So let’s get practical. Practical is practically my middle name. We’ve spent the last 4 parts of this 6-part series talking up, down and all around every angle of sustainable crochet. So how do we take all that important information and turn it into something that can be done about it? Here are 10 tips for sustainable crochet. Take one or take all; just take them and consider what you can do about your crochet to make your craft more sustainable.
What we’ll talk about in this 6-part series:
- Sustainable crochet: what is it and why do it?
- The nemesis of sustainable crochet: yarn
- The cotton conundrum: organic vs. conventional cotton
- The slow yarn movement: an overview
- 10 tips for sustainable crochet
- My top 10 under $10 favorite sustainable yarns
1. Use sustainable yarn
As we talked about in part 2 and part 3 of this series, an important part of sustainable crochet is using sustainable yarn. The NUMBER ONE of my 10 tips for sustainable crochet is use sustainable yarn. Sustainable yarn means:
- Natural, not synthetic – natural fibers are from plants and animals and include organic cotton (versus conventional cotton), wool, hemp, alpaca, camel, cashmere, llama, mink, mohair, silk, wool, yak, linen, bamboo, eucalyptus and banana. Natural fibers are renewable (plants, wool and hair grow back) and biodegradable. Avoid synthetic yarn including acrylic, polyester, nylon polyamide, elastic, microfiber, modal, rayon and spandex. Synthetic yarn are fossil-fuel fibers produced using coal-based and petroleum chemicals. They are toxic and do not biodegrade.
- Recycled yarn of any fiber (natural or synthetic)
- No superwash wool – superwash is a process that uses toxic chemicals and strips wool of all of it’s beautiful natural properties. It coats the wool is plastic resulting in a non-biodegradable fiber.
- Ethically grown/raised and processed putting the people and the planet first.
2. Re-use yarn snippets
I’m not talking about yarn scraps that are left over from a working ball of yarn after a project is made (see number 3 for that!). I’m talking about the minuscule yarn snippets. Whether it’s snipping ends, or the last couple feet of a yarn ball that isn’t enough to make anything, save it! Put them in a jar and let them pile up. When you have enough, use them to stuff something like an amigurumi project or a pillow.
3. Use all yarn leftovers
Isn’t it so satisfying when you finish a project and you’ve gone through ALMOST the entire skein of yarn? It can be tempting to toss out that final yard or two, but use them up with one of these quick ideas instead:
- Granny Square Collection – Make them all the same pattern, or mix it up. Use your leftovers to make a granny square. But do it straight away, right after you finish your project otherwise you may never do it! Collect the squares overtime and put together a blanket, a cardigan or a pillow case cover.
- Jewelry – With a couple yards of yarn, you’ll have plenty to make a bracelet or necklace
- Pom Poms – Hand-made pom poms add a special touch to gift-wrapping. They’re also great to add to bags, blankets or amigurumi embellishments. Check out my video in the free resource library for how to make a pom pom.
- Embroidery – It doesn’t take much to add a some beautiful embroidery to a sweater, a pair of mittens or a hat.
- Tassles, fringe, coasters, & more!
4. Make re-usable versions of everyday disposables
Think of things that you use and throw away in your everyday life. Can you crochet re-usable versions of these? Here are some ideas to get you thinking:
- Re-usable Face Scrubbies/Make-up Removers – Made of 100% organic cotton, these can be washed and re-used over and over again. Plus, they gently exfoliate while they work.
- Cup Cozy – You may not even think about it, but every person who orders a hot drink to-go ends up throwing away the cardboard cozy they give you. Make your own and bring it with you to the coffee shop.
- Napkins & Hand Towels – Use crochet versus paper + they’re WAY cooler
- Soap Saver – Instead of throwing out all the ends and broken bits of soap, keep them in a soap saver and you’ll have a bags worth of soap in no time.
5. Cut old fiber into strips for stuffing
It isn’t like how it used to be when it comes to thrift stores. When I was younger, many clothes in thrift stores had holes, paint and stains. Today if you try to donate those clothes the thrift store will throw them away. If your clothing doesn’t pass the donate test (which is: if you’d be too embarrassed to give it to a friend then don’t donate it), cut up the materials and use it for stuffing amigurumi, pillows or anything else that needs stuffed!
6. Frog old projects & re-use the yarn
If you’re like the rest of us, we have WIPs* and UFOs** floating around our house at all times. Just accept it… some of them will never be done. Frog them and give them a real life with a fresh project idea. They deserve it. *Work In Progress | **UnFinished Objects
7. Shop your stash first
There may be times when you have skeins of yarn without a purpose yet (see #9 to rectify this). Maybe one skein or maybe just a half; but instead of going out and buying more, use up what you have first. Make a fun color-block sweater, a colorful striped blanket or any kind of amigurumi.
Other ideas for using your up your stash are: granny squares, doll clothes, small baskets, and any one of the re-usable item suggestions from #4 above.
8. Make with intention
Probably a lesser thought about but just as important one in the line-up of my 10 tips for sustainable crochet is: make with intention. When you choose a crochet project be sure it actually has a purpose. Functional crochet is rewarding in and of itself. Something you’re going to use over and over again allows you to feel the pride and love behind it every time you pull it out.
One way to imagine your intention as you choose your projects is to visualize it’s entire lifecycle from fiber source to end-of-life. Is the fiber sustainably sourced? How long is its usable life? How often will it even get used? If you’re making a gift, is it something you know will even be used and appreciated by the recipient? At the end, will it biodegrade if it gets thrown away? Or, can it be recycled in the future? Avoid projects that have low life-expectancy and little function or use.
9. Plan projects and buy only for them
I know. You’re probably hovering your mouse over the “x” even now as you’re reading it. But think about it. What is the point of having bins and closets full of yarn that isn’t being used? Resist the urge to buy at every bargain yarn sale. You’ll end up buying yarn that you don’t actually love. You just love that it’s cheap. Instead, intentionally choose your project first and then go for the yarn that will make it perfect.
When I started buying yarn this way I found myself taking the purchase way more seriously. I choose my yarn more carefully and found myself being more picky and only choosing yarns that I truly loved. I always have several projects planned out ahead of time so I keep my eye out for the sales and buy the yarn for my planned projects before I need it immediately. I keep it in a mesh bag with a note on what it is for and be sure that I make it within a couple of months.
Furthermore, I keep the receipt with the yarn in case I change my mind about the project or change my mind about the yarn I want to use for that project. If the yarn no longer as an identified purpose, it gets returned.
Last but not least: LEARN. I cannot leave this one out. Being educated on sustainability and the impact we can have with the choices we make is so empowering. Understand what it means to be sustainable with your crochet and keep your eye out for fun new sustainable yarns to try! More and more textile companies are putting a stronger emphasis on sustainability (yay!) and we’re starting to see even major yarn brands start to put out recycled and other sustainable yarns. Which leads me to our final topic of the series…my top 10 under $10 sustainable yarns!
I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments! I’m always looking for more ways to make my crochet business more sustainable as well.
Last Time | Part 4 – the slow yarn movement: an overview
Next Time | Part 6 – my top 10 under $10 sustainable yarns