Sustainable Ethical Yarn 2023

Sustainable Ethical Yarn

There’s been an explosion in crafting all over the world as a result of the Covid-19s movement restrictions. It’s one of the best ways to take a mental break from all the craziness that’s going on at the moment. If you like indulging your knitting passion but want to do it in a planet positive way here’s a list of some makers and suppliers of  sustainable ethical yarn in Ireland, Britain and Europe.

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Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

Defining sustainable and ethical is always tricky and differs from person to person. I’ve included the following;

  • locally sourced and made yarn, I don’t include yarn in Ireland made from imported fibre unless it includes some Irish fibre. I’ve extended local to include Britain to give us some choice.
  • organic fibres
  • recycled fibres
  • Irish companies with environmentally conscious & ethical practices.

Ciaran McLoughlin is a young shepherd of Border Leicester and Ryeland sheep offering medium double knit and light worsted 3 ply yarn from his own sheep in Meath. You can buy his yarn from his shop on Etsy, and contact him at ciaranmcl22011 @ gmail . com (spaces added to fool bots) .

Joyce Country Wool in Co Galway spin wool from local sheep, which they dye using only natural dye like Lichens, berries, plants and vegetables

Boyne Valley Yarns makes and sells handspun, undyed white yarn and Jacob sheep yarn from her own sheep.

Natural Wool Shops in Wicklow sells yarn from her own sheep, spun in a fully traceable mill in Cornwall and handyed by herself. The sheep are raised on a farm that has been in the family for generations and is farmed without synthetic chemicals.

Markree Woolcraft sells fleece and yarn sourced from Irish farmers. She sells via Etsy and has a workshop in the Markree Estate in Sligo.

Iona Wool offer 100% single source Iona yarn which is sorted, washed and spun on the island of Iona

Zwartbles Ireland sell 100g undyed, un-treated double knit yarn from Irish Zwartbles sheep.

Studio Donegal has two ranges that use Irish wool. Irish Heather is a 3 ply Aran weight yarn that contains 60% Irish wool, and homespun multi-colour is a two ply Aran weight made in-house with 90% Irish wool. You can buy their yarn from their website and in post-corona times in their shop in Donegal, in the Donegal Shop in Dublin 2 or the Sheep & Wool Centre in Connemara.

Cushendale Mills sells 100% pure wool yarn, source from Irish sheep farmers.

Kerry Woollen Mills blends fibre from Irish sheep and wool from other sources into roving and carded wool, and Aran yarn.

Yarn Vibes produce yarn from 100% Irish wool and now they have a range of Irish organic wool, grown and spun in Ireland!

Hushabye Alpaca Farm spin some of their Alpaca fleece into yarn every year.

Hedgehog Fibres is an Irish based dyer that uses museling-free yarn from South America and zero waste dye method which they say results in no dye being sent down the drain. They also use food grade citric acid as setting agent. They reuse as packing boxes and donate to a local animal charity every month.

The yarns from Garthenor organic are produced in the UK from wool sourced directly from the certified organic flocks in the UK.

Based on a beef and sheep farm Uradale Yarns make yarn from 100% organic unbleached and sometimes undyed shetland wool. They claim that not bleaching the wool retains more of the lanolin, making it softer. The dyes they use are organic too.

John Arbon Textiles in Devon is a small-scale, specialist worsted processing & spinning mills full of rescued refurbished machinery. Their ranges include 100% organically farmed Merino and yarn made from locally reared and sheared sheep.

Exmoor Horn Wool is a high quality knitting yarn that comes to you courtesy of the Exmoor Horn sheep who live in the West Somerset and North Devon areas of Exmoor.

Whistlebare offer knitting & crochet yarns made from mohair from their Angora Goats and wool from their Wensleydale Sheep, both of which are spun in Yorkshire before being hand dyed back on their farm in North Northumberland. Any feed fed to their sheep is sourced from our local mill and the mill that they use is in its third generation of family ownership.

Jamieson’s is a family owned business, which has specialised in wool from the native Shetland sheep for 5 generations. Their unique mill, built in Sandness in Shetland completes all the stages of yarn production under one roof. This includes grading, scouring and dyeing fleece before colour blending, carding, spinning, twisting and balling to produce their 100% pure Shetland yarn.

The Border Mill is a small scale mill specialise in spinning alpaca fleece and rare breed fleece, including llamas and angora rabbits. They also blend and dye fleece, and can produce handwoven textiles from fleece. Most of the wool in their yarns are British or contain British wool.

The Little Grey Sheep make yarn from sheep raised on a farm in Hampshire. The fibre is washed and spun in Yorkshire and then returned to the farm to be hand-dyed.

Daughter of a Shepherd make yarn from 100% British wool.

TJ Frog have a line of wool made from wool from Dorset and the Isle of Skye.

Wensleydale Longwool create yarn from 100% pure Wensleydale yarn worsted spun, dyed and balled locally in Yorkshire

West Yorkshire Spinners offer yarn made from British sheep, some of which is blended with Tencel

Iinouiio makes yarn from recycled fibres sourced from textiles in the UK.

Kettle Yarn was born out of a desire to support British Farmers and safeguard animals and the environment, endeavouring to make the wool industry sustainable for future generations by meeting the needs of the present. Whenever possible all fibres and labour is sourced with British suppliers who abide by The Animal Welfare Act 2006 and its detailed subsidiary guidelines.

Nordic Yarns in an Italian company offering Eco Cashmere, which is a blend of recycled and virgin cashmere.

Biches & Buches offer 100% natural yarn made in France

Laines Cheval Blanc sell a range of yarn made from recycled natural fibres.

I’ve managed to source organic cotton in Sostrene Green stores,

There’s very little in the way of recycled yarn on the market but recently the brand Wool and the Gang released an acrylic yarn made from recycled plastic bottles.

The French company Laines Cheval Blanc has a yarn made from blended recycled fibre called Triade.

King Cole also sell recycled cotton yarn.

Hooked in the Netherlands offer a range of yarns, including one made from recycled cotton yarn, one from Fairtrade jute, and probably their best know, one from yarn made from the offcuts of t-shirts (Zpagetti) in Portugal.

Ethical Sustainable Retailers
In addition to makers there are a few retailers of sustainable ethical brands including;

  • The group Irish Fibre Crafters who sell some brands of Irish wool.
  • Adam Curtis, who sells yarn from The Real Shetland Company, from fibre that has been sourced, spun and dyed in Britain.
  • Rauwerk in Munich, a Germany retailer of eco and ethical yarn, including some makers listed above
  • Yarn Yarn in the UK, who sells a range of organic and recycled fibre yarn
  • Knit with Attitude in the UK sells eco-friendly ethical yarn.
  • Bettaknit in Italy is committed to selling only natural, recycled, and biodegradable yarn
  • Grunerlokka Yarn in Norway sells organic and small-production brands of yarn.

Other Resources & Info

The group Irish Fibre Crafters are just crazy about everything to do with Irish wool. Sign up for their newsletter to get inspiration. They also run workshops out of their base in Galway.

You can educate yourself on the various fibre choices in my article on Sustainable Ethical Fibres.

The podcaster and blogger Knit British is also a useful resource if you want to learn more about British wool.

I just recently learned that machine-washable wool has been given a polyamide resin (plastic) coating. Interestingly researchers in New Zealand found that machine-washable yarn biodegraded quicker than non-treated wool and that the polyamide resin coating didn’t add to microfibre pollution. It’s worth noting that this study was commissioned by Australian Wool Innovation and I can’t find a link to the original study. Also while researching this topic I came across this very thorough article on the environmentally damaging process of making superwash wool.

Happy knitting, happy reading


Published by Elaine Butler

I am a circular design consultant helping manfacturers prepare for the circular economy

6 thoughts on “Sustainable Ethical Yarn 2023

  1. Hi my name is Olivia Ashmore I have a group on fb called the irish wool discussion group originally I set it up to join the dots between farmers and crafters I would encourage you to join as we are pushing for a wool forum pippa Hackett is watching the group so maybe something will happen. Regards Olivia Ashmore


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