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Hanna-Mae Illustration

Illustrator & eco clothing designer

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Monthly Tutorial: Loom knitting for beginners (and your guide to ethical knitting)

Wool is a subject that occasionally comes up in the vegan community, and for years I was unsure of where I stood with using it. I’ve been doing some research to bring you the facts about wool, the impact it has on animals, and how you can make your knit more ethical.

So, what’s wrong with wool?

Question 1. Don’t sheep need to be sheared?

I’ve found that many people assume shearing a sheep is essential and the ‘kind thing to do’ to ensure the sheep is comfortable. This is partly true. Sheep develop thick coats that do need shearing to ensure they’re comfortable, but here’s the thing: wild sheep have the ability to naturally shed their coats, it’s breeders who have bred sheep specifically for wool to develop thick coats, which they cannot naturally shed, meaning they need to be sheared. Like with dogs, we’ve almost ‘edited’ sheep for a purpose.

Question 2. Isn’t shearing painless?

Yes and no. The cutting of the wool itself is painless, but it’s when skin gets nicked or accidentally cut that it’s painful. This is more likely when wool is being mass produced. Shearers often get paid per sheep, rather than per hour, which means workers are more inclined to work faster, which can result in mistakes.

Where your wool comes from and why it matters

80% of wool comes from Australia, where a practice known as ‘museling’ is legal. Museling is when the skin from around the sheep’s rear is literally cut away, usually without anaesthetic. Why would they do this you might ask? Well, it’s claimed that this practice prevents something known as ‘fly strike’ which is when blow flies lay eggs which eventually hatch in to maggots which eat away the skin of the sheep. This can be fatal. However, there are alternatives, as the RSPCA Australia outline on this page (link).

Question 3. Where can I get ethical wool or alternatives?

The good news is that museling is illegal in the UK, so any wool that’s produced in the UK won’t come from sheep that have been subjected to this painful practice. This may be enough for you to decide you’re happy to purchase UK wool, but of course there’s always the matter of welfare whilst sheering. In my opinion if you still feel you want to use wool it’s best to go for small businesses that don’t focus on mass production. I contacted the owner of Laura’s Loom who collects fleece from ‘small manufacturers across the North of England into the Scottish Borders’ to ask about welfare. She was most helpful, actually speaking to one of her farmers, who assured her that their small flocks were well cared for. As well as selling accessories her online shop also stocks yarn for knitting and weaving (link).

If you decide that you’d prefer to take animals out of the equation all together, there are also plenty of synthetic wool’s available. You can pick these up at most craft shops, such as Hobby Craft, at a reasonable price. Materials include cotton, acrylic mixes (acrylic, acrylic with cotton, acrylic with viscose) and there are even more options online, including materials such as bamboo. I’ve found that etsy has quite a few options available, and also means you’re supporting small businesses (link) However, if you’re looking for a truly ethical/eco option it’s important to remember that acrylic is man-made and doesn’t biodegrade as natural fibres do.

So now you’ve decided the material for you, it’s time to get crafting. This month I’ll be giving you an introduction to loom knitting. This project is so simple, and is a good starting project for beginners. I found my wool in a charity shop. It’s always worth taking a look as occasionally you’ll stumble upon a stash.

loomknit

You will need:

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  • Small round loom (mine was intended as a flower loom)
  • Scissors
  • Wool/other
  • Loom hook
  • Button (optional)

Where to buy:

Loom Hook (link)

Round loom (link)

Step 1

Put a small length of wool through the middle of your loom, so you have a little tail, then wrap your wool once, in a clock-wise way, around each peg.

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Step 2

Once you’ve done this on each peg and you’re back to your first peg, wrap the wool around it again, as you’ve been doing, to create a second loop. Take your loom hook and pull the first loop (the one underneath the second you’ve just made, and pull it over the first, off the peg.

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Step 3

Repeat above over and over until you reach your desired length.

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Step 4

Once you’ve reached your desired length, snip the wool so you’re left with another tail. This time, instead of creating a second loop and pulling the first over it you’re going to pull the length of wool through the loop.

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You’ll be left with what resembles a loose knot. (I have removable pegs so remove them as I go along)

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Step 5

Repeat above until you’ve done all of the pegs, then gently pull to tighten a bit, and tie a knot to stop unravelling. Tie a knot in the other end as well.

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Step 6

Turn your wrist warmer the right way (it’ll be inside out).

 

Step 7

Sew on either a button, or you can use a little wool to make a bow to sew on.

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Happy crafting!

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Monthly tutorial: chickpea bites

Every now and then I like to stray from my usual creative tutorial and bring you some vegan inspiration instead. Today we’re making deliciously healthy chickpea bites, which are perfect for a picnic, and can be topped with anything you can image!

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ingredients

  • 120g tinned chickpeas
  • 70g oat flour
  • 1/2 tsp flax seeds
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • Dried dill and rosemary

method

Sometimes in vegan cook books and recipes you’ll see something called a ‘flax egg’. This is in place of an egg in the recipe, and is made by mixing crushed flax seeds with water, which creates a quite gelatinous texture, just like an egg. This is the first thing you need to do in this recipe. Crush your flax seeds, add 1 1/2 tbso of warm water and set aside for 15 minutes.

‘Oat flour’ is simply ground oats. You can be a bit creative with your flours if the mood takes you, and can find almost any flour you can imagine in health food stores, and now even most supermarkets, but oat is often the cheapest. Simply take 70g of any oats (rolled, whole etc) and blitz in a food processor.

Next, open your can of chickpeas, drain using a colander or sieve, rinse, then dry on kitchen towel.

Put your chickpeas into your food processor and blitz (you may need to stop every now and then to push them down). You’ll be left with a slightly crumbly consistency that will ‘compact’ when pressed down.

Place your chickpeas, a generous amount of herbs (and a pinch of salt if you like) your oat flour, and flax egg into a bowl and stir through. You want an almost dough-like consistency, which should happen when you begin moulding the ingredients together.

Heat your oven to 160 degrees (fan) and line a baking tray with grease-proof paper.

Form your dough into small cracker-sized rounds, pat down, and place on your baking tray.

Brush these with a little olive oil, and bake for 5 min, flip, then bake for a further 10 min.

The consistency should be slightly bready.

ideas

Supermarket’s have come on leaps and bounds with their vegan-friendly foods. Most now stock their own versions of vegan cheeses in many exciting new flavours!

 

 

Sea love

This Valentine’s day I’m showing some love for sea life and bringing you the very first instalment of the promised new vegan recipe feature. This recipe for vegan sushi uses basmati/quinoa instead of the traditional white sushi rice, as it’s higher in fibre and nutrients. This recipe is also lower in sugar than ‘traditional’ sushi, and packs in some extra veggies to contribute to your 5 a day.

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ingredients

 

 

 

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♥ Tilda wholegrain basmati & quinoa (dried) or similar

♥ Rice vinegar (own brand is perfectly fine – try Sainsbury’s)

♥ Sushi nori (dried seaweed sheets – brands can be pricey, but Tesco sometimes stock a cheaper version, with more sheets)

♥ A fresh lemon

♥ Seasoning (I used lemon pepper)

♥ Vegetables of your choice (I used aubergine, broccoli and mushrooms)

♥ Fresh root ginger

♥ Optional extras: sesame seeds, spirulina powder

method

 

 

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Cook your rice/grains as instructed on the packet and drain off any excess water using a sieve. Put in a large bowl.

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Now to add the flavour! Sprinkle in any seasoning you like – I opted for lemon, lemon pepper, and ginger (grate in as much or as little as you like). Add a generous tsp of rice vinegar (this will help add moisture to stick the rice together/to the seaweed later)

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This step is optional, but I’d recommend including it! Lightly toast sesame seeds under the grill (no need to use extra oil) and add this to your bowl of seasoned rice. Sesame seeds are usually used on the outside of sushi, but I find they add a nice texture and flavour when mixed in. I also added spirulina for an extra protein hit (but be warned, you only need tiby amounts as it has a very distinct earthy taste!) Spirulina can be expensive in health food shops, so keep an eye out at food markets where you can sometimes be lucky to pick up unusual ingredients for a fraction of the price.

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Now to prep the veg – grill sliced mushrooms, thinly sliced aubergine, and cook your broccoli (using frozen is fine, or steam fresh florets, but make sure it is thoroughly drained by dabbing with kitchen towel) You’ll need to turn your mushrooms/aubergine half way through to get both sides cooked evenly. NB: with such thinly sliced aubergine the ends can slightly burn – don’t panic! pull/cut these bits off. You can use any veg you like, including strips of courgette or even butternut squash.

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Chop the heads of your broccoli so they almost resemble small grains. To save time you can use a mini food processor, I used a mezzaluna, but a sharp small knife will do just fine. Add to the rice mix and stir well.

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You now need to apply a thin, even layer of your rice mixture on to a sheet of your dried seaweed. Press lightly with a spoon.

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Arrange your vegetables – in this case the slices of aubergine and the mushrooms.

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Take another sheet of dried seaweed and press it gently over the rice/vegetables. You’ll need to make sure it’s in contact with the rice mix otherwise it won’t soften. Once you’ve made sure it’s pressed down well, leave for 5 mins. This should be enough time to allow it to soften.

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Time to roll! Start at the edge closest to you and aim for quite ‘tight’, pressing as you go along.

cuttingcollageYou’ll need a sharp knife to cut your sushi roll otherwise it’ll fall apart! I used a sharp breadknife (you’ll also notice I’ve ‘tucked in’ the ends – this is to stop any escaping rice!) Start by cutting your roll in half, then divide up into smaller sections.

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All that’s left to do is make your sushi look extra appetising by arranging it nicely on your plate. You can add any extras, such as soy sauce and wasabi.

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