'Shop local' movement drives sales of American-made yarn

Star Tribune

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It began when Debbie McDermott allowed her daughter Jamie to raise two sheep for a 4-H project. Eventually, her 165-year-old farm was transformed into a successful, family-run, custom fiber processing mill.

McDermott's Stonehedge Fiber Mill, which opened in 1999 in East Jordan, Michigan, now produces more than 700 pounds of yarn monthly for customers in 38 states and Canada. It produces an additional 15,000 pounds monthly for its personal lines of yarn, including Shepherd's Wool, which is milled and dyed in-house before it's shipped and sold in about 300 shops.

Most garments worn in the United States in the first half of the 20th century were American-made, but the decline of the American textile industry began after World War II, according to knitting and wool industries expert Clara Parkes. She's a member of the American Sheep Industry — an industry trade group — and author of several books on knitting.

In recent years, however, there's been a slow-growing demand for wool yarn that's completely produced in the United States, from sheep to skein, Parkes said.

One reason, she thinks, could be that consumers are turning back to wool because of the environmental risks of microplastics in garments made from synthetics like acrylic, nylon and polyester. The microplastics are released into waterways when the synthetic garments are washed.

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