Sustainable Yarn

Posted on February 10, 2011 by Howling Hill

Image from Fibrepalooza

In December a question came in from Kathleen asking “I’d like your input about yarns. What types of yarns should I be looking for other than merino, and how do I know if the dyes are environmentally friendly?”

Being the resident knitter here at The Greenists, Allie passed the question onto me. It required me to do some research on the subject because, despite being a knitter, I’m still green but not yet green.

The short answer to the question is pretty similar to the answer to most green questions: go local. Using locally sourced yarn, from local sheep, alpacas, etc supports local farmers. But I wanted a more complete answer than “go local” so I did some research.

First, I logged into my Ravelry* and posted the question to the GreenCraft group. I got some great answers including


“There are other green fibers such as mohair, llama and alpaca. A good place to look would be local farms that raise and process their own fiber. Or have their fiber processed for them at a Mini Mill. Most of the mills use biodegradable soaps. Ask the dyer what kinds of dyes they use. Some are more environmentally friendly than others.”


“Fibers that can be composted are a must…As far as the dye used for yarns, this is a tricky one. Even naturally dyed yarns do not state the dye used. When in doubt, go the natural colored route!”


“I personally think Hemp tops the list of greenest yarn there is. In the growing stage: it nets fertilizer back to the ground, the roots aerate the soil, Hemp Horizons quotes studies that say it reduces common crop pests in future crops. As a yarn/fabric its durable and long lasting. I wish it was less restricted to grow, hmmm and warmer.”

Regarding sustainable dyes, there are many ways to obtain them. You can buy them or make them yourself. I remember reading a post from a NH spinner a few years back (sorry, don’t remember the blog or the authors name) about how she wanted to dye yarn she spun green so she used avocado skins. The authoress stated she wouldn’t do it again, not in the winter anyway, when the house was all closed up. The smell, she said, lingered for days but the avocados gave the yarn a lovely green color.

As I googled around looking for more answers I found fiber CSAs are cropping up all over the nation. This is a great idea since I’m a huge fan of food CSAs. Supporting local farmers and local mills. What can be better? To find a CSA look at Local Harvest’s website or ask your local farmers if they are interested in creating a CSF (community supported fiber). Though a few months old, this post lists a few CSFs found online.

If you’re already involved with a CSF let us know in the comments about how it works and if you’re pleased with the yarns you get.

*I’m h0wlinghill (the “o” is a zero).


  1. I just wanted to give you a great source for yarn locally made yarn.
    It’s run by the father of my best friend, he gets the wool himself, spins it and dyes with safe dyes himself and it is simply gorgeous as well. I’ve been in the workshop and seen it all done, it’s very cool! It is available in some yarn shops and online.

    February 10th, 2011 at 1:12 pm
    Comment by April
  2. Ah, the perfect post for the green-hearted fiber junkie! Thanks so much for helping disseminate this information.

    February 10th, 2011 at 1:21 pm
    Comment by Michelle
  3. as for what kind other than merino, it really depends on what you want to make. There are many breeds of sheep, some wool is just scratchier than others. Alpaca farming is also growing in popularity, and alpaca is wonderful to work with (at least, for me as a spinner!) but alpaca doesn’t have as much memory as sheep. Check for a sheep and wool festival in your area, you can go and feel the sheep, touch processed fiber from them and get to know the local farmers and the local fiber scene.

    As for safe dyes, there’s always earthues ( I always drool at their booth at the festivals, but haven’t tried dying yet.

    February 11th, 2011 at 9:17 am
    Comment by Marie @ Awakeatheart
  4. I didn’t know we had a resident knitter. I’m a knitter too! Admittedly though, yarn is one thing I buy without really thinking much about how “green” it is. Thanks for the info!

    February 11th, 2011 at 10:50 am
    Comment by Stefanie

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If It Doesn’t Smell, Don’t Wash It


According to Real Simple, if every American made an effort to launder less — cutting out just one load of laundry a week per household — we’d save enough water to fill seven million swimming pools each year.

So if it looks clean, and it smells clean, call it clean and wear it again. Consider hanging worn clothes out on your clothesline to freshen them up between wearings.

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