Dec 18, 2014

An Ode to VM

VM (not to be confused with VD, although both can cause itchiness) seems to cause serious disgust in knitters and spinner (and probably anyone else working with wool). VM, to the uninitiated, stands for vegetable matter, and is a term used to describe the bits of hay, grass, unknown non-wooly substances once might find in yarn or fiber. For the most part, these bits can be easily picked out as you knit or spin. Sometimes (mostly in fiber or fleeces), you might encounter an excessive amount of VM that, while still can be picked out, makes working with that particular bit of fluff far too difficult. This post isn't about those cases (and yes, avoid yarn/fiber/fleece if it has more VM than fluff!).

This post is about those "rustic" yarns and fibers that have just that little bit of VM. I seem to have been working with those types of yarns for several projects in a row now, and I find myself in love. Now, I know that this isn't the common view - a quick browse of comments about the yarn used in Blaithin found people rather displeased about the presence of VM, and it is something I think people see as anathema to the softy soft wool of their dreams.

To me, VM is a reminder that wool comes from living, breathing, hay-eating, straw-sleeping-in creatures. It is easy to forget that (wool) yarn started out growing on relatively-filthy farm animals once it has been transformed into smooth, clean, sproingy, bright turquoise sock yarn (or other such creations). The presence of VM serves as a tactile and visual marker for both the origin of your yarn and the journey on which it has been.

See those sheep? Those are happy Shetland sheep, hanging out on a cliff full of dirt and grass. The VM that might remain in their wool after processing tells the story of where that wool has been - in this case, on a cliff overlooking the North Sea - and I love it. Yeah, it's a little bit of extra effort to pick it out, and yeah it can disrupt the flow of my knitting a little bit, but it is a disruption that forces me to connect with the origins of the wool that brings such joy to my life. This disruption is even more welcome when I know exactly the farm on which the sheep was raised, the people who put their hearts and souls into caring for those sheep and/or the mill which turned that greasy, dirty, lived-in wool into the yarn on my needles. We are all connected, and the VM is like a little love note from one link in the chain to another.

In completely unrelated news, I either need to figure out a toe-extension for my sock blocker or I need to chop off some of my dad's toes. Men's size 13 socks are not for the week of heart, but the toe flopping off the end of a blocker does get the creative juices flowing: