Friday, September 13, 2013

Fiber Feature - Possum, Knitting Apps, and TGAAA KAL update

We are in our third week of the Great American Aran Afghan KAL and more people have been finishing up their first squares while others are just getting started! We have new people joining in everyday and I am so pleased to be helping people get started or restarted making these lovely afghan squares.

Next week I'll reveal my choice for square #3 along with helpful hints for knitting square #2. In the meantime, should some of you finish with square #2 and wish to start on #3, scoot on over to our Ravelry group and I'll mention it in the thread there a little early!

Here are some of the squares that have been completed this week.

Karen's 1st square
Sylvie's Square 1

Sylvie's 2nd square

Great work everyone!!!

Do any of you smartphone and tablet users have favorite knitting apps you use regularly? I just recently became a smartphone owner and started using the BeeCount Knitting Counter free app for Android. I'm finding it very helpful to keep track of which row of each chart I'm on because it allows you to have multiple counts. I'm tracking only charts C & B/D by row and beginning again from zero when I start a new repeat. I haven't completely figured out all the functions of this app yet but this works for me so far. Please share your favorite knitting apps and how you use them! I'd love to hear!

Now onto today's feature fiber...

The hardest part of writing these posts is deciding which fiber to talk about at any given time. I've tried to put most things in some sort of logical order but, for protein fibers, other than keeping type/species of fibers together I haven't come up with a logical order. So today, on a whimsy, I'm going to talk about possum fiber!

Possum is one of the newest fibers available to handcrafters. When we say possum in the context of yarn we are talking about the undercoat from the Common Brushtail Possum, a cat sized marsupial native to Australia, Tasmania, a few offshore islands, and a human introduced species in New Zealand. 

Here are some fun facts about possum fiber:

1) It is lightweight and warm. Because individual possum fibers are hollow, they don't weigh much at all, but are able to retain an exceptional amount of heat.
2) Yarn with possum is soft, not prickly. The unbelievable softness of possum is a combination of the microscopic scales of the fibers themselves and the finishing process used when creating possum yarns.
3) Possum is resistant to pilling! That's right! Unlike many other natural fibers, possum does not have a tendency to pill, which makes it an excellent choice for those heirloom projects you lovingly make and hope your loved ones will enjoy for many years to come.
4) It absorbs moisture. Possum absorbs a reasonable amount of moisture without feeling damp, which allows the fibers to buffer the body's micro-climate in changing temperatures.
5) It blends well with merino, silk, cashmere, and other fibers when spun properly and comes in beautiful natural colors which can also be dyed. It’s washable and very durable.
6) Possum fiber has many of the qualities of fine cashmere, such as lightness, softness and warmth
7) It’s absolutely heavenly to knit with and to wear!
8) Most of the possum fiber yarn on the market today comes from New Zealand where this possum is an invasive species.

The story behind possum fiber is both inspiring and a bit sad. It's the story of human expansion, ignorance and the current struggle to bring a new but different balance to a beautiful part of our planet, rectifying blunders, now that we better understand our past follies. 

Around the 1850s, European settlers introduced the Brushtail possum into New Zealand as a source of food and fiber.  Over the years, we've repeatedly learned that this casual introduction of non-native species into new environments has had devastating results, particularly in island eco-systems.  And this is just what has happened with the Brushtail possum in New Zealand. There are no native predators of the possum in New Zealand and excellent food sources as the native plants have not evolved any of the usual protections from mammals that eat plants. By the 1980s, it was estimated that there were 60-70 million possums in New Zealand. The exploding population of possums has caused serious damage to native forests. Because of competition for food and shelter in addition to predation on their eggs by possums, there has been great reductions in native bird populations as well, including some very endangered species. And if this weren't enough, the Brushtail possum is also a primary vector for bovine tuberculosis, a serious and costly disease of cattle and deer which threats the human food supply of the islands.

Zealana Rimu DK
Out of the unpleasant battle to humanely control the numbers of Brushtail possum a craft industry has arisen! Possum fiber yarns!!! The fur of the animals is dehaired to remove the bristly outer coat then the soft, short, luxurious under coat is blended with wool, silk, cashmere and other fibers to create lovely yarns.  The purchase of these yarns helps an industry help its country by creating beauty from tragedy.

We as handcrafters can now participate in the preservation of the wondrous beauty of New Zealand (that many of us have only glimpsed in our favorite Tolkien movies and nature documentaries and long to visit in person!) by purchasing this wonderful yarn!  Check out all of the awesome Zealana yarns we carry!

I realize that some of what I've shared with you is unpleasant to think about, little in life is without its unpleasant side. Only you can decide what is right for you. Here are the facts to consider:

  • Brushtail Possums have no natural predators on the islands of New Zealand.
  • They breed twice a year, so their numbers grow rapidly. It is estimated there are now between 70 and 90 million of them in NZ!
  • They eat around 21,000 tons of vegetation every night, destroying entire forests and habitat for native species.
  • They destroy the eggs of the Kiwi and Kakapo, flightless birds that are close to extinction.
  • They are a hazard on the roads.
  • The New Zealand government has spent many millions to humanely eradicate this pest from wildlife preserves and control the explosive population.
  • Possum Fiber is a unique and beneficial byproduct of the efforts to save the stunning beauty and delicate ecosystems of New Zealand.
With all this in mind, should you make the choice to purchase yarns containing possum fiber you will be helping to bring some balance back to disrupted ecosystems and perhaps help to ensure the survival of some very intriguing creatures!

Save a Kiwi... Knit with Possum
 Please send you comments, questions, thoughts, suggestions and any photos of afghan squares (with permission to post them along with your first name) to me at askTerry (at) jimmybeanswool (dot) com.

Terry



2 comments:

  1. As an Australian, I love our indigenous possums. I've also seen many of our species devastated by introduced species such as foxes and rabbits, and I believe that possum yarn is a wonderful way to subsidise the preservation of the beautiful New Zealand landscape. I'm looking forward to our next winter so I can knit from this lovely yarn.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Can anyone tell me whether this yarn is hypoallergenic?

    Thanks

    Knitlady32

    ReplyDelete