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What Is In My Yarn

April 15, 2020 3 min read 2 Comments

Hello folks! It's Claire here, and I'm so excited to be coming to you today at the beginning of a brand new blog series. Here at Making Stories, knitting sustainably is something we are wildly passionate about, but putting that into practice can leave your head spinning. What does it really mean, and how do you know if that skein you are holding is sustainably made? Over the coming months, this is what we are going to tackle - We're going to demystify what it means to knit sustainably. Are you excited? I am!

Today, we are going to start at the very beginning by asking - What is in your yarn? That short question can open a whole can of (silk!) worms. We can read the ball band, sure, but what do we really know about the fibres listed? And then there is the question of if they are sustainable or not and what sustainable actually means in this context, which takes us down a whole other (angora!) rabbit hole. For today, though, let's start small and break down which fibres can be in a yarn together...

Natural Fibres

Natural fibres can be broken into two categories - animal and plant.

Since the dawn of knitting time, natural fibres have been used for creating fabric. Do you know that wool production can be traced as far back as the Stone Age?! Over the years, our sheepy friends have been joined by a flock of fellow fibre buddies. Being the creative bunch we are, it seems that spinners have tried their hand at creating yarn from just about every animal and plant fibre possible, but for the purpose of this blog post, we're going to look at the ones you are most likely to find at your LYS. Let's break them down:

Animal Fibres

Alpaca, Angora (angora rabbits), Cashmere (cashmere goats), Llama, Mohair, Angora (goats), Silk (silkworms & silk cocoons), Wool (sheep) & Yak.

Plant Fibres

Cotton, Hemp & Linen.

Synthetic Plant Fibres

Here we get into a little bit of a grey area. The term 'Synthetic' can be a bit misleading here as the below fibres are 100% plant-derived, but they are often created as a by-product of another process, most likely in a different industry. This means the plant has been made into a pulp first and then goes through a lot of processing to get it to the point it can be spun into yarn. In short, the final product is a long way from its natural form. Does this mean the below fibres are unsustainable? Not necessarily! It all depends on how it has been processed.

Bamboo, Corn, Lyocell/ Tencel (derived from wood cellulose), Modal (derived from wood), Ramie (part of the nettle family), Rayon/ Viscose (cellulose extracted from wood, bamboo and cotton fibres) & Soy.

Synthetic Fibres

Acrylic, Nylon (also known as polyamide) & Polyester.

My yarn is 100% natural fibres, does that mean it's sustainable?

That would make life way more straightforward, wouldn't it?! Unfortunately, no - animal welfare, how the fibre is processed, where it is processed, is it treated with superwash processes, etc.; all contribute to how sustainable your yarn is. We want to help you to educate yourselves on what yarn sustainability actually means and which aspects of it matter to you, so you feel good and conscious about the yarn choices you make.

Does that sound a little bit like hard work? That's because it is, but don't worry, you're not alone! We have made it our mission to provide you with all the tools and knowledge you need to knit sustainably, and I promise if you stick with us, it will be worth it. 

Look out for another post from us next week where we debunk some of those buzz words you hear when talking about sustainability - with 'sustainable yarn' taking centre stage. What is that actually?

See you next week!x

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