The newest edition to my yarn stash, soon to become the Meridian Tunic Dress from the new Twinkle book. So this blog was really started to keep me from straying from my goal of buying only environmentally/socially responsible yarns. And this may be my first real success: Linen yarn, specifically Louet Euroflax sport weight. It’s beautiful yarn. Apparently linen takes dye really well, so the colors are so vibrant and it has this lovely sheen to it. When I first started knitting with it I felt like I was making a dress out of twine, but the more I go the lovelier it becomes. And apparently it’s supposed to soften with washing–though I do like it the way it is.
I spent a few weeks searching for an organic linen yarn, but the search strangely turned up nothing–I got a lot of sites selling organic “linens,” which of course are generally no longer made of actual linen. I finally took the question to my Ravelry Greencraft group and asked what they knew, and I learned that the process for conventional linen is pretty close to organic making the certification an unnecessary extra cost. So linen may just be good all around.
I of course tried to do some of my own research on the subject just to make sure and found out some interesting stuff on linen and also some generally interesting sources of information on green yarns and textiles.
It seems that the reason linen is considered environmentally friendly is that it’s made from the flax plant, which requires very little fertilizer and has a lot of the same properties of hemp, where it’s normally grown without the use of chemicals. But it may be better than hemp in that it can be grown in the US, or anywhere really, instead of mainly in China…which is far far away to be transported to my home in Washington DC.
Flax is also kind of like bamboo in that it’s one of those plants that we can use for so many things. The entire plant is used – “the leftover linseeds, oil, straw and fiber are used in everything from linoleum and soap to cattlefeed and paper. Waste is kept to a minimum during processing” (from a site about Irish Linen).So I can eat my flax cereal while wearing my linen dress. Win win in my book.
But, after some research I finally found what can be wrong with linen production from a great site, The Lazy Environmentalist. It seems that it really is like bamboo, where even though the crop may be rapidly renewable and the agricultural practices environmentally friendly, the processing of the yarn is not as green as people would like to believe.
Although the actual growing of linen is free of the extensive spraying and use of pesticides used on cotton, it is the production process that can be environmentally damaging – the extensive water consumption and the chemicals and mordants used in the dying process.
Another point made on the site is that a lot of linen is actually now made in China, like hemp. The Louet linen is spun in Belgium, but I’m not sure where the flax is actually grown. I hope somewhere closer to me than China.
Some other interesting tidbits about linen I came across:
- Interesting scientific research examining the possibility for using waste from linen yarn production (spinning and roving losses) to make recycled plastics…it’s known to be an extremely strong fiber, so it did prove useful in this context. I won’t go into specifics…because it’s boring.
- Interesting, particularly for my fellow knitters: “Traditionally, pure linen yarn was uneven and could only be woven. This produced a fabric that was very comfortable and long lasting but one that wrinkled very easily. However, in the last decade, spinners have finally found ways to make linen yarn even enough so that it can be knitted. This, in turn, has allowed the production of linen garments that do not wrinkle easily.”