Paloma textiles for eco friendly yarns

Ruth from Paloma textiles for eco friendly yarnsThis 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.

Festina lente.


  1. Candle Anne on June 8, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Thank you for mentioning that the “natural” fibers may be as bad as others because of the processing. I’m a weaver also, and that’s why I only use the yarns that I’ve reclaimed from old clothing. Thanks for the recommendations on how to find new yarns that really are eco friendly.

  2. Mrs Green on June 11, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    @Candle Anne: Hi Candle Anne; welcome to the site and thank you for your comment. Using yarns that you have reclaimed from old clothing is a wonderful eco friendly way of getting yarn.
    Do you have a particular favourite? I guess all your yarns have some history that you know a little of!

  3. […] So you think that cotton, bamboo, soy, and tencel yarns are more earth-friendly than synthetic fibers such as polyester, nylon, and acrylic? Mrs. Green was “fortunate enough to interview Ruth Henriquez Lyon from Paloma textiles, who is passionate about eco ….” […]

  4. John on August 14, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Eco-Friendly Environmental Yarn!
    This is a ‘Misleading Myth’ that we increasingly hear being told to us by designers and sellers of fabrics and yarns in the modern fashion industry, so as to be able to entice out more money from the consumer.

    At some stage during their make-up all fabrics, fibers, yarns and fabrics are:
    • Exposed to washing with detergents and softener so as to give them a clean and soft feel next to the skin.
    • Dyeing is carried out to give the fabrics and yarns attractive colors thus making them more pleasing to the eye and easier to sell than they would be in their original state.
    • Even a plain white fabric or yarn is not naturally white… the white has been achieved through the process of bleaching.

    All Detergents, Softeners, Dyes, and Bleaches as used today in the 21st century treatment of fabrics and yarns are chemically based.
    Even the wool that comes from a sheep is washed and dyed prior to being spun into a yarn….
    What of the feed that the sheep ate? Was that not also treated with chemicals?
    What of the inoculations that the sheep receives to keep it healthy and disease free? Are they not also chemical based and made in a laboratory somewhere?
    The closest exception to this rule is silk as it requires no washing or chemicals to be spun and wove into a fabric, however… people tend to like nice colors which are added through the introduction of dyes which are in effect chemical based.

    It can be said that some yarns and fabrics are ‘Less Environmentally Damaging’ than others, but not that they are ‘Eco Friendly’ as they to some degree have received some treatment with chemicals.

    In this day and age where chemicals are in everything we eat, drink, and wear, people having become “Environmentally Aware” and are trying to save the planet.
    Manufacturers and sellers of food, drink, fabrics, and yarns have also been quick to jump on the band wagon trying to cut for them selves a new niche in the market by declaring their goods to be “Environmentally Friendly” so as to make more sales and extract higher profit margins.…
    …by right their products should be saying “Less Environmentally Damaging” as this is the only true claim that they can make.
    Juris Bruzhuks and John De Prendergast.

  5. Mrs Green on September 2, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    @John: Hello John, welcome to Little Green Blog. I enjoyed reading your comment very much and you have provided a lot of food for thought.
    We all have to be careful of greenwashing and of sorting out fact from fiction; you illustrate some interesting points which should help us all to ask the right questions of manufacturers and suppliers.
    Thank you for adding your voice to these issues. 🙂

  6. John De Prendergast on September 15, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    @Mrs Green: My Pleasure Mrs Green, and thank you for your welcome to Littlr Green Blog. 🙂

  7. Mr Eco on November 15, 2009 at 8:39 am

    I don’t agree on “…processed into yarn, bleached, mercerized, and dyed, they are only earth friendly if all steps are carried out according to organic standards…”

    The standards are really set by an organization. If we look into the fact that the dyeing process requires heavy use of water that is heat up by water and chemical dyestuff are used, it is not wher close to eco friendly.

    There are textiles out there that are dyed without using water. These textiles are truly eco friendly.

  8. Mrs Green on November 16, 2009 at 8:44 am

    @Mr Eco: Hi Mr Eco – welcome to the site and thanks for sharing your comment. I’m still learning and it’s wonderful to find people who care enough to share their experiences and knowledge. We can all learn from one another to help us make the best consumer choices. Thank you for adding something of value to the conversation 🙂