Fibers, going “green” and paying myself minimum wage

*I have so much more to say/figure out on this topic. This is probably part one of a series of posts on the cost/ethics of handmade goods*

I’m trying to steer my weaving in a particular direction but I’ve been pondering the best way to do it for a while.

Detail of Silk Gold Scarf 2010
Detail of Silk Gold Scarf 2010



I want to get more “green” by using fibers that have the least detrimental impact on the environment. But I’m running into some road-blocks as I look for the most current and undisputed research about this stuff. There are some pretty intense arguments in the world of fibers about what is better/best.


I’ve found some very pro-bamboo camps and some very anti, Same goes with hemp and organic cotton

Wool White & Grey Scarf 2011
Alpaca Overshot scarf with hand-spun yarn

The environmental costs of animal-raising is a concern for me, so even though wool seems like a pretty standard fix to this problem, it isn’t on a large scale.

I guess my main problem is that nothing is really sustainable on a large scale. I’m tempted to go with second-hand and reused fibers, but that makes it really hard to follow my vision for what I want my work to look like.

I recently sent some bamboo and linen yarn off to a dyer friend(Grace from Black Walnut Collective) to get it colored with natural dyes. They use walnut, avocado pits, safflower, and indigo and I’m excited to see the results.

linen and bamboo skeins pre-natural dyes

Using natural dyes will make these yarns more eco-friendly than my other yarns that I buy pre-dyed but they will also make my final products more expensive. The labor involved in natural dyeing cannot be over-looked.

As I experiment with what works for me and what sells at what price I feel more and more of two minds. Part of me leaning toward the simpler, pre-dyed, and cheaper finished yarns and materials that can appeal to a wider range of customers. I want my handmade things to be accessible and affordable.

And the other voice is pushing me to hand-spin, hand-dye, recycle, upcycle, and work with only fibers that I can be sure are up to my ethical/environmental standards. Of course in order the do all that and eat dinner at the end of the day I’d have to charge significantly more.

This is an ongoing process of learning for me and I can’t wait to see where my research and experiments take me!

One Comment Add yours

  1. ulitasloom says:

    Hello Iona!
    Thank you for sharing your reflections on this really difficult subject. It seams whatever thread you tear on, you will always unravel a more or less dirty truth. PETA has got a campaign about Australian merino and my yarn dealer can´t tell me where her merino comes from, but if I want to sell an affordable product I can´t go to eco wool produced in Europe. “Environmental friendly ” recycled PET fibers are contaminating the oceans with micro plastic…
    Sticking to natural fibers and natural dyes seems a good way, and the fact that we are producing slow textiles already means a big step in the right direction to make the world more conscious about excessive consumption of resources by fast fashion.
    Warm greetings from the Canary Islands!

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