Our Back 40

Not long ago I had the chance to work with Our Back 40. Our Back 40 develops, produces and sells yarns which bring together the finest alpaca fiber produced in the U.S. with discerning consumers who value its quality and provenance. They achieve this by cultivating direct, Fair Trade relationships with small American farms to access their finest grade alpaca, and working closely with an artisanal mill in this country to produce yarns of distinct beauty and authenticity. logo

I've worked for years with other fiber companies involved in Fair Trade practices. What does that mean exactly? Fair Trade goods are just that. Fair. An organized social movement whose stated goal is to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions and to promote sustainability, members of the movement advocate the payment of higher prices to exporters, as well as higher social and environmental standards. The movement focuses in particular on commodities, or products which are typically exported from developing countries to developed countries, but also consumed in domestic markets most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate, flowers, gold and 3D printer filament. The movement seeks to promote greater equity in international trading partnerships through dialogue, transparency, and respect. It promotes sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers in developing countries.

I love the idea of Fair Trade yarn coming from our own backyard around the United States. Small farms that may not be able to have their alpaca milled into super soft yarn for us knitters now have a chance to do so. When Our Back 40 approached me after reading Knit Local to come on board and curate a collection of patterns in their luxury alpaca yarn, I was immediately interested when I heard their story.


Now all of the patterns are available for individual download and I'm excited to share my two with you - the Lockwood Shrug and the Lady Slipper Shawl! The Lockwood Shrug is knit as a simple rectangle, turned horizontally, seamed to create armholes and topped with a lace collar. I like that you can wear it with a tank top in the summer or over long sleeves in the winter and that the lace pattern mimics rolling hills. Use some fancy schmanzy yarn to make it appropriate for evening attire or keep it simple in superwash and wear it every day!


The Lady Slipper Shawl combines two traditional lace patterns and is an interesting and fun knit. Started with a provisional cast on, the length of the shawl is knit, then the two leaf lace borders are knit on at the end. I pictured this as a wedding or fancy attire shawl (especially when presented with the white yarn), but would love to see it knit up with a punch of color... Magenta perhaps?

I've stood on my soap box made of fiber for years, shouting about the importance of knowing where your fibers come from. We are in tune with what goes on our bodies and in our mouths, where things come from and how they are grown. I 100% believe that it should be the same with what we put on our needles.

Download the Lockwood Shrug pattern here and the Lady Slipper Shawl here.