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Guest Blog – Yarn and the Value of Crafting With It.

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I said right at the beginning of my posts that I’ve have a bit of an issue with expensive yarn. It’s a bit of a joke within my knitting circle but let me qualify that: I have an issue with over-priced yarn.

Most people think knitting and crocheting is cheap – it always was. However, as any returning knitter will tell you, yarn is no longer cheap. I guess you might even call it a specialist item now because not everybody knits. It’s no longer an occupation but a hobby which will, of course, push the price up anyway but more importantly it’s just not a ‘staple’ any more. Back in the day yarn (which we could have called wool regardless of the fibre content) was as important as bread, eggs and milk – if you didn’t have yarn your family didn’t have socks or jumpers. I guess that depended on your social status and possibly where you lived, being Yorkshire born and bred wool was particularly important to my family, but it’s generally true wherever you were from. A lot of returning knitters tell me that they gave up when yarn became more expensive and I guess it became more expensive when less knitters knitted, so the shops closed down, so the remaining shops put their prices up because they could and because they needed to keep their margins despite a lack of knitters. So yarn is no longer cheap.

On top of this, in many big shops yarn is now pushed with pattern books. Your Grandma would have bought a few simple patterns and adapted these to fit the family, adding cables or lace or colourwork from here and there to make the items individual. The further back you go the more likely it is that there actually weren’t patterns at all. Shetland is famous for their lace sampler scarves, if a knitter saw a stitch pattern that they liked in somebody else’s sampler they’d borrow it, reverse-engineer the stitch to add to their own scarf and then, as a kindness, add a pattern to the other person’s scarf that they didn’t have. These scarves can get massive and they are essentially a dictionary of different stitches which would be plugged into any item. We don’t have sampler scarves much any more, we have stitch dictionaries which cost, of course, £15-£20 (for a good one) and include barely half of what they should… What I wouldn’t give to live in turn of the century Shetland if only for the patterns!!!

Yarn isn’t immune from the ‘celebrity’ factor either. Crafters will pay a premium for a yarn with a good name – Amy Butler yarn anyone? (As an aside – I’m twiddling my thumbs waiting for a Cath Kidston yarn, let’s hope it’s made in England unlike the rest of her stuff.)  There’s a real flavour in the crafting community for ‘old English’ style products, you know the stuff – eggshell blue, roses, polka dots, twee, prim and very proper. I don’t mind it, but half the stuff’s made in China – (how ‘old English’ is that!? ). As we all know, when a product has a celebrity name attached the price trebles.

Fibre content has the same effect – able to say your jumper has cashmere, qiviut or silk in it?! Fab! That just means all I have to do it knit something with no thought, and it’s magically special. Pfft. Not my style. I understand it’s fun and exciting to try new fibres, and there are occasions when only silk will do, but too many crafters rely on a name or a brand or a fibre to make their knitting stand out. I’m all about the skill: I’d much rather show off a cable I’d taken from a 16th century farmer’s cap in acrylic than I would garter stitch (the simplest pattern) in unicorn bum fluff… Because it’s I did it – I made it special!

So, wool is mostly expensive, never cheap and only rarely reasonably priced. That’s where we come in. The idea is that we sell good, solid, old fashioned yarns at the best price possible and with good pattern support. The staff on hand, which is pretty much me, are able to help you find the best yarn to suit the pattern, or adjust your pattern to suit the yarn and the knitting community in Nottingham generally gets more thoughtful about their knitting. No more hiding behind a brand name and a lot more supporting local business.

I hope that makes sense and nobody’s too offended – I get quite het up about the issue because to me knitting and crochet is sacred, it shouldn’t be caught up in modern throw-away culture. What we’re doing is preserving our heritage hopefully in a modern way and not in a showy-offy way. We’re directly connected our Viking counterparts who spun with their primitive spindles or the ancient Arabs who knitted the first hats in praise of their god. Not every piece of knitting or crochet is going to change the world but it is important to show it the respect it deserves – the act of knitting and crochet is skilful – let’s not undermine that.