View Full Version : What is a good vegan/ cruelty free substitute for silk yarn?

09-11-2006, 09:35 PM
What is a good vegan/ cruelty free subsitute for silk yarn? I've heard that Tussah silk is from "free range" not killed worms. Is this true? Is all silk/ silk yarn called "tussah" guaranteed this?

What are other good sub.s? What is most like silk? Rayon? Soy silk? Corn silk? other? :) Thanks! :)

09-11-2006, 09:52 PM
Don't know about the silk, but have you tried any of the bamboo yarns? They are very soft and I love to just fondle them! I've seen them in DK and sport weights, but I'm sure they are in other weights as well. Oh wait, I do remember seeing some bamboo in fingering weight, now if I could just remember where. :??

09-12-2006, 02:03 AM
Also in the new Knitty under "Viveka" it is mentioned that tactel yarn is a vegan yarn. I believe it's a type of nylon that is soft to the touch. The only drawback with the yarn is that it's dry clean only.


09-12-2006, 09:56 AM
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it technically impossible to have vegan silk? Doesn't vegan mean absolutely no animal products?

09-12-2006, 10:28 AM
Southwest trading company has a couple of animal fiber alternatives. Their yarn, "pure" is 100% soysilk and A-maizing is made from corn fiber! I have the corn one and it feels great. I'm getting the Pure this week to check out! I've heard great things about it.

09-12-2006, 10:31 AM
Also...not to start a whole conversation about this because I respect someone wanting to use a non-animal fiber...but I am sure there are companies that advertise treating their sheep with the utmost respect. Really any company would be silly to treat any animals poorly...it's quite an investment.

Alpaca farmers seem to be particularly attached to their animals and there are a lot of "mom and pop" type companies that sell their home raised alpaca fiber.

Witchy Mama
09-12-2006, 10:32 AM
wow I didn't know the killed the worms when they got the silk, not that I have anything that is silk anyway, me being poor and all :teehee:

09-12-2006, 10:40 AM
I highly recommend bamboo - specifically Plymouth Royal bamboo - it feels just like silk. I was also going to suggest South West Trading Soy Silk :)

09-12-2006, 03:27 PM
Here is someone's blog who reviews alternate fibers: fake sheep (http://nutmeg.gen.nz/fakesheep/)
Fake Sheep list of yarns (http://nutmeg.gen.nz/fakesheep/yarns.html)

Some of the basics (cotton etc.) you might already know but some info and links (textile company links) might be worth reviewing.

and I too would think that there is no "vegan" silk unless it is soy-silk or corn-silk etc. Silk with wormies would imply animal product but then you also said 'cruelty-free" didn't yah... so that I don't know about with silk. I just started looking into some of these alt-fibers.

09-12-2006, 03:37 PM
Yeah I've seen the fake sheep site. ;) It's pretty good. I use wool, I use cotton etc. I'm not looking for alternatives to them.... but I love the feel, sheen etc. of silk yarn. I was (as pointedly stated in post ) look for a SILK alternative. Because silk worms are always killed for silk unless it is the "peace"/ or tussah silk kind where (silk worms are raised in fields and when they hatch from cocoons the silk is collected (the worms/ moths fly away) ) (usually the silk worms are boiled alive). I just figured if there were a "veggie" alternative I'd try it. ;) I have heard about the corn silk. I was wondering what ya'll liked best. :) (p.s. as per one poster's comment/ question? there are vegan silk "alternatives" like corn silk and vegans often feel it is fit to use peace silk).

09-12-2006, 03:50 PM
Oh...somehow I missed the point of the worms being killed. :doh: I'm not sure there is anything that feels quite like silk as we know it. I did have the chance to feel some tussah silk...it's kind of a bumpy slub...I don't know if all tussah silk is like that or not. Soft but certainly not like "regular" silk yarn.

09-12-2006, 04:21 PM
Ah really? pood. :( (bumpy slub) ..... I was HOPING I'd find a good silk sub. lol. I LOOOVE the way it feels but now if I buy it every time I'll use it I'll think of worms being boiled so its not worth it lol. No, I don't have a problem with wool/ alpaca etc. in general. EXCEPT! if you can avoid it (if its labeled) avoid (in knitting or buying clothes) Australian merino wool. They use a very outdated method of shearing they (no razors!) strip the wool of sheep ( just pull it out!) and it really hurts the sheep and injures their skin (obviously) so I try to avoid Australian merino wool. It isn't always labelled as Australian so I just tend to avoid merino wool (I hate the feel of %100 anyway so it doesn't really bother me. lol ;) ...... ) :)

09-12-2006, 04:23 PM
p.s. - Natasha - knitpicks (.com) is a great source for nice, cheap wool. ;) They're elegance wool is awesome! :)

09-12-2006, 04:24 PM
I haven't used any silk-like materials yet, sorry. I had added the Fake Sheep link above as 1) only an FYI not necessarily in answer to your question 2) and because she might be a good person to ask your question to also.

Good luck

09-12-2006, 04:39 PM
I have some tussah roving -- I haven't spun any yet, though, so I can't speak to how the yarn feels -- but the roving is absolutely gorgeous, and very very soft.

09-12-2006, 04:45 PM
I have some tussah roving -- I haven't spun any yet, though, so I can't speak to how the yarn feels -- but the roving is absolutely gorgeous, and very very soft. Must depend on the way it's spun then! Good to know. You'll have to share with us after you spin it.

09-13-2006, 02:38 AM
Hmmmm..... I never thought of emailing the fake sheep gal. ;) Tell me how your roving spins up! :) I'd love to create yarn but don't want to invest $$$$ in a wheel and drop spinning looks SO tedious.

09-13-2006, 06:50 AM
EXCEPT! if you can avoid it (if its labeled) avoid (in knitting or buying clothes) Australian merino wool. They use a very outdated method of shearing they (no razors!) strip the wool of sheep ( just pull it out!) and it really hurts the sheep and injures their skin (obviously) so I try to avoid Australian merino wool. It isn't always labelled as Australian so I just tend to avoid merino wool (I hate the feel of %100 anyway so it doesn't really bother me. lol ;) ...... ) :)

I'm not so sure this is true.... My inlaws were in Australian within the last few years, and they watched a demonstration on sheep shearing and it was just like all the demonstrations I've seen here. They use the hand held shearers, basically just larger and more powerful than what barbers use to cut hair. I also met a guy who sheared sheep in Australia for years. He actually competed world-wide and won many shearing competitions. He was an amazingly skilled man, who sheared with the hand held shearers. And after talking to him, he never mentioned "pulling it out".

09-13-2006, 06:34 PM
well, I don't know if ALL Australian wool farmers do it this way (probably? not) but many still do. It is an outdated method, its not "shearing" (as with scissors/ shears etc.) its mulesing (it's awful. They strip wool out with hands!)

Here is a link: (p.s. read the article on this page if you want but CAUTION! going to far into the site, I think? they're are some disturbing pictures.) :


09-13-2006, 07:37 PM
ooooh thanks mulene! ;) I'll look for the bamboo silk. ;) :)

Witchy Mama
09-13-2006, 11:11 PM
I have never heard of sheep having the wool torn out, everytime we go to the show (its like a county fair but farmers bring their animals and produce to be judged and win prizes) they always have shearing competitions and there are always merinos being shawn. I have to say though that the poor things look so funny afterwards.

I have only ever seen it done with electric clips or maybe those old scissor still shears

Witchy Mama
09-13-2006, 11:17 PM
ok I just read that page. I think they are refering to the fact that they cut their tails off like how some dogs are docked. They do this because when the sheep poos the dag gets stuck to their tails which attract blow flies which then lay their eggs on the sheeps um behind, when the eggs hatch the maggots will actually eat the sheeps flesh.

I am pretty sure that the majority of sheep farmers here (not just merino) do it as I can't say I have seen any sheep with tails (only lambs). I think it is better that a sheep have a bit of pain then die from being eaten alive


09-14-2006, 03:02 PM
There has been objection by groups to mulesing, which is cutting a fold of skin from around the tail to prevent death by blowfly infection. It is, like many farm techniques, necessary for the animals, but objectionable to many.

There is research going on to find a better way, and I believe I read somewhere that there has been an agreement to stop by a certain date.

09-14-2006, 04:58 PM
When I lived in England, there was a big campaign to stop docking lambs (removing their tails). The way they did this wasn't gory at all - the shepherd puts a tight band around the lamb's tail when it's born, and it falls off a few days later. (My dad, a doctor, says that this is how doctors sometimes remove skin tags from babies, and it isn't painful.) The reason they docked the lambs was to keep them from getting stuck in brambles later. A sheep's undocked tail can go all the way to the ground, and sheep aren't the brightest animals on the planet!

09-14-2006, 08:24 PM
This isn't about docking tails. It is about mulesing. Which is tearing off wool / skin near tail. I guess most? of the wool is not obtained that way but many feel it is a barbaric process that is really unecessary for wool farming.

09-14-2006, 08:26 PM
The merino sheep have a fold of skin near their tails which is where the flies lay their eggs and the larvae eat into the lambs. Regular sheep have smooth skin, so there isn't a need to prevent the area from getting infested.

As I said, the objection to this practice has been noted by the merino farmers, and the cutting of that fold will be done more humanely in the future, according to what I've read.

Witchy Mama
09-14-2006, 08:58 PM
according to the site I linked to the aussie sheep farmers are supporting reserch into an alternative, something about spraying them with something that gives the sme effect, its on a video on the site...

And "tearing" is the wrong word as that implies they just grab it and yank it out, they are cutting. And none of the wool is obtained that way, they shear them just like any other country, and according to a survey ony 2% of sheep here are not mulesed

09-15-2006, 09:27 AM
Thanks for clearing that up Ingrid. The more I read into this, that is exactly what I was finding as well. It sounds like the majority of farmers have already or are in the process of straying away from this method.

09-15-2006, 07:39 PM
Ooh.. glad another Aussie beat me too it..

Mulesing has nothing to do with obtaining the wool for knitting.

At THIS point in time, it's a necessary evil, and of course we all hope they find a method that's more humane that has the same effectiveness in keeping our beloved sheep safe from those nasty blowies...

09-15-2006, 07:55 PM
my LYS carries soy silk roving and it is difficult to tell the difference between that and the silk, same softness, even the sheen. Many of SWTC's products are wonderful, but last I read, they are marketing their Pure to be the absolute replacement for silk. I have also played a little with the A-Maizing, which is incredibly soft... I wouldn't say quite like silk, but very soft, but that could be the type of yarn it is, too, it's almost ribbony. I am currently working a swatch out of their Oasis, which is delicious.

Also, there is a difference between peace silk and tussah silk. Tussah silk is "wild" silk, where the worms/moths are "free" (usually still cultivated though in an area dense in the leaves they like) eat whatever leaves they feel like and people search for and pick up their shedded coccoons, whereas peace silk is usually the bombyx mori, which feeds only on mulberry (you've heard mulberry silk,) and has to be cultivated. Many salespeople call it "vegan" silk, but really it depends on the vegan... it does indeed come from an animal, but the moth is permitted to live out its life as it would normally, no harm done whatsoever, as opposed to the normal processing a.k.a. boiling, but it is still cultivated so I would guess it is more correct to call it vegetarian silk. The bombyx make their coccoons with one giant thread of silk, unlike other silkworms, which is why they boil them. People actually reel that tiny piece of silk off of each coccoon after processing. Peace silk cultivators allow the moths to emerge and live out their lives, which are very short anyway, thereby destroying the 1 strand of silk, but it is MARVELOUS for spinning and can be spun right from the coccoon after they are cleaned.

And that's my 10 cents. ;) Moral of the story is, I would check out SWTC's line. :)

09-15-2006, 08:00 PM
Hmmm, I never realized that merino sheep were so different than normal sheep. I wonder why they have that fold of skin. Does it serve some kind of purpose other than apparently attracting flies? :?? :??

I shall have to go look into this as now I'm curious...

[Edit: Well, wikipedia didn't really go into why merino sheep have the extra skin and other sheep don't, but I thought this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guard_Llama) was interesting.]

09-15-2006, 09:41 PM
i have never heard of larvae eating live flesh; i only knew of them eating dead materials like dead tissue and pus and the like.

09-15-2006, 09:44 PM
does anyone know if blowfly larvae feed on live flesh as well as dead tissue? im trying to find a source for this and cant come up with one.

09-15-2006, 10:02 PM
its the lucilla blowfly that is the first to arrive on the merino and it eats the feces and urine which embeds itself in all of the folds of skin on the merino (folds of skin produce more wool) as well as exudate from wounds and produces a sludge that attracts MORE types of blowflies such that the sheep can become overwhelmed by blowfly infestation in no time. it might behoove some PhD biologist/pharmaceudical research company to come up with a pill that rids the sheep of this particular blowfly... we have pills for heartworms injections for all kinds of things, i hope someday that someone does this bc the museling is disgusting.

edit to add a really cool link on myiasis. and there ARE fly larvae that eat live tissue. YUCK!

09-15-2006, 10:14 PM
I don't know if I'd call mulesing a "necessary evil" since there are wool farmers all around the world who DON'T do it. It IS good that Australian wool farmers are getting rid of this process but I guess? Untill it is gone completely I'd rather just stay away from merino wool.

P.S. some retailers like J.Crew have committed not to buy merino wool from suppliers who do mulesing. ;)

PLUS either way? really? lol I don't really like wool! lol It's SO scratchy and gives me a rash so I don't really buy wool yarn anyway. ;)

Thanks Sean! :cheering: for that info. ;) But what? is SWTC? :?? :)

09-15-2006, 10:15 PM
swtc = southwest trading company. great producer of yarn.

09-15-2006, 10:27 PM
sorry, yeah, it's Southwest Trading, here (http://www.soysilk.com) They are the ones that make tons of soy silk and bamboo and the A-Maizing stuff. :)

Witchy Mama
09-15-2006, 10:52 PM
I don't know if I'd call mulesing a "necessary evil" since there are wool farmers all around the world who DON'T do it.

other wool farmers don't have thousands of blow flies hanging around their sheeps butts. Anyone who has ever been out into the Australian outback knows that you are going to get sore arm muscles just from swatting the nasty little buggers away

09-16-2006, 12:59 AM
that's a good point, witchy mama, but just like there are alternatives to silk, there are humane alternatives to mulesing, and not just spraying something. many studies have cited that if the wool farmers merely kept their sheep healthy and a good watch on them, flystrike is easily preventable and treatable. not only that, but flystrike often develops in the wound created by mulesing. it's a pretty cruel thing to do for something that's only maybe kinda effective. there are choices, that's the thing to consider...

now i am not a wool farmer, nor do i live in australia, so I can only base my opinion on what I read. I know things like this can be touchy and get hostile, but I respect everyone's knowledge and opinion and this is not something I would ever argue about personally. I should rephrase that to: From what I have read, there are humane alternatives that can be considered. Since I am not an Australian wool farmer or even Australian, I can't possibly truly know. When it comes down to it, we as fiber artists have a choice to use it or not, question our sources or not. I contacted Knit Picks and Malabrigo long ago to find out where they obtained their merino from so I had alternatives, but it is a personal choice. Some feel that getting wool from a sheep without altering them in any way is still wrong... it's subjective really and we are all entitled to our choice and each of our opinions is valid. I have not yet boycotted merino myself and I may or may not, so I'm just sharing what I've read at this point. I am aware that Malabrigo's sheep are not mulsed, but cannot remember KP's reply.... I posted it a long time ago somewhere on the board...

if we really focused on this, I'm sure we would find that there are many animals who have things considered to be inhumane done to them in order to make yarn for us, not just mulesing. I'm sure not every single wool farmer in the world treats, feeds, cares for, and houses their sheep/alpaca/bunnies/llama/camel/goats well. I'm sure somewhere they are caged their entire lives. Mulesing is something that has been brought to the public's eye and potentially put a bad light on Australian wool farmers, but like witchy mama said, there are maybe 2% of sheep that are not mulsed currently in australia. it's not like there's this one batch of "mean" farmers running around that we're trying to stop. it has been commonplace for a long time and like anything, regardless of whether we think it's right or wrong, it requires time to change. You want to talk about cruelty? Research where your eggs and dairy come from (unless you are a farmer, of course.)

and shorealpaca, not just J. Crew, there are many large companies that have stopped, Aeropostale, American Eagle, Gap, Banana Republic, etc. While I am not a supporter of PETA, I know they've had a big thing going on about it for some time now too.

Witchy Mama
09-16-2006, 01:46 AM
they are some good points, one problem with the farmers just "watching" the sheep is that they have 100's-1000's off sheep to check, the eggs hatch anywhere from 8-24 hours after being layed and the sheep can die within 2 days of being infected, the odds seem a bit against the farmers (and the poor sheep).

And also we all have to remember that famers can be very stuburn in their ways lol, it is so hard to convince them to try something new hehehe

09-16-2006, 08:07 AM
Very well said, Sean.

We can make a personal choice with regard to which yarn we use; and if one is so inclined, can join the groups that are trying to change the practice. Thousands of sheep on a farm are hard to keep track of and inspect on a daily basis; millions of chickens are hard to manage if allowed to roam free; if pigs get out, they just keep going. Farming on these levels is a business and the animals are their commodities, regardless of how we view them.

There are many practices in farming and meat production that are objectionable. Having us argue about them here doesn't change them in any way, but there are organizations out there trying to change the wool, poultry, pork and beef industries to be more humane, and I'm sure would take all the help they can get. Boycotting certain things is a way to feel that one, personally, is not contributing to the practices that are objectionable.