I don’t think anybody will be surprised when I say that one of the big businesses in a knitter’s life is Buying Yarn. That delicious feeling of a squishy new ball in one’s hand, shining in all its bright glory ; the touching, pondering, considering, and the whole world of possibilities opened by these few grams of wool (or cotton or bamboo or anything else)…
These are no small pleasures. But they are sometimes completely spoilt when you realize that your wonderful new yarn has been produced with chemical agents which are a real ecological hazard or by big industries which don’t care at all about the well-being of the sheep.
This is why I’ll try to provide here a list of companies I would consider as “ethical”. Now I know that how you define “ethical” may vary hugely from what I consider ethical. So here are my criteria, which are by no means absolute : fair trade (as in workers involved at every stage of the production process get paid a fair price for their hard work), concern for the environment, concern for the well-being of animals in case of animal fibers, and, if possible, concern for the preservation of endangered sheep varieties.
I’ll only list companies from which I’ve actually bought yarn at least once, and with whose yarn I liked knitting. The order in which they will be listed by no means indicates an order of preference. The list will grow in time as I add references little by little. It is mainly meant as a memo to myself.
- The Natural Dye Studio : UK-based company. The Natural Dye Studio only uses plant-based dyes and natural mordants sourced in Britain. The wool comes from local British sheep, except for “exotic” yarn which comes from a family farm in Peru.
- Peace Fleece : This US-based company started its business during the cold war, buying and selling wool from Soviet Union farmers in the hope of creating interpersonal ties which would counteract the threats of a nuclear war. Now the yarn they sell comes mainly from ex-USSR countries and the Middle-East. Of course the way animals are treated in some of these countries would probably not qualify as “well-being” by European criteria, but Peace Fleece contributes to ameliorating their situation, for example by helping to provide veterinary care for the flocks.
- Malabrigo : This company provides yarn mostly sourced from South America, trying to ensure that the workers get a fair pay and that the animals are well treated. On a side note, I love knitting with their yarn but find that their lace-weight merino yarn tends to pill after a short while.