Tuesday, July 23, 2013

'Cheap' Yarn - Another Soapbox

There is a poster on Facebook that says "Life is too short to (knit, weave, crochet) with cheap yarn."

I agree.  But define 'cheap'?

One of the main complaints of new weavers is that weaving is so expensive - the yarn costs so much.

OTOH, when I look at yarns for knitting, my thought is "that's so expensive!"  When you look at what you are getting for your money, there can be quite a large difference in cost per ounce, knitting vs weaving yarns.

The thing is, weaving just uses up way more yarn so the initial outlay may seem as though it is more expensive.  Instead of one skein of 100 grams of knitting yarn for, say, $25 a new weaver may buy 3 or 4 tubes (8 ounce tubes) for more than that.  But compare the weight and yardage.  Generally speaking, cost per ounce for weaving yarns is a lot less than for knitting or crocheting.

So what is a 'cheap' yarn?  Are we talking inexpensive?  Or poor quality?  The word 'cheap' can be defined as either.

My approach to weaving has been to work with the best quality yarns I can afford.  So no, I don't buy the acrylics commonly available in Michael's or Wally World.  I go to weaving yarn suppliers.  I examine the way the yarn has been spun.  Test it for strength.  For integrity in the loom as warp.

If you look closely at the photo above (click to biggify) you will see two skeins of 2/8 or 8/2 cotton yarn.

Can you see the difference between them?  That one looks whiter and smoother than the other?

The skein on the top is Canadian standard 2/8 cotton.  The other is American standard 8/2 cotton.  (Although you can get 2/8 cotton now in the US - try WEBS and their Eight/Two cotton or Yarn Barn of Kansas - read the fine print where it describes the yarn as more tightly twisted for warp.)

Ring spun cotton is more like a worsted preparation while open end spinning is more like woolen preparation.  The ring spun yarn is smoother and stronger (by about 20% according to industry) than open end spun yarn of the same fibre.

My approach to weaving (I've said before and I'll say it again, no doubt!) is that the most expensive component of a hand woven textile is the time the weaver invests in creating their textile.  Why would I work with materials that can't stand up to the stresses of weaving?

My preference for warp is a stronger yarn.  The weaker yarn belongs in the weft.  IMHO.

Learn more about the inherent qualities of the yarn you are working with and make appropriate choices.  Watch this space for more information on my up-coming webinar with Weaving Today on just this topic.


charlotte said...

Very interresting photo! I totally agree. The price of weaving yarn is nothing compared to what our work hours cost. Just had a lot of inferior quality wool 9/1 from a quality supplier. It was unevenly spun and it created a terrible lot of dust while making bobbins. Luckily I was able to return it and got sent a better lot.

marie said...

Thanks for that. I noticed that US 8/2 and rug warp tend to be softer/fluffier/ weaker than the Swedish ones I'm used to. They seem of lesser quality, but I figure it was just me. Glad to know I can get canadian!

Laura Fry said...

Or buy the Swedish brand from the Loom Room of Texas. Their 2/8 is made from Egyptian cotton and is much stronger and lustrous than the Canadian. :)

Amanda Cutler said...

Good blog post today! Very thought provoking. I liked your argument on what is cheap. When hubby lost is job, I used a lot of polyester yarns for scarves and blankets because it was very inexpensive but also I noticed that many people preferred it because it cut my cost some, it wasn't as itchy as wool, and a lot of people who don't weave or work with yarn don't realize the importance of handwashing, taking care of it, etc. Also, I have found with working with polyester that it's not the yarn, but the type of weave that sometimes makes a project good! Thanks for a good post!

Peg Cherre said...

Can't wait to learn more on this topic, here and at Weaving Today!

Zurainny Ismail said...

As one who has way too little knowledge about yarns, I have to depend on brand & price to decide whether a yarn is of better quality than another. It really is a guessing game for me, unfortunately. :C

Laura Fry said...

As you experience different yarns your foundation of knowledge will grow. Try to learn a little bit about spinning and fibre properties. Google fibre or textile science for detailed information. Or take my webinar via Interweave called A Good Yarn. Study fabric samples to find out what you like and how the weaver got their results. Join a sample exchange. Weave samples with no other purpose than finding out what happens when things change...yarn, colour, weave structure. If you don't want to sample for the sake of sampling, wind warps a bit longer and play with different parameters at the end.