Thursday, April 29, 2010

Couple in Taiwan are knitting the Earth and crafters together with "Yarn Passions"

Taipei Times fullpage layout and Hummingbird Yarn, above

Run by husband-and-wife fiber lovers, Kent and Anita Suarez, ''Yarn Passions'' focuses on importing organic and fair-trade yarns,
writes Catherine Shu in the Taipei Times

[UPDATE: April 30 -- After reading the Taipei Times article, the official representative of Commercial Office of Peru in Taiwan contacted Anita and Kent and asked for an appointment to visit them and chat about possible business cooperation. Cool!]

TAIPEI -- APRIL 29, 2010 -- Husband and wife Kent and Anita Suarez both know how to spin a
good yarn. But when Kent spins a yarn, he literally spins yarn — with
wool roving on drop spindles. Anita ( 張婧楦, Chang Jing-shuan) began knitting and crocheting
three years ago and now teaches both crafts.

Last year, Anita, a Taipei native who majored in philosophy at Furen Catholic University in Hsinchuang, became frustrated with the lack of organic, hand-dyed
yarns for sale in Taiwan.

[Blogger's note: A philosophy major? "It's a subject that I decided to study when I was 12 years old," Anita told this blog.]

So the Suarezes did what fiber lovers dream about and launched
their own yarn company last summer.

Fittingly called Yarn Passions (炙愛毛線), the company specializes in
importing yarn harvested, prepared and spun using environmentally
friendly practices. Their current lineup features luxury fibers like
buttery merino, lofty Peruvian cotton and velvety baby alpaca. Kent
also hand-dyes yarn for Yarn Passions’ own label.

“In Taiwan, people tend to think that organic is only food,” says
Anita, 23. “But the fact is we can be organic while we are doing what we
like, too.”

Booday (蘑菇) and Earth Tree (地球樹), a fair-trade goods store, recently
began carrying products imported by Yarn Passions. The company also
sells yarn through its Web site from an international lineup of
suppliers, including Japan’s Mother Earth, Australia’s The Yarn Cafe
and Woolganic, Treliske Organic in New Zealand and Peru Naturtex
Partners. The latter is also labeled fair trade by FLO-CERT, an
inspection and certification organization.

“We were particularly interested in Peru because of the social
organization that works with farmers there to make sure that they have
a sustainable source of income other than growing drugs, for example,
and to make sure that the cooperatives and the indigenous people get
fair pay for what they do,” says Kent.

[Blogger's note 2: Kent, a Mexican-American man from Moline, Illinois, went to the University of Illinois for his undergraduate studies and to Ohio State University for grad school. His major? Industrial and organizational psychology. (He's been in Taiwan for over 15 years, having come here to learn Chinese and then deciding to stay and marry Anita. He works as an editor for several organizations and publications.]

Mother Earth, which enjoys a cult following among crafters in Japan,
dyes yarns using plant materials like herbs, acorns and tree bark.
Treliske Organic, a farm that supplies wool and meat, focuses on
humane animal husbandry.

“We are animal welfare volunteers, so we also care about how animals
are treated,” says Anita. In addition to their four pet cats (also
yarn lovers), the Suarezes are also currently fostering three stray
kittens.

Kent uses low-impact dyes and non-toxic mordants (substances used to
fix dye in fiber) for Yarn Passions’ eponymous label. He has created
variegated color ways with coffee bean grounds discarded by Starbucks
and tea leaves; he also wants to start growing plants that can be used
to produce pigments, including marigolds and onions, on the couple’s
balcony.

“I like making things from scratch, no matter what it is. I’m the kind
of person who would not just want to cook a meal, but want to make it
from scratch and grow the vegetables on my balcony and so on,” says
Kent. He adds: “If there were a sheep farm nearby I’d be out there
shearing the sheep.”

All of Yarn Passions’ dyeing is done in the Suarezes’ kitchen and
bathroom. Kent first re-skeins and binds the yarn before scouring it
to remove natural waxes and oil from the fiber, presoaks it to remove
air bubbles and then places the yarn in a carefully mixed dye bath
that is kept simmering for an hour until the color is absorbed.

Kent and Anita usually glean inspiration for their yarns from artwork,
but some Yarn Passions colors are the result of happy accidents.
Hummingbird, which mixes green, russet, cream and tan hues, was the
result of a dye bath that separated into two different colors.

While one of Yarn Passions’ specialties is colorful hand-dyed yarn (in
addition to Kent’s creations, they also sell variegated skeins from
the Yarn Cafe), the Suarezes are also excited about cotton with
naturally occurring pigment.

“Most people only know of white cotton, but naturally colored cotton
is making a resurgence among knitters globally,” says Kent.

Peru Naturtex Partners’ Pakucho Original 100% Organic Natural Color
Cotton yarn ranges from sandy browns to soothing creams and olive
greens. Unlike dyed yarns, naturally colored cotton won’t fade or
bleed; certain colors darken when washed.

In addition to eventually opening a studio for Anita’s classes and
Kent’s dyeing, the Suarezes hope to expand their company, import yarns
in higher volume so they can bring prices down, and increase the
number of outlets that carry their products. Anita plans to develop
educational seminars about organic and fair-trade fibers with Earth
Tree.

“Of course we are a business, we want to make a little bit of money,
but we also want to educate people that we are responsible for the
environment, that we have to take care of the environment and also the
animals,” says Anita.

To order yarn or arrange a class with Anita Suarez, visit Yarn Passions website ( written in both Chinese and English ) at:
http://tw.myblog.yahoo.com/yarnpassions-yarnpassions

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

先生與太太,Kent與Anita Suarez(張婧楦)兩人皆知道如何說好故事(spin a good yarn)。但當Kent在紡毛線(spins a yarn)的時候,他是真的在紡毛線—以墜紡錘(drop spindles)將羊毛條紡成紗。Anita 在三年前開始棒針與鉤針編織;目前教授兩種手藝。



去年,Anita因為台灣始終缺乏有機與手染線材而感到喪氣。


所以Suárez一家便著手進行了所有毛線愛好者都夢想做的事,在去年夏天開始了他們自己的毛線事業。



正如其名,Yarn Passions (炙愛毛線)專門進口透過環境永續法所收成、處理與紡成的線材。他們目前的商品主打頂級線材,像是如奶油般柔軟的美麗諾、高級的祕魯棉線以及極柔順的幼羊駝毛。Kent同時也為自家品牌手染毛線。


“在台灣,人們傾向認為只有食物可以有機,” Anita說。“但事實上,我們可以在做自己喜歡的事情同時,一樣有機。”

蘑菇和地球樹,後者為一公平貿易商店,最近開始販售炙愛毛線進口的商品。炙愛毛線同時也在其網站上販售來自世界各地的線材,包括日本的Mother Earth、澳洲的The Yarn Café與Woolganic、紐西蘭的Treliske Organic,以及秘魯的Peru Naturtex Partners。後者(Peru Naturtex Partners)同時為一調查與認證組織,FLO-CERT,認證為公平貿易組織。


“我們當初特別對秘魯有興趣,是因為該社會組織與當地的農民合作,確保他們得以有穩定的收入而不是靠種植毒品度日,這是一個例子,而且確保那些合作者與原住居民得以獲得公平、應得的報酬。”Kent說。

在日本當地極受手工藝者喜愛的Mother Earth,以香料、橡實與樹皮植染毛線。紐西蘭的Treliske Organic,一供應羊毛與肉品的農場,專注於人道動物飼養的落實。


“我們是動保義工,所以我們在乎動物是如何被對待的”Anita說。在他們本來就有的四隻貓之外, Suárez一家目前也在中途照顧三隻流浪小貓。

Kent使用環境低衝擊染劑與無毒媒染劑(將顏色固定在毛線的物質)為炙愛毛線染毛線。他以茶葉與星巴克的咖啡渣,分別染出了斑駁的色彩。他同時也想開始在自家的陽台上,種植可以用以染色的植物,如金盞花與洋蔥。

“我喜歡將事情從頭做起,不管什麼事。我是那種不是會只想煮飯而已,但想要從頭開始、在自家陽台種菜做起的人”Kent說。他又說:“如果我們家附近有綿羊牧場,我就會在那裡剃羊毛。”

所有炙愛毛線的染製,都是在Suárez家的廚房和浴室完成的。Kent首先將毛線重新綑綁,再一一洗滌以清除在毛上本來的臘與油脂,再浸泡以消除毛間的氣泡,之後再將毛線小心地置入調好的染缸,慢火煮一小時,直到顏色完全被吸收。


Kent和Anita通常自藝術品上尋找靈感,但有時候炙愛毛線的顏色也來自快樂的意外。蜂鳥(Hummingbird),顏色混有綠、黃褐、米白與棕褐色,便是染缸中染劑分散成兩種不同顏色的結果。



在炙愛毛線的多彩手染毛線(除了Kent的創作之外,他們也販售The Yarn Café的多彩毛線)之外, Suárez也賣天然原色的棉線。

“大多數的人只知道白棉花,但自然原色的彩色棉花已開始在全球的編織者群中再度受到注意。”Kent說。



Peru Naturtex Partners的Pakucho經典100% 有機天然原色棉線的顏色,自黃棕色、米白色到橄欖綠都有。與染過的線材相比,天然的原色棉不會退色或是流色;有些顏色甚至會隨著洗滌而加深。


除了希望有天能為Anita的編織班與Kent的染製工作開間工作室,Suárez也希望能夠擴張他們的事業,進口更大量的線材,以降低價格,並增加販售通路。Anita計畫要與地球樹合作舉辦關於有機與公平貿易纖維的教育性講座。


“當然,我們是間事業公司,我們當然希望可以賺點錢,但是我們同時希望可以教育人們我們是對環境有責任的,我們必須要照顧環境以及動物。”Anita說。

函松 said...
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