Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I've knitted up a pair of socks on the new Noro Kureyon sock yarn, and I'm just not sure how I feel about that. I mean, who thought that a thick and thin single sock yarn was a good idea in the first place? Yeah, the colors are fabulous, but the yarn itself did not rock my socks.

My biggest beef: I don't think these socks are going to wear very well. Even as I was knitting, some of the thick parts were pilling and splitting. I shudder to think what will happen when I put shoes over them. And the thin parts look perilously thin to me...

...because, if you look closely at the pink toe, you can see my toenail polish shining through the flimsy knit. I fear there is a hole in my very near future.

And then I had color problems. I prefer the colors in my self-striping socks to more or less align on both socks, but I blew it big time on these puppies. Why? Because there was a big-ass knot in the middle of the ball that interrupted the color path about 1/3 of the way in and forced me to make the choice between aligned colors on the cuff and an awkward join at the arch or just random color. I chose the latter, then realized about half-way through that the color path and also been reversed at the knot, so I now actually have two perfectly reversed color paths on the two socks. WHAT?

So why, you ask, did I buy this yarn and knit these socks? Frankly, because I hoped to be proven wrong. Only time will tell...

It has been drawn to my attention recently that I am a stickler. Or perhaps a purist. Or just a plain yarn snob. Or maybe even a cranky old broad.

Whatever I am, I believe that a yarn should be spun well from a well-prepared fibre source. I believe that slubs and thin spots weaken the integrity and structure of the yarn and the subsequent garment, and I work hard to eliminate these faults from my spinning. I believe that a yarn should be firmly spun and slightly overplied if it is going to be used for knitting, because knitting, by virtue of the action of looping yarn over a needle, will undo ply twist. I am all about the structure and durability of the cloth. I do not want to spend days or months creating a piece that will skew in its first washing, or worse yet, pill and wear away.

I know that there is a legion of spinners and knitters who disagree with me. I see it all the time. People love cushy, fuzzy, soft-spun yarns that feel like a hug when they knit with them. I have been in any number of workshops where the emphasis on a "balanced yarn" straight of the wheel was almost oppressive ("Oh my God! Her yarn twisted! Her knitting will skew!!! Burn the Witch!"). I see commercially spun and custom handspun yarns that make me cringe being sold for exorbitant amounts of money. In some cases, it appears to me that mills are actually charging more for what I would consider inferior yarns.

Of course, selling yarns that will disintegrate after a wear and a wash can be profitable. The knitter will have to make a replacement garment, and he/she will need more yarn.

I also tend to knit quite firmly, which is beginning to look like a rarity, as well. I listened to a discussion last week about the importance of keeping your knitting loose so that your garment would have give and drape. Say what? I am still working to understand that reasoning. The knitted stitch has give by virtue of its construction, and drape comes from the fibre being properly spun. And there is such a thing as too much give and drape! It has been my observation that many loosely knitted items tend to grow and bag rather quickly, then the discussion becomes whether or not to felt it to make it fit better. (And don't get me started on that one!)

And then there is the argument that loose knitting is better for your hands--you won't get arthritis if you knit loosely. Huh? Yup, tight knitting leads to pain and suffering. Knit loose, knit longer. Okayyyyy.....

There is a big difference between knitting so tightly that you hurt yourself and knitting firmly. I am tired of being advised that I knit too tightly. I knit a firm cloth, one that will stand up to washing and wearing. Thank you for the advice, but my hands are just fine, thanks.

Now I realize that knitting is a hobby, a source of relaxation and happiness for most people who practice it. But how would you feel if a contractor took the same approach to building your house--"Let's just leave some space between the walls and windows so things can settle." or "It'll shrink once you live in it and those crooked walls will fix themselves." for example. We want our homes and vehicles to be well-constructed with good-quality materials, so why should we settle for less in our hobby crafting?

Keep your stitches relaxed. Keep your hands relaxed. Let your yarns relax after they have been plied. Relax, but understand the principles of good construction.

Lest I be taken for a Knitting Nazi, I would like to say that everyone is entitled to spin, knit, weave, cook, or tap dance in the manner that makes them happy. I do understand having a great enthusiasm for what you are doing, and I do understand the desire to share your experiences with others who share your craft. I'm just concerned by the perpetuation of bad advice and poorly designed yarns that seems to be becoming the hallmark of the ever-growing popularity of my craft. Not everything you read on Ravelry or on someone's blog (present company excepted, of course!) is gospel.

So share your experiences, but be open to other ideas as well. Explain why you think a thing works for you, and accept that there may be a differing point of view. Remember that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and never stop learning.

1 comment:

  1. Only reading this a month late but I TOTALLY agree with you, Michelle! And you said it so much better than I could too. I refuse to use Noro yarns even if they are pretty colours. I can spin so much better than that myself. (With a hooked stick, if necessary!) And I knit socks at 9sts/12rounds to the inch on 2mm needles. Very durable and comfortable. I could go on, but you get the idea! You go and teach them all the best way, ok? Hugs!