Rant...you've been warned
May. 4th, 2006 @ 10:04 am
This is because of an entry on one of the spinning groups here on LJ. I've ranted about this before...but, rather than argue with someone, I'll post this here, in my own space. If you're not into fiber, you might wanna skip this.
OK, we're back to the whole "art yarn" discussion. *sigh* Yarn is not Art; it is Art Supplies by it's very nature. To treat yarn as the end product is a disservice to the wheelwright (or spindle-maker), the shepard (or gardener, for cellulose fibers) and the fiber-producer itself, the being that spent it's time growing the very fibers we use (and abuse, in some cases).
Yarn, according to Webster's, is defined as: a) a continuous often plied strand composed of fibers or filaments and used in weaving and knitting to form cloth
; and b) a similar strand of metal, glass, asbestos, paper, or plastic.
Now, most "art yarns" don't actually fit the definiton of yarn - so far, I have yet to see one that could actually make usable, lasting fabric. You certainly can't weave with most of them - the inclusions would rip out or damage your reed if you were stupid enough to attempt them as warp (and I haven't even *started* on the spinning quality angle yet!), and, if used as weft, would create structural integrity problems (not to mention interesting problems in the makeup of the desired clothing item). Knitting? The resulting item (let's pretend we wanted to make, say....a hat. I've seen it done :shudder:) would be bulky, and the hats I've seen look quite uncomfortable to wear. Lots of scratchy, overspun bits, and the dangly inclusions look like they would bop the wearer in the head (and probably fall off after a few wearings). Ditto on the crochet - although I haven't seen many crochet items that attempted to use art yarn. I, personally, can't see spending the time in making something I can't *use*, or, if I use it, won't make something that will last.
The quality of spinning on most of these is pretty poor. Underspun bits that will drift apart when you try to actually knit with it, overspun bits that will snarl (and possibly snap - I've had it happen to me with yarn I purposefully overspun to experiment with), inclusions that will scratch your needles and your hands, coil-y bits that will drive you batty as you try to figure out a workable gauge.....the list goes on and on. Most of them look like beginner yarns.....which isn't a rousing endorsement of them. My beginner yarns were totally unusable - I tried. And failed. Miserably. The whole "make something that will last" issue again - the underspun bits fell apart as I attempted to make a hat. I tried to weave (using my 2nd ever skein as weft)...that was a disaster. I had to keep piecing the weft back together in the shed because the slight drag as the bobbin unwound caused yarn failure.)
Then, there's the whole pricing issue. I simply cannot understand why "art yarns" should be priced so much higher than nicely, almost perfectly spun yarns. Especially since the yardage is......well, most art yarns are less than 50 yards. My current sock weight skeins are coming in at 200+ yards. To expect to pay $30+ for 50 yards of unusable yarns is just.....well, I won't pay that. I *can't* pay that. (And to pay $40 for a book that tells me how to spin this stuff? Riiiiiight!)
It's hard enough to know how to price regular yarn. Should you price it up there with the designer yarns? The mid-level yarns? The entry level (lord, I hope not!) By the yard? By weight? What differentiates laceweight from worsted weight in your pricing schedule? The time spent?
When you finally hit upon a price that you feel is fair to both you and the buyer, you see an art yarn, at 1/4 of the yardage, that looks...bad, for 15x the price...and it sells while yours doesn't, to someone who just wants it to look at, not actually use.
Now we come to public demos. I've ranted on this before. I've seen it in action - fiber-ignorant people come and see you, so they wander over to get a better look. You are doing your level best to put handspinning in a positve light - if you can lure more people into the spinning world, there will continue to be people out there willing to raise fiber, build wheels, etc - so you're spinning to the best of your ability, while at the same time answering questions, explaining (for the 50th time) how the wheel works, stopping and showing some of the things you've made with your handspun (this *always* impresses people - even those who tell you that Wal-Mart sells yarn).....invaribably, someone will mention another spinner that they've seen (or handspun yarn they've run across) that "isn't anywhere near as good as you/your yarn. I didn't know you could make, y'know, yarns you could *use*". Upon questioning (or even getting up and looking for yourself), it turns out that this spinner is churning out "art yarns". (Yes, it's happened to me at most of the demos I've done. I grit my teeth and try to be nice each time it happens - no sense in giving people the satisfaction of watching my head go all 'splodey on them....or start rumors that handspinners hate each other).
Now - I have to admit that I have seen some art yarns that look kinda neat. One lady had some pirate themed yarns up the other day. Cute, but still not usable, and out of my price range. Will I ever buy any? Nope. Will I ever spin any? **LL NO. I have too much respect for my wheel and the sheep that donated his coat to the cause.
It's sad that this topic keeps coming up....I am hoping that a lot of these beginners (for it seems that a lot of the art yarn spinners ARE beginners) will decide that they want to make lasting items and improve their spinning. Until then, us "normal" spinners are going to have to keep fighting the good fight to prove that handspun yarns aren't crap, and *are* worth spending money on.
It's a big gripe of mine, too. We've been bitching about the post you're bitching about in knitting_snark
--for the same reasons.
That sort of attitude drives me batshit. I'm not sure what a good counterargument is, because clearly the "you're giving people who give a crap about technique and usability a bad name" one isn't working.
oooh - a new community that sounds like I need to join! *g*
I wish I knew what I could say to get these people to see what they're doing to the spinning community as a whole. I need to work on that...
It's a fun community (I'm the owner of it, so I'm biased ;) ).
If you figure out what to say, let the rest of us know so we can help.
And if you really want to be appalled, go to pluckfluff's website and look at her Prairie Massacre yarn. There's DOLL PARTS in it.
Cool - I joined, then fired off an email begging for the keys. *g*
and - DOLL PARTS. OMFG.......I think I'll stay away. Far away. (What the eff'n 'LL did that do to her poor wheel?????)
She used a quill attachment.
Maybe she'll stab herself with it someday.
from her site:
Knitting with handspun is like reading a book. Each inch that comes along the needle has a different character, totally unique and different from all the other inches in its' length. As you work through the yarn you never know what to expect next. Sometimes it goes along smoothly for a long time, then POP! You are startled by a big blob with sparks of sparkle, or a menacing inky shadow with trailing fibers lurks across your needle.
I thought those blobby bits in my yarn was a flaw, myself. I mean, it's one thing to purposefully ply in a crochet thread for contrast, and purposeful thick/thin at even intervals could be interesting, but much beyond that.... /shudder
I guess if you can only do garter stitch, you have to have erratically spun yarn in order to keep your interest up...http://www.pluckyfluff.com/stuff.html
(Okay, there's some crochet and stockinette stitch in there, too, but nothing that I'd consider even mildly interesting, pattern-wise.)
shows the only crocheting I've done with the 'novelty' yarns, and I was really quite pleased with the results. But, I used the yarn as an accent, not the yarn for the main fabric.
It IS a boring pattern, naught but single and double crochet, but then, the pattern wasn't my focal point here.
And sometimes that's totally appropriate--I'm working on a garter stitch multi-directional scarf from some Noro Silk Garden because I want to showcase the color.
It just bugs the ever-loving shit out of me that she's selling a garter stitch purse with thrifted handles (because that's what "vintage" seems to mean these days) for almost a hundred dollars. And it looks like it's made from DRYER LINT.
At first glance I thought it was scrumbled, some of which I like. But the closeup showed fuzz, not stitches. umm, ick. I can't imagine anyone actually *using* that as a purse, and if you wouldn't use it, what's the point?
I so want to strangle Pluckyfluff. With her own yarn. Except I suspect it wouldn't do a very good job as a noose. I guess I'll just have to stuff it in her mouth and up her nose until she suffocates on the nasty stuff.
My buddy Joe was admiring some of my handspun and my knitting at the weekend and said "I don't mean this as an insult, but some of your stuff is so even it could have been done by a machine." I knew what he meant and pointed out that my spinning is mostly done by a machine (a spinning wheel)!
Our ancestors produced yarns as good as any made by modern machinery -- you can see that in the few extant pieces in museums. To produce cr*p and call it "handspun" is to do them and us a huge disservice. People make things much better than machines do. Machines just do it quicker and cheaper.
*g* I agree - I'll even hold her down for you, and dispose of the...evidence. *g*
I couldn't agree more. I have experimented with "novelty yarn" but not to the point that it was crazy all over the place stuff. I am kind of hoping that this fad will die off and leave a few real spinners behind to carry on the tradition into the next generation.
Next weekend I will have the opportunity to assimilate another yung'un while I am up in Oklahoma. I am just debating whether to take both wheels or just one. Since I am driving I don't have to worry about shipping. I have a week left to decide.
I don’t ‘get’ the novelty yarns either. Some I think are aimed at the freeform movement though, and might work for that if the yarn itself is well made. (By that I mean, I’ve seen novelty yarns that I think would fall apart, but I’ve seen others that are well made yarns that just have oddments added in.) The only ‘novelty’ yarn I personally have used is a rather pretty bought eyelash yarn. And I found it difficult to crochet with, and I used it paired with another coordinating ‘real’ yarn, for a scarf. Made a truly lovely scarf, but the eyelash yarn was a visual and textural accent, the fabric is from the real yarn.
I’m a very new spinner, and my first yarns weren’t worth using. I made one that *looked* good, but when I actually tried crocheting with it I found some areas that were so underspun as to want to unwind, some that were perfect, and many more that were so overspun as to feel like crocheting with twine. I made a stitch sampler with it, which proved the perfect use :p. I have another yarn that actually ended up looking and feeling great, and is good to crochet with as well – but I had so much trouble with my plying that I ended up with half a dozen skeins of 40-50 yards each. I will use it, and I may give some to a friend, but I certainly wouldn’t sell that, think of the annoyance factor to the user!
I consider what you call "art yarns" to be one-off eye candy nonsense. I've spent ten years honing my craft with great care to make the best possible yarns that look good and wear well. I don't even sell any singles yarns because I find they just don't hold up and tend to pill.
I'm glad you brought up this rant. I think the art yarn trend will eventually simmer down; it's kind of like the bulky yarns/bulky knits trend in that respect. Eventually, a certain percentage of folks become good enough knitters and spinners that they get past the instant, transitory gratification stage and get on with wanting and creating the real thing, the thing with true staying power.
I had to shake my head with wonder and wry amusement when I saw someone trying to sell their poorly spun yarns that were full of feather inclusions. Just wait 'til they try to wash anything knit from that stuff. Ha!
When I demo and folks wonder why on earth I would take the time to make my handspun yarns when I could buy cheap yarns, I don't let it get to me. There's just no comparison. Mainly I stress the pride and sense of love and ownership I have for the handspun I keep and sell, and the joy of mastering a fine craft. It's kind of like comparing homemade cookies from scratch and store-bought cookies in a box or bag. People do understand that analogy. I also make sure to bring along pictures of the animals from whom the fibers came, if possible, and all the skeins are named by their fiber animal too. Personalizes things a bit, and customers seem to get and like that.
Re: The Art of Yarn.
I haven't tried the cookie analogy yet - but I will. Thanks!
I have a notebook that I haul along to the "educational" demos. It's got samples of some of the fibers I've spun (I keep forgetting to pull a bit off and put it in there), some dye experiments, and various yarn samples (again - I keep forgetting to keep a sample). People are always amazed - I have Pyr fluff and yarn, angora (rabbit) fluff, camel down, will soon have cow hair (Highland)/yarn (3 ply) - they don't realize all the fibers that are available.
The biggest hit, though? The kool-aid and easter-egg dyed samples. *g* Ooooh...think I'll go raid the grocery store and run a batch of KA roving for Arlington.....
did you see what pluckfluff's latest yarn is going for on ebay (sleakign of high priced art yarns)? I about died of shock! Man if I could get that for even 10 skeins of normal yarn I'd be happy. Pricing i so difficult, I think people are getting away with whatever they can. SOmetimes its really low to the how-are-they-making-money type, otherwime it like...ok, I can spin that in less then an hour with $5 worth of materials [WHILE doing other things, like listening to an online lecture and talking to people], and I woouldnt charge $50 for it!
I hear ya! This is one reason why I haven't actually *sold* any of my yarn...I have this little problem with perfectionism. *I* am perfectly happy using my handspun, but will other people be?
My yarns aren't machine perfect (and I don't expect them to be) - but will other knitters/weavers appreciate the imperfections?
And then I see this....crap, and I cry.
|Date:||May 5th, 2006 03:29 am (UTC)|| |
I'm definitely with you on this one! As much time as I've spent improving my spinning abilities, the thought of wasting my time, money, or energy on art yarns makes my stomach want to heave.