fallingbooks: piles of books and yarn (fallingbooks)
[personal profile] fallingbooks
So Red Heart is working with Debbie Stoller of Stitch 'n Bitch fame to create a new series of decent, critter-and-plant-based yards. So far there are three in the Stitch Nation line: Full 'O Sheep is a worsted, singly ply Peruvian wool, Alpaca Love is a worsted, multi-ply alpaca/wool blend, and Bamboo Ewe is a worsted, multi-ply wool/bamboo blend. I'm not sure how processed the bamboo is in the latter because there are a couple ways to do it, one retaining more bamboo-iness and the other not so much. They're brightly colored, have a decent handfeel (for the most part, I'm not wildly in love with Alpaca Love,) are readily available at larger JoAnn's, and (this is the big selling point) are under $5 a pop. "Affordable, premium yarns!" I've seen people trumpet. What a wonder!

Except, I kind of wonder if they're really that much more affordable. I picked a handful of standard workhorse yarns off of Webs, figured out the cost per yard (from their non-sale prices) for them, and compared them to the Full O' Sheep yarn.

I would like to note that this is not exhaustive, just things that I like and use as my basic everyday yarns, and that I'm not going near the more trendy and luxe stuff like Malabrigo, Madelinetosh, or Lorna's Laces. (This is not a knock on them - I love my LL swirl dk mittens! - but they're definitely not what I, a knitter on a budget, would consider for anything but special projects.)

So how did things shake out?

Breakdowns:

Single Ply
Stitch Nation Full O' Sheep: $5.00/155yds = $0.032/yd
Brown Sheep Lambs Pride: $7.90/190yd = $0.042/yd
Berroco Peruvia: $8.00/174yd = $0.045/yd

Multi Ply
Cascade 220: $7.00/220yd = $0.031/yd
Ella Rae Classic: $6.50/219yd = $0.030/yd
Knitpicks* Wool of the Andes: $2.19/110yd =$0.020/yd

*Knitpicks is available only at Knitpicks.com

It's basically a penny difference per yard either way. Peruvia is probably the closest equivalent, being both Peruvian wool and single ply, and the most expensive in comparison, but it's still not a ridiculous jump in price. I'll agree that every penny matters in these financially questionable times, particularly when you're working on a large project, but I think that the 'affordable' line is a bit overhyped. If you're really constrained that tightly by your budget, you'd be best served hands down looking at Knitpicks's Wool of the Andes, multi-plied-ness be damned.

I think where the Stitch Nation yarns really win out is in the area of accessibility. Nice, saturated color, wool yarn right there where anyone can get to it, touch it, squeeze it, and fall in love with it. That's fantastic for people who don't have a LYS nearby or are put off by ordering yarns online because they're not sure what they're getting into. And kudos for getting alpaca and plant-blend yarns in the broader knitter consciousness. I've certainly never seen the like before at JoAnn's. I hope they're embraced and that Red Heart takes heart (har har) from this and releases yarns of varying weight in this line. Sock, lace, dk, bulky. There's so much out there for people to explore once they're aware of the possibilities.

But I also hope that knitters who are wowed and amazed and fall in love with a better yarn than they're used to continue to explore and visit their LYS, or Webs, or Knitpicks and try some other new things. Because price isn't that insurmountable a barrier.

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Sarah

January 2011

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