Soy is a fibre that has interested me for a while now. I have never worked with it but it is on the list of fibres I want to try. I am secretly hoping my brother will have kids in the near future so I can knit something for them using soy yarn as it is meant to be good for garments for children.
Soy is a byproduct from the soy industry and based on my research most fibres are produced in China even thought the biggest soybean growers are the US, Brazil and Argentina. I also found that it seems most soy fibre originates from genetically modified soy. If this is something that you find problematic soy might not be the fibre for you.
How soy yarn is made
I didn’t find as much detail about the process of turning soy into fibre to knit with compared to the other fibres I have covered so far but I hope this will give you some idea of it.
Soy is traditionally native to East Asia and is a cheap source of protein for both animals and humans. When growing soy the first step in the process is germination which occurs about 48 hours after planting and the first leaves appear above ground shortly after. They help provide nutrients to the immature plant. The plant keeps growing and eventually flowers after which the pods grow. The pods are hairy and tend to grow in clusters of up to 5 seeds where it grows until the beans are harvested when they are still in an immature state as pods that have turned yellow impact the quality of the soybeans.
As I mentioned it is a byproduct from making soy products such as tofu, soy milk and so on. The left over from this process is called okara and is made up of the hulls of soy beans.Using bio-engineered polymers the liquid proteins are removed from the okara. Afterwards the separated liquid proteins are put into a machine called a spinneret, which apparently looks somewhat like a shower head and produces liquid soy.
Next the liquid soy is dried. I unfortunately didn’t find anything on how this is done but it seems that after the drying process is completed you will have strands of soybean fibre that can be spun/plied together.
Pro and Cons
Soy fibre is essentially a product made from waste which I think is a good use of something otherwise thrown away. It is also a natural product and relatively cheap to make. It has a similar appearance to silk. If you dislike the fact that silk is produced by killing the silkworm soy is a great alternative. It is also a breathable and moisture absorbents fibre and as a result it is nice to wear in warm weather. Soy takes dyes well and the dye has good fastness on soy fibre.
As I mentioned further up, soy yarn is predominately made form genetically modified soy. It also requires a lot of water and pesticides however it seems like it needs less the cotton which might make this a useful alternative. However, it should also be noted that due to the production of soy in countries such as Brazil and Argentina a significant amount of rain forest has been destroyed to make land for agriculture which has a significant environmental impact and makes me question the advertising of soy as and eco-friendly product.
Soy and Soy blends
As I mentioned above I have not worked with soy yarn myself so I can’t really recommend anything and as I searched for soy yarns on Ravelry a lot of it came up as discontinued so I am afraid I have a very short list this time.
Natural Fibre Producers Super Fine Airy (alpaca and soy blend)
Soy pattern ideas
A little note in advance, a lot of the patterns use soy yarns that have been discontinued but I still thought it worth including them because they are lovely patterns.