Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What's a Yarn Tramp To Do?

A yarn tramp is the opposite of a yarn snob -- those who distain mass-produced, largely synthetic yarns that can be bought at major craft store chains like Michael's and A.C. Moore. I know what I am, I'm a yarn tramp, I want my yarn cheap and easy and on demand. I have about three different Michael's stores near me and I tend to frequent them once or twice a week. A.C. Moore is a little tougher for me to get to and I've only been there once, but the choice was staggering (and the sales can be fabulous -- Paton's Divine for something like $2 a skein, only Lavender Mist was left but that didn't stop me from buying 2 skeins and I don't wear lavender).

Well, I will probably never be a yarn snob, but as my knitting improves, I feel that I deserve better fiber than acrylic. So I've been dipping my toe into Knit Picks and WEBS. My first purchases were a few months ago and included an Alpaca blend yarn for my mom's Christmas gift, a spiral scarf. I thought it was a real luxury that I was getting it for her and not picking up some blend at Michael's. Well, I didn't like knitting with it and wasn't too thrilled about the product - it was scratchy and when I washed it, well, it smelled like a wet Alpaca was in my house. Next to the acrylic blend scarf I knit my friend, which didn't smell and has a wonderful tuft and feel, I felt a bit cheated.

I also bought some Cascade Cloud 9 from the sale bin and it's niiiiiiicccee. It's half merino wool and half angora and it feels like a cloud. I had put it in with my stash for a few months while I worked in the salt mines of knitting spiral scarves for those who are dearest to me and sort of forgot about it. Even forgot why I had bought it. Well, perusing Ravelry reminded me that I had bought it for this awesome circular shrug I saw on Craftster (thanks to my friend and knitting mentor, Angi). I haven't been working with it very long, but it is a pleasure.

So, as I plan future projects, I thought I'd give the on-line yarn stores another crack and buy some good stuff. For another circular shrug, I bought some Peruvian Highland Wool from Knit Picks -- yes, I did this before I realized that I had previously bought bright pink Cloud 9 for almost the same pattern. Hopefully, as I use the notebook feature in Ravelry, this won't happen again.

Here's the sad part of the story. I ordered this luscious yarn on-line and had to go by the print catalog photo and the on-line photo. "Mauve" had potential because I love mauve, but the print catalog photo struck me as more of a warm-toned rose than a cool-toned mauve. The on-line picture showed me what I wanted to see, a beautiful pink with blue undertones. The price seemed like what I'd pay at Michael's for yarn that wasn't as nice. So I bought 6 skeins. After waiting a week -- the downside of ordering yarn -- I find I don't really like the color and am considering returning it (I hate to return mail order, paying shipping twice and getting nothing for my effort hurts). But it feels so good and the color is growing on me. And the rosiness of it makes it quite different from the bright pink of the Cloud 9 and..... Maybe I'll keep it. Though I don't think I can do two circular shrugs -- but finding another project is not hard.

What's that you ask? Why don't I just buy good yarn at the local yarn store? I have two young daughters who seem especially tactile and I cannot enjoy looking at yarn when I'm worried the saleswoman is shooting me daggers and my kids are tangling expensive yarns -- yarn stores are always so small and cramped. At Michael's there is no one there to stare and no one really cares if my kids have their hands in the acrylic and they often are running up and down the aisles looking at more interesting craft supplies than yarn.

Oh, and another reason I can never slide into yarn snobbery is the aforementioned Craftster bolero. The long discussion thread includes someone talking about using cheap acrylic yarn to make the pattern as a way to see if it was something they really wanted to make. She noted that it was so easy to machine wash the garment and it came out so soft and stretchy that she was humbled. So remember, acrylic is not the enemy, you just don't need to make it your boyfriend.


rckidteacher said...

You make me feel much better about my "yarn tramping". I go to knitting group with quite a few yarn snobs. It doesn't help that the group takes place in the yarn shop that sells EXTREMELY nice stuff. So, I do buy the good stuff for special projects, but my budget forces me to buy the cheaper brands and you've put it into a whole new light!! ~THANK YOU~

Marjorie said...

What I am finding very interesting is that it seems to me that when people use nice, expensive yarns for their projects, they are more likely to frog them if they are less than perfect. It makes sense because when you spend that much for yarn, you want to like and wear the result. But it seems like there is less frogging of Red Heart going on than of Debbie Bliss.

This may lead to another post on the subject, some future day...