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.