It’s recycling week, so I thought it poignant to write a post about why I use recycled yarn.
Recycled yarn may mean a number of different things to different people but when I refer to it, generally I’m talking about new yarns that are manufactured from recycled materials.
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I started using recycled yarns a few years ago. I was making home decor items for craft fairs and wanted to be more ecofriendly than just using normal cotton yarn. I hadn’t previously been aware of how polluting cotton is, due to its very heavy pesticide use and high water consumption needed for it to grow and be dyed commercially. It’s actually not an environmentally friendly fibre at all.
I’ve always been an avid recycler, my Mum is and taught me well, and was working a lot with Plarn (plastic yarn – Tutorial), that I made from bread bags, to create sturdy beautiful bags. So naturally I wondered if you could get manufactured recycled yarn as an alternative to cotton yarn that I could make home decor items with.
While there are some environmentally friendly options in artisan handspun yarns, they are trickier to work with due to their uniqueness and are very expensive. So when you are making things to sell, speed, quality and cost of materials are hugely important and can make or break your profit.
So, yes, you do indeed get manufactured recycled yarns, from some well known brands too!
There are lots of brands and types of recycled yarns out there, much more now than there was when I first started using them.
I put together a post with a large list of them, initally so that I could refer to it when I was looking for a specific thickness etc but I soon realised that this list is also really helpful for other yarn artists who are considering recycled yarns. So do check out my Definitive (ish) List of Recycled Yarns, for everything I’ve found (and please let me know if you’ve discovered others that aren’t on it).
Sadly some amazing yarns have been discontinued, but the good news is that more brands are starting to look at recycled fibres. This new recycled cotton yarn from Paintbox is fab for homewares and comes in gorgeous colours too.
Most manufactured recycled yarns (meaning produced by a yarn company in a factory) are made using waste materials from clothing production in the fashion industry. So there is an abundant supply of these new materials that would otherwise be thrown away.
Factory spun manufactured recycled yarns are generally of the same quality you’d expect from standard yarns by that brand. The dyes should be even, and properly set, and the yarn should be evenly spun, just like any branded yarn you are used to. The only difference is that in choosing this yarn instead, you are making a much greener choice, and you are supporting this very responsible step forward by yarn companies. The more of us who support this, the more will do it = more choice and better prices for us!
Reusing waste fibres produced from another industry’s manufacturing process is absolutely the most responsible thing yarn companies can do right now, and we need a lot more of them to do it. But they will only produce what we, as consumers, keep buying.
So, I shout loud about this, because it really matters. I’ve chosen to design as much as possible using recycled and sustainable yarns because I want what I make and design to make a difference. I’m working with all kinds of recycled and plant yarns from chunky Ribbon and Tshirt yarns to Banana, eucalyptus and even seaweed yarns! I’m writing reviews of them to help give you more info about using them. Find out more below and you’ll find my patterns too.
If I can help another crocheter embrace recycled yarns then I will try, when we make more conscious choices about what we buy, the satisfaction of making it and using it is magnified immensely.
This is also true of customers who buy eco-friendly products. More and more are looking for ‘green’ credentials in the products they buy, and they very much value the item more because of it. This is now going beyond choosing products with a reusable purpose, the word ‘sustainable’ is huge, you may have noticed. Consumers are now looking at what things are made from. Recycled materials score very highly with conscious consumers.
But many of us crafties still don’t know recycled yarns exist and that there is a range of choice in all thicknesses.
Many of us still don’t know that non-organic cotton is not sustainable and is bad for our planet.
Many of us still don’t know that acrylic, nylon and polyester yarns are plastic and shed microplastic every time we wash and wear them. They are cheap yarns because they are manmade. No crops to maintain, no animals to feed and look after, but… there’s nothing environmentally good about plastic, at all. It never goes away.
But arrrgh, acrylic yarn is great isn’t it? It’s warm, easy care, hypoallergenic, usually soft too. So my quest for a truely viable acrylic alternative continues. Using recycled plastic fibres as much as possible but also minimising it’s use where-ever I can and using anti-pilling yarns when I do need to use acrylic so the finished item lasts longer. Organic wool would be a more ecofriendly, albeit costly, alternative choice, but I’m allergic. So unfortunately that also rules out most recycled acrylic options as they contain wool, but I hope more choice will come on the market.
So, as consumers of yarn and creators of amazingly beautiful handmade treasures, it’s really up to us.
When you next need to buy yarn, will you consider or do you already use recycled and sustainable yarns?
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