Introducing: Upcycled Wool Beanies & Headbands

Caring for our planet is an intrinsically Native value. We strive to be good ancestors to the generations who will come after us and ensure they can walk in a world made better by our care. As a tribally-owned business guided by our Native values, we are always looking for ways to reduce our own waste as much as possible: for example, our Hip Bags divert plastic bottles from the ocean, and our vertical mill blankets are created by mills with very small carbon footprints. In the past year we have begun using wool blanket scraps in our upcycled products (including our Upcycled Wool Stockings). In our latest effort to reuse our wool products, we created a new collection of Upcycled Wool Beanies and Headbands, which will be available for sale online starting February 6, 2024. Made from our Gold Label Throw Blankets, each hat is a unique piece of wearable Native art.

Two young Native children, a daughter wearing a wool hat and a son wearing a wool headband, hug their mom and kiss her cheek.Miriam (Choctaw, Cherokee, Sac and Fox, Black) and her cute kiddos stay warm wearing our Upcycled Wool Beanies and Headbands 

How We Make our Upcycled Wool Beanies and Headbands

We knit our entire Gold Label Collection of wool blankets and scarves in our Seattle studio. With any textile manufacturing process, there will always be instances where items have to be cast off the machines when they are only partially knit—yarns break, or sometimes holes occur. These partial blankets are still luxurious scraps of fabric, so we have been saving them until we found a way to repurpose them. Enter: our Upcycled Wool Beanies and Headbands. By using our partial pieces Gold Label blanket scrap to create this line of cozy headwear, we are reducing waste while giving you another way to accessorize with authentic Native designs. Our talented team sews these beanies and headbands here in Seattle, and you end up with a unique piece of wearable art made from the softest merino wool.

Watch our Instagram Reel here to see a little of the creation process

Four different blanket designs have been used in our Upcycled Wool Beanies: Wolf Spirit by David Robert Boxley (Tsimshian), New Phase by Jared Yazzie (Diné/Navajo), Family Floral by Kira Murillo (Shoshone-Bannock), and Good Life by Sarah Agaton Howes (Anishinaabe-Ojibwe). We chose the most visually appealing undamaged portions of each wool scrap, making every single hat unique. While the beanies are made with the edge of a blanket, the headbands are cut from the interior of a blanket, making the headbands highly individualized in design.

Cassius Johnson, a Diné/Navajo man, models a black, red, and white wool beanie made from a Native American-designed blanketCassius (Diné/Navajo) models an Upcycled Wool Beanie made from our Wolf Spirit Throw Blanket designed by David Robert Boxley (Ts’msyen/Tsimshian)  

What is Upcycling?

Upcycling is the "Reuse" part of the "Reuse, Reduce, Recycle" environmental equation, when you turn one thing into another in an effort to reduce waste. When we have a Signature Series Wool Blanket with minor flaws, we upcycle the perfect portions into our best-selling Upcycled Wool Stockings. And now we are able to take our flawed Gold Label Throw Blankets and turn them into Upcycled Wool Beanies and Headbands. We are proud to give this material new life by cutting and sewing it into something new and wonderful. "Textile waste is a massive environmental and social issue," shares our Textile Production Manager, Rebecca Morse. "By buying any of our upcycled products, you are actively helping to reduce textile waste, and gaining a well-crafted, timeless product that you can use for years to come. When you buy one of our upcycled products, you are joining us as we strive to do better by the people and the planet."

The world produces 92 million tons of textile waste each year. Our Upcycled Wool Beanies and Headbands (as well as our other upcycled products) keep good wool out of the landfill by turning it into new and usable products. "We use the finished edge of our blanket scrap to form the edge of our beanies, which leaves us the bulk of the remaining fabric to choose from when cutting our headbands," shares Rebecca. "I love this because our customers will receive a one-of-a-kind piece, and we get to keep the maximum amount of fabric from going to waste." Francesca and Rebecca were the driving force behind both of Eighth Generation’s Sustainability Sales in 2023, and have done amazing work in making our Gold Label collection more sustainable. 

A woman with dark hair models a blue wool beanie in front of a wood slat backgroundMadeline models an Upcycled Wool Beanie made from our Good Life Throw Blanket designed by Sarah Agaton Howes (Anishinaabe-Ojibwe)  

An Interview with our Textile Production Specialist, Francesca Robello (Karuk)

If you follow us on social media, you've seen our Textile Production Specialist, Francesca Robello, in our Instagram Reels, TikToks, and even in modeling the scarves in our Gold Label collection. A member of the Karuk tribe and originally from California, Francesca has been part of Eighth Generation's team since 2021. We asked Francesca to share some of her thoughts on wool, textiles, and Eighth Generation's Gold Label Collection.

EG: Is there a weaving tradition in the Karuk tribe, and if so, does working with Gold Label make you feel a connection to that, or do they feel separate?

FR: The basket and cap weaving in the Karuk tribe is truly breathtaking, and is an art I feel deeply inspired by and hope to learn someday. Operating industrial knitting machines does feel like an entirely different world than basketweaving, but can align in some surprising ways.

EG: Did you have a background in textiles before this job?

FR: I had no previous experience working in textile production prior to working at Eighth Generation: my previous experience was mainly in the areas of urban farming, landscaping, and nonprofit work. I've learned everything I know about textile production at Eighth Generation from our Textile Production Manager, other Eighth Generation staff, Machine Operator Specialists, and through machine coding courses!


EG: Why does sustainability matter?

FR: We're always thinking of ways to reduce waste in our textiles. Our upcycled products—like our Christmas stockings and these new hats—are exciting to me because of how environmentally friendly they are. 

A young Native boy models a tan, black, and white wool beanie in front of a Christmas treeSustainability never looked cuter

What's so Special About Wool?

"Wool is a phenomenal fiber for many reasons," shares Rebecca. "Most relevant for our upcycled headwear, wool is the only fiber that will still keep you warm when it is wet. It is a great choice for the PNW in particular!"

We asked Rebecca to share more about the wonders of wool, and here's what she had to say: 

  • Wool doesn’t need to be washed very often—even if you are exercising, wool won’t get stinky the way synthetic fabrics do.
  • Wool is a natural fiber that will ultimately (many, many years from now at the end of its usable life) biodegrade and return to the soil.
  • By wearing wool instead of synthetic fabrics, we decrease the number of microplastics shed into our waterways and environments.
Rebecca continues, "I’ve always been drawn to textiles because they are such an intrinsic part of our lives—they shelter us, identify us, mark significant moments in our lives, and comfort us. Natural fibers originate in the soil (even wool—as sheep graze on the land), and eventually will biodegrade and return to the soil. We wear and use textiles every day, and it just makes sense to choose textiles that can be given back to the earth, instead of polluting it. Wool has always been one of my favorite fibers because it is cozy, versatile, durable, and has such a direct connection to the animal who grew it—it does not require extreme processing to become a usable textile material."

Our Upcycled Wool Beanies and Headbands

Four different blanket designs have been used in our Upcycled Wool Beanies: Wolf Spirit by David Robert Boxley (Tsimshian), New Phase by Jared Yazzie (Diné/Navajo), Family Floral by Kira Murillo (Shoshone-Bannock), and Good Life by Sarah Agaton Howes (Anishinaabe-Ojibwe). No two are alike, meaning you receive a unique wearable piece of authentic Native art and design while protecting our planet. Available in our Gold Label Collection online in limited quantities starting at 10am on Tuesday, February 6! 

*Portions of this post were written by Rebecca Morse and Francesca Robello