Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Thinking About What American-Made Means
How Do We Define American-Made?
Lately we started thinking about what “American-made” means in a local yarn store. Very often we get to meet traveling knitters and crocheters who want souvenir yarn. They ask if we have anything locally made. Since our store is in America (Lakewood, Ohio, to be exact) anything locally made is also American-made. Or is it?
Most independent dyers use commercially-milled bases for their colorways. There are a limited number of mills spinning hand-knitting yarn and a limited number of sources from which to obtain these bases. If an independent dyer is dyeing on an imported yarn base, is that yarn made in America?
Some yarn companies started making their yarn in America a hundred or more years ago, but they may have moved production offshore to keep their expenses down. The company is American, but is the yarn?
Many yarn crafters prefer to use natural fibers, but acrylics, nylons and microfibers are spun in the USA. If we really want to craft with American-made yarns, must we learn to embrace synthetics, too?
When most customers ask for American-made yarn, they mean that the wool came from sheep ranched in America; it was sheared and scoured at an American mill and spun and dyed either at the same mill or in an American dyehouse. Similar criteria apply to plant fibers: cotton and linen should be grown, processed and spun here to count as “American-made.”
So, although we carry yarns from many companies that are based here in America, only the following yarns at River Colors Studio meet the definition for American-made:
- Brown Sheep Yarn Company
- Cestari Yarns
- Feederbrook Farms Yarn
- Freia Handpaint Yarns
- Imperial Yarn Company
- Made in America Yarns
- Spincycle Yarns
- Swans Island Yarns
The companies listed above make some wonderful yarns, but they do not all make yarns that are perfect for every project. Sometimes you want some luxury, and adding silk or cashmere or other exotic fibers to a yarn can mean it’s no longer exclusively American-grown and American-made. Most of these companies are producing wool yarns, so you won’t be able to make anything for those wool-sensitive friends on your gift list.
What we are trying to say is that American-made is a great way to explore both heritage yarns and new ventures, but there is a whole world of yarn waiting for us out there. We try to bring you the best variety we can of wonderful yarns from around the world. It’s time to explore!