For my final day in this 12 day series (that extended about 18 days in reality…), I offer you my 2008, year in review: My first year of green knitting.
As you all know, my goal for 2008 was to only use yarns meeting at least one of my green criteria:
2. Least resource-intensive production (for example, the growing of flax for linen requires little to no pesticides naturally–so while it may not have the organic label, for all intents and purposes, it meets that criteria). I did try and take into account the resource intensive process of producing yarns from the plant fibers.
3. Natural dyes
4. Socially responsible (non profit cooperatives, for instance)
5. Otherwise sustainably sourced, such as bamboo, which is rapidly renewable and can actually help prevent soil erosion.
6. Locally sourced raw material
7. Recycled material
8. From a small farm or is otherwise animal-friendly
Within all five categories are products that are not as “green” as I would ideally prefer, meaning the producers don’t limit their impact on the environment nearly as much as I would like. However, it is impossible to live a life without impact, either negative or positive, so as time wore on I eased my expectations a little. Overall, I think I did a decent job sticking to my goals and discovered that there are many more choices than I ever expected–from organic cotton and wool to soy silks, bamboo, and hemp. Even as the year progressed I would notice more and more “eco-friendly” products come on the market than I could even keep track of.
So I thought I would share some of my findings.
First, there are some great online shops that specialize in green/organic yarns:
Annie Sherburne — For me, this site has served as a fantastic source of information.
A Second Chance — Great shop selling recycled/reclaimed yarn from old sweaters, items handmade from reclaimed materials, vintage clothing, etc. I really love that the shop is completely dedicated to materials that deserve a second chance–I can’t stress enough that this is as green as it gets. Also, 10% of each sale goes to Kiva.org (a microfinance organization).
Blonde Chicken Boutique — Tara of Blonde Chicken specifically sources animal and earth friendly fibers and creates beautiful, unique yarns. I’ve worked with her on some custom yarn and she was extremely helpful.
COLORBOMB Creations — This shop sells really interesting, crazy yarns, three of which are tagged with the COLORBOMB Greenish™ label: ‘(S)craptastic’, ‘Shaganator, and ‘Raggedy’, all made from 100% repurposed/reclaimed materials (like mill ends and vintage yarns, scraps and threads). Like I’ve said before–recycled/repurposed is my favorite kind of eco material.
defaceReconstruct — Lovely Etsy shop with recycled yarns and other pretty goodies.
Earth Friendly Yarns — Self explanatory, decent selection.
Freecycle — A great place to find yarn ready to be discarded by others, therefore not requiring any new production (and it’s associated impacts) for your project–the most eco-friendly option in my opinion. Even organic production pollutes…it’s just way better than conventional.
Hands and Notions — Yarns come from small family farms and have minimal processing (I haven’t bought anything from here yet, so can’t review personally).
Insubordiknit — She uses alternative fibers, such as soysilk and tussah silk, and eco yarns, like organic cotton to create very cool, funky yarns.
Knit for Brains — Lots o’ vegan yarns (bamboo, hemp, soysilk), but also a great selection of pretty organic cotton.
Midnight Sky Fibers — Has a great menu structure so you can shop according to your values: local (if you’re Pacific NW), vegan, undyed, etc). They also have this amazing “Recycling” option, where if you add it to your order you are pledging that you will recycle the packaging that your order comes in and you get a discount! Very cool.
Near Sea Naturals — A fantastic online shop where all knitting supplies and sewing supplies are eco-friendly, from sustainably produced knitting needles to natural elastic and organic thread. There are also yarns grouped by fiber (animal fibers you can feel good about, plant fibers you can also feel very good about, and blends) and fabrics grouped by type–all of which, yes, you can feel good about.
The Yarn Grove — Great selection of “natural, organic, and hand-dyed yarns.” Not everything meets my criteria, but there’s a lot of good stuff.
Second, there are a number of Organic Cottons and Blends, and throughout 2008 it seemed like the different brands with organic cotton lines were exploding. I’m only going to comment on the ones I’ve used, which are quite a few…
Be Sweet Bambino Yarn — This yarn is 70% organic cotton and 30% bamboo. I LOVE this yarn. It is so soft, the colors are incredibly rich, and it’s just beautiful with a cloud of cotton wrapped with shiny, gorgeous bamboo. DK weight.
Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton — This yarn is incredibly soft and I will definitely use it again. My one complaint is the pilling (which is not insignificant), but again, I would more than consider it for future projects because of the softness, the rich colors and organicness. It’s also nice that it’s a bulky weight, as many of the other cottons are DK (like their newish Organic Skinny Cotton).
K1C2 Recycled Cotton — I haven’t used this, but love the idea of creating recycled cotton yarn. I wish there was more of this!
Malabrigo Limited Edition Organic Cotton — Really smooth and beautiful in very rich colors. It’s not as soft as other organic cottons, but that makes it great for more polished pieces. There definitely won’t be any pilling with this yarn. It’s a DK weight, and I highly recommend it.
Nashua Natural Focus Ecologie Cotton (naturally dyed)
Rowan Pure Life Organic Cotton — Very soft and smooth, with an almost bamboo or silk-like sheen. I love this yarn, but definitely recommend buying all your yarn from the same dye lot, as the natural colors can vary significantly. Also a DK weight.
Third, there are a number of fibers that lend themselves to production processes that have a less negative impact than other commonly used knitting materials, such as Linen and other Alternative Fibers:
(Louet is obviously a major manufacturer of linen yarn, which I decided met my green goals since the production of flax would generally meet organic standards, but is not worth the hassle of certification to many producers. More information on the benefits of linen here)
Fourth, Organic Wools, etc:
Lorna’s Laces Green Line Worsted — I really love this yarn and plan to use the DK weight again and the worsted weight for the first time at some point in the near future. The colors are chic and the yarn is soft and smooth–really very beautiful. I highly recommend this yarn–it’s definitely in my top 10, possibly even 5.
(There are many others that I haven’t tried, like the O Wools, but they are available at the shops listed above)
And, last (but certainly not least), Socially Responsible:
Frog Tree Yarns — This company is non-profit and you can tell from the prices–which are extremely affordable for some very very nice yarns. I’ve used their Merino Melange, which is incredibly soft and lovely, and their fingering weight alpaca, which is equally nice. I highly recommend these yarns.
Be Sweet — Another favorite of mine in this category. The yarns are gorgeous, great quality, and supportive of job creation for mostly women in South African villages. The only problem I have found is that they can be difficult to find and are not cheap.
(I also put companies like Manos del Uruguay and Malabrigo in here, because they are small family businesses or support cooperatives.)
There is a fantastic knitting green resource here, with a matrix of many, many different green yarns to give you an idea of what’s out there and what you can try. Hopefully you can piece them together with some reviews to see what would work best for you.
If you have recommendations you’d like to add, I’d love to hear them. I’ll continue to update this post with new findings and recommendations.