Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Craft Ethically: Say 'No' to Mermaid Bumfluff

I'm having a very serious day today, readers.
Hot on the heels of the launch of my crafting campaign against capitalism comes the second installment of same work, a treatise on the necessity of the purchase of yarn from ethical sources.

Now, as we all know, in Ye Olden Days of the 1980s - back in a time when you always had a 10p in your back pocket in case you needed to make an emergency phone call. Yes, youth, those little glass cells are more than just Superman's changing room, you know - knitting in the United Kingdom and Ireland essentially involved DK acrylic. And nothing wrong with that. However, knitting and crochet in the noughties and beyond have become a luxury pastime. Sure, you could continue to buy acrylic yarn, but obviously no one does. (Well, they do, but no one admits to it. You know who you are, missy.) Instead, yarn manufacturers and indie dyers and spinners have started to market yarn using the same thesaurus as chocolate-makers: it's sumptuous! Luscious! Saturated! Decadent! (There are even wool companies that have turned the keystone of economics on its head: Wollmeise here in the south of Germany does not meet demand with supply. They don't supply, and demand grows. You simply can't buy it. It is the El Dorado of yarn.) The prices of these luxury yarns might even make you squawk out loud: "What on earth is this stuff made from? Mermaid bumfluff?"

Indeed. It often is. Some crafters, like my dear reader Quinn, even believe it to be little more than a myth. Oh, I wish.

As the demand for luxury yarns grow, so too does the burden carried by the poor creatures that supply it. Some more than others. This is why I wish to send out a plea here and now to needleworkers of the world: the next time you consider splurging on sinfully expensive yarn, please make sure that it comes from an ethical source.

How To Change The World 
Without Leaving The Comfort Of Your Living Room 
in 20,000 Easy Steps 
(Many of Which Will Involve Handicrafts)

Part 2: Know Your Yarn
Rated: PG13. Some viewers may find the following images disturbing.

Luxury yarns come from four popular sources:
There's also silk, but silkworms aren't very exciting to draw.



While sheep, rabbits and alpacas are not averse to a shearing, mermaids do not take kindly to this. Despite protests by international organisations such as Greenpeace and Amnesty International, fishing trawlers continue to scour the Atlantic coasts, searching out mermaid colonies:


Having no natural enemies except humans and intrepid polar bears, and armed with nothing other than strong language, the mermaid becomes easy prey for the fishermen who supply a voracious yarn industry:


They are removed to the mainland, where their bottoms are sheared for the much-prized mermaid bumfluff, which later becomes the luxury yarn that you, the crafter, crave.

While the shearing process is relatively short and painless, mermaids are made to endure endless sea-shanty sing-songs and are seldom offered a cup of tea. Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General, has gone on record saying that he finds this treatment "appalling". His jumpers are cotton.

Thus, I plead with you, fellow crafters. The next time you pick up a skein of an obscenely expensive fibre folly: is this yarn ethical? Have mermaids been made to suffer through the 23 verses of 'Blow the Man Down' without as much as a cuppa, not to mention a chocolate biscuit? Make sure you choose a yarn that carries the internationally-recognised mermaid-friendly symbol on its label:


Ponder on that, crafters. I hope you have learned your lesson.

23 comments:

Just a Girl said...

HAhaha! That's awesome! XD You are so right, yarn can be so ridiculously expensive sometimes. :o/ I really enjoyed your little comic, as usual!

Have a great day!

~Just a Girl

Paul & Carla said...

My craft "splurges" rarely make it past cotton or wool — maybe a little silk snuck into the mix along with quite a bit of the hair of the wild Acrylan. I think the mermaids are safe from me and my itchy fingers. But the poor dears must be in shock after that wicked shave...

Cris said...

a good read! thanks :)

Anonymous said...

bwahahahaha
Love it

Apple Jack Creek said...

I offer my sheep hay and beet pulp pellets while I shear them. Does this make the wool ethical? I don't think they'd particularly appreciate a cuppa tea nor a chocolate biscuit...

I DO promise to stop singing sea shanties to them from here on in.... :)

Susie said...

I was in a shop on Saturday which sold only mermaid bumfluff yarn - everything over £15 a skein - with no thought to the conditions these poor creatures have to endure. You are quite right, this is a very serious issue, and I think we need to raise awareness. I shall go and start painting my placard now.

Anonymous said...

Joking aside, there ARE ethical concerns that knitters and crocheters should think about. There is a lot of cruelty involved in the production of much wool. Sheep often undergo the cruel practice of mulesing. Merino sheep have been bred to have a large surface area of skin producing large folds (thereby producing more wool) that get cut away because it attracts maggots; a very painful and cruel process that is banned in some countries but not others. These large folds of skin are in themselves heavy and un natural and uncomfortable for the sheep. Angora rabbits are kept in small cages, silk worms are boiled alive. Even everyday sheep have to be treated with chemical poisons when they go through the sheep dip process. I haven't found a satisfactory alternative, so I choose not to do fibre arts. However, if you do, please consider that some options are kinder than others. It seems to me that people are often very selfish and consider their own needs for their hobbies as far more important than animal welfare

The Gingerbread Lady said...

Thanks for the information. I think most of the people who craft don't see the animal behind the skein :-(

Rachel said...

This is very funny, and I love your pictures of mermaids!

I'm glad someone got in before me with the genuine ethical concerns, though. Even cotton has its issues...

Paula said...

What a lovely and funny post!
I rarely knit with anything other than wool/cotton/acrylic but I will post this on my blog.

Knitting Out Loud said...

Very cute!
But I go to a lot of sheep and wool festivals, and the gorgeous, locally made hand-dyed or hand-spun yarns, made from local sheep and alpaca farms are often expensive and worth every penny.

Sharripie said...

Well done! Mermaid Bum Fluff is new to me, though I've often heard of the rare & beautiful yarn spun from Unicorn Pubes. I've heard the incredibly soft and much sought-after. I haven't gotten my hands on any, much like woolmisery, but a girl can dream, can't she?

Anonymous said...

As a shepherdess who thinks of her sheep as family members, I am appalled at the price of some of the luxury wools out there. Like the food systems of this world, unless you buy directly from the farmer, much of the money you spend for the luxury yarn is NOT going to the farmer. Most of it is going to the middle person, and the end retailer who almost always puts a 100% markup on product. Buy local and support the people who actually do all the hard work.

PandaBearofDoom said...

This was to cute. I swear to only buy mermaid friendly yarn for that matter animal friendly too. I can't believe the prices of some yarn. My yarn store has a hank of cotton that costs fourteen dollars. For cotton????? Right next to it is the two dollar sugar and cream cotton so that's what I use. XD

crymson said...

haha, mermaid bumfluff made me laugh! totally made my day. although I may have a soft spot for some of that wonderfully expensive handdyed wool. yum!

Nancy McGill said...

Yes, some sheep have to walk through "chemical dips", to prevent parasitic infestations. Sheep are often given antiparasite medications, because these animals are very susceptible to parasites. Not because of anything humans do, but because of their natural behaviors. Unlike many other animals which are kept as livestock, sheep have no compunction about crapping and grazing in the same spot. Yes, sheep often have their tails docked, and in some places they are mulesed. Ethical fiber producers use anesthetics for this, and it improves the quality of life of the sheep. Yes, sheep have been domesticated and bred to be quite a lot different than their ancestral counterparts, but they are, on the whole, very well treated and allowed to express their natural behaviors. Having no experience with angora rabbits, I cannot speak to their treatment. And I have been told that there are *some* silk producers who will sacrifice the quality of the silk so that the silkworms may live (the reason they are usually boiled alive is that when they emerge from the cocoon, they tear through the strand of silk, so instead of being able to unravel the cocoon into one long strand, it is broken up into several shorter strands).

Voie de Vie said...

OhMyBob - either stop the madness, or start your own yarn line. I know just what to call it, and how to market it. :)

Too friggin' funny.

Alexandra said...

I love this post! I will definitely check yarn in the future to see if it is mermaid friendly! :P

Amy said...

I will definitely be checking yarn labels more closely from now on, and will gladly share a cuppa and biscuit with the next mermaid who crosses my path! Thank you so much for bringing this issue to my attention.

Lani353 said...

I saw some yarn today that was over $100 per skein!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I looked really, really hard to see if there was 24K gold spun into it. Nope! Diamond dust...nope. Sapphires.....? What???????
It was HAND DYED WOOL!!!! But NOW I know the truth! Bumfluff!!!! We have 2 dogs and 4 grand kids. Think I am using anything other than acrylic? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Shirley said...

I'm afraid I find acrylic to be a luxury yarn just because it is so difficult to find here and I don't like anything else on my head! Or at least I haven't found anything.

Thanks for watching my podcast. I might have had a regular video podcast if I didn't have to have my mouth so close to the mike! But I like it this way too.

Anonymous said...

Nancy McGill's comments are all correct to my knowledge but that does not mean I do not have issues with the wool industry. Pesticides are a difficult issue - the horrors of non treatment versus the horrors of the treatment (I have the same dilemma in giving my cats chemical flea treatments - the only ones that do really work. They make my pets ill but leaving them untreated is disastrous for them and our home environment, so I know there are difficult choices sometimes.) The tail docking I am less sure about the necessity for, (we have all heard of the term daggy from Neighbours and I do know what a daggy sheep is) but I know the reasons why it is done - there are arguments for and against. Mulesing is only necessary because of breeding deformed sheep with excess skin in the first place and is unforgivable in my opinion - just stop breeding these poor animals. In any case I do take issue with the fact that 'some' sheep have these procedures (tail docking and mulesing) carried out using anaesthetic. That simply is not good enough. There are many who do not and the pain involved can easily be imagined.

There is a cruelty free kind of silk as has been said. It is certainly not mainstream and is not the sort the average person is buying - it would be marked as such; one term for it is peace silk but there are others. It is considered a lesser product because the strands are broken up and are not all in one piece - so I'm afraid the more usual silk will remain in demand. It is however an option for people for whom animal care matters. The vast majority of people put beauty before animal welfare and of course price. There are people producing wool to higher ethical standards; I am thankful for them. Where ever there is scope for animals to be abused, you can be asured that somewhere, humanity is doing so.

rebby said...

Mermaid BumFluff!
1. How in the world do you think up this stuff?
2. How do you finish writing the blog while laughing with tears running from your eyes?

Best laugh I've had in months! Luv ya!