Cruelty free knitting: alternatives for wool from an experienced knitter

Photo: Sam Carter via Unsplash

Autumn is coming and if you’re an avid knitter like me, you know there are few things as relaxing as curling up on the sofa while knitting when it’s cold outside. To some it might seem strange that this is a hobby for young people, but it’s definitely made a comeback and I personally have lovely memories of my grandmother teaching me how to knit and I think of her whenever I do.

I think that creating something with your hands is satisfying and another pro is that knitting has been proven to reduce stress and release feel-good chemicals in the brain.

Unfortunately, we know now very well that wool is the product of a cruel industry. The main problem with wool is that sheep often end up killed or maimes. Baby lambs get taken away from their mothers for their wool with many of them dying because of premature shearing. And of course let’s not forget the trauma of separation from their mothers.

The shearing process is extremely painful. Animals certainly don’t enjoy being sheared and they don’t just stand still while this is happening to them. Many cases have been documented where shearers would act violently and punch, kick and hurt the animals. This kind of thing happens also on the so-called sustainable farms. 

An eyewitness documented the horrendous abuse in wool farms

And what happens after the animals have been sheared? They don’t get to live the rest of their lives happily. They end up being somebody’s meal. Of course it’s not just sheep – included in the list of abused animals are alpacas, for example. 

Alternatives for wool
Fortunately there are plenty of alternatives today and we simply do not need to wear wool. Why don’t you try bamboo, hemp, acrylic, polyester, fleece or chenille instead? As more and more people become increasingly concerned with the state of the environment you’ll find that ecological materials become widespread. If you can’t find anything where you live, you can probably shop online or in the next biggest city.

One of the most popular choices for vegan knitters nowadays is bamboo fiber. It is surprisingly warm in winter and cool in summer and it’s quite easy to find. 

Hemp is also a favourite but probably a bit harder to find. Linen is another option and so is flax based yarn. All these have great durability and won’t irritate your skin the way wool tends to do.

There is also chenille, but you need to be careful because this could be made with wool in parts as well, and the most surprising one – banana fiber yarn. Can you get any more ecological than that?

Where to buy online?
Depends on where you’re based: if you live in Europe or the UK, Eco Stitch sells flax plant fibre. Bamboo and linen yarn can be found at RITO Yarn & Hobby. If you are in the US, Vegan Yarn and WEBS offer a lot of options.

Vegan but not a good choice
I believe it’s important to know what not to buy when you go shopping for all your knitting necessities as well. Acrylics, nylon and polyester may be vegan but still not good choices, and here’s why.

Acrylics might be cheap but there’s a reason: quality is not great and they can be toxic, as it’s been proven by researchers that chemicals remain in the fibers and they can be bad not only for you, but for people involved in the manufacturing process as well. Nylon is not biodegradable and takes lots of energy to manufacture.

Polyester is problematic because when you wash it, you end up releasing tiny plastic microfibers that cause harm to animals in the ocean, to the environment and to human health. Quality is also not good so it won’t last a long time.

Hopefully I’ve covered enough ground in this article for everybody to understand a bit better what to look for. Happy knitting!

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