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I'm an End User

I love yarn. And as I've mentioned in previous letters, I buy more than I can possibly knit in a lifetime. But I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the origins of the wonderful wool I hold in my hands at any given time. I luxuriate in its softness, admire the stitch definition it forms and appreciate its warmth. But I rarely contemplate what went into producing the skeins I purchase from my local yarn shop. So when I do attend the occasional sheep and wool festival, I am usually humbled by the experience.

Just think about what needs to be done: First someone has to raise the sheep. Then they need to shear the fleece and scour it to remove the debris -- everything from vegetable matter to manure. After scouring, dried wool is picked to remove the fluff and start turning the locks into spinnable fibers. These fibers are then combed multiple times during a process called carding. Carding produces rovings, which are long lengths of yarn that are held together with the natural oils and scales of the fiber.

While knitting with pencil roving is popular these days, most rovings are then spun into twisted yarn. Then two or more of these twisted yarns are plied together. And as if that's not enough, we knitters love color, so the yarns need to be dyed before being wound into hanks or skeins, and packaged for sale. That's a lot of work. I've tried my hand at spinning. After working through two large bags of roving, I ended up with a very ugly thin and thick yarn that I would never want to knit with. So for my part, I'm glad there are people out there doing the work for me. I hope to attend the New Hampshire Sheep & Wool Festival this month, and if I do, I'll say thank you.

Knit on!

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Judith Durant
Editor of Creative Knitting newsletter

Judith Durant loves to knit and to write, and writing about knitting is the best. She has authored, co-authored and edited many books about knitting and beadwork, including Never Knit Your Man a Sweater, Knit One, Bead Too and the best-selling One-Skein Wonders series. She is currently co-authoring a technique book with Dorothy T. Ratigan titled Knitting Know-How: Techniques, Lessons and Projects for Every Knitter's Library, which will be published in July 2012. Visit Judith on the web at

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