Even dedicated charity knitters often don’t think about the source of the yarn they knit with, but at Peace Fleece, that’s where charity begins.
All veteran knitters know how a donated knitted item can perk up a needy soul or even change their life. But how often do we think of the yarn itself as a force for good? That’s what it’s all about at Peace Fleece. Since the waning days of the Cold War, Peace Fleece has been bringing together Russian and American farmers and artisans to produce thick, colorful yarn that binds two nations together.
A DYED-IN-THE-WOOL ALLIANCE
Pete Hagerty and his wife Marty founded what they now call Peace Fleece Farm in 1973, back when he was a new Vietnam vet still trying to cope with his anger over the war. In 1985, he took the first steps toward forming a cooperative venture with Russian wool manufacturers, in an attempt to make the world a better place. Peace Fleece was controversial from the beginning. When American longshoremen refused to offload Pete’s first bale of Russian wool in 1986 because it was a communist product, the Associated Press picked up the story. Suddenly, Peace Fleece was in the public eye. Pete and Marty combined that first Russian bale with American wool to produce their first batch of a fine yarn that literally, as well as symbolically, bound together two dissimilar cultures. The venture proved profitable, and many more batches were to follow.
PEACE FLEECE ON EARTH
Peace Fleece has thrived since those humble beginnings. It has survived the fall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent social chaos; it has matured as a democratic Russia has matured; and it’s still going strong today. In fact, it has grown well beyond its initial mission. One program, for example, attempted to bring together Israeli and Palestine wool farmers after the first Gulf War. While its success was limited, one of the results was the stunning yarn named Baghdad Blue. Sales of Baghdad Blue help support the joint Israeli/Palestinian Arab village called Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam. Pete and Marty have since expanded their woolgathering operations into other Eastern European countries, too. Back home, the Peace Fleece farm sponsors at-risk children, who take care of the farm’s horses as a part of their therapy.
A RIPPING GOOD YARN
Looking for some yarn that really means something? Check out the Peace Fleece website for information about the operation and for a catalog of their products. In addition to yarn, Peace Fleece also sells brightly painted buttons, decorated knitting, knitting kits, and patterns. Many of these items directly benefit the artisans who make them in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.