When I decided to launch my new indie yarn label, Tributary Yarns, I knew the pursuit HAD to be rooted in sustainable, ethically sourced fiber, to the greatest degree possible. It’s just who I am. As imperfect as my practice of sustainability may be, it’s fundamental to who I am as a person. The desire to make the world a better place has shaped my career path, my choices about where I live, and who I am as a mother.
A tributary is the confluence of two bodies of water. One flowing into the other. For me, Tributary Yarns is about everything coming together in my life.
It’s that one special place where everything connects.
I believe in bioregionalism and the power of place. I go through a fair amount of effort and expense to buy ethically sourced foods and toil away in my little back yard garden (which is primarily an exercise in slug and snail abatement).
I wouldn’t call myself a zealot. I shop at Target and love it. I fly on airplanes despite their tremendous carbon footprint. I’m just a normal person trying to make good choices.
Like many of you, those choices also extend to the tremendous quantity of yarn I purchase each year. Tributary Yarns was born out of the desire to dye sustainably sourced fiber considerate of responsible land stewardship, climate change, and the ethical treatment of our cherished little sheepies. Tributary Yarns is about choosing the high road.
I reached out to Fibershed after it finally occurred to me to source already-milled fiber instead of futzing with the milling myself. A day later, my inbox was filled with links to producers that ultimately were able to provide the perfect yarn–soft, high-quality, and sustainably sourced from Northern California, my homeland.
If you haven’t already heard of Fibershed, it’s pretty cool. They’re all about working with independent producers to develop “regional and regenerative fiber systems” to rebuild regional manufacturing and economies. Fibershed promotes the sustainability of working landscapes, with an emphasis on rebuilding soil carbon stocks. According to Fibershed, China produces 52% of the world’s textiles, significantly contributing to the county’s pollution of fresh water.
Through Fibershed, I was able to source what I think of as “happy yarn” from Northern California. Now, not down the street Northern California (Northern California is a vast and wild landscape), but a heck of a lot closer than China. There is a kind and knowledgeable woman who answers the phone and ships me bare yarn. This is her livelihood–what she does all day, every day. There is a significant part of me who hopes Tributary Yarns is wildly successful, not just for my own selfish purposes, including emotional fulfillment and financial success, but also so the woman on the other end of the line can also flourish in her own right and pursuit of a ethical and community-enhancing fiber economy.
The Rambouillet wool I have been dying is grown using sustainable methods. If, like me, you don’t track sheep breeds by the minutia, the Rambouillet and merino Breeds of sheep are very similar. Rambouillet originate from the Spanish merino stock and were known for producing the finest wool in the world. The wool is essentially the same as merino wool and is marketed under the Merino name most of the time. Originating from the same genes, the Rambouillet and merino sheep produce identical fibers.
I feel like I am a very finicky knitter and require only the softest yarns. I tried out a few options, and this yarn (available in various weights) checks all my boxes for soft, squishy, and lofty. I am incredibly confident in the quality of this wool and feel beyond amazing coloring it up and offering it to the world of knitters that I so dearly love.
If you follow me on Instragram, you already know I have also been dying with some merino-silk blends and sock yarn. The happy sheep Rambouillet wool has been a bit backed up at the mill (because we’re dealing with Real People Not Located In China), so I’ve had some time to play around with other fiber bases of unknown origin. While I hope to continue to work with producers to source happy blends (I LOVE silk, cashmere, bamboo and other fibers mixed with my wool!!!!), I very well may continue to dye up both. In the end, you as the consumer will have a big say on the outcome of how this plays out.
I still plan to give my subscribers the first crack at this GLORIOUS yarn when I launch (soon!), so please do be sure you are on my list. You can subscribe using the widget at the bottom of this page or via the annoying little pop up that you probably already closed. Either way, welcome!
Also, I am still pouring my heart out on Instagram. Be sure to check that out so you don’t miss out on the juicy bits.