I have just been reading an excellent book, Sustainable Knitting for Beginners and Beyond, all about how to incorporate sustainability into your knitting, and it has really got me thinking hard about this issue of knitting and the environment.
Indeed, knitting just by itself is in many ways environmentally friendly and sustainable. Making your own clothes and accessories, for example, is a step away from fast fashion, and I truly believe that if you have taken the time to knit something special for yourself to wear, you will likely treasure it and never, ever throw it away.
Hand knitting in this way is therefore sustainable, as it means less items in landfill, and fewer unnecessary purchases of items that may not get much wear.
This article is aimed at pointing anyone who is interested in the issue of sustainable knitting in the right direction. We will look at how to get started with knitting sustainably, what sort of yarns to look out for, and you will also find some ideas for sustainable knitting projects and patterns.
Please note this article may contain affiliate links.
What is sustainable knitting?
The concept of sustainability is, in a nutshell, not using resources that cannot be replaced. When thinking about knitting then, we need to consider not only what we are making, but which materials we are using.
Knitting yarns which are derived from animals are the sustainable option when choosing which fibre to use for our projects. This is because man made fibres have a larger carbon footprint, for example they are wholly made in factories. The more sustainable yarns to knit with would be cotton, wool, silk, hemp, linen and so on.
Even more environmentally friendly is to knit with recycled yarns. It is possible to purchase ready repurposed yarns, for example beautiful sari ribbon yarn that is made from leftovers in the sari making process. This handpainted recycled sari yarn is absolutely stunning, for example. Denim yarn, made from recycled jeans, is another example of environmentally friendly knitting materials. The knitting company We Are Knitters makes a lovely recycled denim yarn. I also found this amazing looking I’m Not Wool yarn, which is made from environmentally friendly post consumer clothes.
Have you ever thought about making your own knitting yarn and wool? This can be achieved simply by unravelling unwanted knits, or by snipping up t shirts and tying bands of fabric together. There is an excellent YouTube video here which explains how to make your own t shirt yarn.
Some crafters enthusiastically visit charity and thrift stores, and purchase old knitwear with the sole purpose of reclaiming the knitting wool. I must admit that I have tried to unravel jumpers myself with the purpose of forming a new ball of wool, and found it very difficult. This was because of the need to unpick the sewing up part of garments. If you wish to make your own yarn from reclaimed knitwear, I would recommend starting off with knitted scarves as they have minimal sewing and are fairly easy to unravel.
The best knitting needles to use for sustainable knitting
Knitting needles made from bamboo are the first choice for anyone looking to incorporate sustainability into their knitting projects. Bamboo is an ultra sustainable substance, and knitting needles made from this wood are easy to obtain and are also inexpensive to purchase.
I would recommend these wonderful bamboo knitting needles. They look and feel lovely and I find they don’t cause the sorts of hand pain that metal or plastic needles can cause. Nice to know that these needles are highly sustainable, too.
Ideas for sustainable knitting patterns
As previously written, any hand knitting is in itself sustainable as there are no factories or power involved in the production of hand made garments. A much loved, slowly crafted item is bound to be more environmentally friendly than mass produced, possibly unethically made factory (possibly slave labour sweat shop) goods.
You can also knit things that are sustainable and environmental friendly in that they can be used in place of disposable wares. Here are some examples of knitting projects that fall into this category:
- Kitchen towels and dish cloths
- Mesh shopping and vegetable storage bags
- Place mats
- Massage gloves
- Make up remover pads
I can really recommend the book Sustainable Knitting for Beginners and Beyond, for some wonderful sustainable knitting pattern ideas. This book is also full of really useful information for any knitter who is interested learning more about the topic of sustainable knitting.