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Green Knitting for Everyone

Updated on January 29, 2017

Use Those Yarn Leftovers

Knitting with Renewable or Reclaimed Fibers and Zero-Waste Knitting

Knitting is an activity that already has low impact on the environment. After all, we just need some pointy sticks and some sort of string,thread, or yarn to practice our craft. Our choice of new yarn, however, can help support small farms and green agriculture. Our reuse of yarn from old or unloved sweaters can save landfill space. Making use of every inch of yarn we purchase is also a green practice.

I offer the knitter (or the crochet enthusiast--I do both) some strategies for knitting with renewable fibers, reducing waste from knitting, and reclaiming the useful fiber in many discarded clothing items. Not only will we save natural resources, but we will create other resources: more closet space when you turn your collection of odd balls into a super scarf or more time as you make yarn from stuff in your house instead of driving to the store to buy a new skein. The scarf at the right was made while I was housebound after a snowstorm, so I had to use whatever I had in my yarn stash at home. It is funky and useful, if not perfectly colorized.

Let's get started and enjoy more knitting with less environmental impact.

Free Scrappy Scarf Pattern

Cast on enough stitches for desired length of scarf, minus fringe. Knit one garter ridge (2 rows) and break off yarn, leaving 8-inch tail. Join new yarn, leaving 8-inch tail. Knit one row and break yarn, leaving tail again. Continue joining yarn and leaving long tails, alternating color changes so that the number of tails at each end stays roughly the same. Cast off loosely. Tie an overhand knot using all the tails on one end of the scarf. Trim tails to an even length. Repeat on other end.

Favor Natural Fibers

Bamboo is a renewable resource. As a member of the grass family, it grows fast. It need not be replanted, since it is harvested above the roots. Manufacturers are now using bamboo as a substitute for wood flooring and--for our knitting purposes--to make rayon fiber for yarn! Go to a local yarn shop and touch some of the new bamboo blends. They are kitten-soft, whether blended with acrylic, silk, or cotton. Bamboo is great for summer knitting since it breathes, unlike synthetics.

Hemp fibers are strong and are often used for rope or strong cording for jewelry. When blended with flax (linen) or cotton, hemp is made soft enough for woven or knitted clothing. Use this yarn in any pattern that calls for a similar weight of linen or cotton yarn. (In my opinion, it is a waste for people to smoke such a versatile and useful fiber. Knitting is a great stress reliever--plus, you have a sweater or scarf when you are done! If you smoke it, it's gone.)

For winter knitting, wool will always reign supreme. Environmentally-friendly wool grows on a sheep, not in a laboratory. Wool is warm even when wet, yet breathably cool in the lighter weights.

Organic cotton is another choice for those who eschew pesticides and GMO plants, yet want the breathable comfort of cotton.

Using Remnants and Reusing Yarn

Use Those Remnants!

There are plenty of small projects that can be made with less than one skein of yarn. Use the leftover yarn from your last sweater or afghan to make baby hats for a pregnancy care center, afghan squares for Warm Up America or coasters for your coffee table. Making things from leftovers represents found money--it's like giving yourself a little raise every time you make something from what you already have.

Reclaim Yarn from Unloved Garments

I don't know about you, but sometimes I knit a project that doesn't turn out quite like I had hoped. Yes, the thought of unraveling that sweater that took so many hours makes one a bit ill, but think of turning that yarn into a new project you will want to wear instead of the orphan garment in the back of your sweater drawer. For easy unraveling, make sure you start at the point where you cast off--frogging goes in the reverse direction of the original knitting.

Creative folk have also made "yarn" by cutting old T-shirts or fabric remnants into strips. Narrow wool strips would make a good throw rug, while the t-shirt yarn could make a bath mat. Some enterprising crocheters and knitters have even come up with projects using "plarn"--yarn made from plastic bags.

Green Projects - Stash-Busting Ideas for Knitters

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Scrappy scarf made from small remnants.Lace scarf made with a single skein of bamboo-blend yarnBookmark made with tiny amounts of baby woolWaste-Not Amity Scarf uses scraps to create the color pattern
Scrappy scarf made from small remnants.
Scrappy scarf made from small remnants.
Lace scarf made with a single skein of bamboo-blend yarn
Lace scarf made with a single skein of bamboo-blend yarn
Bookmark made with tiny amounts of baby wool
Bookmark made with tiny amounts of baby wool
Waste-Not Amity Scarf uses scraps to create the color pattern
Waste-Not Amity Scarf uses scraps to create the color pattern

Have you done any "green" knitting?

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    • DeborahDian profile image

      Deborah Carr 3 years ago from Orange County, California

      I have crocheted, but never got into knitting. However, your article may inspire me!

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 3 years ago from West Virginia

      I have done some crocheting, but I don't know if it was "green," however, the next time I make something, I shall look for bamboo yarn. : )

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      I'm sending the link to this article to my wife because she has started knitting pot holders.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 4 years ago

      I love your idea of zero waste knitting! I have an idea for a project now, thank you!

    • AcornOakForest profile image

      Monica Lobenstein 4 years ago from Western Wisconsin

      I haven't but I do have a bunch of beautiful reclaimed yarn waiting foe me to decide what to do with it.