Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Thinking about yarn and knitting

I've been thinking a lot about the yarn that I buy, the yarn that I knit, and the projects I make. It sounds like they are all the same, but actually there are factors dictating each, and I don't necessarily pick the things I should.

When I go shopping for yarn, the first thing that grabs me is colour. I love bright colours, multicolours, rich colours, deep colours. Muted colours very rarely, pastels almost never, brown and green shades almost never. (Ignoring the two lots of green yarn I bought last week. I never claimed to be consistent.) Once I've gotten over the joy of colour, the next thing that I go for is texture. I'm nuts about soft things. Particularly silk, alpaca and angora, or some combination of the above. Or cashmere. That's yummy too! Basically, if something is going to be touching my skin, it has to be as soft as possible. And it really can't be hairy. Mohair is awful. (Again, there is an exception to the rule - Kidsilk Haze and its variants. They rock.) And I love yarn that smells good, which rules out most acrylic yarns and makes Posh yarn a favourite. Dee rinses the yarns in something that smells divine, and I swear, it's addictive. Everyone who buys her yarn raves about how good it smells. So, colour, texture, and scent are my main factors when I shop for yarn.

I love knitting with very different types of yarn. It needs to be smooth and tightly spun, first and foremost. This is why the Rowan Tapestry I bought last year was so disappointing - the plies are really loose, and it splits terribly when I knit with it. I like yarn with good stitch definition, stuff that shows off lace or cables or other funky things. Cottons are ok for plainer things, but I like wool blends and silks for fancy stuff. And just to be contrary, I like monochrome yarns! Multi-coloured things don't show up stitches well, and I enjoy knitting things that force me to concentrate. Which is why many of my lovely yarns are still in the stash - they just aren't fun to knit because the colours are too busy, or they are knobbly or otherwise weird in texture.

And just to make things even more complicated, the stuff I like to wear is different again. With the exception of socks, I wear very, very plain clothing. The sweaters that I like best tend to be stockinette stitch at a very high gauge. I wear plain hats, muted and dark colours, a store-bought scarf because I'm too lazy to make something double-knitted and warm. I do wear shawls, but only at home, so really I don't need nearly as many as I'm planning to knit. I'm one of those people who finds a few things they love and then buys one in 12 different colours to mix and match, which makes for not-very-interesting knitting.

In the interests of practicality and frugality, I'm trying to train myself to buy yarn that I will like to knit and that I will enjoy wearing. The sweater yarn I bought last week is an attempt at this. The yarn meets the soft and well spun and smooth criteria, and I know the shape will flatter me, and the colours are all colours I wear. Hopefully it will be a good compromise between all of the complications. I certainly had a much harder time picking yarn, because I was constantly asking myself "will I wear this after I've knitted it?", and more often than not, the answer was NO! And really, I don't want to knit things that never get used. I don't really know anyone who wears crazy coloured and textured stuff either, so it's no good knitting for other people. It's all a bit of a puzzle, really. Maybe I'll just knit nothing but socks for the rest of my life. Then I can get any colours I want!

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