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Published on November 8th, 2008 | by Julie Finn

60

Wool Comes from Sheep and I’m Cheap: Why I Craft with Acrylic

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Author's photo of a felted wool softieOh yeah, I know that wool felt is da’ bomb. It’s thicker, feels better on the skin, holds its shape better, flies around on little wings and gives you kisses when you’re feeling sad. Wool felt rocks, seriously. I admit it. Know what else I admit?

I craft with acrylic felt.

That’s right–acryclic. Made of PLASTIC! Plastic comes from the devil, you know, and yet I put it on my daughters’ felt board, I make their birthday crowns out of it, I applique it onto my holiday buntings:

My name is Julie, and I’m an acrylic felt user.

My use of acrylic felt for my work may result in a slight loss of quality over the admittedly superior quality wool felt, but I firmly believe that it is the more eco-friendly choice.

Wool, my friends, comes from sheep. As my manifesto dictates, I craft without exploitation of the world’s creatures. Unless I am confident that the sheep was humanely treated, which I am not with most commercially available wool felt, I will not use it, no matter that it might make my daughter’s felt birthday crown look slightly swankier.

Of course, organic and/or locally-produced wool felt are two viable options. If you have a local producer of wool products, perhaps one who leaves her happy farm full of sheep to come sell at your farmer’s market, or if you’re so monetarily successful that you can afford beautiful organic wool felt from online stores such as La Lana Wools, and still feed and clothe your children, you’re awesomely lucky and I totally want to be you–both those options are out of my league.

Instead, I craft with a material that is both cruelty-free and has a positive effect on our environment: I use acrylic felt made entirely from post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. It’s priced competitively, locally available at my regular craft store, and I’m happy with its quality. Ecospun is the brand I use, but perhaps there are others?

For projects in which acrylic felt really doesn’t hold up well, such as sewing stuffies, I use felted wool from thrifted sweaters–by the time they reach the second-hand stores, they’ve likely been partially felted in the washing machine anyway, and a second life as a child’s beloved stuffed animal is, I consider, a respectful retirement for a material that an animal had to sacrifice to produce.

For me, materials matter. What’s your take on the issue?



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About the Author

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now. Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.



  • http://compostermom.blogspot.com Daisy

    I’m glad you brought up the local/organic angle. I know many small farmers who treat their sheep very well. However, I can’t be sure that the wool I buy came from sheep on farms like theirs.
    Very thoughtful post!

  • http://compostermom.blogspot.com Daisy

    I’m glad you brought up the local/organic angle. I know many small farmers who treat their sheep very well. However, I can’t be sure that the wool I buy came from sheep on farms like theirs.
    Very thoughtful post!

  • http://compostermom.blogspot.com Daisy

    I’m glad you brought up the local/organic angle. I know many small farmers who treat their sheep very well. However, I can’t be sure that the wool I buy came from sheep on farms like theirs.
    Very thoughtful post!

  • http://homesteadnotes.blogspot.com Teresa

    “Plastic comes from the devil”…LOL! That is so great!

    Thanks for the reminder to keep the humanely-treated sheep in mind. We buy our meats from local farmers who, we are certain (and have visited some of their farms), treat their animals well, but I don’t always remember to check about the wool I buy. I’ve bought from Green Mtn Spinnery before and I believe they have a no-cruelty belief, but I also get my yarn from other vendors whose stance on the treatment issue isn’t so clear. Anyway, in the area of wool, I am just transitioning, but will try harder to remember to check.

  • http://homesteadnotes.blogspot.com Teresa

    “Plastic comes from the devil”…LOL! That is so great!

    Thanks for the reminder to keep the humanely-treated sheep in mind. We buy our meats from local farmers who, we are certain (and have visited some of their farms), treat their animals well, but I don’t always remember to check about the wool I buy. I’ve bought from Green Mtn Spinnery before and I believe they have a no-cruelty belief, but I also get my yarn from other vendors whose stance on the treatment issue isn’t so clear. Anyway, in the area of wool, I am just transitioning, but will try harder to remember to check.

  • http://homesteadnotes.blogspot.com Teresa

    “Plastic comes from the devil”…LOL! That is so great!

    Thanks for the reminder to keep the humanely-treated sheep in mind. We buy our meats from local farmers who, we are certain (and have visited some of their farms), treat their animals well, but I don’t always remember to check about the wool I buy. I’ve bought from Green Mtn Spinnery before and I believe they have a no-cruelty belief, but I also get my yarn from other vendors whose stance on the treatment issue isn’t so clear. Anyway, in the area of wool, I am just transitioning, but will try harder to remember to check.

  • http://www.NoOneWatching.com Grace

    I’m very happy you mentioned the thrifted sweaters option. To my mind, that’s the most ecological (and often the most economical) choice.

  • http://www.NoOneWatching.com Grace

    I’m very happy you mentioned the thrifted sweaters option. To my mind, that’s the most ecological (and often the most economical) choice.

  • http://www.NoOneWatching.com Grace

    I’m very happy you mentioned the thrifted sweaters option. To my mind, that’s the most ecological (and often the most economical) choice.

  • http://sweetfernhandmade.blogspot.com Kristina

    I’d much rather support a field of sheep somewhere than a factory that processes soda bottles into recycled felt. I think using thrifted sweaters is the best of both worlds. Recycling is definitely a good thing, but in my mind, reuse is so much better. Recycling requires a extra processing step– the step where the soda bottles get turned into felt– whereas reuse only requires people with outgrown clothing donating them to a good cause.

  • http://sweetfernhandmade.blogspot.com Kristina

    I’d much rather support a field of sheep somewhere than a factory that processes soda bottles into recycled felt. I think using thrifted sweaters is the best of both worlds. Recycling is definitely a good thing, but in my mind, reuse is so much better. Recycling requires a extra processing step– the step where the soda bottles get turned into felt– whereas reuse only requires people with outgrown clothing donating them to a good cause.

  • http://sweetfernhandmade.blogspot.com Kristina

    I’d much rather support a field of sheep somewhere than a factory that processes soda bottles into recycled felt. I think using thrifted sweaters is the best of both worlds. Recycling is definitely a good thing, but in my mind, reuse is so much better. Recycling requires a extra processing step– the step where the soda bottles get turned into felt– whereas reuse only requires people with outgrown clothing donating them to a good cause.

  • http://www.craftknife.blogspot.com Julie Finn

    Yes, a field of sheep I’d happily support. Heck, I’d love to BE a field of sheep. But I would choose to support a factory of plastic bottles over a factory farm of sheep.

    And yes, aren’t thrifted sweaters just the best? You have to get to the Goodwill darn early on 50%-off Storewide Sale day to score the wool sweaters!

  • http://www.craftknife.blogspot.com Julie Finn

    Yes, a field of sheep I’d happily support. Heck, I’d love to BE a field of sheep. But I would choose to support a factory of plastic bottles over a factory farm of sheep.

    And yes, aren’t thrifted sweaters just the best? You have to get to the Goodwill darn early on 50%-off Storewide Sale day to score the wool sweaters!

  • http://www.craftknife.blogspot.com Julie Finn

    Yes, a field of sheep I’d happily support. Heck, I’d love to BE a field of sheep. But I would choose to support a factory of plastic bottles over a factory farm of sheep.

    And yes, aren’t thrifted sweaters just the best? You have to get to the Goodwill darn early on 50%-off Storewide Sale day to score the wool sweaters!

  • http://greenoptions.com/author/melisser Melissa Elliott

    I think this is great! I just ran across a page selling Eco-felt (http://www.feltorama.com/Recycled-Eco-Felt-s/49.htm) via the Craft blog & was intrigued!

  • http://greenoptions.com/author/melisser Melissa Elliott

    I think this is great! I just ran across a page selling Eco-felt (http://www.feltorama.com/Recycled-Eco-Felt-s/49.htm) via the Craft blog & was intrigued!

  • http://greenoptions.com/author/melisser Melissa Elliott

    I think this is great! I just ran across a page selling Eco-felt (http://www.feltorama.com/Recycled-Eco-Felt-s/49.htm) via the Craft blog & was intrigued!

  • http://caca itZel

    i think that you are retarded if you think that putting plastic in the world is better than using wool and fighting for the sheep to be treated better. great idea. plastic is the devil you said it your self. yet you use it. i am a felter. and i get my wool from local farmers that love there sheep. my concience is clean, unlike yours that just uses plastic, instead of looking to support local farmers. what kind of a green crafter are you???? SUPPORT LOCAL FARMERS! i might coast more it might take up time, but it’s worth it. you can buy it online and get it shipped! cheek out etsy.com a tone of fiber farms and artists are 100% green. you did not do your homework!

  • http://www.craftknife.blogspot.com Julie Finn

    I think it’s great to disagree and to put dissenting ideas out into the world to help others make their decisions, but in honor of my baby niece who has Down Syndrome, and all others who live with mental delays, I request that the word “retarded” not be used as a derogatory term.

    There are a few issues that concern me here; first, I did mention that there are no local farmers who love their sheep in my area. That being the case, I do choose to buy a recycled product from a big-box store that consolidates its shipping from its warehouse instead of having an organic product shipped out just for me–I’m very wary of the mindset that permits super-natural and perfect organic products to be shipped across the country, using petroleum and other resources, just so that I can have a clean conscience.

    I’m also wary of the idea that plastic should be avoided completely–the resourcefulness to recycle plastic bottles into fabric is quite workable, I think, and since the product is of a good quality I’m happy to use it.

    I’m not retarded, you see; this is not what mental delay looks like. This is what it looks like when someone thinks that you’re wrong.

  • http://www.craftknife.blogspot.com Julie Finn

    I think it’s great to disagree and to put dissenting ideas out into the world to help others make their decisions, but in honor of my baby niece who has Down Syndrome, and all others who live with mental delays, I request that the word “retarded” not be used as a derogatory term.

    There are a few issues that concern me here; first, I did mention that there are no local farmers who love their sheep in my area. That being the case, I do choose to buy a recycled product from a big-box store that consolidates its shipping from its warehouse instead of having an organic product shipped out just for me–I’m very wary of the mindset that permits super-natural and perfect organic products to be shipped across the country, using petroleum and other resources, just so that I can have a clean conscience.

    I’m also wary of the idea that plastic should be avoided completely–the resourcefulness to recycle plastic bottles into fabric is quite workable, I think, and since the product is of a good quality I’m happy to use it.

    I’m not retarded, you see; this is not what mental delay looks like. This is what it looks like when someone thinks that you’re wrong.

  • http://www.craftknife.blogspot.com Julie Finn

    I think it’s great to disagree and to put dissenting ideas out into the world to help others make their decisions, but in honor of my baby niece who has Down Syndrome, and all others who live with mental delays, I request that the word “retarded” not be used as a derogatory term.

    There are a few issues that concern me here; first, I did mention that there are no local farmers who love their sheep in my area. That being the case, I do choose to buy a recycled product from a big-box store that consolidates its shipping from its warehouse instead of having an organic product shipped out just for me–I’m very wary of the mindset that permits super-natural and perfect organic products to be shipped across the country, using petroleum and other resources, just so that I can have a clean conscience.

    I’m also wary of the idea that plastic should be avoided completely–the resourcefulness to recycle plastic bottles into fabric is quite workable, I think, and since the product is of a good quality I’m happy to use it.

    I’m not retarded, you see; this is not what mental delay looks like. This is what it looks like when someone thinks that you’re wrong.

  • http://caca itZel

    hey, sorry, i just want to be clear on something. Don’t think that i don’t have mentaly ill people around me. people that i love dearly that i don’t think are retarded. The issue about that is i don’t support politically correctness. I know this is getting off the wool issue and I’ll get back to that. But just as i choose to re-apropriate words like calling myself a SPIC and taking pride in it. I also choose to change the meaning of words and not be afraid of them. :)

    And i also think it’s great the you are clear on your disision, but it’s important to give out all the info when your making your point even the stuff that does not support your argument.

    The truth of the matter is that sheep have to be sheared once a year wether your buy the wool or not. it’s to help them endure the summer and the heat and all that other jazz. there are farmers out in the world that literaly through the wool into the garbage because they have no one interested in buying the wool. They don’t have fun doing it, they have to and they will chuck it, it’s a sad reality. That is another reason i buy wool.

    cheers! itzel “the Spic from down south” :)

  • http://www.craftknife.blogspot.com Julie Finn

    But it doesn’t really work to reappropriate a word when you’re not the person originally affected by the negativity of the word. When my niece grows up, it would be a powerful appropriation if she chose to call herself retarded, reclaiming the word from its derogatory usage. It would be a hurtful discrimination, however, to hear another person call her retarded to insult her, or to use the word “retarded” only to connote “I disagree,” or “You are wrong.”

    While political correctness is often misused by a polite population terrified of giving offense, its practical premise is only that it asks us to use words that are associated with certain groups of people respectfully. Unconscious bias, reflected in word choices, can be more insidious, hurtful, and damaging than conscious bias.

    I’d love to get ahold of wool that had to be thrown in the garbage! It would be the best of both worlds for me–recycling and dumpster-diving!

  • http://www.craftknife.blogspot.com Julie Finn

    But it doesn’t really work to reappropriate a word when you’re not the person originally affected by the negativity of the word. When my niece grows up, it would be a powerful appropriation if she chose to call herself retarded, reclaiming the word from its derogatory usage. It would be a hurtful discrimination, however, to hear another person call her retarded to insult her, or to use the word “retarded” only to connote “I disagree,” or “You are wrong.”

    While political correctness is often misused by a polite population terrified of giving offense, its practical premise is only that it asks us to use words that are associated with certain groups of people respectfully. Unconscious bias, reflected in word choices, can be more insidious, hurtful, and damaging than conscious bias.

    I’d love to get ahold of wool that had to be thrown in the garbage! It would be the best of both worlds for me–recycling and dumpster-diving!

  • http://www.craftknife.blogspot.com Julie Finn

    But it doesn’t really work to reappropriate a word when you’re not the person originally affected by the negativity of the word. When my niece grows up, it would be a powerful appropriation if she chose to call herself retarded, reclaiming the word from its derogatory usage. It would be a hurtful discrimination, however, to hear another person call her retarded to insult her, or to use the word “retarded” only to connote “I disagree,” or “You are wrong.”

    While political correctness is often misused by a polite population terrified of giving offense, its practical premise is only that it asks us to use words that are associated with certain groups of people respectfully. Unconscious bias, reflected in word choices, can be more insidious, hurtful, and damaging than conscious bias.

    I’d love to get ahold of wool that had to be thrown in the garbage! It would be the best of both worlds for me–recycling and dumpster-diving!

  • http://www.senacia.blogspot.com senacia

    Well said Julie.

    Itzel, I am sorry to say that it was both painful and frustrating to read your comments. First, let’s point out that when there is a red line under a word, it is spelled incorrectly. Second, I read “retarded” and cringed. That mentality really still exists beyond the age of seven?

    Beyond all that, I don’t believe Julie is “putting” plastic into the world, that plastic is already produced making the bottles people still choose to buy. It is true that there is one more processing step to make it into felt, but what is the other option? Yes. That’s right. Landfill. Landfill where it will be useless and just clutter up more of the world.

    I must say, I do like wool. I LOVE wool, actually. I found this article to be valuable because I never thought about treating the little “baas” humanly because I ASSUMED they were. Now that I think back, I have witnessed a harsh shearing of a sheep and tried to convince myself that is how it is sheared. It is not, and now that I know, I will try my best to gain wool from a humane vendor.

    Maybe I’ll even try some plastic pop bottle felt..

    Kudos Julie. Glad you made your very mature point in your responses.

  • http://www.senacia.blogspot.com senacia

    Well said Julie.

    Itzel, I am sorry to say that it was both painful and frustrating to read your comments. First, let’s point out that when there is a red line under a word, it is spelled incorrectly. Second, I read “retarded” and cringed. That mentality really still exists beyond the age of seven?

    Beyond all that, I don’t believe Julie is “putting” plastic into the world, that plastic is already produced making the bottles people still choose to buy. It is true that there is one more processing step to make it into felt, but what is the other option? Yes. That’s right. Landfill. Landfill where it will be useless and just clutter up more of the world.

    I must say, I do like wool. I LOVE wool, actually. I found this article to be valuable because I never thought about treating the little “baas” humanly because I ASSUMED they were. Now that I think back, I have witnessed a harsh shearing of a sheep and tried to convince myself that is how it is sheared. It is not, and now that I know, I will try my best to gain wool from a humane vendor.

    Maybe I’ll even try some plastic pop bottle felt..

    Kudos Julie. Glad you made your very mature point in your responses.

  • http://www.senacia.blogspot.com senacia

    Well said Julie.

    Itzel, I am sorry to say that it was both painful and frustrating to read your comments. First, let’s point out that when there is a red line under a word, it is spelled incorrectly. Second, I read “retarded” and cringed. That mentality really still exists beyond the age of seven?

    Beyond all that, I don’t believe Julie is “putting” plastic into the world, that plastic is already produced making the bottles people still choose to buy. It is true that there is one more processing step to make it into felt, but what is the other option? Yes. That’s right. Landfill. Landfill where it will be useless and just clutter up more of the world.

    I must say, I do like wool. I LOVE wool, actually. I found this article to be valuable because I never thought about treating the little “baas” humanly because I ASSUMED they were. Now that I think back, I have witnessed a harsh shearing of a sheep and tried to convince myself that is how it is sheared. It is not, and now that I know, I will try my best to gain wool from a humane vendor.

    Maybe I’ll even try some plastic pop bottle felt..

    Kudos Julie. Glad you made your very mature point in your responses.

  • http://caca itZel

    you know ,i am a modern bigget but not an asshole, well maybe a little asshole, but i did not call your niece a retard. i called you a retard. i would never call any person with mental health issues a retard. i also did not say that i re-appropriated the word retard. i clearly said and i quote “choose to change the meaning of words and not be afraid of them”

    but hey i can see when I’ve hurt someone. and i don’t know you and i should try to be a lesser of an asshole. so I do apologize if i hurt your feelings.

    and i will say that we do agree on one thing. DUMPSTER DIVING KICKS ASS!!!

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  • anca

    i like plastic things actually but not as clothes because i don’t sweat in them like in cotton clothes. i don’t like wool at all, it is too itchy for me, so i knit with cotton only, natural dyed.
    i am allergic to many things and plastic things are easy to clean and don’t store dust,so if i have to recycle plastic i’ll do something for the home rather than for me.

  • anca

    i like plastic things actually but not as clothes because i don’t sweat in them like in cotton clothes. i don’t like wool at all, it is too itchy for me, so i knit with cotton only, natural dyed.
    i am allergic to many things and plastic things are easy to clean and don’t store dust,so if i have to recycle plastic i’ll do something for the home rather than for me.

  • anca

    i like plastic things actually but not as clothes because i don’t sweat in them like in cotton clothes. i don’t like wool at all, it is too itchy for me, so i knit with cotton only, natural dyed.
    i am allergic to many things and plastic things are easy to clean and don’t store dust,so if i have to recycle plastic i’ll do something for the home rather than for me.

  • http://www.craftknife.blogspot.com Julie Finn

    Yeah, recycled acrylic felt definitely wouldn’t work for clothing–I use it a ton for felt boards, birthday buntings, matching games, scrapbooking–yeah, home stuff.

  • http://www.craftknife.blogspot.com Julie Finn

    Yeah, recycled acrylic felt definitely wouldn’t work for clothing–I use it a ton for felt boards, birthday buntings, matching games, scrapbooking–yeah, home stuff.

  • http://www.craftknife.blogspot.com Julie Finn

    Yeah, recycled acrylic felt definitely wouldn’t work for clothing–I use it a ton for felt boards, birthday buntings, matching games, scrapbooking–yeah, home stuff.

  • Nicole

    It’s true, the wool industry is suffering. I’m from New Zealand the home of sheep. I’m glad to say all our sheep roam free in fields and are very well taken care of but unfortunately because people are not as interested in buying wool any more because polyester is cheaper. The farms are going out of business. They are being converted into dairy farms which are far more damaging to the environment.
    The whole thing saddens me.

  • Nicole

    It’s true, the wool industry is suffering. I’m from New Zealand the home of sheep. I’m glad to say all our sheep roam free in fields and are very well taken care of but unfortunately because people are not as interested in buying wool any more because polyester is cheaper. The farms are going out of business. They are being converted into dairy farms which are far more damaging to the environment.
    The whole thing saddens me.

  • Nicole

    It’s true, the wool industry is suffering. I’m from New Zealand the home of sheep. I’m glad to say all our sheep roam free in fields and are very well taken care of but unfortunately because people are not as interested in buying wool any more because polyester is cheaper. The farms are going out of business. They are being converted into dairy farms which are far more damaging to the environment.
    The whole thing saddens me.

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  • http://www.clutterpunk.blogspot.com Gina

    Just returning to this article as I’ve recently bought some eco-fi felt and lots of bloggers have asked me about it. I’m going to do a brief post on it and direct people over here to your wonderful site.

    I think your article (and the comments!!) show what a divisive topic felt can be, but I’m with you Julie on the idea that saving plastic from landfil is the greener option in most cases (and yes, shipping the ultra-organic stuff around the world is not exactly moral high-ground when it comes to green crafting)!!
    Thanks…

  • http://www.clutterpunk.blogspot.com Gina

    Just returning to this article as I’ve recently bought some eco-fi felt and lots of bloggers have asked me about it. I’m going to do a brief post on it and direct people over here to your wonderful site.

    I think your article (and the comments!!) show what a divisive topic felt can be, but I’m with you Julie on the idea that saving plastic from landfil is the greener option in most cases (and yes, shipping the ultra-organic stuff around the world is not exactly moral high-ground when it comes to green crafting)!!
    Thanks…

  • http://www.clutterpunk.blogspot.com Gina

    Just returning to this article as I’ve recently bought some eco-fi felt and lots of bloggers have asked me about it. I’m going to do a brief post on it and direct people over here to your wonderful site.

    I think your article (and the comments!!) show what a divisive topic felt can be, but I’m with you Julie on the idea that saving plastic from landfil is the greener option in most cases (and yes, shipping the ultra-organic stuff around the world is not exactly moral high-ground when it comes to green crafting)!!
    Thanks…

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  • http://livegreen-savegreen.blogspot.com/ Lana

    Julie, thank you for speaking up about use of the word “retarded” as an insult. I understand Itzel’s point about political correctness. Indeed, words do not have innate meaning; they must be given meaning by people.

    I have to point out, however, that the meaning you intend to convey by using a particular word does not and cannot change the way it is perceived by others. My youngest brother is Deaf and my daughter has always been fascinated by sign language. When she was very young, she would insist on making up her own signs and became very frustrated with me for not understanding what she was trying to tell me. It took quite a while for her to grasp the concept that communication depends on the shared understanding of the meanings of symbols. Just because she meant “bath” doesn’t mean she was communicating that concept to me.

    Similarly, the assertion that an individual doesn’t intend to refer to people with intellectual disabilities when using the word “retarded” does not negate the fact that the commonly understood meaning of the word DOES refer to those with intellectual disabilities.

    Political correctness can be arbitrary and tedious, but it is only kind to be mindful of how your words may affect others and to choose words that will accurately communicate your message.

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