It isn't easy sometimes, to keep a collection of *really* sustainable yarns. Let me tell you about some of the challenges, and allow me to complain a bit in the process ;)
First of all, I have to make sure that the yarn really is sustainable, of course. As sustainability (happily) becomes more and more popular, we also see more and more greenwashing everywhere.
I can't always actually go and see for myself, and yarn producers - understandably - don’t want to give away all their craft secrets. So this in itself can be difficult enough. Still, I need a certain degree of transparency, and most eco yarn producers are happy and willing to tell more about their production process.
But even when the relationship is cordial and transparent, information about traceability, dyeing methods, animal husbandry etc can still be very difficult to obtain. It is a big and complex world out there.
This is also one of the reasons why it is difficult for me to work with indie dyers. As beautiful and artful as their yarns can be, small independent dyers usually buy their base yarn from one or two big wholesale businesses and can’t guarantee the sustainability of the yarn itself. This is not unwillingness from the indie dyers – this information simply is not available. And it will not be made available for small businesses like us or the indie dyer, insist as much as we like.
There is also the difficulty of working with other pioneering businesses in general. Most of them genuinely try to produce high quality yarns, as earth-friendly and people-friendly as possible. But small businesses are vulnerable. They usually need a lot of time to produce and deliver. All sorts of things can go wrong to delay or mess up the production process. Local circumstances may change with big and sudden consequences. They may have to change their products, or their prices, or some crucial part of their business strategy. They can suddenly be unable to keep to former agreements, which can have big consequences for me as their retailer. Because I too have a small business, and am vulnerable.
There are also situations when the difficulties arise from deliberate unwillingness. I am sorry to say that I have known it happen that producers knowingly and consciously undercut and back-stab their retailers. Because more money is to be made by selling directly to the public, or the business has grown and doesn’t need its retailers so much anymore. Sadly, sustainable production doesn't automatically also include integrity and good will, and fair trade doesn't always seem to apply to all partners concerned.
Like I said. It’s a big and complex world out there.
When I include a yarn in the Yarnz collection, this is usually a big investment. Not only in money, but also in time and spirit. So when I have to let go of a yarn, it is a huge loss - not only financially.
I try to build a good relationship with my yarn producers. Often, I am happy to say, this is very rewarding. Because there is nothing like growing together and working on something in which you truly believe, with likeminded people. And if you even get to play with gorgeous yarns... it doesn't get much better than that!
But it is difficult, complex and risky to run a social business.
Still, I wouldn't have it any other way (if only because I'm useless at anything else XD)