Everyone’s knitting or crocheting journey has to start somewhere — for many of us, it began in the aisles of a big box craft store with a skein of acrylic yarn. There’s nothing wrong with these humble beginnings, but as your craft progresses there’s a process of becoming more thoughtful about the supplies you choose and where they come from. Knitters and crocheters are used to spending hours upon hours to complete a single project — this is all the more reason to carefully choose the kind of yarn that will be passing through your hands inch by inch to turn into something that will be cherished for years to come.
- Know the source: Just like the growing movement with food to know where something comes from and how it was produced, it’s very possible to research yarn companies and find out where and how their yarn is made.At Brown Sheep, we are proud to support U.S. wool growers, and we manufacture our yarn right here in the heart of the U.S.A. We could tell you by name every worker in our mill who’s contributed to spinning, dyeing, packaging, and shipping our yarn. We’re determined to produce high quality yarn along with providing a livelihood for our hardworking employees.
- Environmental benefits: Natural fibers like wool, cotton, and mohair are a renewable resources, whereas acrylic yarns are made with man-made plastic-like materials. Natural fibers are biodegradable (yarn scraps can be composted). Brown Sheep yarns are dyed with about 85% recycled water — read more about our sustainable water practices here.
- Natural fibers are better for beginners: Wool yarn is especially forgiving because its naturally grabby, fuzzy texture helps stitches hold their shape. Wool yarn will stay put on your needles and the stitches will stay intact if any sort of knitting emergency occurs. Acrylic yarn is very smooth and slick, and lacks the natural texture that makes wool so perfect for knitting and crocheting.
- Finishing: One of the most wonderful properties of wool is its ability to hold its shape. Blocking is the essential step of soaking a finished project in water and letting it air dry in the perfect shape. You can block a scarf into a perfect rectangle, or block a cable or lace pattern to look wonderfully uniform and relaxed. Acrylic yarns simply don’t respond to blocking the same way natural fibers do.
- Shop small: Natural fiber yarns tend to be sold at small, locally owned shops. Supporting a local yarn shop is one of the best ways you can contribute to keeping handcraft traditions alive and well. Plus, this keeps your money closer to your community.
- Flammability: Wool is naturally flame-resistant. We hate to think of this possibility, but a wool blanket could be tossed onto a small fire to put it out. An acrylic blanket would melt like a marshmallow in this scenario. This little safety measure is all the more reason to use wool in your home decor and for gifts to loved ones.
- A better night’s sleep: Research from the University of Sydney has shown that sleeping on or underneath wool promotes better sleep. This is because wool is naturally breathable, making it a good temperature regulator. Plus, it takes up and releases moisture which prevents clamminess. The study suggest that people sleep more deeply and longer with wool bedding.
- A sense of connection to human history: Working with natural fibers brings us back to the generations before us who depended on natural fibers to stay warm. For thousands of years, handcrafting textiles to wear was an essential skill rather than the hobby it’s become today. Every fiber of wool, cotton, or mohair has a story and connects us to one. Acrylic yarn just doesn’t carry that same kind of magic.
- The cost is worth it: If you do the math, knitting is a very inexpensive form of entertainment. If you divide the cost of a skein of natural fiber yarn by the hours spent enjoying it, the rate probably comes out to between 25 cents and $2 per hour. What other form of entertainment is this cheap? You will invest much more in time than money for a hand knit or crochet project, even if you choose a higher priced yarn.
- Natural beauty and feel: There’s no denying the natural beauty of fibers like wool, cotton, and mohair. These fibers are able to take up dyes in vibrant colors and each has its own unique properties and texture. A handmade item of natural fiber will feel like a luxury in a world of synthetics.
We’d love to hear your own reasons for choosing natural fiber yarns!
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