What Level of Yarn Are You?
Yarn is so personal that I find myself aggravated a bit online with the attitudes reflected towards the levels of yarn users in the marketplace. Allow me to indulge your thinking.
Daniel and I are very different in our yarn tastes. Truth is, behind the scenes, our sponsors know that I love my everyday yarns and Daniel prefers medium to higher end yarn. My love for everyday yarns is what makes The Crochet Crowd successful today. Neither are wrong choices, it’s just personal preferences.
What gets under my skin the most is the over use of the word “Expensive”. That word is so generic and used at every possible opportunity. It gets on my nerves. Let me share why:
- If a product is more than you want to spend because you deem the value to be lower than what is being asked, does that make it expensive?
- If you cannot afford the product, does that make expensive or just means you don’t have the money for it?
- Are you comparing Apples to Apples or Oranges to Applies for the product value, manufacturing and processing for the prices they are asking?
Yarn, especially, there are a major difference between everyday yarns and medium to high end yarns. Other than the price, there’s more to it:
- Raw Fibers
Three Types of Yarn Levels
- Mass Produced Craft Yarn
- Mass Produced Fashion Yarn
- Independent Exquisite Yarn
Craft Yarns – Value Levels
I’m an everyday craft yarn person. I will make no apologies for it. I love craft yarn. If I can fill up a shopping cart and know I can make an afghan that is between $30 – $70… I’m super happy.
When I started The Crochet Crowd, with the help of Daniel, I was educated about the levels of yarn on the marketplace. I would avoid yarn balls that were over $5. Today, I have a different attitude and will indulge myself if I feel compelled to do so. I have a respect for the level of yarns that are available.
Craft yarn is what we find in most mega retailers. It’s usually produced in massive quantities to meet the demand of the consumer. Thousands of stores with shelves to fill. Estimating between 200 – 300 million yarn balls sold each year in North America. The yarn must be made with an average consumer budget in mind. Each manufacturing choice, raw fibre, production processes and presentation affects the retail price.
- You may find yarns that feel rough but are probably the cheapest yarns on the shelf. You can load up your shopping cart without any issues. The raw fibers are most likely value acrylic. This is a basic yarn with no bells and whistles. Consumers demand the yarn to be as cheap as possible, so with that, the manufacturers give the consumers what they want. Basic yarn because there’s a demand for it. Nothing wrong with that.
- If you notice the yarn beside it on the shelf is an extra dollar or two and feels softer. It mostly likely means the fibers and processing is different and most likely a step up in the level of raw fibres such as a premium acrylic.
The craft yarns tend to be made with mostly acrylic based fibers. These fibers are not natural and cheaper to produce than animal or natural fibers yarn product. Certain types of dyes don’t adhere to yarn the same way when the fibers are not equal. For example, in premium acrylic, the colours tend to be more vibrant, the yarn has a luster to it and looks amazing. In value acrylic, the colours tend to be toned down and not as vibrant because of the fiber difference. Red is the hardest colour to achieve consistency and some colours take the yarn to be soaked in a tank for up to 1 week in the dye to fully take to the fibers.
Consumers see the same package, same size ball and squawk that they are being ripped off. Truth is, there is a difference to achieve the softness and colours and has a higher costs on the manufacturing side. The consumers have to pay for that. There’s no way around it. You pay for what you get.
Craft Yarns are also made to suit the demands of the retailer. Size of ball to fit the shelf, popular colours and price point are the the biggest factors.
Craft Yarns – Blends Medium Level
On the shelves of major retailers, you will also find blended yarn that has mixes of acrylic, natural fibers and other stuff as indicated on the ball.
- As soon as blends are added to yarn. It totally changes the prices of the yarn to be higher because the blending process is a whole another process of getting the raw fibers.
- If the product has animal fiber blends, you have to consider the sheering of the animal and the processing involved to get it ready to be spun to yarn.
- You have the costs of the raising the animals and time to produce these fibers.
There are so many people that don’t consider when you blend natural fibers how it changes the price. There is a misconception that manufacturers are ripping off consumers without considering what is involved in using natural fibers. Farmers need to be compensated fairly for the fibers they are producing.
When blending natural fibers to acrylic fibers. You can have the same looks but at a lower cost. But if you are looking for warmth in a hat, you have to decide if acrylic, blended acrylic or 100% natural is what you want. Clearly, a 100% natural animal fiber hat would be the warmest. Consumers know that.
Craft Yarns – High End Natural
On some large retailers you will find yarns where the yarn is 100% of a natural fiber such as wool or alpaca. As stated in the Craft Yarns – Medium above, farmers and all of the processes of getting natural fiber are involved.
- Due to the yarn having no blended materials with it. Every animal fiber is used and to produce an entire line of exclusively 100% fiber.
- This is the highest level of costs for making yarn when the yarn isn’t blended with anything else.
To make one Wool Hat takes 45% of a sheep’s coat to make! It’s safe to say, 2 Hats = 1 Sheep. To make that hat, it will cost you about $9 – $ 12 per ball and you will need two balls. Does $24 for the wool to make a hat sound expensive when the wool has been sheered, dyed and packages and on the store shelf waiting for you? It’s a bargain!
Mass Produced Fashion Yarns
These types of yarns are typically found in independent retailers. This is where everyday craft yarn users, like me, and the next level of yarn users leave me behind. I make no apologies for this. I love my craft yarn.
This yarn tends to target knitters over crocheters. This is where handmade fashion takes a detour of the project having a higher cost to make a finished project. Our society, in the past 20 years, has moved to importing nearly everything from foreign countries. Would you buy a sweater for $20 or make a sweater for $120? This is where the division of a yarn shopper is occurring. Our sense of value is being warped by imported projects.
Due to this attitude of cheap imports affecting our sense of value, we are moving to a disposable society. The handmade sweater will probably last you a lifetime of use verses the cheap imported sweater for $20. It’s relative right.
For a yarn user to buy this, they have factored that thinking into their purchase and are choosing the quality route verses the cost comparison route.
These are the exquisite yarns that concentrate heavily on what it in the yarn. These balls tend to be smaller in size and have a higher price tag. Of yarn sales in North America, 50% of all the yarn sold is actually sold through independent retailers such as your local yarn shop.
- The price of this yarn is dictated by raw materials used.
- The yarn texture, feel and look are superior in relationship to craft yarn. It’s a step up without a doubt.
- You will see exquisite shawls, scarves and sweaters made with these types of yarns.
- It’s meant for fashion, not home decor.
This level of yarn and above to the next one, this is where craft yarn users start throwing around the word expensive in the main stream media. This isn’t yarn you would use for an afghan. The afghan would be exquisite but reaching to $500 easily. It’s just not the right yarn for those types of projects. This is where apples and oranges don’t mix.
Scarves and such could cost as much as $30 – $50 verses my afghan analogy in the beginning costing between $30 – $70 for an entire afghan of craft yarn. It’s not an equal yarn to do a cross comparison to. You have to factor that into your thinking.
Independent Exquisite Yarns
These types of manufacturers are small and independent on their own. These makers tend to be all natural yarns such as Merino Sheep and many other fibers which can include buffalo, camel, alpaca and more. These are the makers who do things in two ways.
- They will either raise the animals themselves and extract the fiber when the animals are ready to be sheered. They then will take their fibers to a mill to have the fibers made into yarn. The next step is then ready.
- They can also purchase the yarn directly from the mill that has been submitted by a farmer. The yarn is bought in the natural state. The next step is then ready.
Either way they get the yarn, they will then dye the yarn which can take a very long time to make.
You will notice most of these yarns, if not all, they are presented in a braid format on the shelves. Braid format is a cheaper method of presenting yarn on the shelves. Balling up yarn involves machines and can cost tends of thousands of dollars to have a machine. The braiding format also shows an accurate depiction of what is in the yarn for the colour palette. It’s cheaper for the independent makers to present their yarn like this which keeps the costs down.
These types of yarns tend to be made locally and are usually the vendors you find online with small online stores and/or you will find them in yarn fairs. With the independent manufacturers who are raising the animals, using local mills and doing the work themselves, all of the staffing involved are usually within North American wages. You cannot compare these types of yarns to foreign imported yarn where the wages are pennies and someone in the middle is making all of the profits involved.
These are the type of yarns you would not use to make an afghan or home decor. This yarn is for the elite knitter / crocheter who is looking to make a statement with an article of clothing. There is a definitely a market for this type of yarn user. Let’s not kid ourselves.
This yarn isn’t for everyone and this is where Craft Yarn Users start slamming this level of yarn as being ridiculous, expensive and outrageous. This is where my aggravation level picks up because this level of yarn has a demand by users but isn’t meant for most yarn users. It’s not fair to slam knitters and crocheters who enjoy this level of yarn, nor should they be targeted for abusive comments. There are people in society that can afford this level and prefer it. If there was no demand for it, it wouldn’t be made in the first place.
For us here at The Crochet Crowd. I would say 98% of my personal collection is everyday craft yarn. Daniel’s collection is 20% medium to high fashion yarn. We each have our own personal choices and there is nothing wrong with it. We respect each other regardless of our personal choices.
While at the Knitters’ Fair a few days ago. I would hear people complain on how expensive the yarn is. Truth is, when you factor everything that is involved, you have to put that into perspective when considering the value. Can you make the yarn yourself for the prices you are buying it for? Most likely not. If you are comparing the yarn to a major retailer, that’s just going back to the Apples and Oranges analogy. It’s not even fair to compare.
Whether you are a craft yarn person, medium or independent yarn user, do what makes you happy and buy what you can afford.
Yarns are not equal and when society can realize that, we can learn to encourage each other instead of slamming others for enjoying yarn that is beyond what we care to spend and/or what we can afford. There are yarns I cannot afford, do I hate or need to slam the yarn because I cannot afford it? No… absolutely not. I can enjoy the yarns I can afford and still be appreciative that there are choices for those who can afford other yarns.
In life, we have choices. Choose what is right for you. I usually say to Daniel. I like champagne on a beer budget. It’s just who I am.