Locally, Sustainably Lunatic

This time, we are going to tell you a yarn that actually happened…

What is a Lunatic yarn company to do in this world with a plethora of choices about fibers for our yarns?  Should we stock organic, fair trade, local, renewable, eco-friendly, or sustainable yarns?  All these choices can be overwhelming.  However, we decided to pick a direction that we feel can make a difference in, and then act accordingly.

We have put locally grown, sustainably produced yarns at the top of our wish list.  Yarns that are produced sustainably use a minimum of resources to produce them, and travel the shortest distance to get to us.  Through their production, these yarns support local economies and are under the control of excellent US regulations.   We use this principle for as many of our yarns as possible.  Our American Maid, naturally colored, cotton yarns exemplify our commitment to sustainability.  These yarns are produced from cotton lint grown by American farmers who use sustainable agricultural practices.  The production of the yarns has been, well, a bit of a production. It is difficult to find farmers who will grow the colored cotton, gins who will gin the colored lint, spinners who will spin less than 1000 pounds of yarn, and finally end up with a reasonably priced product.  This year, the 600 lbs of green cotton lint was actually ginned by hand this year using a small hand fed cotton gin.  No small test of patience there!

Time For The Farm Tour

This May, we traveled to Mendota, California to visit our next crop of baby cotton in the field.   There, we met with Frank Williams and Mark Fickett, the cotton farmers who are growing the naturally colored green cotton for us, Marcia Gibbs and Lynda Grosse from the Sustainable Cotton Project, and Joan Ruane the cotton spinner/grower/cheerleader extraordinaire, who in her pursuit to make EZ spin cotton sliver available for hand spinners, has spearheaded and literally seeded the amazing field of green cotton.  We all set aside the day for a farm tour, and to meet face to face with this group like-minded people to see how we can help change the cotton/textile world one cotton boll at a time.

Mendota is famous for apricots, so naturally we started our day with breakfast at the Apricot Inn.  (And yes, the apricot pancakes are delicious).  Then we headed out to the fields.  As we bumped along the dirt roads through the valley; with the rolling, brown hills to the north and west, we passed almond and pomegranate groves, and fields of barley.  We jumped out of the pickups at the edge of the cotton field, and were greeted by the sound of the swishing barley in the next field, and the buzz of the bees and other beneficial insects in the hedgerows.  And there, in neat rows, were the baby cotton plants, just beginning their journey toward green cotton lint production.  Frank and Mark are growing the cotton using a program called Integrated Pest Management (IPM).  This is a way to reduce pesticide use and improve sustainability of the crop and farm land.

Our American Maid yarns are indeed American made and highlight our focus on sustainability.  Our demand and willingness to purchase sustainably produced cotton and to make wonderful yarns with that cotton will be critical for building the supply chain for sustainably produced cotton. And with every step, we discover more we can and should do.  We invite you to share our journey, because together we can change the world one thread at a time.

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