As long as I can remember, SpinExpo was one of my favourite shows to attend. First, as a knitwear design student, later as a professional designer. I loved geeking out about the swatches in the trend areas, studying them, sneaking pictures (back when you couldn’t take any), and leaving with a flame of inspiration that I brought back to my drawing table or Brother knitting machine.

Last week, I visited SpinExpo NY in Greenpoint, Brooklyn to visit my friends in the industry who I don’t get to see as often as I’d like. This time around, sure, we talked shop, but our conversations were more personal and sobering. I felt much of the show to be sobering.

Sawada's swatch collaboration with Shima Seiki, utilizing their inlay machine.
Sawada’s swatch collaboration with Shima Seiki, utilizing their inlay machine.

While I’m very stubborn in my beliefs on what is considered sustainable, I do understand that this is business. I also understand that a lot of my friends are hurting from the demand for more sustainable offerings. It’s not easy and it will take time to get right.

Designers are asking for recycled and natural materials. Some suppliers are suffering because they don’t offer it. I could see how frustrated certain vendors were with these material requests, trying to reframe the conversation and getting nowhere.

It isn’t about “cool” yarn anymore because it isn’t “cool” if it isn’t sustainable. It’s not about trends, it’s about quality of life and our future.

I visited Sawada, and enjoyed learning about one of their lines of yarn that are dyed naturally. As a one man operation, doing my own natural dyeing, I was excited to see that being done on a larger scale; utilizing tea, coffee, and flowers. We even spoke about personal dye projects and I shared how I achieved certain colors with food waste. Business is getting more personal and I like that.

Bumping into my network of Wholegarment manufacturers is always a pleasure and the increased interest in 3D knitting has me very optimistic about the scope of innovative U.S. domestic production. Small operations popping up all over the country along with investors reaching out to me to learn about the technology, proves that the best moves take time and patience.

The industry has needed an overhaul for far too long and now we’re being forced to change. Where will we see these changes? How will we see them? What companies will survive? Businesses that don’t shift towards a more compassionate production means for people and the planet will go under.

Sawada's natural dyes collection dyed with teas, coffee, and plants.
Sawada’s natural dyes collection dyed with teas, coffee, and plants.

As much as it hurts, these are growing pains into what I believe will be a New Industrial Revolution. If we flip a potentially dismal perspective, the opportunity that we find ourselves in is major. We are in a position to start over and create everything new. Whether we are comfortable with that or not, it’s happening. The marriage between nature and technology is being developed. Incredible people are banning together to find solutions to our massive waste and pollution problem.

We’re a global community with lots of working parts and people who can and will have a global impact when we come together and make these necessary changes. Take the time to collaborate and innovate, and the hits we’re feeling won’t last long. I’m excited and curious to see where this all takes us, what jobs we leave, what jobs we create, and ultimately what progress we make. As my friend Nancy Meyers at Sovereign Yarn explained: “At least we’re all in it together.”

I’m grateful to be a part of this industry and to have the opportunities to contribute however I can, especially through this platform. We can discuss and debate, try and fail, develop and progress, and keep moving forward. Together.

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