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Updated: Sep 25, 2023

As the weather warms up and we start reaching for our summer clothes, it’s important that we not only consider how a fabric feels against our skin but also the environmental impact of our clothing choices. In this post, we’ll compare the properties and ecological footprint of four popular summer fibers: cotton, linen, nettle, and bamboo.

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Sustainable summer fiber options for a conscious wardrobe


Cotton is a staple in most people’s wardrobes, and for a good reason. It’s soft, breathable, and easy to care for. However, cotton is also a highly water-intensive crop, and conventional cotton farming can involve the use of harmful pesticides and herbicides.

Fortunately, more sustainable options, such as organic and regenerative cotton farming practices, are available. If you’re looking for the most sustainable cotton, look for organic or recycled cotton.

And if you do choose cotton as your summer fiber of choice, make sure to check out these 3 summer projects in cotton.


Linen, made from the fibers of the flax plant, is another popular summer fiber known for its natural texture and sheen. Like cotton, flax requires water to grow but is generally cultivated without the need for pesticides or fertilizers and has the added benefit of improving soil quality.

Flax is known for being one of the fastest-growing crops, resulting in a renewable and biodegradable finished product that is also strong and durable. Additionally, flax plants can be grown in a rotation with other crops, reducing soil erosion and improving soil health.


Nettle is a lesser-known fiber but a sustainable alternative to cotton and linen. Nettle fibers are similar in texture to linen and have a natural sheen. They’re strong and durable, making them a good choice for garments with heavy use.

Nettle is often used as a substitute for nylon in yarn sock blends. Additionally, nettles grow easily in many regions and can be a valuable crop for small-scale farmers.


Bamboo is relatively new in the world of sustainable fashion, but it’s quickly gaining popularity. Bamboo fibers are soft, silky, and have a natural sheen. Bamboo is a sustainable and eco-friendly fiber that boasts several benefits.

It’s highly water-efficient, regenerates quickly, and is considered carbon neutral. As a plant-based fiber, it absorbs the same amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it releases during harvesting.

Making sustainable choices in your knitting projects

When using plant fibers for knitting, remember that cotton and bamboo are softer but heavier, while linen and nettle are lighter but have a natural texture and sheen.

If you plan to adapt a pattern intended for wool to a summer fiber, pay attention to the thickness of the yarn (wraps per inch) rather than grams and meters.

When it comes to their ecological footprint, linen and nettle are generally considered to be the most sustainable of the abovementioned fibers, followed by cotton (depending on farming practices) and bamboo.

One way to determine if a natural fiber yarn is environmentally friendly is to check if it has a GOTS certification. The acronym stands for Global Organic Textile Standards, which is the primary processing standard for textiles made from organic fibers.

By choosing sustainable fibers, we can reduce our environmental impact and support the farmers and workers who produce the yarn we use to make our clothing. And remember that another way to be sustainable while knitting is to use all your scraps to avoid waste.

If you’d like to learn more about summer fibers, make sure to check out our article about wood-based fibers.


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