fake sheep

a website about vegan knitting

vegan yarn

i choose not to knit with animal fibres, but there are all kinds of interesting yarns that i do choose to knit with. this is a constantly-updated list of non-animal yarns that i have heard about, have knit with or have been coveting.

i will extend this over time to include detailed reviews and pictures of yarns i have knitted with, and information about spinning non-animal fibres. if you produce non-animal yarn and would like me to review it here, feel free to send a sample to moira/ p o box 7754/ wellesley street/ auckland/ new zealand.

plant fibres

cotton

Blue denim-coloured cotton yarn.

cotton is the most common plant-based yarn, and there are all kinds of readily-available 100% cotton and cotton/ synthetic blend yarns. “putting cotton through its paces” on crochet me compares the characteristics of five common, basic cotton yarns.

there are environmental issues with cotton yarn: conventional cotton crops are some of the most intensively sprayed plants in the world (“25% of the world’s insecticides and more than 10% of the pesticides (including herbicides, insecticides, and defoliants.)”) if you want to knit with cotton but not increase pesticide use, you could use organic cotton & recycled or second-hand yarn.

pakucho organic peruvian cotton is native peruvian cotton that is colour-grown, not dyed. here is a detailed review of pakucho on knitter’s review.

blue sky organic cotton comes in four naturally-grown shades.

patagonia nature cotton is minimally processed and hand-dyed by a women’s collective in chile.

manos del uruguay cotton stria is 100% peruvian cotton yarn made by craftspeople in rural uruguay. there is a detailed review of this yarn on knitter’s review.

habu textiles makes some beautiful cotton yarns: spec-dyed cotton, cotton moire kasuri, aresco, 5 ply, sumi cotton tegasuri, hand-dyed kasuri cotton, cotton nerimaki slub, kakishibu cotton cord, cotton viscose, cork chenille, cotton curl & others.

2nd time cotton is made of leftover scraps from the textile industry, and is 75% cotton/ 25% acrylic. here is a detailed review.

casablanca is made of cotton & rayon scraps from south indian sari manufacturing.

the yarn above is denim freedom by twilleys of stamford (100% cotton).

linen

Brown and white linen yarn.

humans have made yarn and cloth out of linen for thousands of years. linen is spun from flax fibre (not the same plant as new zealand native flax). here is some information about traditional flax spinning.

euroflax comes in different weights and lots of pretty colours.

shoshenshi paper by habu textiles is 100% linen paper. habu also make kasuri linen paper, 2-ply linen paper, paper moire (50% linen, 50% nylon), paper ring (64% linen, 36% cotton) & other linen paper yarns.

other things habu does with linen include crinkly linen, lace-weight, cotton-linen cord and the stunning fishnet yarn: 100% linen with persimmon tannin coating, made out of used fish nets! (wait, is that vegan?)

the yarn above is linnen by thorobred scheepjeswol (40% linen, 60% cotton).

hemp

A ball of dark blue hemp yarn.

hemp fibre comes from the (non-drug) cannabis plant. hemp fibre has historically been used for all sorts of things, including cloth, paper and rope.

house of hemp has “natural” brown and hand-coloured hemp in fine, 2 ply and DK weights. they’re based in the UK, but you can order from their website from anywhere in the world.

hemp for knitting has various weights of hemp yarn, hemp/ cotton blends and hemp fibre for spinning.

hemp traders sells hemp/ cotton yarn and hemp fibre for spinning.

habu textiles makes handspun hemp & hand tied & twisted hemp. habu also sells hemp bark which can be used for “sculptural knitting”.

the yarn above is actually twine, but i’m going to try knitting it. it’s 100% organic hemp from trade aid.

bamboo

Blue knitted bamboo in a ribbed pattern

bamboo yarn is made from the processed fibres of bamboo.

south west trading company’s bamboo yarn is a sport-weight woven tube. “twize” is the same thing, but in tweed-ish colours. swtc also make a “bamboo feather” yarn which is 88% bamboo/ 12% nylon.

alchemy: yarns of transformation make an 100% bamboo yarn in lots of amazing solid colours and colourways.

classic elite makes “bam boo”, a medium-weight 100% bamboo yarn in lots of bright colours.

madil “eden” is another 100% bamboo yarn that comes in solid colours and variegated prints.

habu textiles also make a few bamboo yarns, including spun lace-weight, dyed sport-weight, bamboo tape, copper bamboo (67% bamboo, 33% copper!)

plymouth yarn makes royal bamboo and bamboo garden (51% bamboo, 47% cotton, 2% nylon).

crystal palace makes a bamboo blend sock yarn called panda cotton (55% bamboo, 24% cotton, 21% elastic nylon) and a heavier version called bamboozle.

the yarn above is south west trading company bamboo.

soy

Blue, green and pink tape-style yarn.

soy silk is made from byproducts of the tofu manufacturing process! south west trading company makes soy silk in lace weight (”infinity”), sport weight (”oasis”) and worsted weight (”phoenix”) and 4-ply (”pure”). knitter’s review wrote a detailed review of phoenix.

kollage yarns make a 100% soybean yarn called delicious.

knit one, crochet too make wick, a sock yarn which is 53% soy, 47% polypropylene and is so called because it “wicks” moisture away from your feet.

the yarn above is oasis by south west trading company.

banana silk

Red and black striped banana silk yarn

“banana silk” is spun from the fibres of the abaca plant (“manila hemp”/ musa textilus). here is more about how banana silk is produced.

yarn traders sells handspun banana silk from nepal.

the yarn above is banana silk from yarn traders, in “cherry” and “coal”.

other plant fibres

Blue tangled nettle yarn.

other plant fibres that can be made into yarn include:

synthetic/ plant fibres (which start life as plants, but go through transformative chemical processes to become yarn) include tencel/lyocell (from wood pulp), ingeo (from corn), rayon, viscose, modal and lenpur (from pine trees).

the yarn above is nettle yarn from nepal (via yarn traders).

synthetics

Bright orange boucle acrylic yarn.

synthetic yarns include acrylic (including dralon), nylon/ polyamide and polyester. lots of recently-made “novelty” yarns are synthetic, or a blend of synthetic and natural fibres. this article has some basic information about different synthetic fibres and their history.

lots of cheap, basic acrylic yarn is made to look like wool, so acrylic can be a substitute for wool in a lot of patterns. the downside to using acrylic for garments is that it doesn’t “breathe” as well as natural fibres.

acrylic, nylon and polyester are petroleum-based, and are refined from petroleum byproducts using chemicals and energy. there is obvious potential for environmental impact in these processes, and this is something i’ll be investigating more.

in online discussions of the “vegan knitters are crazy” variety, people often use the fact that acrylic comes from petrol as justification for using wool, as though wool production doesn’t also have massive environmental impact (organophosphate sheep dip? eutrophication of waterways? greenhouse gas production?) and doesn’t also use a great deal of petrol (in transporting animals and their body parts across countries or around the world).

oil is an industry as huge and sketchy as the meat industry, and western society is as dependent on oil as it is on animal farming. it’s a seperate issue to veganism, but related in a lot of ways. i definitely sympathise with the desire to use less oil, but i think that refusing to use synthetic yarns is often a symbolic rather than practical step when it’s in the context of a life lived in a car-dominated society. if you genuinely want to reduce your reliance on oil, other things to consider include reducing your use of petrol and dependence on car culture (ride a bike and support better bike infrastructure in your area, take public transport, consider living closer to where you work or study, etc), buying locally made stuff and locally grown food, and reducing your use of plastics (use reusable shopping bags, don’t buy things in single-use plastic containers, etc).

i’m not saying synthetic yarns don’t have environmental impact, i just think it’s worth putting their impact in some context.

and of course, knitting with recycled or reused synthetic yarns doesn’t increase oil profits or environmental impacts.

panda makes reasonable quality synthetic yarns that are widely available in new zealand.

kasumi by habu (100% polyester) is cute.

the yarn above is jester by mosgiel ltd

things that aren’t yarn

Knitted cat5 cable wire

anything that’s long and thin and relatively flexible can be knitted, regardless of whether it’s technically yarn.

some ideas for non-yarn yarns are:

check out this thread on craftster (”alternatives to yarn”) for some ideas.

the knitted swatch above is made from cat5 cable.

handcrafted

Pink hand-dyed cotton yarn

places to get handspun or hand-dyed non-animal yarns include:

the yarn above is mutiny handpainted egyptian cotton from the black stitch.

about animal fibres

many people who are concerned about animals and the ethics of their yarn feel okay with using animal fibres that are produced in a way that they feel ethically okay with (e.g. wool from small farms where they know the sheep are treated well, “tussah” silk that is harvested after the silk moth has emerged from its cocoon, angora brushed off a pet bunny, etc) and/or second-hand fibres (e.g. the wool from an unravelled thrift store jumper).

i haven’t included sources for those kinds of yarns and fibres here because i don’t personally use them, but i don’t intend to condemn people for their choices, and i’m not saying that those choices are necessarily not okay for vegans.

other yarn resources

25 Comments»

  twww wrote @

Thank you for this page! Browsing the yarn stores looking for yarns that don’t have a little bit of wool blended in gets old quickly. I’m so happy to have found such a great list of resources.

  Leanne wrote @

Hi, I was wondering if you know of any resources for making your own yarn out of plant fibres. After all, yarn is so expensive, but if you could produce it yourself…

  Diana Andaluz wrote @

i think that having alternatives to knit with non-animal based products is a really great idea, how could it not be? you can be highly fashionable and not hurt animals at the same time! The things people are coming up with these days, its wonderful! I want to be able to knit! Seriously! How can i learn?

  rani wrote @

Wonderful run-down of the benefits of each and great links. I wonder if you could mention some places that offer recycled yarn (besides goodwill or other thrift stores)? My current strategy is freecycle or unraveling!

  Hope wrote @

I really, really have to thank you. Basically the only thing stopping me from declaring to the world that I was going to make the transition for vegetarian to vegan was my love of knitting and wool. Having everything compiled like this has really opened my eyes to the fact that there are a ton of non-animal knitting materials. Now there’s nothing stopping me from taking the plunge. :D

  Sarah wrote @

Hi Moira,
again…another thank you to you. I am just getting into knitting and your site is helping me enter into this in an animal-friendly fashion. Luckily, I found a local shop that carries various organic cotton and bamboo yarns, and I am going to start hunting down some of your other suggestions. I am so excited…thanks again! love.

  Kari wrote @

Awesome site! I am trying and so far failing to self teach myself to knit when i have/take the time to. I am determined to learn though! I am also a animal lover so your site is a wonderful find. Thank you!

~Kari

  Annie Graham wrote @

I stumbled upon your web site while doing a google search for natural yarns – you have an amazing amount of information for animal friendly yarn. I am trying to find a particular fibre for used for knitting wash clothes, dish cloths etc. It is much like hemp or linen but has a name I am not familiar with. I think it was from Nepal or India. I am hoping you can shed some light for me and come up with a name.

  Zandra wrote @

Loved your colourful site! Which I found by chance when searching for Abaca fibres to make paper. Might well inspire me to get back to knitting!

  steven wrote @

You have got to be kidding……you are so off base on your description of wool it is honestly embarassing.

First of all, all sheep are not dipped in chemicals and the amount of methane they give off is about a tenth of what is emitted by humans.

Sheep live outside and evolution has made their fiber one of the best natural fibers of all time. Plus you get meat, cheese, milk with obviously provides benifits for humans that prefer to choose these proteins to eat.

Sheep are generally left outside for a year by themselves and eat natural products (grass, leaves,sticks). They are rounded up once or sometimes (in New Zealand) twice to be shorn.

Once shorn they repeat the cycle and the wool grows back (naturally) for many, many years. This is called Renewable Sustainable.

Other fibers you support:

Bamboo – Come on, do some research please. You make it sound like a natural product. It is not and is very similar to how Rayon is made (which is regenerated wood pulp). Bamboo yarn is absolutely loaded with chemical sabilizers, similar to Rayon and not environmental at all. Why not visit the chemical plant and show pictures on your website.

Same with Nylon, Polyester, Capilene, Polypropylene………Oil, oil and more oil…..If you are so proud of supporting this industry why not show pictures of Duponts Polyester plant in tidal estuary in Delaware……

Oil is non renewable (unless you consider using a water bottle once throwing it away, having a truck pick it up and take to a place to rip it up and then more transport to another chemical factory to melt it down back into a fiber and then be made into polarfleece……….Talk about a waste of energy!!!!!!!)……..True recylcing is using a ceramic cup, washing it and reusing it!!! Please…….get with program……

The oil products you promote also do not break down in a landfill – A synthetic jacket takes about 800 years and Nylon Carpet about 15,000 years!!

Do some homework please before you trash and pick on Wool………..Why not do some research, please……..You are quite ill informed…….

Guess who is one of the biggest contributors to PETA??? The Synthetic Fiber industry!!!!! HMMMMMMMMM, I wonder why…….

Why give all the Oil Fiber producers a free ride??? Look at the legacy they have left our children…And you blindly support them…………

Environmental alergies…….Synthetic fibers are the worst…..Look on the back of a Synthetic Carpet…..It has an indoor air pollution certificate (thanks to Calfornia – good job)………It tell you to air your house out for several days after installation……Why? Because of VOC’S – Volatile Organice Compounds……..They are bad, very bad to inhale, but are cheap because that is the secret to Synthetics – You can get a lot of fiber from a Barrel of Oil!!

So, you need to catch up…..The market place is changing and old cliches wont work anymore for people who want great products and will spend the time researching them.

By the way, in parting, Synthetic Fiber Product uses approx. 200 Million Barrels of Oil per Year………So, we can all make a huge difference by simply not even buy synthetic clothing…….You even make the point with the other fibers you promote…….We dont need to where Synthetic clothes at all………….So, it is easy to eliminate a great harm and environmental damage (see above about the biodigradebility of synthetics) by being real!!

So, wake up and do some meaningful work and do your Homework please!!

  becky wrote @

I’m very happy to have found this website.
Sorry to see that steven’s comment is so negative (and full of unfinished sentences). In the UK there is no wool industry anymore, sheep are shorn yearly but the farmers get almost nothing for the wool. Sheep are farmed almost 100% for meat here. I like how Steven also ignores all the information on the other plant fibres you provide, then keeps saying to you to do your research. And finally, wtf has PETA got to do with this website? Vegan-bashers are so tiresome.

  Sandra Alley wrote @

I commend your dedication to going green, but have to agree with the comment above. I also like to play with new and different kinds of yarn, there are so many pretty and unique ones to choose from! I would like to add my comments, as a person who grew up on a sheep ranch in the Pacific NorthWest. Most family run farms are pretty eco-concious, to begin with. Our lifestyle and income depend on it. We use fertilizer from our animals for compost, we usually have vegetable gardens , etc. But my main comment about using animal fibers is this. Have you ever seen an unshorn sheep, llama or alpaca in the summertime, when it is hot? They are miserable. They are not harmed when they get their annual “hair cut”. (Does it hurt you?) and they are so much more comfortable afterwards. By the time the cold weather returns, they have a nice, new wool coat for the winter. This is truly a renewable resource, and it is truly satisfying to take a fleece from raw product, clean, card, spin, and then knit, crochet or weave it into a thing of both beauty and usefulness, all without harming anything.

  Megan wrote @

Steven, STFU.

This is a great page and was SO useful. I love using plant based yarns and this is a great resource.

  operacat wrote @

I think it is a bit unfair – as well as discourteous! – to tell Steven to STFU – some of the points he makes about synthetics are perfectly valid….but I am not, however, in sympathy with the idea that sheep ‘also provide meat, milk and cheese’…..I would also like to ask a question, isn’t it COMPULSORY to dip sheep? And what are they dipped in = any why? Sorry, I’m a Londoner (isn’t it obvious??!)

  BeckyG wrote @

Thank You very much for your information. I am not a vegan but my boyfriend cannot wear wool against his skin and I would love to knit him socks and finding wool free yarn is a challenge.

Thank You for the sources and links to other websites I’m glad I do have options. Keep it up and be proud of what you do.

  Speak Out with Your Geek Out: Crochet « American Ahimsa wrote @

[...] The Fake Sheep Blog (Thanks, for the helpful list of plant-based materials!) [...]

[...] fibre. Seattle-based Earth-Friendly Yarns has an entire vegan line to choose from, and The Fake Sheep blog has several other links and suggestions for vegan [...]

[...] my little journey looking into the different kinds of vegan yarns when I came across this blog The Fake Sheep. On her page she talks about vegan yarn and the many alternatives to yarn. I even came across this [...]

  ferrous wrote @

What a fantastic article you have here. I’m just getting back into crocheting and am working my way through my pregan stash of animal-yarns before I begin buying some alternatives. Thank you for this well-written resource. :-)

  site.ninerubies.com Blog » The Alternative to Acrylic wrote @

[...] clever in their recycling – like soy yarn or the various bamboo blends that are out there (look here for more “vegan” yarns).  They’re beautiful and unique in texture and appearance.  [...]

  prodeoetprobonopublicofoundation wrote @

For anyone who thinks that wool is cruelty free–look up ‘mulesing’. I will never knit with or wear wool again. Poor sheep.

  operacat wrote @

Thank you, this is fascinating….I knit professionally, and am always interested in finding more eco-conscious and ‘animal-friendly’ materials to use.

  operacat wrote @

And MANOS DEL URUGUAY do cotton too? Really useful to know – I love their wool and silk mixture, especially the lace-weight.

  Ashley wrote @

I have some really odd looking yarn. Its flat, with a thread thats sewn in its middle, with sewn on tiny bits of string through out its length, I would like to send a pic, I must know what this is. Please help.

  Craft MNL » Stegosaur Amigurumi Pattern + How Yarn Is Made wrote @

[…] Well today though–not really.  At least, not the commercially available yarn that’s oh-so-accessible.  Today, yarn is manufactured in factories, and entire fields are devoted to the production of plant material (like cotton, banana fiber, hemp), from which plant-based yarns are made.  Now, not all plant-based yarns are equal, and if you’re one who is mindful of the environmental impact of the yarn choices you make, you might want to read up a bit more on this. […]


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