Wednesday, September 21, 2011

cheap wool

I pulled it together and got Daughter's winter hat finished:

I used Stitch Nation yarn for this hat - Alpaca Love in 'espresso bean' and 'lake'. This yarn is gorgeous and amazing to knit with. It feels SO GOOD in my hands. Unfortunately I don't think Joann is going to carry it anymore, as I got it on clearance in July for 97 cents a skein, and I recently saw it on clearance for $3 at AC Moore.

That bums me out bigtime!

I have a limited budget. My yarn purchases are definitely dependent on local craft stores and their coupons and sales. I rely heavily on Patons Classic Wool, Lion Fisherman Wool (no one here carries Lion Wool anymore), Red Heart sock yarns, Patons Kroy sock yarns, the Joann Sensations sock yarn, and most recently, this Stitch Nation line. Those are just about the only yarns with actual wool content you will find in the chain stores (AC Moore, Michaels, Joann Fabrics, and we have one lone Hobby Lobby that I don't frequent because it's too far away).

I occasionally buy from Knitpicks if they have a really tempting sock yarn colorway, or if I have a specific project and color in mind that I cannot buy locally. Their plain worsted weight wool (Wool of the Andes) is comparable in price to Patons regular price where I live.

I have to believe people are buying up this wool - heaven knows the clearance bins were practically cleaned out by the time I got there this summer. I grabbed the last few skeins I could get that I had actual use for. So I really hope the local stores keep stocking it!

I guess I'm talking about this today because I've read a few comments on blogs lately referring to yarn like this as "cheap wool." As in: "I am surprised how well this project turned out considering I used cheap wool."


What does that mean? "Cheap wool?"

I think comments like that are really offensive. Not all of us can worship at the altar of Malabrigo, or justify making a child's garment from Three Irish Girls Merino, or indulge in Debbie Bliss or Rowan for our knitting projects. Some of us may not even want to; spending upwards of $10-$20 on a single skein of yarn just doesn't make sense to me. I've made countless garments and accessories using the "cheap" yarns I listed above. The majority have been made using Patons Wool, and all have come out gorgeous, sturdy, and colorfast, with well-defined stitches. They hold up, they wash well, they pill minimally, they are passed down from child to child. My mom and I are both avid sock knitters and have made probably hundreds of socks between us over the past 10 years, and we both find "cheap" Heart & Sole yarn to be one of the best we've used, wearing beautifully on the feet of both adults and children.

Sure, I've used some of the more luxury yarns out there, and they are definitely nice. Who doesn't enjoy working with Koigu or Rowan? They are lovely, to be sure! But the word "cheap" is not a nice word. In this context it surely means "less than" and insults both the fiber and the crafter. Should I feel bad because my kids are walking around in 100% wool sweaters that cost me less than $10 to make, rather than $40-$50 or more?

I mean, if you want to support a small company or farm or individual who is out there spinning and dyeing yarns, then that's cool, you can say that and it's totally legitimate. But if we're comparing factory-spun yarns here, then mine at $5 per skein is just as worthy of use as yours at $15. The jeans my kids wear from Target that cost me $10 will cover their legs and keep them warm as well as the $26 pair from Baby Gap. I doubt anyone would ever say to me, "I'm surprised your kid is warm enough considering those are cheap jeans."

We all make our own buying decisions and they are personal, but when you put them out on the internet for everyone to see, they become less so. And probably I am simply too easily offended...I always have been, it's kind of a personality flaw. But when I read a post about someone struggling to pay for a medical procedure, and then read about that same person using nearly $100 worth of luxury yarn for a child's garment, I bite my tongue so hard it bleeds. I may be judging but it's not my place to say so...just as I believe it's not anyone's place to insult my choice either.

I am a semi-snob when it comes to my yarn choices. I do like wool, and I do not care for 100% acrylic, though I do believe it has its place (such as afghans in a house with children...washability is paramount). This is mainly due to comfort in my hands while knitting/crocheting, warmth, and longevity of wear. I find acrylic content can end up feeling "plasticy" after several washings. So yes, my preference is wool. But I also like to make a lot of things and continually challenge myself to learn new techniques and skills. That requires supplies, so I choose to use what I consider "reasonably priced wool." It is not "cheap wool," it is what I (and many others) can afford. I am just very thankful it exists and is readily available to me.

A chunk of this post went missing when I hit publish! I'm not loving this new Blogger interface. It was supposed to say:

I made the above 100% wool/alpaca blend hat for my Daughter out of love and a desire to keep her warm. I hope that when she pulls it on she thinks of me. I hope she doesn't leave it on the bus! I'm afraid, though, it's likely that she will, and at least when that happens I'll feel a little less awful knowing I only spent about a buck to make it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

a finish and a start

Have you ever had a project hang around so long you begin to actively dislike it? That's the story with these stupid socks:

I am pretty sure evil gnomes visited in the night and unravelled all the work I'd done each time I knit on these. They took FOREVER! I cast them on in January - yes, January! - and finally finished them a couple of days ago. They were started as a project to carry along to the hospital when AJ had surgery to close up his belly. I worked on them in fits and starts all year. They just never seemed any closer to completion.

The yarn is Regia Galaxy, and I didn't love working with it. I don't know if it was the fact that I pulled from the center of the skein or what, but the twist was intense and I kept ending up with coiled, kinked yarn. I had to drop the sock-in-progress every inch or so and let it unwind so I could continue knitting. Not so fun! I will be stuffing these in the back of my drawer, to be worn this winter when I'm done being frustrated with them.

On to other things: I've been taking lots of cross-stitch and embroidery books out from the library, poking around for inspiration.

And inspiration struck.

Oh boy. The book is Traditional Samplers by Brenda Keyes. One design jumped right out at me, and I told myself if I had all the supplies on hand, I would let myself start it. And what do you know...I had all but one color of floss in the house, plus the correct aida cloth, needles, and hoops galore.

This is the Edwardian Style Birth Sampler. I originally thought it would be for my son, but now I am thinking perhaps it will be a Christmas gift for my nephew instead. Neither of them is a Patrick so I'll have to re-chart the name and birthdate, of course. So far (the past 3 nights) it's been a blast to stitch.

I've been listening to The Help on CD (because I cannot get my hands on a paper copy) so it's been working out perfectly to enjoy the story and stitch away.

I love cross stitches - the orderliness of them, marching across the cloth. This sampler appeals to me because there is a minimum of backstitching and no other stitch is used. I don't care for lots of different styles of stitches on aida cloth as I find them hard to execute. 

It's a bit of an ambitious undertaking when I have plenty else to do, but it's buzzing along so quickly, and I am enjoying it so much...I think I will actually finish the thing! Stay tuned! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

this time of year

It's that time of year...a time of endings and beginnings and change. I always feel a little untethered in September. For the past 10 or so years, since officially ending my formal education (got my Ed.M. in 2002), I've felt a bit lost watching the world go back to school. Even my 3 year-old started something new: speech therapy 5 days a week with a new therapist (we love her and she is awesome). 

The weather is struggling to change, and I feel it inside of me too. One day it's gray and chilly, then misty rain and humidity, only to change completely to warm sun and high 70s. I never know what to tell everyone to wear. This week we will have nighttime lows in the 40s and daytime highs in the 70s. Yes, Daughter, you'll need a wool hat with your shorts today! 

Such a random and confusing time of year. 

I want to sew...I want to go to Joann's and come home with great heaping piles of denim, corduroy and flannel. Wait, let me amend my statement. I want to shop for sewing stuff. I can't really seem to get myself to the machine, despite my imagination working overtime. The kids could use new hats and mittens to match this year's coats. The pile of yarn is sitting on my desk gathering dust. I'm having trouble anchoring myself in the moment and just starting what needs to be started. We are also expecting a new niece in two months, and I keep going over my plans for what to make her in my head, but nothing is getting done. I seem to think I have all the time in the world. 

I fret over this weird internal thing I have going on, even though I recognize it and it happens every autumn. I will pull out of it, most likely without noticing until one day I realize, hey, I feel better. 

It's naptime, and Daughter is at school. The house is quiet except for the clock ticking. I believe I will cast on for a hat. Yes, that would be good.

Monday, September 05, 2011

ran. dom.

Ok, so...I changed my blogger to the "new" interface...and I feel like I can't make it work right. I'm so confused.

Maybe I'm confused because I have an ear infection? I think I have an ear infection. It's making me dizzy.

I did finish a sweater. It's AJ's fall/winter wool cardigan:

Top-down cardigan from Raglans Unlimited (a really old pamphlet I got from my mom), size 4. Yarn is Knitpicks WotA in the winter night colorway. Again, I apologize for the otherworldly's a nice color in person. Buttons are little cars from Favorite Findings, purchased at Joann's. Side note: I dragged the kids to Joann's to buy these last week (with a coupon, of course), then came home and cleaned up all my knitting stuff, organizing my current WIPs, etc., only to discover I already had a package of the exact same buttons. My disorganization makes me sick sometimes, it really does. :(

School starts tomorrow. Thank goodness.

That is all.