Life Day By Day

What! Ethical Knitting

Several months ago I joined a local knitting group and today I am asking myself ‘am I and is it ethical’? The knitting group is called “Busy Needles”. We knit for people in hospitals, aged care, and premature babies. I first learned to knit when I was in primary school. Later I knitted a few items in my 20’s. Since then I only attempted a ‘Weekend Knit’. It was meant to be finished in a few days. Yet for me 12 years past and it was still unfinished. I then gave it to someone who was more motivated to finish it. So what has changed? I have retired and renewed my interest in knitting. I am motivated by the fact that I am contributing to others lives. The bonus is I can also knit for myself, family and friends.

Knitting for people in aged care.

Lately I have heard so many people talking about ethics. The topic of ethics is not uncommon to me. As a Social Worker, when I was employed, I worked with a Code of Ethics. This week I discovered that there are ethical home loans, ethical investments, and ethical jobs. The list goes on and on. However, thinking about ethical knitting is making my head spin. All I should be thinking about is enjoying my craft. Although I did not recognise it at the time, my acquaintance with the ethics of knitting likely started years ago.

About a decade ago we collected Lichen from our property and gave it to a neighbour who was collecting it on her property. Lichen is a composite organism of a fungus and a photosynthetic partner growing together, on trees, fence post, any undisturbed surface, where there is clean air. She used the Lichen as a dye for her wool that she spun herself. I was fortunate to get the dye recipe however have never taken the plunge into wool dying. My ‘one and only’ cared for our neighbour’s property when they were away. One day he was rewarded with a gift of a knitted beanie dyed from the Lichen that came from our property. This is a VERY special beanie (see photo).

Beanie dyed with Lichen.

With my awareness increasing I looked more into the “ethics of knitting”. I discovered an ethical knitting cooperative that commenced in Uruguay in 1968, the Manos del Uruguay Cooperatives. They have achieved World Fair Trading Certification. With each yarn anyone purchases it helps a woman to support her family. I enjoyed reading that in one of the cooperatives or coop as they are know there are chickens wandering around the yard beneath the drying yarn. As I ponder on life and my place on the earth and my contribution to a sustainable environment I ask myself the question “is my behaviour, not only my knitting, but other areas of my life supporting an ethical position for people, animals and the environment”? More dilemmas are sure to arise as I hold the next ball of wool in my hand and think about whether it came from a sustainable and ethical source.

Someone is sure to enjoy the scarf, beanie and bed socks made for people in the aged care home (Maleny). There will be not one thought about the ethics of knitting. Thank goodness for that!


  • Christine R

    Great work KJ and excellent tension! I’m sure the recipient(s) will appreciate your efforts. Maybe you can finish the vest I started about 20 years ago that I found in a box I was unpacking a couple of days ago.

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