really behind all of these cheap new clothes.
I could go on about fast fashion because there’s SO MUCH to understand about it including how it started and it’s devastating implications. But this isn’t an article about fast fashion, it’s an article about slow yarn. I just wanted to set the stage so you can understand the heart of the slow yarn movement.
The Slow Yarn Movement
But you. You are a crafter. You are a craftsman. You spend hours performing a skilled labor to make something special and beautiful for you or someone you care about. As a crocheter, you’re already geared towards much of the emphasis behind slow yarn because you take the time to hand-make rather than buy new, which in and of itself forces you to physically slow down and be intentional about something.
“Slow yarn” is the antithesis of fast fashion. It is about the journey, not the destination. The emphasis of the slow yarn movement is that it’s the process that matters just as much as the actual product.
Here is my personal take on the slow yarn movement because, why not? Nobody owns the definition of it, right?
- Mindful sourcing of sustainable, eco-friendly materials
- Intentional making; only choosing high quality projects you love
- Embracing the imperfect adventure of it
- Connecting with others through your craft
1. Mindful sourcing of sustainable, eco-friendly materials
Knowing the story behind the yarn you’re using will allow you to connect with your project in a more meaningful way. Think about the process your yarn has gone through to get where it is today, in your hands. First it was grown by an animal or plant. Then, those raw materials were gathered by someone. Next, the fiber was spun and dyed. And now you, turning it into fabric.
Consider the environment when you’re choosing your yarn and buy eco-friendly, sustainable yarn. Part 2 – “the nemesis of sustainable crochet: yarn” and part 3 – “the cotton conundrum: organic vs conventional cotton” were dedicated to the topic of sustainable materials so if you missed those, rewind and check them out.
Your craft has deep roots – literally and historically. The project you’re making is rooted in the history of crochet and rooted in the raw materials you’re pulling through your fingers. The history of our craft, the fiber you are using, and now you, are all connected in this way.
2. Intentional making
How many hours does it take you, on average, to complete a project? I know the answer is elusive because every project is different, but my point is – a lot of hours. And you spent your money on the materials to make it. AND, you’re going to be experiencing happiness, frustration <probably>, love, and maybe a little nostalgia while you make it.
And this is probably “extra” time you could be spending doing countless other things.
The idea behind ‘intentional making’ is to keep all this in mind while you choose your projects. Choosing projects that will be fun and enjoyable to you is super important even if you’re making it as a gift. Also, being intentional about choosing quality yarn and crafting in a way that will ensure the end product will last for years.
The toys I’ve made my kids have lasted being played with by my son, his precious little BFF neighbor friends who are at our house almost every day, and now, my one year old daughter. And not one of them has fallen apart. NOT ONE. I certainly can’t say the same for many of his other store-bought toys. And I’ve loved making every one of them because he and I spent time together choosing fibers and colors that make us both happy and excited about how it’s going to turn out. Every one of them was made with intention.
So, don’t let bore, obligation, stress or deadlines zap you from the enjoyment you experience while you are crocheting. If you didn’t love crochet, you wouldn’t do it, right? So make every project meaningful whether it’s for you or someone else.
3. Embracing the imperfect adventure of it
Allow yourself to be completely absorbed into your crochet. Whether you’re following a pattern or designing something from scratch, you are giving life to something that is going to serve a purpose for someone. It’s taking on a life of its own with unique fibers, the specific tension of your stitches and the intention you are putting into it. Embrace the uniqueness of your project and learn to admire the odd stitch that seems out of place 20 rows back.
You may be learning new techniques as you go along. If you’re not, then try a project that will challenge you and teach you something new! Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone and try something totally different. I used to have a major phobia about making clothes. I was so worried that I would spend all this time, money and energy on something that wouldn’t fit, wouldn’t last, wouldn’t be awesome. I was great at making toys, so I stuck with that full stop.
Finally I got frustrated about my fear and decided to go for it. And you know what? The second piece of clothing I ever made/designed is now one of my best selling patterns. What a reward! I love that other people are now getting to find enjoyment in it too…all because I decided to go out of my comfort zone and try something I didn’t think I would like or be good at.
4. Connecting with others through your craft
Crocheting in community is a rich part of our craft. Everyone has a thoughtful story about how they learned (from your grandma?). Everyone has something different they love making – baskets, blankets, body parts! So many different ages, stories, beliefs, life perspectives. I love it so much. It’s one of those hobbies where sometimes we have literally nothing in common with a fellow hooker except our love of crochet – and that is what brings us together. Otherwise, we may never have met. And that is a beautiful thing.
These days we have the benefit of the internet to connect with others that enjoy crochet. You can find facebook groups to engage with and follow crochet related pages on instagram. Facebook groups can even be used to find people locally who are looking to connect with people in person to crochet together.
You can take a class at many local hobby stores or simply walk into a yarn store and get to know your local yarn suppliers. There are so many different ways to connect with other crocheters, knitters and fiber artists.
We even connect with those to whom we gift our projects. It is an expression of love. No one ever took the time to crochet a gift for someone they didn’t like. “I hate you. Here’s a handmade blanket,” said no crocheter ever. I’ve been the recipient of several hand-made gifts by people I don’t even know that well. It instantly connected me with them because I understand what they put into that gift for me.
Slowing down is a power move
The slow yarn movement is an ideal that encourages us to use our craft as a way of challenging the typical fast-paced way that so easily draws us in. As craftsmen and craftswomen, we are thoughtfully appreciating every aspect of our skill and what it produces.
Slow down and be conscientious about the votes you are making when you purchase your materials. Slow down and enjoy the relaxing benefits of making. Slow down the impacts being made by the textile industry by choosing sustainable, high quality materials that will last for years to come.
Use your voice to speak through your creativity, deepen your compassion and slow down in order to appreciate yourself and others. Never underestimate the power of these simple, but impactful choices. Now, you are a craftivist.
Next Time | Part 5 – 10 tips to more sustainable crochet