A recent post by Sandra of Wild Daffodil – https://daffodilwild.wordpress.com/2021/09/23/ethical-socks/ looking for socks with ethical credentials started me thinking about how such considerations affect people who knit or crochet.
I may have had a few issues with Stylecraft Special DK 100% acrylic yarn from time to time but I find myself returning to it again and again because as a Rainbow Junkie I love having such a wide colour palette. I also like the fact that is soft, easy on the hands and lighter weight for a blanket than cotton or wool would be.
However we are now told that acrylic fibres are bad for the environment and of course they are made from petroleum products which are non-renewable. I comfort myself by thinking that I don’t wash my blankets very often, since washing apparently produces lots of microfibres that are bad for the environment.
This is not the first time that I have wondered what would be the best alternative to acrylic yarn, although, since at present I have enough yarn of various types to keep me going for quite a while, I have not actually planned a project based on such choices.
So let us consider the alternatives.
At first sight cotton as a natural product would seem to be a good choice and these days there are certainly some manufacturers who offer a good range of thicknesses and colours. It appears to be about half as heavy again as acrylic. I also find using it to be harder on my wrists when crocheting which is perhaps a point against it.
However when one looks into the matter further one comes up against all sorts of arguments against cotton based on the use of fertilisers and large quantities of water in the manufacturing process. So maybe let’s look at other things.
Now I presume that Vegans would not like the fact that it is an animal product but I am not a vegan. However there may still be animal welfare considerations to take into account.
I do like wool, although it rarely has such vibrant colours as acrylic or such a wide range of choice. Like cotton it appears to be about half as heavy again as acrylic, easier on the hand than cotton and in fact some really soft wools can be a delight to work with. Although I have never had problems with woollen socks, I do have a ‘summer’ cardigan that I made that makes my arms itch, so has had to be re-designated as an extra ‘winter’ layer. I have found Merino wool is much better next to my skin.
Sock wool most often includes 25% synthetic yarn for strength.
One yarn I did not include originally.
This is the only Alpaca yarn I have used and it was a couple of balls given to me by a friend who had no use for it.
It comes from the coat of an alpaca. Looking at this – Drops Alpaca It comes in lots of colour and is is very soft and light. This is thinner than DK but there are other people who make it in thicker versions. It is often mixed with wool as well. I know they keep alpacas for wool in this country but don’t know for instance where Drops gets theirs from or how well the alpacas are looked after. It is hand wash only though.
(The little girl in the photo is now eighteen!)
I found it soft and silky but with no elasticity. I still wear the garment but washing has made it stretch and lose a lot of it’s shine.
Bamboo is often combined with cotton.
Doing some research did suggest that there were some downsides to bamboo fibre production.
This was a new one on me until recently. Looking the other day I could find various tencel yarns but only one that was 100% tencel. Tencel was also combined with other yarns like bamboo. The colours did seem a little bland but maybe that is what most people prefer.
Tencel would appear to be made of wood and so biodegradable. As a child we had Rayon which was something similar although I only had experience of rayon as a fabric which was lightweight and creased easily. The manufacturing process is reported to be environmentally friendly.
I would like to try tencel when I need to buy yarn for a future project and be able to report more fully on what it is like in use.
there are other fibres that I have not mentioned here, like silk, linen or hemp, which are less common.
Do you care about the ethical and environmental effects of the yarn you use?
How do you rate different yarns in this respect?
Have you tried Tencel? What did you think of it?