Affordable and sustainable yarn - shopping past acrylic

By Zoe Lewis

Acrylic is the most popular material for beginner fiber artists to start with.  It is readily available at the craft store for a price tag that can’t be beaten.  However, it certainly has it’s downsides.  Acrylic is plastic, essentially a ball of microplastics.  Not only is it harmful to the environment, but it possesses other downsides as well.  It lacks breathability turning garments into a very sweaty experience. It gets pilly, loses its softness, stretches, warps, and overall is one of my least favourite fibers.  While there are benefits like the aforementioned accessibility, it can also be a good choice for those who are allergic to natural fibers or for certain projects that would benefit from the attributes of acrylic. 


I totally get why you might choose acrylic – but in case you’d like to switch things up these are two of my favourite natural and eco-friendler fibers.  Matching the yarn to your project is super important as well, so of course I will accompany each yarn with a beginner-friendly pattern recommendation! 

  • Bamboo – Truboo by Lion Brand

Bamboo yarn is awesome.  It is one of the most sustainable fibers as bamboo can replenish quickly and does not require toxic chemical interference. It is also bio-degradable, so it won’t be sitting in a landfill forever when you’re creation reaches the end of its life.  It is plant-based and hypoallergenic for crafters with allergies and/or sensitive skin.  It is soft and breathable which makes it a great option for spring and summer garments! While it does sound pretty perfect, there are a couple of drawbacks.  The processing of bamboo is not as sustainably, the material is heavy, can be prone to pilling, and weak compared to other fibers.  

Truboo by Lion Brand is a DK weight bamboo yarn available at Fabricville for less than $7. It comes in gorgeous, vibrant shades that would lend itself perfectly to something like a t-shirt or tank top. For crocheters, the Kanata Kerchief Tank would work really well with the fiber and colour palette of Truboo.  Knitters can try out the Classic Knitted Tank Top, I made one of these last year as a beginner knitter.  I was truly surprised with how straightforward it was, and the end result turned out better than I could have imagined! 

  • Cotton – NEW EKOS Cotton Yarn by Katia

While cotton can be a great natural and sustainable contender, it is a tricky one.  When not sourced properly, it can be the product of environmentally and socially irresponsible practices. However, some options come from ethical production if you know how to spot them.  One example is the NEW EKOS yarn by Katia – an aran-weight cotton blend. It is vegan and particularly great for beginners as the chainette texture makes it glide easily off needles and hooks without snagging.  The production of this yarn is very thoughtful taking into consideration water and energy use, and being blended with recycled polyester from water bottles! 

While local yarn stores have a wide selection of luxurious (and expensive) fibers, they do carry some affordable gems as well! The Knitting Loft has NEW EKOS available for $6.50 a piece.  You do only get 60 yards per ball, but we can certainly make use of the milage. Cotton is a great choice for home and kitchen textiles.  It is very sturdy and holds up well with machine washing. While the low-stretch and elasticity can be a downside for some things, that property really lends itself to the following projects. Crocheters can make a full set of six Seeing Spirals Face Scrubbies with just one ball of yarn! That’s just over a dollar a piece, which is a hard price to beat – especially taking the quality into account. Knitters can try this Simple Face Cloth as a very easy (yet practical) starter project! I also had to give an honourary mention to this Sunflower Cloth.  It is so adorable and NEW EKOS has the perfect muted yellow and brown shades to make it. 


I will always encourage you to use what you have first, but next time you find yourself shopping for a few new skeins try looking deeper into the label. Sustainable fibers are not as inaccessible as you might think!


Zoe Lewis

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