Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Ever the Outlier

Well, blogging for ten years has finally paid off. I received a package in the mail last week that contained three balls of yarn (gratis) for me to test and report on to my faithful readers. No, it's not Habu or fair-trade, ethically harvested cashmere. It's pure polyester yarn, "Scrubby" from Red Heart, intended for knitting, you guessed it, dishwashing scrubbies.
Now, those of you who know me know that I'm pretty much an old hippy treehugging environmentalist, so it was definitely a long shot as to whether I would think polyester yarn was worth my investment of time in trying it out. Odds would be on a total thumbs down review.

And, yup, that would be right. In my opinion, this is the most seriously evil yarn I have worked with since Phentex back in the 1970's. It's like everything a yarn shouldn't be packed into one fibre. Rough and unpleasant to touch, impossible to rip out, uncompliant, harsh, catchy in a bad way. Perfect for the intended use however. I suppose.

This yarn made me so crazy that I began concocting fantasies about how it was created. I imagined a failed experiment to make some kind of biotoxin that some marketing genius looked at and said, "How can we find a use for this toxic waste, now that we've spent so much money developing it?" "It looks like some kind of supersnarled thread. Maybe the knitters would like it." "And it will erode microscopically into the oceans every time you wash it! Disposal problem solved!"

I see that many whimsical patterns for this yarn have been developed by the online knitting community. Obviously there is a market for this stuff. It has a cute name and there are many bright, synthetic colours named after things in the natural world. It has been marketed well.

I did ask the nice Red Heart rep who offered me the yarn if the yarn was virgin or recycled polyester. She didn't know. (There is a huge issue with recycled polyester microfibers coming off in wash water and entering the food chain.)
(And here's another good article.)

The yarn is made in Turkey, a country with an incredibly long and noble tradition of producing fine textiles. I found a PDF of a report on the Turkish synthetic fibre industry published by the Swiss company Oerlikon:
"Growth in the Turkish textile industry exceeds expectations
The Turkish textile industry, full steam ahead!"
Sorry I couldn't make the link work, but if you google that headline you will find it. Lots of corporate bafflegab but they do acknowledge the problem of the high relative cost of the petroleum used to manufacture virgin polyester.

I have sent an email directly to Red Heart asking if the fibre is virgin or recycled. It matters because recycled polyester fibres are more likely to break down into micro fibres. But either way, I am the person who had a dream once wherein I shouted, whilst brandishing a Phentex purple poncho, "Polyester equals Death!"

Probably the wrong person to do a fair review.

12 comments:

  1. It kind of looks nasty, like artificial turf! However I do make and use tawashi (aka scrubbies) from vintage virgin acrylic yarn. The environmental effects aren't particularly positive but these things hold up well to years of use. We don't have a dishwasher! I figure I'm just keeping a few balls of acrylic out of the landfill for a couple more years.

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  2. Good point, Louise. What does one do with all the synthetic fibre that is already out in the world? How do we mitigate the damage that has already been done?

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  3. eeeuw! I do however miss the Phentex covered hangers--nothing ever slid off, and you could colour code :)

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  4. Sweaters for penitents?

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  5. why on earth did this company send this to you living an ecologically & ethically mindful life on an island in Canada?

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  6. yikes, the colour is enough to put me off. What are you going to do with the remaining 2 1/2 balls of yarn?

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    1. I donated them to the thrift store, which feels like a cop out.

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  7. i just LOVE this. reading just this weekend about patagonia finally facing the problem of their synthetic fibers...i wonder where they will take this issue? anyway, i recently had a related experience, and came out on the side of natural fibers, yet again.

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  8. excellent review. I don't think I'll be buying this particular yarn any time soon

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  9. you know what makes the best dish scrubbies? A dredlock..or dry felted hair balls

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  10. this was a great post, just read it now for the chuckles. You are so funny!

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