04 May 2012

Slow Living: Summer Yarns

This post is written by contributing author Laurie Fortier.
Do the seasons affect your crafting habits? You may associate knit and crochet with an image of a cozy fire and snow falling outside the window. While this is a possible image, and one I enjoy, knitting and crocheting do not have to be put away when the weather turns warmer. I live in a very cold climate with snow on the ground six months a year. So you can be sure that as soon as the snow is gone, I am outside cleaning my flower beds and getting ready for June, when I can plant my annuals! 
But, do I give up knitting during this brief, summer respite? Not a chance! What is wonderful about the needle-arts is that they are portable. I can’t take my sewing machine to my son’s soccer game, but my knitting? You bet I can! The only difference between my winter and my summer knitting are the projects I make and the yarns I use.

We are extraordinarily lucky today to have many beautiful and eco-friendly yarns to choose from that are perfect for warm weather knitting. These are the yarns that I am going to tell you about in this post.

Cotton and flax are the two oldest plant fibers used in the production of clothing. Archaeologists have found pieces of linen 6000 years old and cotton dating back to 3000 B.C. Hemp is another very old plant traditionally used for making ropes. No, it is not the same thing as the Marijuana plant, but this resemblance gives hemp yarn a bad name!
Cotton yarn is soft, absorbent, wears well and is machine washable. Buying organic cotton means that the plants were grown without chemicals and pesticides and less processing was used to produce the yarn.
harvested flax
Harvested Flax

Linen yarn, made from the flax plant, is 2 to 3 times stronger than cotton, highly absorbent and cool to wear.
Hemp makes a fabric that is absorbent, cool, comfortable, antimicrobial, blocks UV rays and is machine washable.

Many of the new and exciting fibers are called “extruded” fibers because the plant material is liquefied, pushed through a spinneret and solidified to create fine fibers. 

Lyocel is made from wood pulp. It has a fluid, silky drape, is breathable, absorbent and machine washable. The commercial name is Tencel.


Seaweed is combined with lyocel to create a fabric that has a fluid, silky drape, is breathable, absorbent and machine washable. The commercial name is Seacell.
Bamboo is very sustainable. It is a grass (that grows like a weed!). Harvesting doesn't kill the plant. It has a fluid, silky drape, is soft and cool to wear, antimicrobial and resistant to UV rays.
Corn fiber is lighter than bamboo, has a beautiful drape, is soft and machine washable.
Soybean plant
Soybean plant
Soy pulp, as an extract of tofu production, creates beautiful soft, smooth, breathable and antimicrobial fabrics that retain warmth like wool.

milk yarn
Milk yarn?

Milk – Did you say milk? But, milk isn’t a plant?! No, but a process similar to that used for extruded fibers is used to make milk yarn. It is an extraordinary fiber, beautifully soft and silky yet strong!

There you have it! A glimpse of some of these amazing fibers. One summer certainly won’t be enough to try them all!

Here is a list of just a few of the companies that produce these yarns.

So, how about it? Will you knit or crochet this summer? Do any of these yarns “tickle your fancy?”

The Yarn Garden by J. Marsh Michler, is the lovely book that I used as a reference for this post. It has beautiful patterns for all of these different plant fiber yarns.

Laurie Fortier has been a teacher of languages, psychology and pedagogy for over 26 years. Her passion for learning and sharing knowledge permeates everything she does. Her transition into blogging seems to be a natural step. She blogs about her love of knitting and natural fibers in addition to owning her own online yarn shop where supporting sustainable development guides all her business decisions. Connect to Laurie via twitter and facebook.


  1. Oh wow! Thank you for the acknowledgement!

    1. Isn't Laurie amazing, digging so much information for us! I thought cotton yarn was the "summer" yarn. And look how many more there are!

  2. Some of these are new to me! Milk yarn, wow.

    I have a bamboo dress and it's one of my favorite things to wear. It's like getting hugged by a cloud.

    1. These are things we just don't think of. That must be a beautiful dress, Paige.I'm knitting with a milk/soy combination right now and it is incredibly soft. Can't wait to wear it!

    2. I must admit I have never considered bamboo yarn but not only that - I didn't even know there are things like bamboo fabrics! I definitely need you ladies to open my eyes more often!

    3. You do the same for us Sonya on other topics. That's the beauty of community!

  3. Love bamboo fiber! Our bamboo sheets are the softest sheets I've ever had. The seaweed, corn, and milk fibers are new to me. I would love to check those out. Thanks for all the great information.

    1. I have never tried bamboo. Since we are in need of new sheets, I think now is the time! ;) It really is fun to try out these new fibers. Let me know if you do, and what you think of them!

  4. I didn't realize many of these items could be made into threads! I've heard of bamboo floors and seaweed wraps, but now I'm intrigued by what it feels like to wear. :)

    1. I am still looking for videos that show the process. It really is hard to imagine how it is done, especially with milk! I hope you will try them and let us know what you think!

    2. The milk is definitely the most curious to see!

  5. Thank you Laurie, for such an informative post, full with surprising new knowledge. The milk yarn seems to be a thing from the fairy-tales! I wonder what happens to it in contact with water :D

    1. LOL or chocolat! It was my pleasure Sonya. I really find it fascinating to see all the things people can create.

  6. what a beauty filled post .. nature really is miraculous isnt it!!

    1. Thank you! It is isn't it? Fibers that protect us from UV rays. There are so many things to discover!

  7. Wow, I didn't know their were so many fibers available in yarn form. Thanks for sharing that information. Sometimes I wish making jewelry was portable, I would get so much work done. Enjoy your summer knitting.
    Everyday Inspired