Knitting is a nice, eco-friendly hobby, right? Well, maybe. But it depends on the tools we choose and the materials we use. (Hey, that rhymes.) For a long time, I’ve been opting for natural fibers over acrylic and other synthetic yarns. But it wasn’t until I decided to knit a hat for one of my co-workers this past December that I really examined the contents of my knitting needle roll and realized just how much plastic I had thoughtlessly purchased while building my stash. And I’m not just talking about the needles themselves, although quite a few of them are made of plastic. Even the wooden needles are sold in plastic packaging.
I created this hat using wooden circular needles, which of course have a plastic cord that connects them. (Have you guessed I’m just looking for an excuse to show off the felted hat I made? Check it out before and after felting.)
Fortunately, I already had the circular needles in my stash and didn’t need to buy new ones. Otherwise, I would have knitted this hat with double-pointed needles. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but then I’m not enamored with circular needles, either. Blogger Siel from Green L.A. Girl reminded me that I could knit plastic-free using double points when she posted about the knitted kangaroo her sister is making. Click here and prepare to be amazed and impressed.
Okay, but what about the plastic packaging? This weekend, I visited one of my favorite yarn shops, Article Pract on Telegraph Avenue in North Oakland, to buy yarn for my newest project and to do research on plastic-free tools. I was dismayed to find that nearly every brand of needles and hooks came in little plastic cases. All, that is, except for two brands: Lantern Moon and Brittany Needles & Crochet Hooks.
Lantern Moon’s beautiful wooden needles are made in Vietnam. Most of the packaging is plain brown cardboard. A few packs of needles do come in cardboard boxes with a plastic window, but most that I found at Article Pract are plastic-free. According to the company’s web site, “Lantern Moon supports socially and globally conscious living.”
The site goes on to say:
We work directly with our producers to provide income, education and self-reliance to Vietnamese women and their families.
In 2004, we established an educational trust fund to benefit the children of these families. The natural materials that inspire our designs are combined with traditional handcrafting skills that have passed down from generation to generation. Our knitting needles are crafted in a family owned and managed business that provides training and opportunities.
On the other hand, Brittany Needles & Crochet Hooks are made in the United States. Their packaging is also plastic-free. And according to their site, “All wood used by Brittany comes from strictly regulated forests or small woodland owners in the United States ensuring proper environmental logging practices and selective cutting for maximum reforestation.”
These were the only two plastic-free brands that I found at that particular store. Do you know of others? I’ll admit that at this moment, I’m using a pair of acrylic needles that I already had. I tried bamboo once, and one of the needles cracked. Maybe I got too carried away. But in the future, when I need a needle size that I don’t already own, I’ll probably choose one of these brands.
So, you wanna know what I’m making? Several pairs of shaker knit slippers to keep by the front door for guests. We have a no shoe policy in our home, hoping to keep our carpet from wearing out, and I’ve always felt guilty about asking guests to remove their shoes and freeze their toes while I’m wearing my slippers. I chose Lorna’s Laces 100% Superwash Wool (01/16/2010: Pls see note below!) so that the slippers can be washed between wearings without shrinking into felted elf slippers, like my co-worker’s hat (which I think is kind of too small for her head because I forgot to check it while it was felting in the washer.)
01/16/2010: It turns out that there are two methods of creating superwash wool: soaking it in acid to remove the “scales” or coating it with a polymer (read “plastic.”) I have sent a message to Lorna’s Laces to find out which method they use, what kind of acid or what kind of polymer. I’ll update this post again when I find out. Thanks to FPF reader Rebeca for sharing this info with me.