Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Knit and Crochet Blog Week, Day 1

Today's topic:
Part of any fibre enthusiast’s hobby is an appreciation of yarn. Choose two yarns that you have either used, are in your stash or which you yearn after and capture what it is you love or loathe about them.

My name is Glenda, and I am a yarn snob.  I like to think that mine is a refined snobbishness - its not based on brand, or price, or even on fibre content.  I only require that the yarn I knit with be of good quality - it has to look good, feel good, and stand up to a decent amount of wear.  I used to base this solely on the fibre content of a yarn, always assuming that natural fibres were great, and anything made of acrylic should be avoided like the plague.  Over the years, I've come to realize that this is a ridiculous standard - yes, most acrylic is just plain scary and should never have been created in the first place, but there are also some equally horrific all-natural yarns.

Lion Brand Cotton-Ease, for example, is a really great yarn.  Its a 50% cotton/ 50% acrylic blend in worsted weight, which sells for about $4-$7 per 189 metre/100g skein (depending on where you buy it).  Its also soft and squishy, vibrantly coloured, and completely machine washable.

I'm sure I've said this before, but this is my go-to yarn for kiddie items - I've made about 6 blankets from it over the years, as well as a baby cardigan, and several dishcloths.  One of these cloths is in our sink at the moment - after a year of regular use and washing, it has only now developed its first hole - and I strongly suspect that the hole only arose as a result of Mike trying to scrub clean our cast-iron grill pan yesterday!  I would buy this yarn again in an instant - my only complaint is that although it comes in 21 different colours, only about 6 or 8 of them are readily available in Michael's Stores across Canada (usually those seen in this feather and fan blanket).  The newer, bolder (and much more squooshy) colours generally have to be ordered from the Lion Brand website, although I have also occasionally seen them for sale on Amazon.com.  

At the other end of my love-hate spectrum is an all natural yarn from KnitPicks - Wool of the Andes Worsted, made of 100% Peruvian Highland Wool.  I bought this yarn ages ago, intrigued by the idea of an inexpensive all-wool yarn.  I eagerly awaited its arrival, knit it up into a quick-knit cropped cardigan, blocked it, tried it on, and then never wore it again.  Okay, sure - part of the problem was the pattern, which didn't suit me as I'd hoped (that's a whole other discussion).  But the other problem was that this yarn, once blocked (and in those days, my 'blocking' was little more than a soak in some water and then laying it flat to dry), lost all of its vibrancy and texture.  And after I'd I frogged it, it looked even worse - it was flat, splitty, and just plain drab.  The 8 skeins I'd ordered were soon relegated to the bottom of my stash box, only to be retrieved for the odd felting project, and - more recently - for use in a draft-dodging dog that will bravely keep the cold air inside my poorly-insulated stash/storage closet, and out of our adjoining office/TV room.

Now, just for comparison, let me show you another 100% peruvian highland wool, which I bought for an equally low price - Elann.com's Peruvian Highland Sportweight yarn (now discontinued, much to my disappointment).  I bought this yarn for a few bucks a ball - about the same as I paid for the KnitPicks yarn - probably less really, what with the shipping costs and exchange rates involved in order from the US.  I bought this yarn to make the cabled pullover you see here - but after I got this far, I decided it was too small and frogged it.  Later, I decided to knit it into something else (I can't remember what now), but ultimately frogged it.  Last spring, the yarn tried to be a cardigan but it didn't like that either, so I frogged it yet again.  Throughout all this wear and tear, this yarn still looks amazing - slightly fuzzy (as real yarn should be!), squishy, soft, and vibrant - there is depth to the colour of this yarn, and it doesn't look the slightest bit worn or stressed.  This is quality yarn, which just happens to come at a low cost.  The brown yarn really was cheap, whereas this one is merely inexpensive.

I'm sure I could make a similar comparison between more expensive yarns too - I can think of several pricier yarns that feel lovely and soft on the skein, but which - due to their single-ply, lightly spun texture - pill like mad before you even get them off the needles (don't even think about using them for something like mittens!).  And wasn't there a particular manufacturer of British yarn who was sued for claiming to have cashmere mixed into one of her yarns, when it wasn't actually there? (and who, as I recall, always managed to have slightly less yardage in their 50g balls than their competitors?!)  Price and texture do not define quality yarns... you have to feel them, examine them in the light (look for shine - if it looks plasticy, it probably is!), and sometimes do a little research.  But don't feel too bad if you buy a yarn that looks good, but turns out to be a dud - sometimes even plasticy, squeak-as-you-knit-with-it 100% acrylic has its uses:

1 comment:

P'cess said...

I FULLY agree on the knitpicks. As you know, I had that exact same problem with the new Stroll Tonals... knit up into a gorgeous lace shawl, blocked and worn two or three times and it looks like a dishrag :(
Love Mr. Legoman!