Berroco Remix and the Great Silk Dilemma

26 Nov

The other day I was in Hill Country Weavers with my mom when I stumbled upon Berroco Remix. I was intrigued because the label said it was made of 100% recycled fibers, which is just so cool. In fact, I’ve used quite a few fabrics and yarns with recycled content for school projects in the past, but I’ve never seen a 100% recycled yarn.

As I read the content I grew more and more excited; 30% nylon, 27% cotton, 24% acrylic, 9% linen, and then I saw the measly 10% silk (not vegan!).

So now I’m experiencing an ethical dilemma. Basically, this would be my dream yarn, except for the silk.  I’ve always hated buying new synthetic fibers for environmental reasons, but in order to make a nice sweater it’s sometimes a necessity to buy new acrylic or nylon. This blend does seem like it would make a great sweater yarn. Even if the silk is recycled and makes up such a fraction of the content as a vegan is it still okay to use? Is not using this yarn and then choosing a new cotton/acrylic blend for my next sweater a more ethical decision?

This is what Berroco says about their manufacturing process:

“Garments and high-quality commercially knit fabric panels left over from the ready-to-wear industry are collected from across Europe and sorted by fiber, then color. Because these pieces are pre-dyed, there is no need to dye them again, which saves water and prevents water pollution. Instead, colors are created by carefully blending garnetted fibers. Garnetted fiber is the result of shredding old textiles to make a new, fleece-like fiber that is ready to be spun into a new yarn.”

So basically, a bunch of fabric scraps that would otherwise be tossed in the garbage are being reused to make new yarn. I’m still not sure what I think. I’m not sure if there is a right or wrong answer.

I would love to hear some opinions from other vegan knitters. Would you be inclined to use this yarn, or would the silk stop you?


13 Responses to “Berroco Remix and the Great Silk Dilemma”

  1. Penny November 26, 2010 at 1:20 pm #

    This is such a tricky one, isn’t it? I think I wouldn’t use the silk, but I can understand why you’d want to. Apart from anything else, I don’t like to touch anything that’s come from animals (though touching living animals is fine!).

    I’m delighted to have found your blog (through ravelry). I think it’s great that you’re studying fashion and knitwear design and sticking to your vegan principles. There are so many animal fibres around, even, as in that recycled yarn, in such small amounts that you wonder why they bother. I’m avoiding acrylics, too, now and am using cotton and bamboo at the moment.

    I’m adding you to my blogroll. 🙂

  2. cseneque November 27, 2010 at 12:19 am #

    That’s a tricky one. I would personally feel a bit squeamish about it and probably not end up using the yarn, but logically I would say that using strictly recycled animal fibres is not contributing to the cruelty, simply making use of the byproducts that would otherwise be waste. I think you’d find vegan crafters on each side of the fence. Which way are you leaning?

  3. Kristen November 27, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    Hey Penny, thanks for your nice comments. I’m adding you to my blogroll as well!

    Personally, I think I’m leaning towards using it because the only problem that I have is that it makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable, but I don’t have a sound logical reason for feeling uncomfortable about it other than animal fiber being not vegan. Does that make sense?

    Now, I’m still trying to use mostly eco-friendly fibers sans any animal fiber such as cotton, bamboo, linen, or soy. But I think in the future if I want to make a sweater that requires a bit of acrylic then I’m going to give Remix some strong consideration.

    By the way, I wrote to Berroco and suggested making a similar blend but without the silk because I don’t think I’m the only vegan who would love it. Who knows, maybe it will get through to someone!

  4. Danielle JEFFERY November 28, 2010 at 10:22 am #

    You make perfect sense, Kristen. Personally, I am okay with using recycled wool. My laptop bag that I take everywhere is made from an old wool trench coat. I am a bit more squeamish about silk, but I would go ahead and use that yarn. But it really depends on your own instincts, and what feels right to you. 🙂

    I really enjoy your blog!

    ❤ danielle

  5. Portia O November 28, 2010 at 3:01 pm #

    I’m probably not the best person to answer this, since I’ve been known to purchase “certified ethical wool” — but I vote for recycled yarn with silk over new yarn without. There are typically 3 reasons that are quoted for being vegan: animal rights, environmental issues, and health reasons. Of course you know this. I find myself thinking about animal rights issues vs. environmental issues a lot, and I think you just have to make your best guess on what is the best thing to do/buy. Is brand new polyester better than wool that you can verify is produced ethically with environmentally friendly dies, or better yet, recycled wool? Lately I vote for wool over poly. But of course I always wonder if I’m making the “right” choice.

  6. Christine November 30, 2010 at 5:06 pm #

    Well, first off let me say how happy I am to find a Vegan knitter who is actually Vegan. i.e doesn’t use fiber from animals.

    Soooo many Vegan knitters still use wool and I’m always disappointed when I stalk their Ravelry pages looking for yarn inspiration…I do my fair share of feeling bummed that I don’t use wool when I am at my LYS, the colors! The textures! So much variety! I admit I wallow in how deprived I feel, for a sec at least 😉

    I’m pretty sure I understand exactly where you’re coming from. I have to remind myself that Veganism is not about personal purity, it’s about reducing suffering. (I should note that I am one of those Vegans who sticks to the original definition, that you are only Vegan if it is based on animal rights, as you can be a”dietary Vegan” and not give a crap about animals. So in my book that’s a strict Vegetarian…anyways…..)

    I do think that this would fit in with a Vegan lifestyle, but find that incorporating these items can be a slippery slope. This might sound bad, but would you tell others, mainly Omnis, that there is recycled silk in your project?

    I feel like a lot of Omnis are looking for any reason to discredit Veganism. And when I get into too many explanations, it just seems to go down hill.

    For example, I have rescue chicken, and I don’t eat the eggs. (My husband loves birds, and this was a positive way for us to have them.)It would seem that if I wanted to eat the eggs, which I so don’t, that this would be perfectly fine to eat our own chickens eggs.

    But how would I explain that? I feel like I’d have this “perfect excuse” at least to me. But whose to say that some other persons free-range/cage-free/happy meat reason is any less valid IN THEIR MIND? Do you know what I mean. That “oh well, she uses X. So why is it a problem if I use this other X. Cause of reason ab and c.”

    I’m just kinda tossing my own thought’s out there, curious to see what you decide cause this yarn looks so freaking yummy.

    Goodness, I don’t articulate myself very well online AT ALL :p

  7. Frani December 1, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    I’m not a knitter (but very soon I will be!). However, I would choose not to use the fabric because of the silk. Yes, it’s more ecological to use recycled fabrics which is good for Mama Earth and yeah, it’s not killing silk worms but it all comes down to this: Whether new or recycled animal fabrics are being used, they are still conveying the message that it’s okay to use animal fibers. Now, if the yarn said, “10% mink/fox/etc.” the majority of people wouldn’t use it. So why would it be okay to use silk when it is still considered an animal fiber? I’d put it aside, grab a copy of “The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life” by Melisser Elliott, go all the way to the back of the book for the DIY tips, look at the knitting section and see the recommendations for vegan knit fibers.
    I know how it feels like to find an awesome product, be wowed by it and then find out that it has an animal product. But I don’t let that get to me, I look for the vegan alternative that kicks that products butt and works even better!

    • Kristen December 1, 2010 at 3:36 pm #

      Haha, I wrote the yarn guide in Melisser’s book : )

      • Frani December 1, 2010 at 9:55 pm #

        I just realized that after I read former blog posts by you!

  8. Shannnon December 1, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    The first time I saw this yarn I immediately disregarded it because of the silk content but I think now that I was wrong to do so. I’ve thought a lot about this since your original post and I have decided that I’m okay with using this yarn. I don’t think that wearing recycled silk is that same a wearing silk. I think that saving these scraps of silk from landfills honors the silk worms. I don’t think that using the recycled silk promotes new silk production in any way and I don’t think that using this yarn would send the message that it’s okay to wear animal silk because it’s such a minor portion that the fiber is not recognizable as silk. I do think that purchasing this yarn supports and encourages yarn companies to produce more recycled fibers which is good for the Earth and in turn good for the animals. So yes, I think that overall this yarn is more beneficial than harmful and I would like to support yarn companies that produce recycled fibers. Also, I love your idea of writing to yarn companies to ask for vegan recycled yarns and I want to thank you for posting the origin of the silk fiber because you got me to reconsider this yarn.

  9. Kristen December 1, 2010 at 11:03 pm #

    Thanks for all of your comments everyone! I really appreciate the thoughtful discussion and love reading your opinions.

    Being vegan has never been about purity for me, for me it’s about causing the least harm and respecting animals as autonomous beings with their own interests. This is the reason I do not use any wool, angora, cashmere or other animal products even if they are supposedly humanely raised. I simply do not believe in animals as economic units and I don’t believe in taking things that don’t belong to me.

    I think I’m comfortable with the use of this yarn because I don’t see it as an affront to those ideas.

    But hey, here’s to hoping that one day there will be a plethora of all vegan recycled yarns on the market! If you’re interested be sure and let yarn companies like Berroco know!

  10. A.T. August 28, 2011 at 3:39 pm #


    I read this posting last year as well as all the comments, and thought about it quite a bit. As a vegan for about 10 years now, I’ve tried to make a statement with my knit items to show that you can have great, high-quality handknits without using animal fibers. However, the Remix is a beautiful yarn, and I love the colors, the recycled aspect, and agree that recycled silk is probably more environmental than brand new manmade fiber. So, earlier this year I justified to myself that it was OK and decided to use it for a sweater.

    The entire time I was knitting my sweater the animal fiber content weighed on my mind. What if it had been 10% wool/angora/mink as previous commenters stated? I definitely wouldn’t have bought it. The whole time I was knitting the sweater I basically felt like a huge hypocrite. I even threw away all the labels before my vegan husband saw them because I didn’t want him to know. Luckily he doesn’t pay too close attention to the details of my knitting. 😉

    Everyone has their own threshold for where they draw the line with their veganism, and I like to go with a “judge not lest ye be judged” attitude in that regard. For me, this project helped reinforce where my own lines are drawn. At the end of the day, I have a sweater that looks great but honestly doesn’t fit me quite right (bottom-up is such a pain!), so I plan to gift it to an omni friend. And I emailed Berroco with a plea for a Remix remix that doesn’t contain any silk.

    Just wanted to share my story in case other knitters out there are debating the issue with themselves. Love the blog, keep it up!

  11. Rachel January 25, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    I just bought some Remix yarn at Hill Country Weavers. Here are my thoughts on using it considering the silk content: To me, using recycled fibers is a good thing. Who knows what they’d do with those scraps otherwise? Berroco also notes that it keeps the environment in mind when making the yarn, so Remix in particular might be less of a burden on our resources than recycled yarn made some other way.
    The problem for me would be if it seemed like I was condoning the use of silk. With Remix, though, I don’t think you’d run this risk. It is not observably silk, so folks wouldn’t get the message that silk is OK.

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