Synthetic fibres (a pledge and a WIP)

Today I was reading a post by Fadanista, who was making a more environmentally-friendly alternative to a fleece jacket from a vintage pattern.

In it she mentions the issue of man-made (i.e. synthetic materials like fleece, nylon, acrylic, etc.) and the negative impact these can have on the environment (as well as on the people wearing them). Apart from the production of such materials, which come from oil basically, one of the key issues is the tiny particles and lints that such garments release in the waterways while being washed and treated. In her post, she mentions some interesting articles and sources (like this one from the Guardian – please visit her blog for more links).

These particles ending up in our waters and oceans, are ultimately contaminating water, as well as are being swallowed by fish and so ending up in the food chain (= on our tables).

I now feel really bad because I know that I have some synthetic yarn and fabric in my stash (not much, but still). There is no good way of dealing with it:

  • if I pass it on, it will still end up in the water
  • if I consign it to the bin, it will end up in landfills where it won’t break down (unlike natural fibres)
  • if I burn it, it will still release polluting fumes (like all oil products)

As she suggested, the only good option may be to “leave it alone” at the bottom of the stash.

Still, I think it’s a good time to have a conversation in the crafting communities about man-made fibres and their ill effects on health and environment. I think of the inexpensive craft packs that are being used in large quantities – the end product may look pretty, but it has a hidden nasty side effect: it pollutes our environment.

So, today I pledge to try and avoid using synthetic fibres as much as possible. I hope others will join in!

~ ~ ~

On the bright side, I had just decided to bring some order to my UFOs queue. There aren’t too many items in there (about five, I think)… still it’s worth dealing with them – do something with them or reuse the yarn.

The first I picked up, is this summer top: Sea top (Ravelry project). It’s made of aran silk and based on Simple Irresistible, a free pattern that I slightly tweaked.

I looked at it again: after measuring the part I had so far (about 1/3) it looks that I casted on too many stitches and is now too large for my size M (even allowing some positive ease for a more flowing line). Despite that, I decided to carry on, because:

  • so I can actually have a better idea of how to alter it the next time around
  • it’s a quick knit, so it’s ok to do extra rows, even if I frog it in the end
  • I’m curious to see how it is in its current version

I’m still expecting to most probably ending up at the frog pond!

A few shots of the top short before it was put on hold… I’ve now added more rows to it and started a new skein. The yarn is an aran silk in Seaweed (one-off stock), it’s soft, drapey and shiny.

There are many other things I wanted to share, but I will leave them for the next posts… one will be about some vintage lace gloves and how they went to some period dances in grand halls.

Until then, take good care x






15 thoughts on “Synthetic fibres (a pledge and a WIP)

  1. kathyreeves says:

    I really like the colors in that yarn, cools me down just looking at it! Your info on acrylic yarns and fabrics is an eye opener for sure!

    • itwasjudith says:

      Thank you! Yes that colour is so refreshing! So with the hot days we had recently, I thought that I should take that UFO out of its hibernation state and make something with it 😉

  2. Well done on your natural fibre pledge. I made a similar pledge about 18 months ago. The problem I have – apart from having some manmade in my stash too – is knitting gifts for other people who I know will never wash wool in the way it needs to be washed. Love the colour of the blue yarn

    • itwasjudith says:

      Thank you!
      I wonder if super wash wool – I know it’s not as good or as nice as proper wool – would be suitable for that type of presents?

      • My super wash wool socks are shrinking and shrinking, so not pinning my hopes to that. Also wondering what damage making wool super wash to wool does to the environment?

      • itwasjudith says:

        “uperwash wool is very heavily processed and the fibers are coated in plastic” (
        Will look for more 🙂

      • Eeek! Doesn’t sound good.

      • itwasjudith says:

        Cleaning and scouring (of any type of wool, not just super wash) is also very polluting, sadly.
        “To clean the wool, the fiber is washed in a series of alkaline baths containing water, soap, and soda ash or a similar alkali. The scouring effluent contains these impurities, which has high levels of COD (chemical oxygen demand) and BOD (biochemical oxygen demand), suspended solids, organic matter and sheep dip chemicals. These levels represent a significant pollution load: the organic effluent from a typical wool-scouring plant is approximately equal to the sewage from a town of 50,000 people.[1]”

      • Sadly our modern methods of processing a lot of things are detrimental to the environment. I understand these days we also get a lot done in china, so we can leave our mess in others back yards. I have been told by The Natural Fibre Company their cleaning and scouring waste liquid is taken by a farmer to put on his land, so clearly we can clean wool on a reasonably large scale without polluting the environment if we choose to.

  3. The only synthetic fibre I buy is in sock yarn. I have decided that it’s better to have a very long-lived pair of socks with a little nylon in than 100% wool that hardly lasts.
    I have, however, been working with synthetic fibres when they are given to me because, as you say, there’s that dilemma that they already exist. I think that it’s worth noting that some fibres that purport to be ‘natural’ aren’t. Bamboo, for example, is a sort of viscose – it’s just that the source of the polymer is bamboo rather than oil. I have not yet discovered whether the fibres from such yarn break down or accumulate in natural systems like acrylic. Honestly, once you start looking into this issue, it’s extremely complicated.
    On the plus side, however, I think that garments that are handmade are often treasured, so if we invest in good quality natural fibres and produce a thing of beauty, the resources required to make it will have been invested well.

    • itwasjudith says:

      Thank you, I wasn’t aware of bamboo not being natural.
      I came to the conclusion that it’s probably better to go for “slow fashion” (in a broader term), that is acquire less, of a better quality, produce ourselves when this is possible and make something that we really like or need – that way, as you rightly say, it will be treasured and used for much longer.
      It connects to to what E. Cline states in this “interview” blogpost: “Slowing down helps you find treasured wardrobe pieces that you want to wear for a long time.” (from the Fringe Association:
      Have a lovely week and thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. salpal1 says:

    I have long made every effort to use only natural fibers, and now with this info, will double down on it. Though, like The Soul of Happiness, I do use some nylon in my sock yarn. But everything else I do is natural. And I try not to think about the dying process, because I just can’t get the colors I love with natural dyes. Which leads me to my “oh my!” on that knitting you shared – I ADORE those colors.

  5. tialys says:

    It’s a dilemma for sure and worse if you think about the proportion of ready to wear items produced using man made fibres. I usually buy natural products for clothing but, I confess, for knitted or crochet blankets I do use acrylic for the simple reason that blankets in this house need to go in the washing machine. Luckily, I do not produce these blankets very quickly or in great quantities.

    • itwasjudith says:

      Yes, it’s quite a dilemma, as blankets are not easily washed by hands.
      But hopefully we can try and reduce the use of man-made fibres to a minimum..
      I just bought some cotton and linen for some summer top, but now the weather has cooled down, so may not even get knitted 😉
      Thanks for visiting!

  6. […] less obvious route… as tiny fibres that are shed any time synthetic materials are laundered. Weestorybook wrote about the problems associated with synthetic yarns back in the summer, and her post links to […]

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