Ethical spinning fibers: Part I: second hand spinning fibers

I received the following question from a blog follower:

“I’ve been a knitter since 08–09 and I’ve been a vegan for a few years and a vegetarian even longer. I’ve only started spinning this past year and I was wondering if, as a vegan (if I got my facts straight) there are any fibers you refuse to use? I also wanted to tell you that through your Tumblr account I have been inspired to learn to weave.”

This is an important topic to me. I eat a vegan diet, with the exception of local honey. Spinning, weaving and knitting with animal fibers in addition to plant fibers is where I deviate from a strict vegan lifestyle. I also have vegan and vegetarian followers, spinner/knitter/weaver followers, as well as people interested in social justice issues like living wages and fair trade.

I’ve already written a blog post on the ethical question of petroleum-based fibers versus animal fibers (“Making moral choices about textiles in the Anthropocene Era”) so I will not revisit that particular issue in this series. This series will instead focus on other aspects of this question, namely, what are ethical fiber sources, and what fibers would I never buy?

First, the most ethical (humane, sustainable and socially just) spinning fibers are fibers that someone else bought and no longer wants. Most of my spinning fiber stash came from second hand sources:

  • The first photo shows 4 oz of Corriedale wool roving I bought at a thrift shop.
  • The second photo is of the second hand yak down/silk top I experimented with recently.
  • The third photo is a closeup of two washed Cotswald fleeces I received free from a spinner moving out of state. She had received the fleeces free from yet another spinner.
  • The white merino tops I dyed this past year were obtained free from other spinners who didn’t want them.
  • My first half pound of cotton was a trade with another spinner (I also got a pair of cotton carders and she received a solar oven I didn’t need in return). I bought another 9 oz of naturally colored cotton from another spinner who decided that cotton spinning wasn’t for her. I also have uncarded cotton lint I received for free.
  • I have literally pounds of mystery wool tops, wool rovings, and rayon sliver that I purchased very cheaply from a weaver whose husband buys goods at even cheaper prices at storage locker sales (the second-to-last photo shows just the white and pink wools).
  • I have also obtained pounds of alpaca fiber and roving, some of which I have spun for my sister, from other spinners over the last few years in natural white, reddish brown , medium brown, grey, and dark brown. Some of the alpaca would have ended up in the local landfill if I hadn’t taken it (seriously).

Ask fellow spinners in your area is the have fiber they no longer want. Join your local fiber arts guild or group to meet other spinners. Participate in local yarn/fiber swaps. When older spinners learn that you are a new spinner, free unwanted spinning fiber will literally end up on your doorstep. Really! And if you have spinning fiber in your stash that you no longer want, let other spinners know about it!

Frugality combined with a scavenging-based economy is the foundation of our Anthropocene Era this century.

Jan. 12, 2015

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