Vegan yarn

Do you knit or crotchet?

Making cozy sweaters, scarves, and luxurious throws is a talent I don’t possess, but one I admire. My grandmother used to make me intricate sweaters. She tried to teach me to knit, but as a lefty, I proved to be a challenging student.

I’ve noticed that a lot of knitters use wool to make their handiwork. I’ve written about why wool isn’t cruelty-free.

So what’s a vegan knitter to do? Cotton is one option. Acrylic is another. But I recently discovered bamboo and soy yarn.

soy yarn

Bellatrista is a local company that creates luxurious yarns. The silky soft yarns come in difference weights and colors and would be a terrific alternative to wool or acrylic.

Soy yarn is stronger than wool or cotton. It breathes well, and wicks moisture away from the body, making it great for summer-weight knits. It’s a byproduct of soybean processing!

Not all the yarns on the site are vegan, so head to the Soy Yarn and Undyed Yarn pages for ones that meet the vegan knitter bar.

Undyed yarn is a great option for those who do their own dying.

Do you knit or crotchet? Have you found other cruelty-free yarns?

Vegan winter boots

I’m spoiled. I live in Seattle where winter is essentially mild and wet. Any pair of rubber rain boots will do. But I grew up in Canada, where I needed warm, insulated, waterproof boots for the salt, snow, slush, and frigid temperatures. If you’re looking for vegan winter boots to keep you warm, look no further.

Women

If Winters are cold in Canada, then look to Cougar, a Canadian company. They have a few vegan styles–and they know winter!

The Canuck 3 is a tall, waterproof nylon boot that comes in black or white and is cold-rated to -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit).

The Canuck by Cougar

The Cougar Como 2 is a nylon boot lined with polar plush. It’s also cold-rated to  -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) and comes in black, white, or gunmetal.

Cougar Como2 boots

Then there’s the Minty 6, a shimmery polar-lined boot. It comes in black and, my preference, a space-age gunmetal. Cold-rated to  -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit).

Cougar Minty 6

There’s a great vegan shoe store in Vancouver called Nice Shoes. They ship throughout the US and Canada in case you’re not nearby. Nice shoes has an amazing assortment of all types of footwear. They sell the Baltimore by Kamik, a waterproof, nylon bootie that’s cold-rated to -40.

Kamik Baltimore boots from Nice Shoes

If you want a bit of color, check out the red Minx by Columbia. They’re lined in faux fur and are cold-rated to -32 Celsius (-25 Fahrenheit).

Minx boots by Columbia

Men

I won’t forget the fellows. I found a few styles of Men’s vegan winter boots too. Nice shoes carries Bogs, like this pair of Ultra Mid. They’re great on slippery surfaces, and are cold-rated to -40.

Bogs for men at Nice Shoes

There’s also the Utik, if you prefer a synthetic leather lace-up. Cold-rated to  -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) with neat grommet details and red piping.

Utik boots from Nice Shoes

These Kamik Canuck boots are another option. They’re at Zappos.com, a great online shopping site where you can filter for style, size, and material. The Canucks are nylon, with lots of grip and a warm lining. The toggle at the cuff keeps out the snow.

Kamik men's boots on Zappos

The Ice Patrol by Vegetarian Shoes is an amazing boot. Not only are they sturdy and rugged, but they have metal grippers that fold out of the sole and act like mini crampons. Theses come in sizes 36 through 47 so they’ll fit a wide range of people, making them a great unisex boot. Plus, Vegetarian Shoes, as the name implies, is an all-vegan company so you know you’re getting an ethical boot and supporting a vegan company.

ice patrol boot by Vegetarian Shoes

The Snowdon, also by Vegetarian Shoes, is another shoe great for anyone. Like Dr. Marten’s or Converse, these work for men and women. The snowdon has ski-boot laces and is a sturdy, three-season boot for hikes or urban treks.

snowdon boots by Vegetarian Shoes

Youth and Kids

Columbia also makes youth sizes in styles like the Minx. They’re cold-rated to -32 Celsius (-25 Fahrenheit) and are a woven synthetic textile with a faux-fur lining.

Minx youth sizes by Columbia

The Columbia Powderbug nylon boots are cold rated to and come in four cute patterns. The toggle helps keep the snow out.

Columbia youth Powderbug boots

Bogs are a great option for men, women, and especially kids (with their fun patterns and easy pull-on handles). Not all Bogs are vegan, but the kids’ boots seem to be. And who doesn’t love dinosaurs and flowers?

Bogs for kids

I hope the examples above will give you a good starting point for your winter boot shopping. Let me know what your favorite vegan winter boots are!

 

Vegan motorcycle jackets

I’ve already written about motorcycle safety gear for the avid rider, but what about the moto look for fashion? You won’t need to be protected, but if you want to look good and steer clear of leather, you’ve got options!

Here’s the classic James Dean style jacket–with a twist: The pleather is quilted. I love this jacket and recently got it on sale at Aeropostale. You can find a lot of faux leather options at this place. And unlike leather, you won’t have to worry about a little rain.

classic jacket

For guys, how about this faux suede moto jacket? It’s a Perry Ellis design from Nordstrom. My husband didn’t mind the faux. He was happy actually, and pointed out that a lot of high-end cars use Alicante (a durable, water-resistant faux suede) in their interiors.

faux suede

If you don’t need to replicate the look of leather but love the moto style, check out a few other options like this brown velvet version and a bright yellow cotton one. The velvet jacket is from Forever 21 and the cotton one I found (new) on eBay.

velvet and cotton

I couple of other takes include a blush pink number from JC Penney and a fabric and pleather one also from Forever 21.

leather alternatives

I recently spotted a slew of great motorcycle jackets in the Macy’s juniors department. These are by American Rag and come in a lot of great shades.

faux leather jackets

So far, most of the jackets I’ve shown are lower end, often juniors, and they’re likely faux because faux is often cheaper (for the younger demographic). But you don’t have to go cheap to go faux. Vaute Couture, the vegan fashion house out of Brooklyn, makes a great classic moto jacket in v-wool for men and women and waxed canvas, also in men’s and women’s sizes.

Vaute jackets (photo c/o Vaute Couture)

You can check out Alternative Outfitters too, a vegan online retailer, to find jackets that are cruelty-free. Other stores like Free People and ModCloth are good sources too and carry cute vegan options. Do a search on their sites for vegan or faux and you’re bound to find something.

No matter what price point or style you’re looking for, you can avoid animal skins easily, thanks to the abundant choices we have these days. Happy shopping!

No warm fuzzies with angora

I’ve often wondered about angora production. The soft, fuzzy sweaters, mitts and hats that pop up in stores each fall seem so cozy. I’ve never bought angora though.

Angora can refer to cats, goats, ferrets, but it’s the angora rabbit that people use for wool. To get angora, the animals don’t need to be killed, which is why many people don’t think about it as a cruel industry. Angora can be combed, shorn, or plucked.

What? Yes, I wrote that. Plucked! Shearing results in shorter hair, so often plucking is preferred. Angora molt every few months, and in theory, pulling loose hair from a rabbit shouldn’t hurt, but as with everything, care and welfare is abandoned when volume goes up and there’s money to be made.

Angora Rabbit from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:White_Satin_Angora_Rabbit.jpgNinety percent of angora comes from China, where there are no animal welfare standards and no oversight into the angora industry. Recent undercover video shows rabbits screaming in pain as they’re plucked. I didn’t even know rabbits could scream. It’s heartbreaking. And after being plucked, they lie in shock in their filthy cages. After 3 to 5 years of this abuse, they’re killed). You can read more about the developments here (the video is embedded but won’t play automatically, so you don’t have to watch it).

If 90% of angora comes from these conditions, it makes sense that 90% of the angora in the stores is cruelly sourced. Frankly, even shearing doesn’t look humane to me. In this video, a woman boasts about how well her rabbits are treated, but she ties up one rabbit’s legs, stretches him and rotates him like a spit pig (minus the skewer).

The video isn’t graphic per se, but it’s not how I would like to be handled on a quarterly basis. Kind or cruel, why should they live in cages to be wool-making machines? Rabbits need to forage and burrow. It’s another example of commodification. These rabbits are slaves for our fashion and treated like nothing more than money-making machines.

animals are not fabric

To quote the slogan on my new favorite sweater (from The Tree Kisser’s website), animals are not fabric.

If you want to help, here’s how:

  • Don’t wear or buy angora.
  • Ask the stores you shop at not to carry angora.
  • Sign the petitions linked to in this article and tell stores like The Gap and Zara to stop carrying angora

(Update: Zara and The Gap, along with Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, suspended further angora purchases pending investigation. H&M and ASOS have vowed to stop selling it permanently. Pressure works! Keep on these retailers. They make money from us, so we have a say!).

6 ways to help animals this season

It’s December already and that means it’s the season of giving. In the spirit of Christmas, here are a few ways you can help animals:

Become vegan – Not eating animals is the number one thing you can do to help them. If you’re an animal lover, start your plan to transition to veganism today! You can find links on the right that will take you to sites that offer starter kits with recipes and nutritional info.

Don’t give animals as gifts – A dog or a cat is a ten to twenty year commitment. Giving an animal as a gift is giving someone a boatload of responsibility–and expenses! If someone isn’t ready for that, it’s likely their new animal will end up in a shelter. If you know someone really is ready for a companion animal, consider giving a gift certificate to a pet supply store. They’ll definitely need it when they have to feed and care for their new animal.

Adopt, don’t shop – If you’re planning to add an animal to your household, and all family members are on board, visit local shelters, rescue groups, or check out the nationwide network on petfinder.com. Contrary to what some people think, purebred and young animals are available for adoption. Then again, older animals are usually calmer and house-trained. They’re often a great choice.

Rescued animals are great, but they'll steal your heart--and your bed.

Give to charities that don’t exploit animalsGiving livestock to a poor family in a developing nation might sound noble but it’s a burden for people who can barely feed themselves. Instead of giving to organizations that give animals, consider supporting ones like Vegfam, Trees for Life, or Plenty. These groups work with local communities to provide plant-based meals, education, disaster relief, and clean water.

Sponsor an animal – What do you give someone who has everything? How about sponsoring an animal in their name? You can choose from farm animals, rescued primates, dogs and cats, or wild animals at a number of sanctuaries. Every animal rescue group needs funds, and many offer official sponsor programs, like Pig Peace, PAWS, Farm Sanctuary, Chimpanzee Sanctuary NW, Soi Dog (Thai street dog rescue), and the Performing Animal Welfare Society.

Give swag – Message gear is a fun way to give to someone, support a great cause, and spread the pro-animal message. If you know someone who supports animal causes, why not give them something from those groups? From chimpanzee wine, message mugs, cookbooks and vegan slogan T’s, there’s something for everyone.

photos (c) Herbivore

These are my ideas for helping animals during the holiday season (not that we have to limit ourselves to just December). Do you have any other ideas?

Wool-free winter wear

Whenever I write about what not to do/eat/wear, I like to provide alternatives so we have ideas for things we can consume. I recently wrote about what’s wrong with wool. Well, I’ve found some great, cruelty-free products that are made of wool alternatives and I have to share!

My favorite winter wear company is Vaute Couture. Vegan-owned, Vaute (pronounced vote) is the brain-child of model-turned-entrepreneur Leanne Mai-ly Milgart. Her men’s and women’s designs are made in New York’s garment district using recycled and recyclable fabrics that are windproof, snow- and rain-resistant, warmer than wool, and heat retaining.

Vaute is stylish too. They’re the first all-vegan line to show at New York’s prestigious Fashion Week–and they rocked it! The media picked up the story and vegan fashion went mainstream!

vaute image (c) Vaute Couture

I recently learned about another cool company, Hoodlamb. Based in Amsterdam, Hoodlamb makes men’s and women’s coats and other apparel from hemp–arguably the most environmentally friendly fabric out there. It’s strong and durable and requires no pesticides or fertilizer to grow. Hemp warms you up when you need it and keeps you cool when you’re hot.

Hoodlamb carries stylish, warm winter clothes with a conscience. Love the faux shearling linings!

hoodlamb image (c) Hoodlamb

For budget-conscious fashionistas, I recommend Lulu’s and Modcloth. They both carry a wide assortment of winter coats, many of which are wool-, down-, and leather-free. Not all their products are vegan, so read the descriptions before you buy.

Modcloth and Lulu’s focus on showcasing independent designers from around the world. That might not sit well with localvores, but if you’re like me and are primarily interested in animal-free clothes, you’ll find something adorable at these online retailers.

In fact, if you look around, you’ll find non-wool coats in other stores too. For example, American Apparel, known for their sweatshop-free made in LA clothes, carry some vegan winter items, like a wool-free cape and a unisex parka made with faux shearling.

American Apparel images (c) American Apparel

Do you have any other tips for finding cruelty-free winter wear?

Why not wool?

I’ve never liked the feel of wool next to my skin. It’s too itchy! But I couldn’t understand why vegans didn’t wear it. Sheep need to be shorn, right? And unlike fur, they’re not killed for their wool. Or are they?

A few years ago, after researching about wool, I changed my stance. Wool isn’t welcome in my home.

bleating sheep

Wild sheep grow only enough wool to keep warm (and they can shed it). Domesticated sheep have been bred for their wooly coats and do require shearing. Often, sheep who aren’t shorn before the weather is too hot will die of heat exhaustion. And if they’re shorn too early, they’ll die from exposure. About a million sheep a year die this way.

Sheep, like merinos, are bred to have lots of wrinkly skin (more area to grow wool on). As a result of their wrinkles, they suffer from skin infections. Flies lay eggs in their folds and maggots literally eat the sheep alive. Ranchers have found a way to combat this: mulesing, a process where large strips of flesh are cut off the sheep’s backsides. About 100 million sheep have this process done to them every year–without anesthetic!

Also performed without painkillers: castration, dehorning and tail docking.

Sheep are shorn by laborers who are paid by volume, not the hour. And in their hurry to work quickly, sheep are often rough-handled and injured. And when sheep stop producing as much wool as ranchers need to keep profits up, the sheep are killed for their flesh. In Australia, sheep are often shipped alive to the Middle East so they can be sold and butchered there. Many don’t even survive the cramped, long journey by sea.

In theory, one can raise a few sheep and sheer them humanely. In reality, the scale of operations–farms with hundreds of thousands of sheep–means there isn’t time or resources to care for the sheep. Dead sheep are a cost of doing business. It’s great that sheep aren’t usually confined to factory farm, like pigs, chickens and cows, but they roam land in habitats that they aren’t native to and often destroy habitat for native species. In Australia, some indigenous species are becoming endangered as a result of sheep grazing.

Don’t get fleeced! Whether for carpets or clothing, skip the wool (which is pricy, shrinks, attracts moths, retains odors and isn’t hypoallergenic) and try humane alternatives:

  • Cottonsheep
  • Bamboo
  • Hemp
  • Tencel (biodegradable)
  • PolarTec (made from recycled plastic)
  • Poly fleece
  • Synthetic shearling
  • Rayon
  • Linen

Resources: