Knitting and crocheting aren’t as sustainable as you think

Image by: Herbert Wang

Although crocheting and knitting can become slow fashion, the yarn community has a propensity to over consume, directly contributing to environmental damage.

The low quality and rapid deterioration of fast-fashion pieces encourages consumers to purchase items while they’re trendy then discard them when they inevitably fall out of style. Slow fashion, by contrast, aims to produce high quality designs and timeless pieces buyers can use past one season.

Knitting and crocheting draw in many beginners—myself included—because the internet characterizes them as a part of slow fashion. I started crocheting this past summer because I wanted to expand my wardrobe without the guilt of contributing to the destructive system of fast fashion.

I later came to discover knitting and crochet aren’t always sustainable.

TikTok is full of content creators testing how many items of clothing they can knit or crochet during a long car ride or on an airplane. This surge in popularity has led many crafters to create a lot of projects they don’t need or use.

Content creators produce an endless quantity of free patterns they make available to their viewers. The accessibility of these patterns promotes the excess creation of trendy items crafters wind up discarding after some time.

Acrylic yarn is often inexpensive, making it appealing to crocheters and knitters, but its affordability comes with drawbacks. Its manufacturing produces fossil fuels and requires a large draw of energy. When discarded, acrylic yarn doesn’t decompose like cotton, wool, or other natural fibres do.

Like fast fashion items, the low price of this textile leads to its overconsumption. Knitters and crocheters can buy cheap acrylic yarn and create even more projects they’ll never use again.

The threats of overconsumption and environmental damage involved in knitting and crochet can be lessened by adopting a slow fashion mindset.

To avoid overconsumption, ask yourself if you really need what you’re making, or if you’ve made similar things in the past. If you have created similar projects in the past but want to complete another one for fun, donate the product to people in need, or give it to a friend.

Repurpose old projects—try unraveling abandoned past projects or thrift store items for yarn.

Breathe new life into old items, instead of discarding projects in landfills.

Arden is a third-year sociology student and The Journal’s Editorials Illustrator.

Tags

crocheting, fast fashion, Knitting, Sustainability

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

Comments (36)

  • Knitting and crocheting, while creative and enjoyable, may not always be as sustainable as assumed. The choice of materials, sourcing, and waste management can impact their eco-friendliness. Consider sustainable options for a greener hobby.

  • When I knit or crochet something, it is meant to be used on a regular basis. As an example I made socks for my mom and she told me that she didn’t want to wear them because “They are too nice”, but I insisted that she wear them because they are made of wool and help keep her feet warm in the winter.
    She has been using them for years now. I am currently crocheting an afghan, again, for my mom. It’s her favorite colour and is definitely intended for her to use it when she is sitting on the couch in winter. If people know how much work goes into making a garment or an accessory by hand, they might not be as quick to toss the item away.

  • This may seem pedantic but, acrylic is derived from fossil fuels and requires fossil fuels to manufacture and distribute. It does not “produce” fossil fuels.

  • I enjoy both knitting and crocheting, I am self taught.I have made many projects from hats /mitts,sweaters, coasters there are so many things you can make and sell or use for gifts and not let’s not forget to donate the extra to shelters or drop in centers for people in a time of need

  • Even if one person , including an infant wears or uses the item you created your efforts are a win-win for humanity and may be worn or used or enjoyed several times . Not all hand made items
    are created equal but all have a human touch we are missing so much these days.

  • In my opinion as an older person knitting is harder. Now sweaters are knitted from the top down and when I start they were knitted from the bottom up. I have tried to knit one from the top down but couldn’t didn’t understand the pattern even with pictures. Wish they would bring back ones from the bottom up. Thank you

  • I see knitting or crochet items as sustainable if what you make will be used and will stay in style. The classic winter sweater is always a welcomed gift as they are extremely warm, last for a long time and never go out of style, especially in areas that experience cold winter weather. Placemats also stand the test of time. Homemade dishcloths made from 100% cotton are far better than store bought, last far longer, are often requested and make an excellent gift.

    The key is to choose patterns and colors that do not go out of style.

  • I have turned my passion for knitting into a community initiative to warm up the more vulnerable members of my community. So we don’t all always knit and have it sitting in our closet.
    I also have it set up where I am keeping many ladies in my community busy knitting for the community. So we don’t always waste the items and some of us use our passion to keep others warm.

  • You just crushed a lot of people’s belief in the mental benefits of knitting and crochet. These activities bring so many lonely people of all ages together and on a large number of occasions create items for homeless, traumatised and needy people.
    The benefits are neverending and yarns are reused and repurposed.

  • “To avoid overconsumption, ask yourself if you really need what you’re making, or if you’ve made similar things in the past.”

    Oh shush!

  • I love knitting, but buy wool and knit toddlers jerseys for charity . I donate my money and my time. The theme of the decade seems to be , you can’t do this and you can’t to that because it is wasteful or unsustainable. I have a couple of jerseys but most of my cardigans are polar fleece,(or recycled plastic). Maybe going out boozing and getting drunk is more sustainable.

  • I belong to a Fibre rich community. We use real wool, silk, linen, alpaca, mohair etc. Most of use make only items we will use ourselves or gift. These items are things that will be part of our wardrobes for years to come which aside from our creative enjoyment is why we make them.

  • Overly woke article with a dash od a beginner spite, in my opinion. Making something by hand, even an acrylic yarn piece one could incorporate into countlessother projects or even for mental health sake beats third country sweatshop item any time of the day.

  • What a stupid article,this person has zero creativity,people buy ,people sell clothes specially hand made,what about big fashion,the ones that do the ridiculous clothes that nobody will ever wear because is unwearable for any normal person ? What a waste of time reading this nonsense

  • Yep as a long time knitting and spinning content creator, this is something I think about a lot. We have to create a certain amount of interesting content to make our jobs at all viable, but then we are adding to the noise. I definitely choose natural, biodegradable fibers though. Call me a yarn snob if you want, but acrylic yarn is just adding more plastic to the world.

  • Leigh Anderton-Hall

    One way l have made my yarn for knitting
    more sustainable is l buy it from a local small mill less that 100km from me. I dye the yarn with plants l have collected or grown. I knit small items for friends. I sell what l don’t use. But that’s me. And l have splashed out and purchased imported yarns for the luxury of it. Our world is very complex and knitting can be slow and relaxing or competitive with an edge of fomo.

  • How about using yarns spun up from natural fibre like alpaca. Animals raised locally, yarns spun by a local mill. You can’t have it more sustainable and local then that!

    Support your local alpaca farmer and buy local.

  • Lol so what about all the plastic clothing etc you know the clothing that isn’t made out of natural projects etc can go on and on here with examples but you dwell on yarn. I’m sorry your projects didn’t turn out. Keep trying as it is good therapy for you

  • This is so silly. Creates fossil fuels? No lol. I do not know a single knitter, or crocheter who has a stockpile of “fashion” articles they dont use lol. Most of us create things that will stand the test of time.
    I’m sorry the author’s experience has been unpleasant.

  • I don’t crochet and knit because it’s slow fashion. I do it because I enjoy it. The hobby is the act of creating the items, not having the completed items.

  • Knitty witty gal, thanks for speaking up all those previous commentators, never read anything so bias in awhile

    We step over electronic gadget mine fully.
    Spelling, oh well, doesn’t sound like your experience was a winner.

  • If one were to list the many benefits of knitting and crocheting, such as doing something worthwhile with your hands, helping those in need (most crafters I know are VERY generous in donating many of their completed projects), bringing joy to others by giving much-appreciated handmade gifts and, as many others have mentioned, contributing to one’s mental health, then what could be more sustainable than all that? I feel the author is wayyyy off base in this article.

  • I totally agree with Anna’s comment. There are countless benefits to knitting and crocheting. Everything is not about fashion.
    I would rather pick up my knitting needles when relaxing rather than be wasting my time with my phone in my hand all day.

  • I am an avid knitter and crocheted! I have found it my lifeline after my husband passed away and during the pandemic! I make all of my tops as I am small and can’t buy to fit. I don’t use acrylic. I use cotton, bamboo, eucalyptus, wool, etc. I also crochet a lot of decor items with fine cotton. I have tops going back 30 years. I imagine that most people can’t wear items that old. I have a tablecloth I made for my wedding 44 years ago and still use it. I think my items are sustainable.

  • I’d like to thank you for the efforts you have put in penning this blog. I’m hoping to view the same high-grade content by you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own, personal blog now 😉

  • I loved this article! Very insightful. The only way you should be shaking your head is side to side to say no to fast fashion!

  • My knit items are 100% sustainable. I knit quality, sought after garments that DO last a lifetime that all my current customers love…and, I enjoy it too!

  • I knit and crochet and find it very relaxing. I donate pet blankets to animal shelters or pet stores that have animals up for adoption. Also hats and scarves for a native reserve. Far better doing this than playing games on phones or iPads.

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