This weekend, my friends Dory and Leone and I are visiting the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival in upstate New York. To kick off this yarncentric holiday, I thought I'd start with a post about the necessity of luxury yarn.
Knitting on a plane!
Like most people, I'm a little suspicious of luxury goods. While my designer goods are more well-made than their cheaper counterparts, I'm never certain that the increase in quality keeps pace with the increase in price. Is a $600 bag really six times better than a $100 bag? Probably not. At some point, you're probably paying for the label, not the workmanship or the materials.
However, I have come around to the necessity of luxury yarn. For me, it's starting to play an important part in my creative process.
When I started DIYing, I wasn't very concerned with the "craft" of crafting. Intoxicated by the rush of creating, I didn't mind messy details. I liked to create fast, with a minimum of fuss and even less pre-planning. It was fun, but the approach showed in my work and things never looked quite as good as they could. When I looked at my work a few weeks after I'd made it, when the rush had worn off, I wasn't always pleased.
My goal with my knitting has changed. In previous years, I wanted to learn as much as I could, as cheaply as I could, while still using natural fibers. Now, I want to make things that look unusual, appealing, and expensive. I want people to look at my work and say, "Where did you get that?" instead of "Did you make that yourself?" This has made me more meticulous and design-minded. I do more pre-planning. I'm trying to pick yarn because it's perfect for the project, instead of choosing a yarn because it's on sale or because I already own it.
Sometimes, if you want a knitted item to look a certain way, you need to use expensive yarn. Why? Color and texture.
When it comes to style and fashion, color is an important cue. Colours can be familiar or jarring. Inexpensive yarns tend to be manufactured in familiar colors that appeal to lots of people. They aren't ugly, but conservative. Sometimes, if you knit a simple or classic sweater in a conservative colour, the resulting garment can have a certain flatness. It's not visually exciting, and it doesn't stand out. This might be appealing to some people, based on their personal style, but I think find it frustrating to spend weeks knitting a cardigan, only to have it resemble one I could have easily purchased at an affordable price.
Luxury yarns are more likely to be made in exciting, unusual colours. Look at this recent Purl Soho project.
This is a very simple knit, and it looks beautiful and expensive. Yes, the yarn is pricey, but you can't make anything that looks like this with Paton's Classic Wool. Even if you managed to matched the colours with Cascade 220 (the generic worsted wool that comes in a million colours), you couldn't match the texture. Many affordable yarn tends to have the a similar texture: smooth, plied ... slightly boring.
For simple knits, colour and texture make or break the garment. Would this cardigans from New England Knits look anywhere near as nice if it was knit in Wool Ease? Nope.
Designer Sarai Mitnick wrote something on the Colette Patterns blog that struck me. "When people say that sewing doesn’t save you money, I think they’re talking about the inexpensive, disposable clothing that you can buy everywhere these days. If you have champagne tastes and a beer budget, though… you can invest your time and know-how to get “expensive” looking clothes for not a lot of dough."
This is why I want my knitting to look expensive. I would never spend $200 on a designer scarf, but I'm happy to spend $30 making one that's just as nice. I have expensive taste -- that's half the whole reason why I'm thrifty. Not all expensive yarns are worth the money, but you can't substitute for the ones that are.