Monday, May 02, 2005

All things in moderation.

Novelty yarns for texture and visual interest.

In the comments section of the April 30th column, Karin in London made a point that got me to thinking. We had been discussing, actually I was making fun of, entire articles of clothing or entire pieces made in novelty yarns, specifically the ‘fun furs’. Karin’s comment was “The sad thing is, an entire [cardigan] done out of fun fur would have cost a mint - they could have made it out of pure merino, or silk even, and it probably would have cost less. I'm not averse to using a wee bit of fun fur or other novelty shit as an accent, mostly for children, but really, that's as far as it should go”.

As she so often does, Karin started me thinking about the idea of value for money. Lord only knows, none of us knit because it’s a cheaper way of providing clothing to family or ourselves. A pair of hand knit socks cost me between $10 and $16 to produce and those are just the raw material costs. As Barb Telford, one of my favourite champion knitters puts it, “If it’s socks you want, Mark’s Work Warehouse sells them by the bagful. Cheap.”

Labour never figures into the ‘cost’ of an item produced. I knit because I knit. It’s my entertainment and my recreation. And it takes me just as long to knit them out of good yarn that’s going to last a millennium as it does to knit it out of ‘bargain’ bin crap what won’t last 2 hours.

As hubby will attest to, usually with some degree of mumbling under his breath, the cost of a skein of yarn rarely figures into my purchase decision. I chose yarns based on how they look and what I want them to do. I’m not adverse to acrylics and I’m guilty of novelty yarn use and abuse. I’ve even incorporated “fun fur” into items with reckless disregard for anything remotely resembling good taste. My thing is to play with colour and texture. The novelty yarns are custom made for that sort of exploration, in spite of their expense.

The bottom line is something I’ve had to start paying attention to of late and that’s a bit of a novel concept for me. Part of this entire exercise is developing a line for retail sale. I still select yarns based on how it looks but now there’s a second tier question: “Will incorporating this yarn into this, in that quantity, drive the retail price of the item through the stratosphere?” I’ve discovered it’s a balancing act where I have to temper my ‘cost be damned’ attitude. Spending $60 on materials for a shawl for myself is one thing. The question I need to answer is will someone else pay the $120-160 I’m going to want for that on a retail level?

On the knitting front, I’ve started the edging for the Trinity Stitch Shawl. After swatching a batch of things, I decided on the really wide one that came with the pattern. It works and I hope to have it finished by the end of today.

And finally, All Hail to the Glorious IT Dept of the OddBall Knittery, chiefly darling husband, who sacrificed his time reliving the Battle of Kursk or something, for the sole purpose of getting my camera to upload and thereby saving himself countless hours of incessant whining, nagging and bitter complaining from someone who shall remain nameless.

Talk to you’se all laters; thanks for reading.


At 1:52 p.m., May 03, 2005, Anonymous Karin said...

Well, such deep thoughts, inspired by my comments! Who knew?

You're perfectly right, of course, about the cost of materials for knitting, and how knitting is not an economical way to cloth the family. I was utterly aghast when I started knitting socks just a couple of years ago. Mind you, for about 3/4 of the year, I only wear my own, hand knit socks, at around $12 per.

I continue to obsess, possibly too much, about the cost of knitting. Mostly because I have no 'spare' money. Partly because of my thrifty upbringing - one of 7 girls, we shared everything, including, I think, underwear. And we had almost nothing. And partly because I also sew, and can make entire outfits out of good quality fabrics for ridiculously small amounts of money. It always gives me a little thrill, like last month when I purchased enough fabric, thread, zippers etc. for 3 sets of p.j.'s for the boy, 1 for the girl, pants for me, 2 pairs of pants for the girl (and really, she's a woman's size) and a shirt for me - all for $77. And I think I may have forgotten one or two items. This is rather normal for my fabric always ends up going on sale. Yarn almost never does.

I think part of the whole excitement about sewing, for me, is being able to create something beautiful and also being able to say 'and it only cost me $3.17!!' This is never the case for knitting. (unless, of course, you use stash, which is always 'free' since you bought it eons ago, and you've forgotten long ago how much it cost and even what the original purpose was. hmmmm, I may have something there - only knit from stash, only make purchases for stash......I'll have to work out the tricky bits, like using the grocery money....)

I know, I know, I need help.


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