Photo from Cambridge Sheep Society.
When it comes to food, I’m mostly vegan. By that I mean I don’t eat dairy or most forms of meat but I do eat the occasional fish or (very rarely) egg. I have very clear reasons for this, partially health related (poultry makes me physically sick and dairy gives me a lot of mucus) but mostly because I have a strong belief that most animals are sentient and it’s wrong to eat sentient beings. That belief is, of course, hard to explain, just as it’s hard to explain why I don’t feel this way about most (but not all) fish.
As for dairy, it turns out to be an incredibly cruel process that I highly encourage you to research. Eggs also tend to be that way (though mostly eggs are cruel because of the rooster cull), but I haven’t quite taken the dive to give them up completely. Dairy, though, that was almost impossible. I had to step it off gradually, first giving up one type of cheese, then ice cream, then gelato, then more cheese, etc. In the end, though, I believe it was worth it. I miss it all, sure, but I miss it less each day and feel a whole lot better about what I eat.
When it comes to knitting and yarn, however, it’s a different story altogether. I love wool; scratch that, I adore wool of all types and textures and colors and from all types of sheep (I like other animal fibers, too, but wool is my favorite. I would say alpaca were I not extremely sensitive to it). Wool is warm, easy to work with, holds its shape, keeps its thermal properties, and comes in tons and tons of more varieties than any other yarn fiber out there. It also hides mistakes in one’s gauge quite well.
See, I like the idea of plant fibers, I really do, especially bamboo. I have a dirty little secret as a knitwear designer, though: I can’t maintain a consistent knitting gauge. When I’m knitting with wool or other animal fibers or blends, it isn’t a problem, but move to a pure plant fiber and it’s over. I did knit my Haruni in bamboo, and it came out kind of okay, but I would never submit it for use in a design photo shoot.
Another yarn option I’m familiar with is acrylic. I have nothing against acrylic yarn persay, as I mention in my NYC’s Best Knitting Stores post, but I have a couple problems knitting with it as well. For one, it feels very dry against my skin, which as I talk about in my Quince and Co Lark Review is something I cannot stand. Another problem is it uses a blocking technique that intimidates me. Too many times have I tried to block a knit project made from acrylic yarn only to kill the yarn and ruin the garment.
I also don’t really like the way many acrylics look. I’m sure there are some acrylic yarns out there that look so similar to wool that it wouldn’t bother me, but the other problems I have with the material has kept me from researching it. A final, perhaps irrational fear with acrylic is I’m afraid of it melting. Wool, at least, is somewhat fire retardant, and neither it nor the plant based fibers have any real danger of melting (felting, of course, is a different matter, but no yarn is perfect).
So that leaves some other yarn materials to knit with like polyester and rayon (technically a plant fiber) and soy (also a plant fiber?) and some other oddities that I haven’t had the time to try and that probably don’t come in a wide variety of weights, colors, blends, or plies – unlike wool. So I’m stuck. Sheep are really cute and intelligent and likely just as sentient as any cow, but what can I do? Could I survive very well in this industry or even enjoy being a knitwear designer by moving away from knitting with animal fibers completely?
Right now, at least, I’m too afraid to find out. I did successfully give up dairy, however, which is something I never thought I could do. I suppose if I can do that, I can do anything – eventually.
What about you? Are you a yarn vegan? If so, which wool alternatives do you prefer?