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Knitting with hand dyed organic wool yarn

Knitting with Organic Yarn
by Del Sandeen

Knitters can be extremely compassionate. From crafting gifts for loved ones to knitting for charity, people who knit are often giving by nature. This centuries-old craft is a form of quiet entertainment that doesn't rely on electricity or technology. But due to methods used to process yarn and dyes, it doesn't always fall into the eco-friendly category. However, with the growing emphasis on sustainable practices, more and more organic yarns are becoming available.

Where Organic Yarn Comes From

You can't expect organic yarn to come from non-organic beginnings. For wool, it all starts with the sheep. Organic wool comes from sheep that eat certified organic feed. Unlike sheep that receive chemical parasite treatments, sheep that provide organic wool are bred to be resistant to parasites. These specially-treated sheep also benefit from the preventive measures like healthy eating, which leads to stronger immune systems. They're fed the best herbicide-free, all-natural diets, which translate into certified organic wool.

For a wool to be considered certified organic, the entire process from sheep to shearing has to be free of chemical treatments that other sheep receive, including growth hormones, dipping, and antibiotics.

Organic Dyes

Organic yarn relies on non-toxic coloring to achieve different shades. Don't assume that all-natural wools, cottons, and other fibers only come in a limited range of colors. By using plant-based and natural dyes, you can achieve a wide range of beautifully subtle or vibrant yarn colors. The main reason to use organic dyes is to preserve what makes the yarn organic.

While this idea may be new to many North American knitters, knitters in South America have known how to organically dye yarn for centuries through the use of plants and traditional methods.

Supporting Organic

When you choose to knit with organic cotton, wool, or other fibers that have been grown or harvested with as little harmful impact on the planet as possible, you're supporting the people -- often in cottage industries or free trade agreements -- who make their living this way. The more knitters invest in sustainable practices, the more they'll flourish.

Some knitters are put off by the cost of organic yarn. After all, you can buy inexpensive acrylic yarn from your local craft store for quite a bit less than you'd pay for organic yarn. While it's true that non-toxic dyes cost more than traditional ones, leading to higher priced organic yarns, one way to help lower the cost is to invest in the organic industry through your purchases.

Yarn Companies that Sell Organic Yarn

If you're interested in sustainability, part of supporting it is investing in it. Within the last several years, more companies have cropped up that sell yarn grown and harvested with organic methods. Some yarn retailers maintain a brisk business in traditional yarns, while exploring their organic options in smaller lines. One way knitters can help these organic lines to grow is to buy from them.

Look into these online fiber sellers or companies for a selection of organic yarns in several different fiber types:

    • Ecobutterfly
    • Jimmy Beans Wool
    • Lion Brand
    • Naturesong Yarn
    • The Yarn Grove
    • The Yarn Tree
    • Tierra Wools
    • Vermont Organic Fiber Company

If you're a knitter, you know that all you need to immerse yourself in the creative process is two sticks (sometimes more!) and string. There's no need for electricity, gadgets, or pollution. To make the craft easier on the planet, consider buying certified organic whenever you can. It can be that much more satisfying to create when you know what you hold in your hands hasn't harmed the earth.