Saturday, January 15, 2011

Why do I choose natural fibers? Why?

Ok, both in my knitting and upcycling, 99.99% of the fibers I use are natural fibers.

Icelandic Wool!  Alpaca!  Angora!  Cotton!  Cashmere!  Hemp! Linen! Merino Wool!  Silk!

Why do I look down my nose at acrylics and their other unnatural fiendish accomplices?

Several reasons. 

1.  First and foremost, I am a hippy.  A true, "dyed in the wool" (pun intended) crunchy granola, Henry David Thoreau luddite.  Natural fibers are renewable.  We can get more of them.  There is a very small carbon footprint associated with "growing" them.  (Other than the famed methane releasing farts that are supposedly causing all this global warming-a ridiculous premise, btw.)  These fibers come from animals, plants, or in the case of silk, caterpillars.  These fibers do not come to us as the by products of petroleum refinement or some dude in a lab manipulating chemical polymers for maximum stretch, and then producing them by superheating stuff with a coal fired factory.  No, we cut it off of animals or plants, spin it into thread, and then knit or weave it into something beautiful.

Sheep Grazing.  Just had their wool sheered off.  Not scary at all.
Refining Crude oil, using leftovers to make acrylic fibers.  Scary.
2.  Ok, now onto more marketable reasons for enjoying natural over man-made fibers.  Warmth.  Wool, Alpaca, Cashmere, Merino?  All super warm.  Even when soaking wet- warm.  Even when wind is howling around you- warm.  Acrylics?  Not warm.  They are not made to have the natural loft and density of natural fibers.  They have not evolved over millions of years to keep an animal warm in the snow.  Warmth is why we stole the damn fibers off of the animals in the first place.  Cold?  Then wear natural fibers.

Wool=Warm.  Just look at me!  It's 20 degrees outside.  Do I look cold?

Acrylic= not warm.  I did a google search for images of acrylic sweaters outside.  Couldn't find one.  It was too cold.
3.  Safety.  You got a beautiful acrylic blanket you say?  Well, don't go to sleep with it on.  Acrylics are flammable.  They are made from fossil fuels you know.  It will melt and adhere to your skin.  Scary.  Sleepwear has to have a label in it if it contains acrylic go here to read about them, warning you NOT to sleep in it.  No such warnings on silk, cotton or wool jammies and blankets. 

Pilots and soldiers (I was a soldier for seven years, so I know from experience) can't wear acrylics while flying or in the battlefield, because the melted acyrlic would be almost impossible to remove from the wound.  I'll save you the details.  Bad news bears.

4.  Comfort.  Natural fibers breathe!  They were grown NOT to make an animal sweat.  They were grown NOT to stick to your skin.  They were grown NOT to hold every smell of every room you've ever been in.  Test this.  Go outside in an acrylic shirt in the summer and run around.  Change into a cotton or silk shirt.  Do the same thing.  I'm right, and you know it.

Those are the most important reasons.  Consider the ecological impact.  Consider safety, warmth, and comfort.  It's really a no brainer. 

And a bonus!

VIRGIN Acrylic!  VIRGIN ORLON Acrylic!  Like the Spray paint!  Won't fade!
This tag is everywhere when I go thrift shopping.  What the hell is virgin acrylic?  Some marketing punk decided that Virgin wool needed some competition.  Do you know what virgin acrylic means?  I found this here

"What you don’t seem to understand is that “Virgin Acrylic” refers to the fact that the acrylic sweater was never worn before. Once you bring it home and wear it for more than 20 minutes (unlike mattress tags), you are required by law to remove the “Virgin Acrylic” label. This also applies to stores when they accept virgin acrylic sweater returns. They can loose their license to sell virgin acrylic if it is discovered that they have not pulled the tags or scribbled out the word “virgin” on returned sweater labels. As to the frustrated male acrylics; wrongo, sweater breath! The acrylic is an assexual, self-reproducing organism. Duh!"


Now you know, and as GI Joe would say; knowing is half the battle.


  1. I totally agree with you about all of this. I use acrylics exclusively for baby wear and children's things where I know it's going to get heavy use and need to be washed in a machine because the recipient will NEVER hand wash it.

    How do you feel about teh dyes though? They can be just as man-made and nasty for the environment with the run off in to streams and ground water. I wish I could afford to only buy naturally dyed wool because I even like the colours better!

  2. The dyes are something I haven't forced myself to think about yet. I should be...

    I guess I'll just take it one step at a time...

    *looks at all the lovely colors*


  3. I had no idea. Thanks for all the great info!