Sourcing Eco-Knits Online

I found this photo while looking at a Vegan Mattress site. Very interesting.  Click for source.

It’s quite hard to list online fabric stores- there’s so many!  I’m focusing on eco-knits; many of these online shops also offer gorgeous wovens.  You can even get organic cotton quilting cotton these days!  Eco-knits is a somewhat smaller category…

I like green fabrics.  I like them for the appeal of working with sustainable/ethical fabrics, and I like the way they perform.  Many of you ask me where I get my fabrics- especially the knits.  The Fabric Store opened up last year in Brisbane and I’ve hardly bought online since then.  Unfortunately, TFS don’t have an online shop.

However, I’ve been scouring the internet for the best eco-knits I can find!  When I first started working with hemp and organic cotton a few years ago, I could hardly find anything that wasn’t off-white.  Now we have a much greater choice of colors, finishes and prints!  These retailers are scattered over three continents, and wherever applicable I note if I’ve ordered from that company.

Even after a week of digging around, I’m sure I missed something great, so if you know another source for eco-knit fabric, please leave a link in the comments!

Organic Cotton- grown without harsh chemicals, softer fiber

Organic cotton doesn’t wear the same as regular cotton.  They’re almost different fibers altogether!  I find organic cottons become extremely soft with age, and wear well.  I find I don’t mind a whiff of spandex or lycra in the fiber, 5% or less will give the fabric greater recovery and wrinkle resistance.

Edited to Add:

Organic Cotton Knits, Hart’s Fabrics, United States

Organic Cotton, Mood Fabrics, Los Angeles- They also have a large range of organic cotton twills!

Organic Cotton Jersey, Fabric.com, United States.  I have ordered from fabric.com many times, and while the shipping is steep the service and fabrics leave nothing to be desired.

Organic cotton interlock, fabric.com, United States

Organic Cotton Sweatshirt Fleece, fabric.com, United States.  Fabric.com has a pretty large range of eco-fabrics, and they’re constantly updating.  I have always been satisfied with their customer service.  Once they sent me the wrong colors of jersey and rather than lump the shipping costs for their mistake, let me keep the wrong colors and sent me what I originally ordered.

Organic Cotton Jersey, Kelanifabric.com.au, Australia.  These prints are gorgeous, designed and screen-printed in Australia. The price reflects this.  The plains are comparable to what I’d pay in a bricks and mortar shop.

Organic Cotton Interlock, organicfabricsonline.com.au, Australia.

Organic Cotton Stripe, Near Sea Naturals, United States.  I have ordered from them several times in the past and have no complaints.  They’re one of the first online sources of hemp and organic cotton I located, and the variety of fabrics they carry is unparalleled.  I had a hard time choosing just one stripe to feature!  Their prices are quite decent, too. This striped jersey costs $16/yd.

Printed Organic Cotton Interlock, Near Sea Naturals, United States.

Organic Cotton Thermal Knit, Near Sea Naturals, United States

Printed Organic Cotton Interlock, PM Organics, United States

Organic Cotton Sweater Rib Knit, PM Organics, United States


Organic Cotton/Soy, Sew Mama Sew!, United States.

Organic Cotton Interlock, Harmony Art Fabrics, wholesaler.  They have a beautiful site with well-chosen coordinate suggestions, and a great list of retailers who carry their fabrics!

Organic Cotton Plus carries a nice range of undyed organic cotton knits, and is based in the United States.

Hemp- grows quickly, revives tired crop soil

While I enjoy sewing and wearing hemp fabric for a raft of reasons, hemp knit fabric is harder to come by.  I’ve noticed more and more types of hemp knits in recent years, but the colors are usually quite limited.  Also, I find that hemp knits feel curiously “gritty” at first until the fabric softens with washing.

Hemp smells like linen.  Except stronger.  I really like that.

Hemp stretch, Margaret River Hemp Company, Western Australia.  I have ordered from them several times, they’re a great supplier even though the colors are limited.

Various Undyed Hemp Stretch Fabrics (check out the sweater knit!), Hemp Traders, United States.

Hemp and Soy and Milk knits, Hart’s Fabrics, United States.

Hemp/Organic Cotton Printed Jersey, Pickering International, United States.  This is a wholesaler, but their range of knit eco fabrics gives me hopes for some great new fabrics that might show up in shops online and off!

Many, if not most fabric stores want to provide their customers with the fabrics the customer desires.  Don’t be afraid to politely request eco-knits- the shop owner won’t know someone wants these fabrics unless you tell them!

Hemp Fabric UK also stocks a range of undyed hemp and organic cottons.

Linen- Ancient fiber, de facto organic

From what I unearthed when I looked into the linen-making process, as well as from ongoing reading on the topic, I consider linen an “eco” fiber.  Part of this is due to the relatively low-impact method of farming and processing, and part of this is due to linen’s “endurability.”  This fiber ages extremely well and lasts forever.

Linen jersey, Mood Fabrics, Los Angeles.

For your interest, check out a thread on laundering and cutting linen jersey at Artisan’s Square.  This is not an endorsement of the thread, I think they may perhaps be a bit precious about it all.  My own experience with linen jersey is that it does fluff and shed in the wash, but I expected that from the moment I clapped eyes on it.  The jersey I worked with that shed lint looked like it would shed, like a close-cropped angora.

The linen-cotton slub knits I’ve worked with did not shed.

“Skewed” knits are usually caused by bad cutting in the factory, simply open out the fabric and cut the pieces singly.

85% Polyeter, 15% Linen, Fabric Mart, United States.  I only mention this fabric because I simply can’t find any other linen jersey for sale online, and I won’t link.  Why someone would mix this much polyester with linen escapes me.  Linen jersey doesn’t really wrinkle.  Linen fibers are tough and strong.  They take dye and abuse very well.  Adulterating the fibers with polyester would severely alter the nature of the linen, its breathability, its scent, the drape.  Polyester is also not good for our water.

Edited to Add:

100% Linen jersey, Hart’s Fabrics, United States- wow!  They have such a great range!

Ali Baba has a truly maddening variety of wholesale linen jersey, but I just can’t buy 400kg at once!

Tips for Handling Linen Fabric (this is exactly how I prep my linen jerseys, too.  None too gently.)

Tencel- Rayon made in a “closed loop” process

I haven’t had a chance to play with a Tencel knit yet, but I see them more and more when I go to The Fabric Store, often blended with other fibers.  Tencel is basically a rayon that’s produced cleanly and sustainably.

Tencel-Organic Cotton Rib Knit, PM Organics, United States

Peace Silk- Wild silk, violence-free silk.  Carded and spun, not reeled.

Peace silk larvae are permitted to leave their cocoons before the silk fibers are harvested.  Many peace silk operations also support local artisans, organic farming practices, and good labor ethics.  I wrote about peace silk here, and you can read more at Aurora silk.  The silk produced this way is more of a “utility” silk than a “precious, precious” silk, and it wears very tough.

Noil silk knit, Aurora Silks, United States

My Tips for handling Silk Fabric

Bamboo/Soy- Generally inferior for durability

This is not my favorite fiber, but it’s not terrible either.  I find it tends to pill or get “fuzzy,” the fabric likes to grow, and lightweight bamboo can be somewhat tempermental.  That said, it drapes beautifully and feels great against the skin.

Bamboo Jersey, Mood Fabrics, Los Angeles

Bamboo, organic cotton, and soy jerseys, British Made Eco, UK

Bamboo rayon, fabric.com, United States

Bamboo/organic cotton, ecofabrics.com.au, Australia

The Bamboo Fabric Store, Australia

More resources:

List of UK-based Organic/Eco Fabric Stores

German-Based Eco Fabrics

Another German-Based Eco Fabrics Store

Enormous database of fabric stores worldwide

Eco-fabrics have come a long way in the past few years, and I hope in the future we’ll have even greater variety for our sewing!  The way to make that happen is to ask for it.  Most shops, especially fabric shops, want to make their customers very happy.

Whew! Have you ever sewn with any of these fabrics, or ordered from these retailers?  What did you think?  How gorgeous is that last organic cotton print?  Wow.  Am I too hard on polyester?  I think I want to go pick up some of that organic cotton twill for Stephen’s summer workwear now…


50 comments

  1. Holey Moley! What a set of links and resources for us no matter where we live!!!! Thank you sooo much!

  2. I second mblow’s comment – Wow! The time, effort, thought and research that you put into this (and many other posts) are amazing. Thank you so much for doing this. it’s truly appreciated!

    • No problem, Jenny… I was searching for a particular fabric I didn’t find (nettle, ramie) but did find some new to me retailers! So that’s a plus…

  3. This is a fabulous list! So many new places to shop. Thank you! Have you checked out Harts Fabrics? They have a pretty nice selection of eco-knits, and I find their service to be excellent!

  4. I’m excited about linen jersey, but I too have wondered about the 85/15 poly blends out there. What’s the point? I’m guessing it’s so that sellers can get big points for selling linen jersey for little cost to them. It seems fishy altogether. I did get my hands on some real linen jersey at a shop in Santa Fe, but it was not a good color for me and sadly quite sheer and I hate double layers when I’m pregnant–but it was so soft and ethereal–I can only imagine it being like wearing a whisper on a gentle spring breeze. I’d love to know where companies like Madewell and J Crew are getting their linen jersey from.

    • Yes. Exactly. What’s the point? No point. I have a few garments with poly, but it’s really an inferior fabric… Any I find poly knits pill. In general. Yuck. Just not worth my sewing time.

      I *usually* don’t go for layers and layers, but- the linen is different… I made a really nice summer wrap top with linen, which works really well because it’s so lightweight… The front crosses over so I’m not showing off, but it’s still light enough to be comfy.

      I would suppose they get their fabrics from China. Check out that Ali Baba link above. I think most of that is Chinese sourced linen jersey… Also discovered that a lot of designers are using that fabric lately, which would explain why I find it in my local shop? No idea, but it’s good stuff.

      • Ali Baba is such a tease… lovely fabrics, great colours, but in such large quantities it excludes home sewers. :(

        • I know! If I was clever, I’d find a way to design a sort of fabric co-op type program so we could order from Ali Baba collectively. But that’s too much for my braincells right now…

  5. Hurrah! I’m so thankful for this post! I was doing some online looking yesterday and was so disappointed in the choice and was worried about the quality. The last knit I bought online was a super cute print but has already pilled terribly after one summer’s wearing.
    Thanks for explaining why eco knits are better and that they wear well. It makes me more willing to spend a little more on them.

    • I might make a post about pilling… But basically, generally, pilling is caused by “short” fibers spun together to make thread to knit the fabric. It’s cheaper. Those short fibers break out of the thread easier, poking around and becoming pills… So a good anti-pill rule of thumb is to buy cotton jerseys that are a little more expensive, that use the “long” fibers of the cotton plant. Basically….

      I also find rayons and polyesters pill more often than not…

  6. Great post, thanks Steph! I love working with eco fabrics and it’s always good to find new sources.

    Any thoughts on eco wool knits? I’ve decided I want some wool knit tops for winter here, just yesterday I sent an inquiry to a site run by independent US fabric stores. If I find anything good I can let you know.

    • Thanks! :)

      Eco wool… Well… I’m not precisely sure what “organic” means for wool. I haven’t researched it enough. Sometimes producers stick “organic” on a price tag as an excuse to charge more, and I like to dig around and verify whether it matters… They do that with linen sometimes, though as far as I can find out linen growing practices are essentially organic anyway…

      Back to wool! Near Sea Naturals stocks organic wool, it’s very expensive. I don’t believe I’ve seen it anywhere else.

      There’s also some contentious animal rights/ethics issues around wool… So there’s the whole *ahem* “cruelty free” issue as well.. There’s just such a range of growing and processing practices in the wool industry….

      • Yeah I know! I’m getting kind of the same answer back from some of the fabric stores, that wool is “sustainable” but not “organic”, etc. I wish that there was more transparency in where things come from, what practices are used, etc. Probably I’ll just keep asking questions until hopefully I find something I feel good about!

        • Well- I might go interview my FIL about sheep and blog about it for you. I chased my tail for about 6months a few years ago trying to track down organic wool. He’s an organic citrus farmer, he also keeps sheep and he schooled me a bit on “organic” vs. “sustainable” vs. “ethical”. Very interesting. He keeps his sheep for meat, not wool, though he’s said I’m more than welcome to go cut some fleece and play if I want. I just haven’t gotten around to it. Anyway I may just make that something of a priority because I sure can’t remember all of what he told me and if it’d be useful to someone else, then good.

  7. Awesome resource, thank you! I sell tencel, linen, bamboo and tussah silk sliver i.e. pre spun. It is fascinating and I love the feel of these fibres when they are all cloudy still. And the lustres!

  8. Great list! I’d also like to point folks to alabamachanin.com . Natalie even grew her own organic cotton as an experiment this year. Also, marcytilton.com has some knit linen.

  9. What an amazing resource, thank you. And thank you for the details about UK suppliers. I’ll be checking those out for sure.

    • It’s ok to just say no… I do find eco-fibers in general are higher quality than the cheap stuff I’d find locally, the things that are so tempting to snap up and hoard…. I buy less, but it’s usually nicer when I buy eco… If that helps you!

  10. Thank you for this.I am finally over my fear of knits (thanks to no plain girls t shirts in the shops this year) so the Australian suppliers will come in handy

    • Oh excellent! Isn’t it amazing how Necessity can push us to improve our skills? ;) I’d probably still be a costume/corset sewist if Australian clothes shops had a good selection… Know what I mean?

  11. Thank you SOOOOOO much for compiling this resource. It’s good to know I am not the only one begging to know where you source your fabric. I am also going to checkout the Brisbane based store in your list.
    It is so frustrating to go into the two big name stores and only find poor quality fabric in a very limited range of colours/prints. When saying anything about it to the staff, they mostly shrug their shoulders as they have no influence on purchasing. It is so sad to have lost most of out smaller haberdashery shops to the giants. Not only have we lost variety, quality and competition, we have lost great service and the opportunity to influence purchasing decisions. … and to think when the fist of the giants opened in Kedron (Brisbane) about 18 years ago we all cheered about being able to get everything in the one location.

    • Yeah no problem… Sometimes I do things to blog about because *I* need/want the resource. ;)

      Do you mean Spotlight? Meh. I long ago gave up hope for useful conversations with staff there (though the occasional staff member is quite sharp and knowledgeable)… I do like to poke around for cotton jerseys… They’ve had several really good stripes and spots lately, and a decent wool/nylon a few months ago.

      Have you seen my list of Brisbane fabric stores? They’re indies or small chains, and I have by no means completed the list yet. Still heaps of places I need to hit… http://3hourspast.com/guide-to-brisbane-fabric-stores/

  12. What a great list! Thanks for sharing!

    I do have a question for people who have worked with hemp knits before. I worked with one for the first time over the summer, and it was a really nice fabric to work with and very comfortable to wear. However, by the third time I went to wear that shirt, the fabric had already developed those little holes that t-shirts sometimes get! So I’m wondering if that’s typical for the fabric. I mended it as best as I could, but you can still see where it happened, and I’m afraid it will happen more. It makes me sad, because I was really excited about the hemp fabric! (I got it from Fabric.com, and have usually been very satisfied with their products.)

  13. Thank you for this thoughtful and comprehensive post. It is an honor to have been included. If you or your readers have any questions about Harmony Art’s organic cotton fabrics (knits or wovens) please feel free to ask! Thanks for helping spread the word and educate others about sustainable fabrics. I really appreciate it!!

  14. I bookmarked all of the US links, and today I finally ordered some fabric. I went with 55% Hemp, 45% Organic Cotton Jersey, 6.5 oz from Hemp Traders. I’ll let you know what I think after I get it, sew it, and wear it a while.

  15. Pingback: 30 Minutes A Day Tiramisu Knit Dress Sewalong!

  16. Pingback: Organic Cotton- Because It Feels Divine « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World


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