Monday, October 03, 2005
While knitting these socks in a variety of places (on the tube, on the train to Birmingham, during spare time during a conference), I remembered some of the knitting I'd seen on holiday in Wales at the National Woollen Museum. There were handknitted stockings made Welsh working men, from the 18th (I think) century and pictures of men and women knitting as they walked to work or to market or anywhere at all. Some of the stockings were personalised with intricate designs and initials. These were practical, vital garments, made by hand from handspun fleece, dyed with vegetable dyes, all local materials. Those too poor to own their own sheep would have got their wool from hedgerows and fences, following the sheep as they moved around (the origin of the word woolgathering).
My knitted socks are essentially a luxury item. I didn't shear the sheep or spin the wool or dye it myself, although theoretically I could have done. If I had to knit all my socks myself, I doubt it would be so much fun.
On Saturday, I went to a Christians in Science conference on sustainability. It's got me thinking about the environmental impact of my everyday life and the choices I make about what to do and how to live. My sock wool, spun and dyed in the USA and then shipped to the UK is beautiful, but represents a large number of airmiles. I could have made a different choice; this country is hardly lacking in sheep and yarn manufacturers. I don't think you'll see me out woolgathering or spinning my own yarn anytime soon, but perhaps I might start thinking about ways to make my yarn choices (and choices in other areas of life) more environmentally sustainable.