Monday, January 23, 2012

Making A Difference with Leftovers

I finished my neck cowl made out of mill ends!!
What are mill ends??  They are basically yarn leftovers.  The stuff  left over after a skein of yarn has been wound into the length needed. I bought some of these leftovers at a fiber mill near my house in Michigan. I thought the colors were cool and even though some of the yarns were different sizes, I really liked it. I especially liked that the mill owner was using up something that might have been waste and making it into something use able! Talk about recycling!

I really hadn't thought about mill ends before. Honestly, I really didn't think too much about yarn.  I usually go to the yarn shop, drool over the yarn and pick stuff I  love based on texture, weight and of course color. I hadn't really given a whole lot of thought how the yarn gets into my hands.  I knew where it comes from (sort of) and of course how retail works, and spending time with my new spinning wheel has opened my eyes a  bit, but..... what about the leftovers?

Here's just a little thought for a cold Monday morning.....

A sheep grew the fleece.  A farmer sheared it off and then cleaned it. It then had to be carded  and then either hand processed or sent to a mill for processing. So far it's a lot of work!  Once it's cleaned, carded, whatever else,  it gets turned into roving or yarn!  Our favorite stuff!!   The perfect stuff we see on the shelf.
What happens to those pieces of that fleece that aren't so perfect? A little short in the fiber department perhaps? Not the right color after it's been dyed. Just a little too short to get wound into a ball?   Let's just toss it into a corner for now and continue.... 
So our yarn has been wound into a ball. Once it gets measured to the desired length (220yds?), it's cut. IF there is enough, it's wound into another perfect ball.... the remainder, the leftovers... where does that go?
In my case with this particular yarn - Mill Ends!! The smart fiber mill owner takes all those leftover pieces and winds them up and sells them! No being tossed out into a landfill for the pieces in this  hank!!   If it hadn't been "saved" I wonder where it would have ended up?  Knowing a little about the people who own the mill, it would have probably ended up as something useful.  I can only imagine that in a large scale operation it may have ended up in a landfill. How sad.

Because of the way we are programmed (AND A LOT OF US ARE CHANGING!) we don't like those not so perfect pieces of yarn. The ones that aren't spun just right and aren't just the 'right' one for our project. We throw them away.  Even those little leftover pieces from a ball of yarn... what did you do with those?  Our society seems to do this with everything! Even with food.
I grew up not wasting anything. Recycling was just what you did. It wasn't a new thing, it wasn't cool... it's just what we did. Your food scraps were put outside on the garden for compost and everything that was re-usable WAS.  I don't remember having a garbage truck pull up in front of our house and haul away the trash. Ever. Not so now...
I have been trying to think about everything I buy.  Pre-thinking of what I can do with the packaging, that kind of thing. Sometimes I don't even buy it (whatever it is) just because of the packaging.
 Oh I admit, I'm still a work in progress!!

I'll keep trying to do my part - reduce, reuse, recycle and here is my mill end cowl just to show what I did with my mill ends!
The finished version on Boy Wonder!

It seems that the 3 R's - reduce, reuse, recycle are a new way of living. It shouldn't be that hard!  I just need to get back to my humble beginnings and do things like we used to do! It was pretty easy to reuse the things we had because we didn't have much.  If  we didn't have something to begin with.... we reused what he had!!  I wonder how I've gotten so far from where I started....

I did some searching online and found a few places that sell mill ends and what we can do with them...... -
Here you can buy mill end rovings!  Their website says this:  THESE ROVINGS ARE MILL ENDS!!They are not perfect, they have been tossed in boxes, put in boxes, hauled, stored in bins. They are top spinning and felting fibers, but may not be exactly as pictured...  

I for one wouldn't mind spinning some not so perfect roving! You should see my spinning......... it's not so perfect to begin with!! a big company like Caron has gotten on board with it.  Here you can buy their yarn in one pound bags. No guarantees on color but if you were buying for charity knitting or teaching groups... might be a cool way to go.

Spend some time this spring & summer at a fiber festival. See how people are getting back to where this stuff all started!  Spend some time with a spinner & see how complicated it can be to make a perfect skein of yarn. Believe me... it ain't easy! I went here last fall & had an absolutely wonderful time! This fall I'm planning on taking the kid! Maybe then he won't give me such a hard time about spinning!

I think the moral of this little story I just gave you is this.... spend some time thinking about what you are doing. Make a small difference every day in just one thing and it leads up to bigger things!

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