If you are vegan or are thinking of living a more ethical lifestyle, you might want to cut out any habits or items from your life that are not vegan-friendly.
One area where you might be worried about is your favorite hobby if you are an avid knitter or (crochet) hooker.
Is yarn vegan? Yarn is not always vegan. Plant based yarns (cotton, hemp, linen, bamboo) are vegan. Protein or animal-based yarns (wool, silk, alpaca) are typically not considered vegan. Acrylic or synthetic blends are vegan, but not environmentally-friendly. Blends of different yarns may or may not be vegan.
When it comes to yarn, it’s all about the specific material you’re using! If you’re not an expert on yarn types yet, we’re here to help. Here is what you should know about vegan and not-so-vegan yarns.
Vegan Yarn Options
Below are some vegan yarn options that you can explore and experiment with. All are great for different uses, and have their own pros and cons, while still being animal-friendly and wonderful to use!
The majority of vegan yarn types are plant-based. These tend not to pill, shrink, or felt, and come in many different textures and thicknesses. They also tend to be longer-lasting and have a lower impact on the environment, while being biodegradable and recyclable!
Cotton yarn comes in quite a variety of textures and sizes and it is perfectly vegan.
However, it is important to do your research on where the cotton yarn is from, as the cotton industry is known for using high levels of pesticides. Cotton production also uses a lot of water. This can have a negative effect on the environment and even on those who harvest the cotton.
You may want to make sure your cotton yarn is made from environmentally friendly and sustainably grown cotton. Luckily, there is a growing number of suppliers who produce organic cotton.
Once again, bamboo yarn is a great choice as a vegan yarn, but you need to do your research to find a sustainable and responsible manufacturer.
Bamboo is often seen as an endless, renewable resource. It can also can be grown without large volumes of water and pesticide.
This should make bamboo an environmentally-friendly material, but the way that some bamboo farmers grow their bamboo is actually detrimental to the environment.
Often, large swathes of the forest are cut down to plant bamboo. Bamboo processing is also sometimes done with chemicals that can harm those processing it, and the environment.
Linen yarn is a popular choice. Linen is made from the flax plant, which requires less water and fewer pesticides than what cotton does. Flax is gentle on the land and is very easily incorporated into crop rotation cycles.
Flax is processed both by hand and mechanical means, so it is fairly labor-intensive. Due to this, linen yarns are usually more expensive than cotton yarns.
Hemp yarn is made from the fibers from the stalk of the Cannabis sativa plant. The hemp industry is considered a clean industry, as it does not consist of chemicals that other yarns need during production.
Hemp plants also require little water or space to grow, compared to cotton, so it does its bit to reduce the water strain that our environment is facing. And where cotton requires 2 acres of land, hemp fiber only needs 1 acre to produce the same amount of product.
There are many reasons to use hemp yarn. It is one of the most environmentally-clean vegan yarns you could hope for!
Is Acrylic Yarn Vegan?
Yes, acrylic yarn is vegan, however it is especially bad for the environment. Acrylic yarns (including rayon, polyester, nylon, etc.) are essentially made from plastic and are therefore not biodegradable.
Plant and animal fiber wools are biodegradable. Acrylic yarns can contain toxins and chemicals which can be harmful to humans and the environment.
A Caution About Yarn Blends
To decide whether your yarn is vegan-friendly, you need to look at its composition.
These days, most yarns are not purely made of one fiber, but a blend of two or more. Usually these blends cross the source categories – meaning they may be made of a combination of animal, plant, and synthetic fibers.
For example, some acrylic yarns are made using 100% synthetic fiber, while others might have a small blend of wool or alpaca fiber. These yarn blends would not be strictly vegan-friendly.
Can Vegans Use/Wear Wool?
Whether or not vegans can wear wool – or other animal-based materials such as silk or alpaca – depends on the vegan person themselves.
Some vegans feel it is okay to wear wool because the money they spend on the product does not go back to support the exploitation of sheep.
Sheep raised for wool are nearly always raised in good conditions and allowed to roam freely. Shearing the sheep does not harm the sheep. And as they are nearly always sheared annually in the late spring/early summer and retain a thin layer of wool for the warmer months, sheep can remain comfortable with an annual shearing.
It comes down to your definition of what it means to be a vegan. If all animal products are off-limits, wool may not seem acceptable to you. If it is a matter of cruelty and fair conditions, you may be among the many vegans who find no problem with properly sourced wool.