Happy Feet from Plymouth Yarn, as the name implies, is the perfect yarn for sock making, but don't stop there or you'll miss all the wonderful qualities of this beautiful yarn! The soft hand- painted palette and luxurious feel make it ideal for gorgeous lacy shawls, textured cowls, simple scarves or even a special sweater. The fingering- weight yarn spun from soft merino wool with a touch of nylon comes in 24 beautiful colorways and is perfect for next- to- the- skin projects. A 4- inch single crochet swatch made with a size F/5/ 3.75mm hook produced a gauge of 20 stitches and 24 rows. Our inspiration sample would make a great choice for a lacy scarf. An affordable luxury with 192 yards per 50- gram skein, Happy Feet is available at AnniesYarnShop.com.
Yarns from Imperial Yarn are “born, bred and raised” on a ranch in the high desert of Oregon. Owners Dan and Jeanne Carver focus on producing beautiful fibers using sustainable practices with no harsh processes or chemicals. The results are yarns drenched in vibrant colors that are softly spun with a high degree of loft, which is perfect for producing warm woollies that are both comfortable and resilient. Tracie Too, one of seven luscious yarns produced by Imperial Yarn, is no exception. The sheep on the ranch are shorn once a year, which is the initial step in creating this soft, 2- ply, sport- weight wool. Processing and dyeing is done in an eco- friendly manner, producing colors reminiscent of the landscape surrounding the ranch. The 395- yard, 4- ounce skein goes a long way when creating fashion garments or home accessories in lacy or textual stitch patterns. A 4- inch single crochet swatch made with a size H/8/5mm hook produced a gauge of 16 stitches and 20 rows with good stitch definition. Our inspiration sample would make an incredibly warm scarf or afghan. The few extra minutes it takes to hand- wash projects made from this yarn will reward you with a finished product that is both soft and durable, and worth passing on to future generations.
My mother remembers the rag collector, or Lumpensammler, who had made his rounds through the German town where she grew up for as long as anyone could remember. When she left in the 1950s, a Lumpensammler still regularly gathered old clothing and household linens for a local factory, where the rags were recycled into carpet pads and shoulder pads.
People have probably been recycling textiles for as long as we have been making them. At first, the effort required to produce a length of cloth was so great, people didn't want to waste even a scrap of precious material.
In the United States, we discard textiles to the tune of about 70 pounds per person every year. The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in 2012, individuals and industries generated nearly 15 million tons of textile waste—that's 30 billion pounds. About 85 percent of it went into landfills.
The better news is that in 2012, 2.3 million tons of textiles were recycled. Recycling reduces our impact on the earth, and the best thing about it is that almost everyone can participate. Luckily for us, yarn companies have joined the effort, offering yarn made from recycled fibers for our crocheting pleasure.
Recycled fibers are classified as postindustrial (also known as pre- consumer) and post- consumer. Post-industrial recycled fibers come from mill ends, scraps from garment- cutting, leftover garments and other textile industry waste.
Post- consumer fibers come from people like us. When we decide our clothing or household textiles no longer fit our needs, we can drop them into a textile recycling collection bin. American Textile Recycling Services (ATRS), a company based in Houston, Texas, provides bins in several communities across the United States in partnership with local charities.
According to Deborah StevensonPeganyee, marketing director at ATRS (www. atrscorp.com), this is what happens next: ATRS buys the contents of the donation bin from a local charity sponsor, creating a revenue stream for the charity. Clothing donations go to a sorting facility, where nearly half of them are set aside for sale in secondhand garment shops, for charity or for disaster relief. About a third of donated textiles are made into wiping or polishing cloths. Employees sort most of the remaining items into large bins according to their fiber content. “Our sorters are trained to know their fibers,” says StevensonPeganyee, adding that ATRS is known for accuracy in sorting.
When a particular bin reaches a weight of 40,000 cubic pounds (a full trailer load), ATRS ships it to a manufacturer.
In textile recycling, proper sorting is extremely important. Specialized machines can sort by color and content, but much of textile sorting today is done by skilled people. Once fabrics are sorted to the necessary degree, garments have their linings, buttons, zippers and other hardware removed. Fabrics are cleaned and cut into pieces. Wool is sometimes cleaned by soaking it in a sulfuric acid solution that removes plant- based impurities.
The cleaned pieces go into a rag grinder, where metal spikes mounted
Unravel the mystery of how textiles can be turned into
yarns worthy of handmade crochet projects.
on a roller pull apart and reduce the fabric pieces into bunches of loose fibers called “flocks.” Yarn spinners put flocks together in specified color and fiber mixes, card the fibers thoroughly and then spin them. Flocks from recycled textiles are also used to make upholstery stuffing, home and car insulation, and thread.
Words like “post- consumer” and “post- industrial” may describe the fiber content of yarns, but the yarns themselves and the stories behind them are much more interesting.
Susan Moraca, creator and founder of Kolláge Yarns, tells about Kolláge's Riveting line of yarns, which includes sport- and worsted- weight yarns in solid and marled colors. “I am always looking for a high- performance yarn that has less of an impact on the environment,” says Moraca.
Riveting is made completely out of recycled denim yarn, 80 percent of which is post- consumer. The Chambray Skirt on page 60 is stitched with Riveting.
“Everyone is shocked that, indeed, projects made with this yarn can be thrown in the washer and dryer,” says Moraca. A Riveting garment shrinks 8–12 percent in length when it is first washed. After that, like a favorite pair of jeans, “it keeps getting softer.”
Berroco Remix, a 100 percent recycled- fiber yarn, was “introduced in 2010 and is still going strong,” says Amy Christoffers, design director at Berroco. Remix is a tweedy blend of nylon, cotton, acrylic, silk and linen. It transitions well between seasons and is perfect for customers “who may have wool allergies or other reasons for choosing yarns without animal fibers,” according to Christoffers. The 19 colors of Remix are achieved by careful sorting and blending of leftover garments and other pre- consumer textiles from Europe. No dyeing is necessary— another environmental benefit.
Rowan's Purelife brand is a showcase for organic fibers, wool from British sheep breeds and recycled fibers. Distributed in the United States by Westminster Fibers, Purelife Revive is a fully recycled, tweed- effect yarn made from garments chosen for their silk, cotton and viscose content. Since its debut in 2011, Purelife Revive has sold extremely well according to Westminster's national marketing manager, Linda Pratt, who adds that “customers love the DK weight and the combination of fibers,” both of which make Revive suitable for spring and summer garments.
Recycled Silk was the foundation product of Mango Moon's business and the first of its growing collection of yarns with recycled fiber content. Owner Laurie Cook recounts how founder Amana Nova made a trip to Nepal, where she visited a collective workshop for displaced women. The women asked Nova to help them sell garments they had created with handspun recycled silk sari yarn. She sent a shipment to the United States, where the garments did not sell well. Nova unraveled them and sold the yarn instead, thus entering the yarn business while producing, for a time, a post- consumer (recycled saris) and preconsumer (unraveled sweaters) yarn.
Sales of the handspun and ribbon yarns distributed by Mango Moon provide income to women and families in Nepal and Indonesia, whose options for earning money are often limited. But that's not all. “We also offer a mill- spun yarn called Bijou,” says Cook. Bijou is a cotton- wool- polyamide blend, made from recycled mill waste and 15 percent post- consumer fibers.
Joyce Rodriguez is general manager of Knit One Crochet Too, a yarn company owned by Hélène Rush since 2003. A decade ago, the company saw a need for recycled yarns. The result was their American- made 2nd Time Cotton yarn, which is 75 percent recycled cotton scraps and leftovers from the apparel and textile industry plus 25 percent acrylic. “[Customers] liked the look and liked the idea of a product that uses leftover fibers,” says Rodriguez. “We live in New England, where recycling is a way of life.” She quotes the motto, “Use it up, wear it out; make it do, or do without.”
How Can We Participate?
Next time you clean out your closet or the linen cupboard, consider donating unwanted clothing and household textiles for recycling. Since most towns in the U. S. don't have Lumpensammlers, search online for textile recycling locations in your area.