The harshness of this year’s winter brought out the longing for spring in me. So every time I visited a yarn store I came home with yarns in all shades of green. To emphasize the greens I started planning for patterns with leaves in them and while waiting for spring I was knitting the greenery I was hoping soon would follow on the trees outside my window.
Spring has come and even though there are still just buds and not that much leaves my knitted greenery has sprung out into two patterns that soon will be available here. If spring needs a little extra push I’m sure that your leaf knitting can give it some help in the right direction so join me in knitting in the new season!
The first pattern is a shawl inspired by the Arthurian queen Guinevere. I’ve always seen her as the May Queen and my shawl for her incorporates both leaves and flowers which are said to grow where she walks. The second pattern is a skirt with a leaf border that I hope will bring out some spring flirting when worn. Both of them uses yarns with varied green colours that will make it’s best to remind you of the greenery in nature that soon will surround us.
Knitting greenery also made me think of green knitting. Being environmentally friendly is always important to me but with Earth Day tomorrow I’m thinking about what effect our favourite pastime has on the world around us.
When it comes to consumer goods there are three important keywords for me: reuse, remake, recycle. They are all targeting the production of new things. If we reuse as much as possible then we don’t have to produce new things, thus saving both the materials and energy of new production as well as avoiding adding to landfills and other garbage disposal systems. When reusing isn’t an option then we can remake. Many things can fill their purpose, old or new one, if we change them into what we need them to be. Taking in, shortening or changing buttons in clothing is an excellent example of remaking. Finally, when we can no longer remake, then we can recycle the materials. In that way we can make sure that the materials once produced will not end up as rubbish but will instead be back in production thus reducing the needs for taking resources out of the earth.
So how do we reuse in knitting? First of all we can reuse our finished objects. It simply feels wrong to throw away something that you have put a lot of work into. If you get tired of them have a look around and see if someone else wants it. In my circle of friends we organise a clothing exchange day a couple of times per year so that we can find new and happy owners for that which we are no longer using.
In a circle of knitters this could easily be adapted to suit knitted objects, making sure that every one appreciate the work that has gone into all the things swapped, and include left over yarns as well. With the clothing we leave what ever haven’t found new owners to a charity store. Left over yarns could be collected to charity projects, given away either as skeins or as finished objects. Finding a way to use them up could be a fun gathering in its own.
Remaking knitted objects doesn’t have to be complicated. A classic remaking is knitting new feet for worn out socks. The leg of the sock is often not as worn as the foot and if it has elaborate work then it is worth saving. Cut of the foot and rip up the yarn to where the leg ends. Pick up the stitches and knit a new foot. Worn or uninteresting edges could be changed in the same way. Cut and rip it up and knit new ones. There’s no need for matching the old one, unless you really loved it. Knit a swatch to check your tension and count out the number of stitches needed. If it won’t match what you have to begin with, make increases or decreases to match or cast off the old stitches and pick up new ones with your desired yarn.
Woollen knits can be remade through felting. Either felt first then cut and sew together into something different or just felt and reuse (although in a new size) for a new look. This is also an excellent way to remake knitted objects that has had washing accidents. Rather than seeing it as something to be thrown away you could look at it as a new opportunity.
Recycling usually makes us think of putting used containers in the recycling bin but in knitting you can be your own recycler. Salvaging yarn from knitted pieces that won’t be used in any other way is a great way of not only keeping down consumer production but also keeping down yarn costs and getting some yarns that are no longer available. The yarn usually needs to be reconditioned, that is having all the crinkles from being knitted taken out of it. Start by carefully take up the seams and separate the knitted pieces. Unravel from the cast off edge just as you would do if you would unravel something you were knitting. Wind up the yarn into hanks and tie them loosely together with contrasting yarn that won’t stain. Wash the hanks gently and leave them dripping wet. Hang them up to dry on a stick or similar rounded object so as not to leave kinks in the yarn. The wait of the wet yarn will uncrinkle it without taking out all the elasticity of the yarn. Let it dry, wind into balls and knit again!
Other ways of recycling is making yarn out of non-knitted textiles. Designer Mags Kandis is showing a technique with which to use textiles for knitting on Knitting Daily. Basically you cut long strips of the fabric and use them for knitting. Knitting daily is also challenging it’s viewers to create their own objects in this way and to share them with other viewers.
My favourite recycling of yarn is to rip out old frogged projects and start all over with the yarn. Since it is already frogged, and probably has been untouched in your project bag for a long time, it feels like your getting new yarn for nothing. Depending on the yarn, it might need some reconditioning but quite often the yarn will relax without washing when it has had time to rest. Remember that unknitted skeins might look different to those salvaged from frogged items when knitted, due to kinks and washings of the previously used yarn. Knit swatches and compare and plan for smaller objects than the original if need be.
My personal challenge for Earth Day is to unravel old frogged projects and knit something new from at least one of them. I hope that many of you will join me and Make Earth Day into Unravel Day! Add to your stash while being green and recycling. Make a get together with some knitting friends and help each other out if it’s too painful to unravel your own stitches. If you don’t want to see that yarn again make it a gift to whomever unravels it. In return you will find yourself the owner of some new skeins that hopefully will be much more inspiring.
Other green sides of knitting
Hand knitting is slow work even for the fastest knitters among us. This helps by keeping down new production since we just can’t knit up all that yarn that fast. This slow, and sometimes painstaking, labour also means that we usually treasure what we’ve knitted a lot more than bought objects and will use it until there’s possibly no more uses left in it. Less is more when it comes to production and environmental friendliness.
Finally knitting is a great energy saver. Rather than turning up the heat when the autumn comes with colder days we use it as an excuse to knit new things to keep us warm both indoors and out. Knitting an afghan from leftover yarn must be one of the great ways to be environmental friendly on so many levels at once. And remember, if you need an excuse to come home with more yarn from your local yarn store; your stash brings excellent insulation for your home while waiting to be turned into new fantastic knitted treasures that will be used and reused for years to come.