We usually associate wool with winter weather. But nowadays, knitted fabrics are found everywhere: in homewares, accessories and even summer clothing.
One downside to this is that, as knits have become cheaper and more popular, the wider production industry has cut some serious corners. Knits used to be expensive. Maybe you got a special sweater for your birthday from your gran and carefully looked after it for years. Now, resource-hungry manufacturing methods that often exploit animals, people and the planet mean you can buy a knit for the price of a fancy sandwich.
So, what should you be on the lookout for when trying to find sustainable knitwear?
Some shoppers will be surprised by how well synthetics such as polyester and acrylic can pass off as wool. You’ll want to look out for genuine natural fibres such as wool and organic cotton. These are a big tick because they are biodegradable (so will break down in landfill) and won’t release a ton of microplastics into our oceans. Or in turn, look for recycled materials and dead-stock fibres that have been given a second life. It’s also good to check to see if there were any harmful products used in the dying process: if it’s Oeko-Tex certified that’s a great sign.
Most ethical knitwear brands will be transparent about where they have sourced their wool. Check they only work with farmers who treat their animals well and don’t engage in mulesing. Also do your research to find out who is assembling and knitting your item and where; if the factory is using renewable energy that’s a massive plus – even better if it’s handmade.
In our opinion, it’s time to slow down (or rather, start shopping like your gran). Knits should be an investment. Something you choose carefully and treasure forever. Luckily, a new wave of fresh brands has made that easy with beautiful pieces you’ll no doubt be lovingly hand washing for decades.
For those who prioritise simplicity and comfort, Artknit’s luxury sweaters and vests are perfect year-round investments. With the motto “buy less, buy better”, the brand’s seasonless collections are transparent and mark out each step of the manufacturing process. Its regenerated cashmere collection is the most exciting yet, reducing the environmental impact for each garment by 92 per cent compared to a virgin cashmere knit.
We’re crowning Bethany Williams queen of primary colours. Oh, and ruler of making beauty from waste. The knitted jumpers and vests are a sea of bright-coloured organic, recycled and dead-stock materials. Her recent SS22 collection saw her continued partnership with The Magpie Project, a Newham-based charity that supports women and children who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, to make sure each piece tells a story. Twenty per cent of the profits will be donated to the charity.
Consciously creating from natural fibres and fabrics, Marle only works with suppliers that are equally committed to keeping the planet healthy. Elegant, simple and timeless, it has every piece of knitwear you’re looking for. But our honourable mention goes to this finely knitted 100 per cent organic cotton dress – perfect for a summer’s day.
Meet the New Zealand brand making oversized grandma knits look wildly à la mode. These cozy numbers are forever pieces, made to order and knitted by hand using century-old methods. From cardigans to sweaters, each one has a unique stitch. Using 100 per cent natural fibres (mohair, alpaca and sheep) that are Oeko-Tex and REACH certified, it doesn’t compromise on impact for design. Plus, if you want to look like a pastel fluffy cloud, it has you sorted.
Best left in plain sight, Curio Practice’s blankets are designed to be collected, cared for and passed down. Each piece is made in Melbourne using 100 per cent Australian merino wool, and, to help eliminate fabric waste, any left over is used for its made-to-order cushions. Ever the overachiever, Curio Practice makes the filling from recycled water bottles, with no plastic zips or buttons.
Wool and the Gang
If you’re looking to get creative, Wool and the Gang provides everything you need to knit your own garment – so, you’ll know exactly who made it. Its knits range from beginner to advanced and it provides the yarn, the pattern and the YouTube tutorials, if you need a little extra guidance (of course, that won’t be you…).
Looking for a vegan alternative? Kowtow has a collection of knitted tees, scarfs, beanies, cardigans and jumpers, all made from 100 per cent fairtrade organic cotton. Each piece is individually knitted to eliminate yarn waste and processed using Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) approved inks and dyes. The New Zealand label has set out to design with the entire life cycle of the garment in mind. That means also offering complimentary repairs and a take-back program to reduce garments being sent to landfill.
Looking for a knit that’s bold, fun and colourful? So was McIntyre Merino; it’s why it created knits that fit outside the box, but also tick them as well. It uses Australian merino wool from its 150-year-old family farm, meaning it knows firsthand what it is sourcing. The yarn is also Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified, so you know no harmful products were used in the dying process.
From bucket hats to bottle slings, crochet and knitted accessories are having a welcome resurgence, and RUTT is one of the brands leading the way. With a respect for traditional craftsmanship, the small Australian brand promotes a circular approach, prioritising high-quality dead-stock, recycled and local yarns. The limited edition pieces remind us to appreciate and value what we buy.