Natural vs Synthetic Fibers

Posted by Jodi Clayton on


Did you know that up until 1935 all fibers were either from animals or plants (cotton, linen, silk, wool)? Then, synthetic fibers were developed & enjoyed for easy care. Mass production also offered a low price appreciated by many. Today, discerning buyers are less apt to merrily knit along with low cost being their only consideration. They want to know what their yarn is made of as well as the pros and cons of a specific fiber and breed. 

Of course, we at Maine Yarn & Fiber Supply acknowledge our preference for natural fibers. They are 100% biodegradable: “real deal” products produced from sheep, flax, silk worms, bamboo, alpaca & the like. Synthetic “copy cat” fibers (nylon, rayon, acetate, acrylic, poly, spandex) are petroleum based products claimed to be “guaranteed in purity”, but nevertheless known to compromise human & oceanic health by “offing” chemicals into the environment. Petro-chemicals are a bi-product of the oil industry & are associated with mankind’s carbon footprint on the planet. They are completely synthesized in the laboratory, and then used to mass produce a variety of goods. Their use in yarn claims the benefits of being lightweight & machine washable, less apt to wrinkle, and dye lots coming out in huge quantities for the garment industry & mass market.

Yarns made from natural fibers are authentic. They possess springiness & resilience, a natural insulating factor, are breathable, and help wick dampness from the body. Consider that wool fisherman knit sweaters can absorb up to 10% water, and that’s what keeps the fisher folks both warm & dry. Even in hot weather, wool will wick away sweat & dampness, keeping you comfortable. Natural fibers will not burn, & are a completely renewable resource. Some wool and wool blends are now super wash (machine washable). All wool yarns can be washed by hand. Fleece is like our hair. Feel free to lather it up with a mild soap, just take care not to agitate or rub it profusely because fleece does felt.

When you buy yarn made from natural fibers, you are purchasing environmentally friendly fibers, supporting sustainable agriculture, helping to maintain endangered breeds, and supporting the local economy. We source our fiber from all over the state of Maine, use a local mill to blend & spin it into yarn, and then hand paint all skins bearing the Maine Yarn & Fiber Supply label. Whether you are a knitter buying yarn, or a spinner/felting artist/weaver, we are proud to offer an authentic product with the added benefit of unique hand painting in small batches. 

- Joy Moody, Yarn Shop Manager





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