Knitting Green - Projects for the environmentally conscious knitter
Ann Budd, author of a range of wonderful knitting books, including "The Knitter's Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters", "Getting Started Knitting Socks" and "Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns" tackled some wider questions about sustainability and environmentalism for knitters in "Knitting Green. Conversations and planet-friendly projects." (2010).
The publication is more than just a treatise on how to be a green knitter. The book also contains patterns for 31 interesting projects, ranging from kimono-style jackets to lace-knit jumpers, shawls, bags, toys and hats. This makes it a treasure trove of ideas worth having for the patterns alone (see images of some of the patterns on the book cover and the photos below).
"Knitting green" left me pondering: What makes an environmentally conscious yarn producer, shop owner, designer or knitter? One thing is clear to me after reading this book - being green is not that simple when it comes to yarns.
A good start would be to use more natural fibres than acrylics for most projects. Here at I Wool Knit, we offer almost exclusively yarns made from natural fibres, with very few exceptions.
Personally, I prefer working with natural fibres not only for environmental reasons, but because they are so much nicer to work with and so much more comfortable to wear. There is a level of comfort and enjoyment working with wool, silk, Merino, Alpaca and cashmere that is simply unmatched by chemical fibres.
However, "Knitting green" made me aware that even when it comes to natural fibres not everything that sounds environmentally friendly actually is. A case in point are yarns made from woody fibres such as bamboo. Bamboo is currently quite in fashion among the environmentally conscious in Australia, as it seems very green: it grows incredibly fast, it is renewable, it is very comfortable to wear, but is it environmentally friendly? Unfortunately, the conversion from the raw product to a soft and wearable yarn requires so much energy and chemical intervention, that in many cases it is hard to justify bamboo as a green yarn.
In fact, bamboo and other woody plants have been made into yarns for a long time and have generally been known as "Viscose" or "Rayon" - which sounds a lot less green than bamboo! It was the re-badging as "bamboo yarn" that made it sound "green". Whether a particular bamboo yarn actually is environmentally friendly or not can be quite a different question and very much comes down to the individual product and how it was made.
So how can you be a green knitter? Ann Budd does not necessarily have a definite answer, either. The value of this book is in raising awareness, asking questions and offering ideas, as well as providing a selection of lovely patterns to work from.