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.


Steve Finnell said...

you are invited to follow my blog

Karen said...

The same can be said in the sewing community, it seems like every hobby has its snobbery.

My knitties from you are indeed longwearing and beautiful. You could tell me you knit them with nylon rope and I'll think they're amazing. :)

and I'm totally upset that Steve Finnell didn't invite me to follow his blog.

Ruth said...

Sing it, sister!

kate said...

Karen, seriously, he keeps asking. It's getting weird. :)

I agree about the fabric snobbery as well. Fabric that costs upwards of $12/yard? I just can't play in that arena.

Anonymous said...

Hi! Seeing this post made me realize that not EVERYONE is a snot! Use what you want, why you want to, right? Carpe Diem!

Mrs Lemon said...

I certainly can't justify spending spendy spends on fabric and yarn since I can't seem to finish a project lately without totally screwing it up. It's like I forgot how to sew and crochet, and never really learned to knit properly.

Louise said...

Love this post! I feel the same way most of the time, and usually only get access to the spendy yarns as birthday gifts from my mother. I, too, have been appalled when reading more than one blog where the person poor-mouths all the time and then spends a fortune on kid knits. I really hope they aren't discontinuing the stitch nation yarns-- I was sooo excited to find those at JoAnn's last winter, as my store doesn't carry very much Lion Brand or Paton's for some reason. Anyway, great post.

Oh, and I bought some yarn a few months ago from a company near me with pretty great prices-- Cestari. Slightly more expensive than Paton's classic at $6/ 170 yard skein, but I've enjoyed being able to tell my kiddos where the yarn came from and where the sheep lived. Happy knitting!

kate said...

Ooh, Louise, I am wanting to try Cestari! Do you read the blog "Small Things?" She must live somewhat near you too, because she takes her family to the Cestari farm and uses their wool too.