When I first began to knit, decades ago, I went for what I could afford, at the shops that were close enough for me to get to. For me, there was no such thing as a local knitting store. My choices were department stores that also sold yarn, hobby and craft stores, or thrift stores. That’s also how I picked out my needles, whatever was cheap that I could find and afford. I made a lot of things for my kids. I made a lot of hats for everyone I knew and many hats for people they knew. I made slippers. I made throws. All of these are projects that aren’t bad places to use cheap acrylic yarn.
Then I made my first sweater, my first real sweater. Not just a bunch of rectangles that I knit up and then sewed together for my daughter. I chose yarn based on what I had on hand because I had kids and couldn’t spend a ton of money on yarn for sweaters. I joined a KAL (Knit-Along) to make a sweater in a month. Yikes. I used a DK weight acrylic yarn that you can buy at any store, department or craft. It was a self-striping yarn. I worked hard on that sweater, night after night, for an hour or so after everyone else had gone to bed.
I did finish that whole sweater in a month. I have worn that sweater with immense pride. There is just something so amazing about wearing an item of clothing that you yourself made. It bolsters my self-confidence like nobody’s business. Especially an item that it took me a month to make, working on it every single night, for a month.
The year after I made that sweater, despite taking exquisite care of the thing, hand-washing it, rolling it in a towel to soak any wash water out of it, leaving it to dry flat on a drying rack so it would not be misshapen, this sweater had pilled up all over. It looked ratty. It looked ancient. Of course, I used one of those pill-removing shaver things to get rid of the pills, but eventually, they came back. After the second or third shaving of the sweater, I called it a day.
I started to look at yarn differently at that time. I started to think about my yarn differently, about my projects differently.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I still have a lot of acrylic in my yarn stash. I still use acrylic quite frequently. There is nothing wrong with acrylic yarn. There are even some very nice high-end acrylic yarns that feel almost wool-like, or almost silk-like, depending upon how they are manufactured.
But, I started to think, if am putting this much effort into a knitted sweater, do I not want it to last, and to look good while it lasts? My daughter will want every sweater I knit for myself once I die. She has told me this, many times (not creepy at all, uh huh). Won’t her kids want them after she dies? I know this sort of thing can be a little morbid, but it is also something that appeals to me.
I have a blanket my grandmother crocheted for me, the last thing she ever crocheted, and I covet this thing. I will be able to pass this on to one of my kids and it will be in pristine condition to go to one of their kids and then to one of their kids … and so on and so on and so on.
I started to look at what I make as an investment not only in the garment but in the person I am making it for, and for the person that will inherit the garment after that, and after that. Do you see where I am going with this?
So, for my next sweater, I went looking for wool. I actually ended up with a soy-wool blend. I found it on sale. It turned out beautifully. It still wears well.
For the next sweater, I chose an all-wool yarn. It was superwash wool, on top of everything else. I love that sweater to pieces. When it is cold outside, I wear that sweater so often you’d think I never wear anything else.
I chose a cotton-wool blend for the next sweater as no one had ever told me before about the amazing properties of wool. Wool is terrific for hot weather tops as it wicks moisture away and keeps you cooler. Wool is amazing for cold weather sweaters as it is insulating and will keep you warm, keeping your own body heat in for you. That sweater is a go-to for springtime, based solely on the color of it.
I still buy yarn at thrift stores. I still buy inexpensive yarn. I still buy cheap acrylic yarn. That cheap acrylic is amazing for blankets that endure a lot of use and washing and drying. But I also invest a bit more in my other projects. Once I started to use wool, and cotton-wool blends, I have been hooked. Those are my go-to yarns now, wool and a cotton-wool blend. I use different brands. I buy them from a variety of different places. And I feel better about my projects once I finish them as well.
What about you?
What have you learned about a hobby as you went along engaging in it?
Let me know in the comments below.