Why luxury British yarn is a more sustainable choice for your knitting

Why do I use British yarn? As a natural dyer and teacher I talk a lot about sustainability in the dye process with my students, especially when it comes to the plant stuff we use. As a yarn retailer I think we should be mindful of the wool yarns we use as well. I believe British yarn is the more sustainable choice for your knitting and crochet and today I’m going to tell you why….

What makes British yarn a sustainable choice?

British wool is 100% natural, bio-degradable and completely home grown. It has been used for thousands of years as clothing; cool in summer and warm in winter. One of the most effective forms of all weather protection known to man. (British Wool)

Sheep grazing the fields produce a wool fleece every year which needs to be sheared to keep the sheep healthy. This wool fleece is inherently renewable, making it sustainable. The wool itself “locks in” environmental carbons making the sheep a walking carbon neutraliser, a four legged eco-warrior! (Read my blog here for more on sustainable yarn choices.) Wool can be processed in a carbon neutral or low carbon impact way too to become yarns, fibre, fabrics and felt.

Wool lasts a long time….. with care a wool garment can last at least 10 years, and can then be repaired or recycled into something else. This makes it a sustainable option with potential for several incarnations. That old patched wool jumper can be deliberately felted and made into a cushion, hot water bottle cover, bag, phone case….. Have a look at issue 172 of The Knitter out on 6/01/22 and read my article on re-using wool.

Repair your woollies

Did you know that because wool is a natural protein, it is bio-degradable? Once it has finished its “life” it can be composted, literally returned to the earth to break down within a matter of months. (The same cannot be said for synthetic yarns and fabrics which can take more than 40 years to break down and leach micro-plastics into the environment. )

British yarn is produced ethically by farmers, with animal welfare and the environment at the heart of what they do. Some farms champion British wool sheep breeds and keep rare breeds safe for future generations. The sheep have evolved to match their environment; a hardy island sheep like a Shetland has a thick, coarse fleece to protect it from the harsh winter weather, and some even eat the seaweed on the island beaches. Contrast this to a lowland sheep like a Dorset Poll which has a thick, creamy fleece because it lives in a more sheltered landscape.

The wool these two breeds of sheep produce are suitable for different things, and wool can be used in many different ways; from yarns, fabrics and clothing, to carpets, loft insulation and packaging filling. All parts of the fleece can be used, even the dirty bits which can be made into compostable pellets for the garden.

British yarn – Blue Faced Leicester from Gorgeous Yarns

What to look for when you buy luxury British yarn.

The British Wool Mark

British wool may have a trademark, the red shepherd’s crook on a blue background. This guarantees the quality and provenance of the British yarn you are buying and shows it has been produced with the highest welfare standards.

If the wool doesn’t have a British Wool mark, have a look at where it comes from; it should say on the label if it is a British breed, spun in Britain etc.

Choose a British Breed wool. The “best” yarns for knitting are Blue Faced Leicester which has a soft and silky feel, and Corriedale, a cross breed sheep of Merino and Lincoln Longwool which has a natural elasticity and good stitch definition in knitting. Want to know more about British rare breed sheep? Have a look at the article in this month’s The Knitter. issue 169 Written by Graeme Bethune “celebrating rare breeds.”

Think about what you want to make with your British wool. Choose a wool that is right for your project. Does your shawl pattern need drape, or does your cable cardigan need firm yarn to show off the stitch pattern? Choose the best luxury yarn, suited to your project and you’re half way there!

Have a look at this blog for details of how I choose Gorgeous Yarns for you.

Personally, I enjoy the way that British yarns take up natural dye colours so well. There is something so wholesome about using a natural wool and naturally dyeing it with local plants. Surprisingly different breeds of sheep wool take up dyes in varying intensity; that’s a blog for another day!

BFL dyed with dock roots and leaves

Want to know more about my thoughts on natural dyes, luxury yarns and sustainable crafting? Join me on my newsletter…. Here

PS. I’m in this months The Knitter (issue 169) too with an article about caring for your handknits!

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