Paloma textiles for eco friendly yarns
This week I’ve been fortunate enough to interview Ruth Henriquez Lyon from Paloma textiles, who is passionate about eco friendly yarns. If you have any questions for her, please leave them in the comments below!
Tell us a bit about yourself and the inspiration behind your website.
My name is Ruth Henriquez Lyon and I live in Minnesota. I run Paloma textiles, which stocks humane, earth-friendly, and fair trade yarns for fiber artists. I started the company to have ready access to the yarns for my own weaving, as well as to promote the idea of sustainability amongst other yarn enthusiasts.
Organic cotton and fair trade clothing are all the rage at the moment with consumers being told that natural choices are better than man made. What is your view?
When we think of textiles, we think of beauty, safety, warmth, and protection. Cloth literally covers us from cradle to grave. However, our use of textiles comes at significant environmental cost, as the industry is one of the biggest polluters on earth. Thus anyone who purchases spinning fiber, yarn, or woven cloth can make a difference by purchasing lower-impact fibers.
Because I’m a weaver, I’ve noticed quite a bit of greenwashing over the past few years in adverts and articles promoting “natural” fibers to eco-conscious fiber artists. Many suggest that cotton, bamboo, milk protein, soy, and tencel yarns are more earth-friendly than synthetic fibers such as polyester, nylon, and acrylic.
It’s true that these fibers come from natural materials. However, when you consider the methods by which they are grown—often with heavy pesticide loads, as in the case of cotton—and then processed into yarn, bleached, mercerized, and dyed, they are only earth friendly if all steps are carried out according to organic standards.
What do you look for when buying fibres?
When buying, I look for some indication of the product’s organic certification by a national or international certifying agency. SKAL, based in the Netherlands, IMO and Agreco are well-respected certifying bodies. If you see a label that is certified by a smaller, less known group, don’t discount its value.
How can consumers find out more about these lesser known groups?
You can look up an organization online if you’re not sure about its legitimacy. In the case of wood-pulp based fibers, such as lyocell or tencel, the wood ought to have come from managed forests, such as those certified by the U.S.-based Forest Stewardship Council.
Any other ways to buy eco friendly fibres?
Keep an eye out for recycled fiber. Sari silk is spun from silk and rayon loom waste discarded from textile mills. Many people are buying used wool, silk and cashmere garments and unraveling the yarn to use in their own knitting. Old textiles can be cut up and made into rag rugs, handbags, quilts and blankets; a practice that was common before the era of cheap mass-produced textiles. Some companies, like Marks and Spencer in the U.K. and Patagonia in the U.S., are encouraging and helping their customers to recycle garments purchased from their stores.
What tip would you share for our readers to be able to make the most ethical choices?
It’s important for consumers to ask questions. There is a story behind every product, and it’s often not in the interest of the vendor to tell that story, so you may have to do some digging. Also, accept that you probably can’t be a purist, unless you want to live a monastic existence. I continue to slowly raise the bar on how strict I am about my buying choices, realizing that deep-seated changes occur in increments rather than gushing torrents. As my Latin teacher used to say, Festina lente, that is, Make haste slowly.
Finally, remember that the most beautiful textile on the planet is the web of life that blankets every square inch, and that after years of neglect we now have a lot of mending piling up.
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