WANTED: Ethical + Sustainable + Zero Waste Knitwear

Last year, I shrank three of my favourite jumpers…yep… I can see you squirming at the thought…. it was painful, I’ll admit. But that’s what happens when I decide to put on a laundry load pre-coffee… And after several hours of trying to reshape them using hair conditioner, towels, some gentle pulling and plenty of whispered expletives, I accepted defeat and crossed my fingers and toes that Summer would come quickly. 

 

Now, all to quickly for my liking, the days are getting shorter, the evenings darker and the air crisper. Autumn cometh and there’s only one thing getting me through the fear of peering out of the window at 3pm wondering if it’s actually midnight… purchasing some knitwear!

 

To allay my guilt (I’ve got about 127 open tabs tight now!) I thought I’d turn my casual browsing of the internet for sustainable knitwear into a blog post… because… I need to justify all this “research” I’ve been dedicating my time to somehow….

 

For me, wool knits are always an investment piece and considering I live in the U.K. (London, to be precise), the cost-per-wear for anything that keeps me warm throughout the 9 cold months of the year, works out to be a very worthwhile investment…. unless of course, you shrink them… but the less we dwell on that, the better.

 

QUICK PERSONAL SIDE NOTE ABOUT CHOOSING WOOL:

I know there are a lot of differing opinions about whether wool is ethical/sustainable to wear or not – from cruel practices such as mulesing on merino sheep  to the use of chlorine in production, wool can have it’s down sides. Thing is, like meat, vegetables, cotton etc – not all wool is created equal. So, like I do with most things these days, I’ve done my research, taken a considered approach and here are a few things I try to look out for.

  • I look for GOTS certified where possible. It’s tricky to find but some brands do use organic wool. ARMED ANGELS is one such brand!
  • I also choose Alpaca or Llama wool instead where possible. Read more below about the benefits of alpaca fibres and check out this live alpaca webcam if you fancy a sneaky peak!
  • I research the brand I’m buying from. Some don’t have certifications, some do. I like to read their about their ethics, how and where their clothes are made and then go with my gut on how I feel about each brand
  • Avoid wool blends (unless it’s blended with another organic, natural fibre such as organic cotton or alpaca) – always read the composition as too many times I’ve been so close to buying a product, only to realise last minute that it contains a mix of synthetic materials such as acrylic, polyester or nylon. These are not sustainable materials. Period.

 

There are plenty of available resources, blog posts and articles out on the inter-web so I won’t add to the noise too much. Just click on any of the following links to find some good reading around the topic. I’ve done my reading and this is my personal curation of cool knits that I’ve been lusting after this week.

Why your next sweater should be alpaca, not cashmere

Good On You – 10 Cool Things About Alpacas To Keep You Warm

4 SURPRISING REASONS WHY ENVIRONMENTALISTS SHOULD WEAR WOOL

 

Here’s what’s on this year’s KNIT LIST (like hit list…. but…y’know… pun…?)

 

1. The Alpaca Crew – Light Grey Jumper by Study 34

I hear great things about Alpaca – in fact, you can read this post by Study 34: 10 Things To Know And Love About Alpaca. Basically, as well as being soft, light and versatile it’s also a seriously sustainable material.

Alpacas need to be happy and content and loved in order for them to produce good quality fibres. They don’t deal with stress. Alpacas also don’t tear up the ground thanks to their cushioned feet and they cut the grass when feasting instead of tearing it up by the roots – all in all, contributing to a healthy eco-system and benefiting the soil and we all know healthy soil = store of carbon = fights climate change. But that’s not all…

Alpaca fibres come in a variety of natural, un-dyed shades meaning their production usually requires far fewer chemical dyes, if any! Alpaca jumpers also doesn’t need to be washed as often, saving on water too and finally, if you (let’s face it, I) shrink it in the wash somehow, it can go straight on to the compost and naturally biodegrade. 

Study 34 have designed this 100% Baby Alpaca in two divine colours. I’m all about grey (as you’re probably going to notice) right now, so this is definitely on my wishlist!

 

2. Ally Bee British Alpaca Blend Chunky Crew Neck Jumper – Grey & Cream Marl*

 

I’ve had my eye on this Ally Bee Grey and Cream Marl Alpaca Jumper* since last year and I think I’m finally close to making it my own! See above for the wonderful benefits of Alpaca. Made responsibly in a small factory on the Scottish borders using 80% British alpaca wool (the rest is made up of 10% South American alpaca wool and 10% Falklands merino wool) which is produced through low impact farming on smallholdings across the UK. Free from chemical dyes too!

 

3. People Tree Honeycomb Wool Jumper in Blue*

LOVE. THIS. COLOUR. I’m normally a neutrals kinda gal but there’s something about a pop of electric blue that gets me all excited. This hand-knitted 100% wool jumper by People Tree* is a rugged looking piece inspired by the more traditional cable style sweaters, but the pop of colour brings bang up to date. Hand made by artisans in Nepal.

 

4. Armed Angels Tia Organic Wool & Organic Cotton Sweater

To steal a quote from the wonderful ‘materials’ page on the ARMEDANGELS site:

“We only use mulesing- & chlorine-free virgin wool from certified organic livestock”

They also have some beautiful footage from their trip to Patagonia, where they visited the farm that supplies their organic wool. WATCH HERE. Put simply, I’m a big fan of ARMED ANGELS as a brand and love that they use a blend of organic wool and organic cotton for this classic grey polo neck jumper.

5. Celtic & Co – Colour Block Roll Neck*

This modern take on the classic fisherman’s rib jumper* looks like it should come with a “will receive many hugs” warning. Made in Europe from 100% felted lambswool, it looks super on point thanks to the colour block detail and, crucially, extremely cosy. Perfect for brrrrrr….acing walks along the cliffs in Cornwall.

 

6. Antiform Unisex Fisherman Jumper

This Fisherman Knit Sweater ticks a lot of boxes for me… UK Knitted Wool – check – Zero Waste – check – Beautiful – check… hand-framed by a husband and wife team in Cornwall using traditional methods, each jumper is made from a unique blend of reclaimed wool, sourced from a local factory. Depending on the colours available, each sweater is unique! I love the slouchy shape too.

 

7. The Acey Grey Fleck Merino and Cashmere Turtleneck Sweater


I think I’m turning into someone who likes turtle necks after years of avoidance! How could I not when they look as chic as this grey fleck cashmere and merino wool one by The Acey.  Made in Scotland, the revolutionary seamless production technique used to make each of their jumpers, results in a seam free finish which, as well as creating a better fit, eliminates all wool waste! Hooray!

 

8. Izzy Lane – Grimsby Bottle-Sleeved Crew

Oh look! Another grey jumper! This un- dyed, natural grey jumper by British brand, Izzy Lane and is made from a blend of  Shetland and Wensleydale wool from Izzy’s very own flock. As a vegetarian, Izzy has raised her own sheep who live out their days in her sanctuary, only providing wool for her knitwear collection. No slaughter. You can read her full story here.

 

9. &Daughter – Inver Rib Cocoon Knit

&Daughter works with British and Irish artisans, using skilled craftsmanship and the finest natural yarns This stunning Inver Rib Cocoon Knit is made in Scotland from a blend of wool and cashmere and has a luxurious slouchy fit. It’s spenny but I think I might like to live in it….

SECOND HAND

 

image of second-hand wool sweater found on depop

I’ve also been browsing some second-hand sites and turns out there’s no shortage of beautiful pre-owned knits waiting for a new home. Try any of the following online sites.

VESTIAIRE COLLECTIVE*

ETSY*

DEPOP

EBAY

OXFAM ONLINE SHOP*

 

After all that browsing… I think it might be time to pop the kettle on. Something’s gotta keep me toasty until I invest in some knitwear.

 

*This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a small percentage… which means I may be able to buy one of these jumpers some day!

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1 Comment

  1. Sarah
    6th October 2017 / 1:08 pm

    Love your site! I have done the same with previous wool jumpers. Totally agree with second hand. Still not sure about wool being ‘ethical’ or ‘sustainable’. Grazing livestock are a massive contributor to climate change and environmental degradation- and even the shearing still seems to have animal rights concerns (there can be massive pressure to shear as quickly as possible which I don’t presently believe can be addressed by current certs). However I am stumped when it comes to alternatives so will probably stick with secondhand. However perhaps for ‘new’ Izzy Lane whose wool comes from sheep saved from the slaughter house
    might be work a look (http://izzylane.bigcartel.com/)? Sometimes you need more than organic, fairtrade bamboo and cotton when the temperature drops!

    https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/sustainable-fashion-blog/2014/sep/04/britains-wool-industry-sheep-ethical-pastures

    http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM

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