What Makes Yarn Organic?

Why Using Organic Yarn is a Good Idea

Balls of Naturally-Dyed Wool in Basket
Maarigard/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

It seems everywhere you look these days there are yarn companies offering organic yarn. From organic cotton to organic wool, bamboo and more, this eco-friendly label is showing up on all sorts of products. But what does it really mean, and what are the benefits of using organic yarn? After all, isn't all wool organic?

What Does Organic Mean?

The label organic on yarn means that the fiber the yarn is made from was produced without the use of man-made chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizer.

When the fiber comes from an animal, the animal must be fed organic feed and raised under organic standards. This means that wool made from sheep would come from sheep that had been allowed to roam and graze. In fact, while sheep can be fed some animal feed the majority of their diet must come from grazing for their wool to be considered organic. Animals used for organic yarn are kept in more humane conditions than those on factory farms. 

Yarn, much like food, goes through a certification process in order for the company to be able to call its yarn organic, explained Cathleen Campbell of ​O-Wool. She says their wool is certified in accordance with the USDA National Organic Program Livestock Production Standard by accredited third-party certifiers. In addition, their spinning process is certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard by Oregon Tilth, another third-party certification body.

Can Organic Yarn Be Dyed?

Organic yarns are often left in their natural state rather than being dyed, but there are also companies that will dye them. These companies use non-toxic, organic dyes that are much more expensive than conventional dyes. Because these yarns cost more to produce and dye they can cost more than non-organic yarns. 

Why should knitters bother using organic yarn?

The answer is simply it's better for the environment. The production of fibers used to create yarn, cotton, in particular, is very pesticide-intensive. Cotton plants are susceptible to many plant diseases which cause farmers to use an extremely large amount of pesticides on them. Organic farmers choose to forgo the use of such pesticides and herbicides. Choosing methods that are kinder to the earth is a great way to be a more responsible crafter. Using organic yarn made in local business is also a great way to support your community. 

Is Organic Yarn Good For You?

Many also believe that the lack of harsh chemicals in the growth of cotton means it's better for people's health. There are some who believe that using organic cotton leads to fewer allergens for the wearer. Many also find organic cotton to be softer than conventional cotton yarns. The softness makes some think it's better for your skin although so far scientists have not tested these theories.