I want to make sure that I’m supporting the right people and companies when it comes to knitting. What’s the best way I can make sure I’m finding the right yarn that’s environmentally friendly, indie dyers, etc.?

Many knitters strive to unite their personal convictions with their crafting. Whether concerned with protecting the environment, maintaining a vegan lifestyle, or supporting fair-trade businesses, there are a variety of products that strive to make your yarn dollars count.

 

Eco-friendly

Buying eco-friendly yarn may seem like a no-brainer to most knitters. Many small batch growers, spinners and

Many knitters strive to unite their personal convictions with their crafting. Whether concerned with protecting the environment, maintaining a vegan lifestyle, or supporting fair-trade businesses, there are a variety of products that strive to make your yarn dollars count.

 

Eco-friendly

Buying eco-friendly yarn may seem like a no-brainer to most knitters. Many small batch growers, spinners and dyers produce organic fibers free of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and artificial dyes. There are also recycled yarns made by reusing denim, sari silk and other materials.

 

Cruelty-free

Many knitters take comfort in the fact that slaughter isn’t required for the harvesting of wool, but unfortunately this doesn’t guarantee animals will not experience pain. Therefore, wool knitters concerned with animal suffering tend to seek out mulesing-free yarns. Mulesing, the surgical removal of skin from an animal’s breech or backside, is performed on sheep to prevent fly infestation and infection. This practice is controversial among animal advocates who have long criticized it as unnecessarily cruel. Note: this practice is most common in Australia.

 

Vegan Fibers

If you want to avoid animal products altogether, there are a lot of options. Synthetic fibers like acrylic, nylon, and polyester are generally inexpensive and easy to find. Plant-based fibers like bamboo, cotton, linen, and hemp are also widely available. In recent years there has also been the development of new plant-based yarns made from soybeans, corn, and sea kelp.

 

Fair-trade

Are you concerned that the workers who produced the yarn on your needles are treated fairly? There are companies that specialize in this area as well. Manos del Uruguay’s cooperatives guarantee living wages, improved environmental practices, and safe conditions for workers. The company is a full member of the World Fair Trade Organization. Mountain Meadow Wool produces American Made and Wyoming Grown yarn and other products using eco-friendly methods while paying fair prices to their ranchers.

 

One step forward, two steps back

Putting your yarn where your heart is cannot always be straight forward, especially if you are concerned with more than one issue. There are many yarns featuring some of the characteristics I’ve laid out here, but few contain them all. For example, bamboo is a vegan fiber which is often touted as eco-friendly, but its processing utilizes toxic chemicals that can jeopardize both worker safety and the environment. Cotton is another example of a potentially eco-friendly fiber that is often produced with pesticides and exploitative labor practices. Ultimately, socially responsible yarn shopping can be rather like playing Rock, Paper, Scissors with each product’s strengths being undermined by its weaknesses.

 

When yarn shopping with a conscience, there are so many options and factors to consider. Do your homework! Be clear about your priorities and double check claims made by yarn companies. Don’t limit yourself to just big box stores or just shop local yarn shops and small independent yarn producers – you can shop at both! Look for yarns with organic or mulesing-free, fair-trade or other relevant certifications. And finally, be prepared to spend more – shopping with a conscience can be expensive but you may find that it’s worth the peace of mind.

 

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