Monday, November 23, 2015

A Tale of Woe for the Conscientious Shopper

Tattoo done by the boy
I found myself in a foul mood Saturday, and I think it started Friday night.

The ladyfriend and I had been talking about holiday gifts (she was getting her list together), and I suggested we look at Patagonia because we've always liked (and fetishized, at times) their stuff.  I saw this and paused -
It hit a lot of the notes I like - hood, thumb holes as well as pullover mitts, green funky pattern, etc.  But I'd just purged a lot of clothing, and as I put away my long-sleeve athletic tops, I'd remarked to myself that I clearly didn't need anymore.  But need shmeed, right?

Not so fast.  Patagonia kindly makes its supply chain transparent, but that didn't mean I was excited by it.  Sure, the factory they use "has a strong social program, which includes medical care and on-site, no-cost meals," but it didn't convince me.  Frankly, I'm beginning to feel like this is a way of whitewashing off-shore production (is there an ethical/sustainability version of whitewashing?).  It's made in China, and that's kind of the story for me.

So I went to my local yarn store to meet Julie Asselin, who makes beautifully hand-dyed yarns using wool sourced and spun in the States.  I'd bought a skein of her yarn as a birthday present for myself and thought I'd be social.  Plus I needed a yarn swift*.

When I'd bought that skein, I'd had a discussion with one of the shop owners about where things were sourced and my desire to limit my purchases of things made in China (a category that includes more than China, but I'm not going to get into that here).  She was the one who'd told me that Julie's yarns used US-sourced wool.  When I went to the shop Friday evening, I saw the swifts she had for sale and asked where they were made; she reluctantly told me, "China."

I then spent too much time online trying to find swifts that were more "locally" made.  It was an exercise in frustration, to say the least.

So, the next morning, as I was reflecting on the day before, I could feel my frustration growing, to the point where I felt like I was the only one IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD who cared about where things were made, and that my level of care really just meant that I HAVE TO MAKE EVERYTHING.  Yes, a bit overblown, perhaps, but it still feels somewhat true.  (In fact, I have found instructions to make a swift and will do so when I have the time.)

It's so demoralizing; I try to be conscientious about sourcing fabric, yarn, and all kinds of other things, and frankly, information is often obscured or "unavailable."  I mentioned this to my father last night, and he commented that so many things that we take for granted are made in China now, it's ubiquitous, like air.

I know that I'm not the only one concerned by this, but too often it feels that way.  I consoled myself yesterday by purchasing some fabric made in Italy for an upcoming project**.

*There is a sad and maddening story about why I don't have a swift.  It is an endlessly reopening wound that I'll leave for another time.  Suffice to say, I had one, given to me by a dear friend, that I no longer have.

**Post on projects and my quality of life coming shortly.


  1. I hear you! I just learned that my favourite Kosher baby dill pickles are likely grown in India and then shipped to Canada to be processed. This does not impress me, especially since we have so many pickle growers right here in Canada. I understand that we don't grow mangoes or bananas here in Canada, but pickles–– come on!

  2. Thanks for your comment on my blog! Sometimes I feel like the only one who cares, too.... but it's not true! Lots of people care, it's just so much work to find out information... that's why we all have to share info with each other the best we can.