Eco-conscious Knitting

I’m posting this as my blog entry for Blog Action Day. Go check out their site and join if you want to 🙂

Before I get started, I admit, I use acrylic yarn. I don’t particularly like acrylic yarn but a severe lack of funds and a lack of stores to buy quality yarn, have me in the acrylic trap. This is in no way a post that is meant to be judgmental or to make it seem like I am a yarn-snob. Although I try to keep the environment in mind when doing things, I’m not always doing the right thing. I do use acrylic yarn and some of it came from the bargain bin at the horrible mega-superstore monster. I just want to stir up some eco-consciousness in myself and hopefully others.

On to my Blog Action Day Post:
Here are a few ways to keep your knitting environmentally friendly.

Try using organic yarns. Organic wool and cotton seem to have the most availability. Linen is another great choice because the flax plant is a strong hearty plant and doesn’t require pesticides. Also, bamboo yarn and needles are great because bamboo is a wonderful sustainable plant product. Hemp yarn is also a great choice for using a sustainable plant product. There are even soy and corn based yarns; I haven’t seen these yet in my area but would love to see what they are like. Soy and bamboo take less water to grow than cotton, just a thought to keep in mind. Here is another little tid-bit about non-organic cotton: Did you know that 10% of all agricultural pesticides used are used on cotton crops? Also, organic yarns won’t do much harm to the soil if *gasp* for some crazy reason someone would ever want to throw away one of your wonderful handmade creations.

Take the time to research a product to find out if it is actually organic or the company is just using the term loosely. This is especially true for plant-based yarns made overseas. For those in the US, look for yarns marked Certified Organic by the USDA. USDA Certified Organic yarns have the same rules and regulations as USDA Certified Organic foods.
Some people don’t like the limited colors offered in some organic yarns. Try dyeing it yourself. Many natural dyeing techniques available have been used for centuries. Look for some techniques online or take a yarn dying class. I’m hoping to take a class in November.

Go for yarns made in your own country or at least close to it. This cuts down on the pollution created by planes and cargo ships that carry products to other countries. It could also avoid using some products that were made using unethical business practices.

Help your small local farmers. Earlier in the year, I attended Sheep Shearing Day at Thistle Cove Farm (this farm was used in the movie Lassie). There were many volunteers there to help keep the sheep in line, hold the sheep, pick the debris out of the fleece, and bag and properly mark the fleece. It was a lot of fun, a great learning experience, and I made some friends. One friend, who was VERY new to knitting, bought an entire fleece. She has much more knitting experience now and I cannot wait to see the sweater she is knitting with it. I hope to buy a merino fleece next year.

Shop at your local yarn shop. This not only promotes locally owned business but can cut down on shipping pollution and trash created from shipping products. Although I am writing about this, it is not an option for me. There are no yarn shops within 100 miles or more of me. Since I can’t yarn shop locally (except at the horrible mega-superstore monster), I get together with my knitting group, and we place a large order together. This not only saves us a bit of money on shipping charges but the yarn is only being shipped to one person not ten of us. That means less shipping truck fuel and shipping product waste.
Recycle yarns. Use yarns made from recycled silk saris. Take old sweaters and frog them and reuse the yarn. This can sometimes be a difficult process with manufactured sweaters because they are cut from large machine knit pieces and stitched together. When you frog it, it makes many short lengths of yarn that have to be joined together. Did you make something and it turn out horrible? Don’t just live with it and hope to someday like it or find someone who does; frog it and reuse the yarn. Frog your swatches and reuse the yarn to make stripes in a small project.

Use some alternative materials to knit with. If you can form a string out of it, you can most likely knit with it. Shred old clothes or fabric to make fabric yarn strips. Use old plastic shopping bags. If you spin your own yarn, spin your yarn scraps into your yarn for some interesting texture. Take the buttons from old stained or torn shirts to use on your projects.

Use recycled materials to stuff your projects with. I keep all the little bits and ends that I clip off my projects in a jar on my desk. I use the bits to stuff small toys or even to create little felted things and in the mean time, I have a pretty colorful jar to display. Larger pieces I tie together and ball into mystery balls of yarn to make some pretty interesting projects. I also keep long bits of mid weight yarn to use as waste yarn.

Try finding a new use for everyday items. Use a paper clip or a hair tie as a stitch marker. Make a notions holder from an old candy tin. Wrap rubber bands around the ends of your needles instead of buying sets of needle protectors. Use waste yarn or safety pins instead of stitch markers. Finding replacements for the notions available at the store means that you are recycling things you may have otherwise thrown out, you didn’t have to travel to the shop to buy it or have it shipped to you, and you are not creating trash caused by the packaging. If you really want the notions instead of using everyday things, try yard sales or auctions. I have found some great knitting, crocheting, and sewing items at auctions and yard sales. Find people who started knitting and found out that it just wasn’t for them; I’m sure they would be more than willing to unload their unwanted knitting items.

But what about those acrylic yarns that I have been cursed with using? I have heard that they are made from a petroleum byproduct; so, in a sense it is making use of waste instead of polluting. This however is up for debate.
Am I going to stop using acrylic yarn? Probably not. I have some stored up and I will be using it. Am I going to stop buying acrylic yarn? Probably. Aside from my general dislike of acrylic yarn’s properties, I do not want to support the horrible mega-superstore monster anymore than necessary. Unless I am in a pinch and absolutely need yarn immediately, I am going to be shopping online until someone opens a yarn store near me. And I’ll be doing my best to order eco-friendly yarns.
Here is a link to some creative recycled knitting projects.


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