The wool conundrum

Date : 24/10/2017
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Veganism, now that’s a word that can get some people really worked up. I wasn’t really sure whether to post this or not but even sensitive matters need to be discussed. But let’s not get too serious, this post is more about asking questions and finding options.

I became a vegan earlier this year and so far I’ve approached the eating with a child like curiosity and relaxed experimentation. I do have those moments when I feel that there’s nothing to eat but it’s usually when I’m feeling really lazy and the grocery store has run out of that one frozen pizza I can eat. Let’s just say I don’t have the food prep routine down yet. The biggest challenge during my few months as a vegan has been the constant paranoia that I’m alienating my friends with this lifestyle choice. Then I remind myself that I was probably annoying as a meat eater too and hope that they will tell me if I’m becoming irritating. In defence of “annoying” vegans I’ll say this, when you make a major life choice/lifestyle change you’re often very excited about it and naturally want to share that with people. So what some might consider as you pushing your ideology unto others might just be you being euphoric because you’ve finally found the most delicious rice milk chocolate!

What I think is going to be a struggle is clothing. With food there are a wide range of plant based options to choose from but when it comes to animal fibers and skins it’s not as easy. I no longer want to support industrialised animal agriculture but I don’t know what to replace these animal products with. Silk and down feather garment can be challenge but wool and leather are at the moment the most immediate ones in my wardrobe. For me acrylic and polyurethane (PU) are just not ideal substitutes. Sure, an acrylic sweater might keep me a bit warm but the minute I start sweating I feel like I’m wearing a layer of plastic film. I’ve owned shoes made from PU and some like sandals have served me just fine but then I’ve had winter shoes that have cracked during the coldest months. Meanwhile I have leather shoes that I’ve had for four years and still use. As you can sense I’m not a big fan of replacing every animal material with a synthetic one, especially those that are not recyclable. Natural plant fibers are not always the best either, growing cotton is very problematic too. Hence my conundrum!

Now, I do want to point out that I have no plans to throw out all my clothes and shoes containing animal materials, that would be a horrible waste. What I feel uncomfortable using I will sell or donate. Some of you might say that the solution is to shop second hand and I do find wool and silk garments that way sometimes but by purchasing them, aren’t I contributing to the continued production of those products? I don’t know. These are the kind of things I often think about.

I don’t want to say “I’m not willing to give up” this or that because I think it keeps me in the same place and blinds me from seeking alternatives. With wool however, I’m really struggling to find an alternative. I feel like with leather, silk and feathers there’s a lot of research being made right now and soon we’ll have animal free and sustainable options on the market. I’m really excited to get my hands on some Pinatex (an alternative for leather made from pineapple leaf fibers) and test making some bags from it. But when I want to knit a scarf to keep me warm over the very winds and cold Helsinki winter, what material should I use?

I’d like to know what you think of wool as a material. Is there such a thing as ethical wool? If you don’t use wool, what have you substituted it with? The yarns on pictures above are Shetland wool yarns that I bought in Edinburgh a few years ago.

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