seduced by yarn

April 19, 2013

Choosing yarn. It should be something we spend a lot of time on.  Yarn is expensive, time spent knitting is valuable.  Ensuring we've got the right yarn for a project is essential but no easy trick.  The marriage between yarn and pattern can be a perfect union or a dreadful pairing.  When choosing a yarn for a specific pattern, I think, do I want this to be flowing and drapey?  If yes, there are many yarn choices.  Or does my garment need to be fitted and snug?  Totally different yarn choice here.  A sweater gone bad is not often the fault of the yarn, or the pattern, but simply not coordinating the yarn and pattern together properly.   And never forget that yarn quality can't be ignored.  With a little bit of homework, we can make perfect choices!

I want to share with you what I've learned over the years.  Actually this post has been a few weeks in the making and I've been writing down my thoughts little by little whenever I think of something brilliant.  Then I decided to look around the internet and see what others have said on the subject and came across this wonderfully informative post by The Knitting Harpy and promptly deleted my entire post!  I am completely humbled by her wealth of knowledge.  She got it right and goes through it all: weight, ply, density and much more info that will have you winging on your way to become a super savvy yarn chooser and discerning yarn buyer.  I want to thank The Knitting Harpy for her research and for sharing, knitters are wonderful sharers and I hope you'll take the time to read her posts, you'll thank me.  And while I can't add one thing to her words, I can share a few of my thoughts and also some of my bad habits that I'm trying to break.  Maybe you'll recognize yourself here too!

Discontinued Yarnitis50% off you say?  I'll take it!  I am trying to wean myself off purchasing discontinued yarn.  If a yarn is on sale because it has been discontinued, look out folks, there may be a good reason.  Unless I've used the yarn before and know I love it, I try to turn away.  I'm not always successful, sales are so tantalizing.  My buying logic is that I may NEVER in my lifetime see this yarn again.  It's discontinued, remember?  This is when I need to muster up my meager self control.  And just sometimes a yarn you love is being discontinued because the manufacturer is going to introduce something similar, only better!  Ever think of that?

Woolfestfluenza.  The excitement of being in a convention center with thousands of knitters with hundreds of booths selling the very stuff you dream of, then buying a heap of it to add to your already massive stash, oh dear, what to do?  I have no cure for this one.  Do you?  Maybe you don't attend?  So sad.  Or do you set a budget?  I have done that and didn't think twice about not sticking to it.  Maybe next time leave the cards at home and just bring the cash I'm willing to spend.  I don't know the cure.  Hopeless.

Supersoft-o-mania.  What is up with the craze for the super-soft yarns?  I. Don't. Get. It.   They pill like the devil.  The Knitting Harpy explains WHY this happens.  She'll tell you that yarn very often gets it's softness by being loosely spun, and that means softness but also fuzziness and pilling.  A great example is Malabrigo.  It's so soft and the handle is incredible, but it will be pilling and ratty before you're half finished and I can't handle that. I don't understand the love affair that knitters have with this yarn.  Picking off pills from your sleeves is entertaining at the stop light and all, but um, no thanks.   I love soft yarns, but give me a little twist to my yarn please.  I do not suffer from this illness, I'm cured.

And just a few more words on pilling.  All knitted fabric, machine or hand knit, will pill.  When I say a yarn does not pill, I guess what I mean it that it has minimal pilling over time.  Depending on the other qualities of the yarn, I can handle minimal to moderate pilling.  I draw the line at severe pilling, I can't be bothered with the constant shaving it requires or the general rattiness and fuzziness of the fabric.

The Stash.  I try to keep my eye on it and regularly sort though and gift or sell what I'm not going to use.  I'm thinking that if I only purchase yarn with a specific pattern in mind then I will make fewer mistakes and have a more manageable stash.  Me wrestling with the size of my stash, well, it's an ongoing battle I've yet to win.  There are worse vices.

You Get What You Pay For.  For me it's been safe to stick with a fine yarn brand I trust.  I'm loyal to Rowan and have been for 20 years.  They consistently offer high quality yarns.  They are considered a luxury brand, but to me their yarns are hard workers and therefore have good value.  In the end I'll just say I've been a crafter my whole life and have never been able to disprove the old saying, "you get what you pay for".  It's just true.  The good stuff costs more, but in the long run it's worth it.  (But what if you buy expensive yarn and it ends up ratty anyway?  Ahh, that's were you have to read Harpy's posts.)  Bottom line, I expect my sweaters to look great for years even with constant wearing and washing.

Tell Us!  Do knitters a favor and post your personal reviews of the yarn and pattern, and then post pictures of your FO, it's so helpful.  With the internet, knitters have come to rely on each other for information when we're looking at new yarn or a new pattern.  Yes, I know we knitters can be biased and anecdotal, but that's just part of our charm and I want to read everything you have to say!

Designers and yarn companies read our reviews.  Once I wrote to Madeline Tosh and told her my skeins were next to impossible to wind into balls and I was very frustrated with all the tangles.  She wrote back and said yes, they have heard this before and were in the process of finding a new way to put up their skeins.  She offered me new yarn, but I declined saying I did manage in the end after frustrating hours, but still, wasn't that nice of her?  She was listening to her consumers.  Bravo.  Remember, most of these manufacturers are pretty small, they know we talk, they want to please and want to make the best product they can.  Pattern designers too, they listen to us knitters.

Indie dyers and spinners.  I know they have a huge fan base and get a lot of support from knitters worldwide. I admire the pioneer spirit of these small independent dyers and spinners and yarn manufacturers.  At trade shows and wool fests they will be very honest with you, they know their product well.  I've had great luck when I did my homework.

Knitting is a luxurious hobby, time consuming and not inexpensive, but I'm so grateful I am hooked!  I've said this before:  So many hours, so many memories, knitting has been such a good friend to me.  Knitting has brought me calm when I've felt anxious, something about the rhythm and repetition of the gentle and precise motion perhaps.   It's all good.  Knitting gives me an outlet to be productive and explore my creativity.  It's amazing that I can do something I love, then have something beautiful at the end.  The best hobby ever!

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  1. This is a very helpful post, Kristin. I am looking forward to more likw it. Chloetoo

  2. Such a nice post, Kristen!

    I have been struggling with Discontinued Yarnitis for years, LOL! Thankfully, I only succumb when it's a tried and true yarn - Calmer, and remember DK Soft? I loved that yarn!

  3. Thank you for the post and for the link!
    P.S: I also hate pilling, I hate it with a vengeance!

  4. I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have on making successful yarn/project combinations--your results speak for themselves. I'd add for me that buying yarn in colors outside my comfort zone is rarely a success. I also miss Calmer and DK Soft!


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