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Knitting Tip: Go Green with Natural Fibers and Yarns

For artists and craftspeople, being green includes the practices and methods we use and also our materials. As a knitter and crocheter my concern is with yarns. I use natural yarns and only infrequently will use a novelty yarn as a trim. My favorite yarn is Merino wool; it has all the softness and loft of cashmere, but the price is a bit lower, it is a stronger yarn, and pills less. I also adore fine hand-dyed and handspun wools, alpaca for its warmth and softness, and high-quality cotton yarns.

Of course it is a good idea to try to use recycled materials whenever possible, but it is also important to use materials that do not harm the planet in the first place. I would like to take this opportunity to say that I find acrylics to be actually immoral. They are made from petro-chemicals that are, of course, what the gas you put in your car is. With the worldwide shortage of petroleum and the ensuing international conflicts over it, I find it hard to justify using a product like that. Also, acrylics, like all plastics, remain in the environment forever, causing tremendous pollution and environmental problems. In addition, acrylic and other synthetics really are not warm, they make your skin feel clammy because they do not wick moisture, and they are highly flammable unless they are treated with very toxic chemicals. If you hold a piece of wool over the kitchen sink and put a match to the end, the flame will quickly go out and a soft ash will form that easily disintegrates. On the other hand, if you do the same thing with a piece of acrylic yarn, the flame will last for a long time (until you blow it out) and a hard plastic bead will form.

For those people who fear that they cannot wear wool or that it is itchy, please realize that high quality wool is very soft and almost never causes an allergic reaction. What people are sometimes allergic to is the lanolin found in natural wool and the easy solution to that is to simply wash the garment before wearing it. For those few people who truly are allergic to wool, there are many natural substitutes such as cotton, silk, mohair, cashmere, alpaca, linen and rayon/bamboo. There are also new yarns made from soybeans, corn, and even milk. These are all soft and hypoallergenic. They're great to knit or crochert with an wonerful to wear.

As a responsible knitter, I urge people to avoid using or wearing synthetic fibers whenever possible. Do it for your own comfort and also for the planet.

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