Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hipster yarn - 100% fiber you've probably never heard of.

I think there's a major problem in the world of knitting - yes, something to be taken a bit more seriously than a set of knitted dicks and vaginas - specifically, that pattern designers, especially in this ecomony full of unemployment and living paycheck to paycheck, don't seem to understand the stretched budgets of their fans and of knitters in general.

I picked up two books at a used book store this weekend, Knits for Men: 20 sweaters, vests, and accessories by Margaret Hubert, and Men's Knits: 20 new classics by Erika Knight. Men's Knits is what caught my eye first as it has six or seven patterns I would knit and wear, some cardigans, a couple of pullovers, and a vest. But as I flip through the book and look at the recommended yarns, almost all of them are either discontinued outright or prohibitively expensive.

The least expensive pattern in this book is a simple vest, mostly stockinette with some rib and knit and purl patterns around the neck and armholes. It's knit in Rowan Summer Tweed, using between 6 and 10 hanks, and would cost between $65 and $110, with the size I need costing $98, and this doesn't even account for having an extra skein to make sure you have enough yarn.

Another example in this book is a pullover knit from Blue sky Alpaca hand dyed bulky alpaca, which is discontinued. However, the same yarn is available in natural colors and solid dyes. These cost $12.80 a piece, and this pattern calls for between 15 and 17 hanks, totaling $192 to $217. Again, without the extra skein.

There's another pullover using Lanaknits Hemp Allhemp6, this costs between $99 and $120. A cardigan uses Debbie Bliss Cashmerino super chunky, which is discontinued. Another pullover uses Rowan Cocoon - yes there's a whole fucking lot of Rowan in this book - which would cost between $159 and $191. A pullover in Debbie Bliss Donegal Chunky Tweed, a discontinued yarn, would have cost between $134 and $164.

I'm trying not to rag on this book very much, but when I looked through Knits For Men by Margaret Hubert, one of the first patterns to really catch my eye is knit in WOOL-EASE, and I certainly don't think any less of the pattern or the author or the book because of it. One of my favorite patterns in this book and I can knit it for $30.

I'm not asking that all books only use yarn from Lion Brand or Red Heart. But there are so many, cheaper alternatives to very luxurious yarns like Knit Picks or the Webs house brand. While Men's Knits has some less expensive options, and yarn substituting is obviously a very common technique, it's disheartening when a vast majority of the patterns in a book are prohibitively expensive and would require that you use another yarn, and not have the same thing in the book, having a different color, texture, or material.

And this is most egregiously displayed in a pattern from earlier this year in Knitty. I won't say which or who designed it. It was a very nice men's pullover with a half zipper and some cables. It's a pretty nice pattern that I may knit for myself. But when you look at the recommended yarn, it's a yarn made by the designer. That right there is a red flag for me, like the pattern is an advertisement for their yarn. Which isn't a bad thing in and of itself. But I check her website, and sweet dangly balls, the yarn is $42 a skein. And you'd need between 10 and 14 for the sweater, costing up to $560.

I don't know about you, but if I had six hundred dollars to spend on yarn and other crafting materials, I could buy an entire year's worth of very good quality yarn for many different projects. Spending it all on ONE sweater is not the first thing that comes to mind.

I don't really mind using a pattern as an advertisement for your yarn. People design patterns for yarn companies all the time, using their yarns. But when you look at the price, and the introduction/mini story for the pattern, it all reeks of pretentiousness.

And I think that's one of the problems with yarn today; pretentiousness. That people think that you are a lesser knitter because you use Red Heart, as displayed and reinforced by constant degradation of Red Heart and the projects made from it. I've seen plenty of ugly as a babboon's glowing ballsack patterns from plenty of quote unquote luxury yarns. Or yarns that are so ridiculous in their design and construction as to make you wonder what amazing drugs the creators were on. Yet somehow, someone's Aunt or Grandmother making a project out of pure acrylic, filled with love and without pretense, is something to be mocked and derided. Meanwhile the aforementioned Knitty pattern goes by relatively unscathed, because it's "real" knitting with "real" fibers, albeit fibers that will look at your bank account and say "YEW HAVE A PURDY MOUTH".

What has knitting come to, something that is defined by the making of stitches with two sticks, where we are valued in our craft by the deepness of our pockets or the rarity of our fibers? This kind of shit makes me want to save up for a few years, buy as much qiviut yarn as I can, dye it that exact shade of pea soup green and kind of orange pee yellow that you know what I'm talking about, and knit a granny square blanket with sleeves. Take that, douchebags.