Knitting Natural Living

Fiber-conscious: Alternatives to superwash wool

December 11, 2014
sueprwash wool alternatives

A few weeks back I wrote a post about the processing of superwash wool, it’s use of chlorine gas and plastic. In my efforts to become more “fiber-conscious” I began purging my stash of superwash wool and encouraged other’s to take a closer look at the fibers they were using and find healthier and more sustainable alternatives. Which brings me to this follow-up post, the first of several, outlining alternatives to superwash, my favorite fiber-conscious yarns and some additional insights as they become apparent. Thank you for all your comments, emails and feedback regarding this topic and please share any resources you may have as well! I’ll be updating the Resources page with these companies and yarns, and add more as I become aware of them…the options are truly endless.

*Most yarns listed below must be washed by hand like most non-superwash wools, except for the few where I’ve noted a new organic superwash process is being used. Those are said to be machine washable, though I still say hand washing is best 😉

Alternatives to superwash sock yarn:
O-Wash Fingering by O-Wool (A certified organic superwash process)
Beaverslide 2-ply Sport sock weight (merino with mohair to add strength)
Beaverslide 3-ply DK sock weight  (merino with mohair to add strength)
MOCO Qivuit Musk Ox sock weight (Qivuit is stronger than wool and does not shrink)
Green Mountain Spinnery Meadow sock weight (Fine wool and mohair to add strength)
The Fibre Company Canopy Fingering weight

Alternatives to superwash sport, dk, worsted and aran weight yarns (see my favorite yarns below for more of all weights):
Swans Island Washable Wool Collection DK weight (A certified organic superwash process)
Sincere Sheep Luminous DK weight
O-Wash Sport (A certified organic superwash process)
A Verb For Keeping Warm Pioneer worsted weight
Jill Draper’s Empire Aran weight

Alternative to superwash bases for dyeing:
Imperial Stock Ranch Yarns
Yarn Undyed USA (Mostly non-superwash bases, and an exciting new line of Sustainable Merino)
Green Mountain Spinnery
Snoqualmie Valley Yarn
Echoview Fiber

My favorite fiber-conscious yarns, including breed specific and single farm yarns:
Beaverslide Mule-Spun Yarns
Swans Island Yarns
Ton of Wool Cormo Yarn
Twirl Yarn
O-Wool Yarns
Elsawool Yarns
Insouciant Fibers
Quince and Co
Brooklyn Tweed
Retrosaria by Rosa Pomar
Woolfolk Yarn
Vreseis Limited

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  • Reply Julie December 11, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Thanks for this list. I’m starting to make the shift from superwash yarns as I work through my stash and appreciate finding a list of alternatives in one place.

    I recently knit up some cozy mitts from Clover, the latest naturally dyed wool from Kristine at A Verb For Keeping Warm. This mule spun wool has some silk added for extra softness.

  • Reply Susan December 11, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    Thank you very much for this post…… wonder I didn’t like the feel of superwash!! WOW. I have sent the article to all of my friends who knit.

  • Reply Andi December 12, 2014 at 5:05 am

    Wonderful list of alternatives. I adore and hoard Beaverslide Dry Goods yarns. One of my very favorites. Look forward to trying some of the suggested yarn in the new year.

  • Reply ludivine December 14, 2014 at 3:22 am

    Thank you very much for the revealing analysis you made about superwash wool. As a knitter, I am more and more conscious about the kind of yarn I use, regarding animal well-being, yarn treatment, and decent working conditions and payment to the farmers. What about Oeko-tex certifcation on superwash wool yarns ? Does it garantee an organic process ?
    All the best,

  • Reply Nissa Johnson December 16, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Thanks for the great podcast again! Would love to win the giveaway:)

  • Reply Kelly H December 16, 2014 at 10:23 am

    I’m really enjoying your podcast! You have such a pleasant and soothing tone which is just matches the content of your podcast perfectly.

  • Reply Jill December 16, 2014 at 11:47 am

    Love this podcast so much! Xo

  • Reply Noelle December 16, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    I am so excited to find a podcast about fiber. Its a combinaton of two things I love. I can’t wait to listen to it while knitting tomorrow.

  • Reply Ali December 18, 2014 at 4:48 am

    Congratulations on another great podcast

  • Reply Liesl December 18, 2014 at 6:42 am

    Thank you so much for putting together this list—definitely bookmarking it. I’m still hunting for the perfect base yarns for my dyeing and I hadn’t heard of some of these. Very excited to try them out!

  • Reply Catherine December 19, 2014 at 10:25 am

    Beautiful giveaway! Wow!

  • Reply Jamie Taub December 20, 2014 at 10:58 am

    I just found your podcast! I’ve only been knitting regularly for about a year but this community seems great.

  • Reply Katey Troutman December 22, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    New favorite podcast! and your show are both so wonderful. I’ve been eagerly anticipating each and every episode from the beginning.

  • Reply Jenn December 22, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    I am so excited to come across this! I can’t wait to listen…

  • Reply Patricia B December 22, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    I am loving your podcast! Am still exploring your website; thanks for all the great info. It’s so nice to find other fiber craft lovers!

  • Reply Jessica March 2, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Oh lovely! I’m so glad you made this post – I commented on your superwash essay asking for this very thing. Ignore me – the 2-year-old has stolen my brain.

    Also, I ADORED O-Wool balance and I thought for some reason it had disappeared from the market. SO GLAD to see it’s still around.

  • Reply Tatiana March 11, 2015 at 1:03 am

    Thank you, Ashley, for sharing this information. I had not been aware since I recently read something about it and I am definitely going to consider when buying yarn for my little shop. There is so much that one does not know and thanks to blogs like you and people sharing information about knitting with attitude one can open one’s eyes!

  • Reply Fiber-conscious: Superwash wool - Woolful February 3, 2016 at 10:33 am

    […] *Find the sequel to this post here, Alternative to Superwash wool […]

  • Reply Su1282 March 2, 2016 at 9:13 am

    Thank you for bringing this topic to your audience. I would also suggest attending to the sheep breeds used in the yarn folksare using. Wool spun from Downs breed sheep tends to resist felting naturally. I particularly like Solitude Wools’ Down breed sock yarns, which I can machine wash (on delicate) and the socks hold up as well or better than most other sock yarns. (no affiliation other than a satisfied customer).

  • Reply PurlingRiver March 3, 2016 at 5:45 am

    Thank you, thank you. I already knew about the environmental issues with superwashing wool. It will make a difference that you’ve brought it to the attention of the larger yarn industry. I hope that all my favorite indie dyers read this post and all these comments and offer at least one non-superwash wool, even if its in a blend with linen or silf. Sometimes, I feel that I have little choice but to buy a superwash yarn when I’m entranced with a colorway or enroll in a dyer’s or designers club. I always look for the non-superwash choice when I’m looking at a new dyer’s offerings. And I always hand wash anyway.

  • Reply Hannah March 15, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    Started planning my daughters next sweater and new I had to come back to your original post on the subject. Thanks for adding this one, super helpful.

    I may be having a blonde moment, but how is organic superwash better/different?

    Thanks again for sharing this! I just know it’s going to change my knitting for the better.

  • Reply Paula Herbert October 12, 2017 at 8:25 am

    Hi Ashley, I thought you might be interested in the Cestari Sheep and Wool Company in Virginia, if you haven’t come across them already, and their efforts to promote wool sheep on the East Coast.

  • Reply Phyllis Belkin February 11, 2018 at 9:52 am

    I am disturbed by the Superwash process – I am someone has never used Superwash – and did not really know what is was – until I ordered some wool on line that was not identified as Superwash – and after reading your article about it -and being 3/4 of the way done with a project I am wondering if the company Mirasol “yaya” has an natural process but have not been able to find out. If not I do not feel comfortable give a give of plastic coated wool to my son! Any information about this company would be greatly appreciated. I love your blog and am very appreciative of your post. Thanks, Phyllis of Brooklyn NY

  • Reply Phyllis Belkin February 11, 2018 at 9:57 am

    Edited version!
    I am disturbed by the Superwash process – and am someone who has never used Superwash wool until I ordered some wool on line that was not identified as Superwash. After reading your article about it, and being 3/4 of the way done with a project, I am wondering if Mirasol yaya uses a natural process but have not been able to find out. Any information about this company would be greatly appreciated. So happy to have stumbled upon your site and the article. I do not feel comfortable giving as a gift to my son a plastic coated wool scarf. Thank you! Phyllis of Brooklyn NY

  • Reply 100 Percent Wool Blanket May 29, 2018 at 12:33 am

    Even though I’m not making the blanket, I love seeing photos of it! Especially love the brightest colours. Lovely photo with the horse too 🙂

  • Reply teal blanket July 20, 2018 at 1:38 am

    I love your ideas and the pictures are just lovely! Where can be found this big chunky blanket? It’s just lovely

  • Reply Lana virgen ¿superwash? – Superwash 'wool'? – BIDOLA December 28, 2019 at 10:47 am

    […] lanas que tengo pero si me falta más lana para calcetines, comprar otras lanas. He encontrado un blog con enlaces a páginas con lanas alternativas a superwash (en inglés). La bloguera de esta lista había escrito un […]

  • Reply Destiny Diane Cooper June 24, 2020 at 8:33 pm

    Thank you!!!!! I’m trying really hard to find sustainable and eco-friendly yarn — it’s been more of a journey than I thought so thank you so much for all your hard work in this area!!

  • Reply Enza October 9, 2021 at 11:34 pm

    I’m so thrilled to have come across your site. I’m going to be a grandmother in March next year. I became excited to take up Knitting and Crotchet again. It has been 10 years since I bought some wool. I would only buy PURE NEW WOOL as it was machine washable, soft on the skin and kept it’s shape and good looks. In my search for the wool I shocked to find that Patons wool which used to be Pure New wool is no longer made using new wool. I now know why. It’s now heavenly processed with chemicals! I am devastated to think I live in Australia, which has the best and finest wool in the world, but cannot buy descent wool.
    I also wonder how damaging the process would be for the environment?

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