Friday, November 03, 2006

Since we're ranting about yarn.

There appears to be a rather amusing discussion of Lion Brand yarns going on in the comments, so I'll just bring it out in the open, heeheehee.

I'll be interested to see how much the new handpaint from them costs, and if it's wool. If it is, I may just break my own rule (of course) and buy me some. Ranting all the while, of course.

The other yarn company I love to hate is Plymouth, mostly because I can carry a grudge from here to the third millenium. Back in 1999, I knit a silk throw (the blue one I show the cat laying on, occasionally). I remember the year because it was after my accident and my hand was finally working and I was going to do knitting for physical therapy and decided to splurge. So I bought $120 worth of silk yarn (this is a lot at my house) that was said in the catalogue to be bombyx silk. It turned out to be tussah. (For a discussion on why this is so irritating, hit the Knitty article here.) So I wound up with a scratchy throw that the cat sleeps on.

To add insult to injury, as I knit I picked out literally a handful of twigs, straw, stray fibers (like, RED stray fibers) and assorted other crud. Now, I understand straw in wool. Sheep live in straw, it follows that there's gonna be some in their wool and all the processing in the world can miss some of it. But how in the FUCK do you get straw and twigs in silk?? Even tussah silk? Long story short, when I realized how nasty the yarn was, I saved all the crud, and mailed it back to Plymouth in a plastic bag with a scathing note detailing cost vs. quality.

Never heard so much as a peep back from them. No apology, no explanation, no nothing.

Y'all might have noticed that shitty customer service pisses me off. (Not MISTAKES - Halcyon screwed up with that knitting needle deal, but they made it right and were nice about it. That's cool. Acting like you're doing me a favor to take my money? Forget it.) Part of the reason for that is because I've worked customer service quite a lot myself and don't bother to complain unless I've got a legitimate problem, so to have it ignored spins me right up. But anyway.

So I try to avoid Plymouth products. The one thing I do buy, however, is Encore worsted. It's - I think - half superwash wool and half acrylic, and all things considered, not bad. Excellent price for the yardage, and a whole lot of colors. I use it to knit baby gifts, because I haven't got the heart to give a new mother a gift that needs to be hand washed. (Yes, I came to this realization BEFORE I had my own kid. Sometimes the brain does work.) But I still swear every time I order anything with the Plymouth name on it.

On the other hand, I LOVE Reynolds (I've used various types of lopi and their Saucy sport repeatedly), the Elann house brands (lots of colors, and never gotten a single knot yet), Schachenmyer, and Brown Sheep.


Amy Lane said...

I'm embarrassed at how much money I spent on acrylic yarn, and on how much I'd managed to garner before I discovered what real yarn felt like... I will say this: Wool Ease (in all it's thicknesses) is a fairly reliable, very washable bang for your buck... since the only place I can find Plymouth OR Reynolds here is at the specialty yarn store (which I usually try very hard to support as opposed to the chain stores..) I don't always get the color selection I need if I'm doing stuff on the fly. I guess my main complaint against Lion Brand is how much of their product I've had to throw away because my time is more valuable than the cost of that GINORMOUS BRAIN WRAPPING SOUL STEALING KNOT that is waiting for you somewhere in the middle of every other ball of yarn.

April said...

Some Lion Brand is OK. I do like Wool-Ease for baby afghans. But Homespun? Oh my ever lovin' Lord, that stuff is the spawn of Satan. Yet people continue to buy it.

Sheepish Annie said...

I actually don't mind using acrylics, especially when I'm practicing a new skill and don't want to put a lot of money into what will no doubt be a failure. Lion Brand, while not the greatest yarn, is readily available to me and is used from time to time.

I don't have a great deal from which to choose here in deepest darkest Maine. But I will stand firm in this: the only tussah silk to touch the needles in this house is that which I have spun myself.

Bells said...

You know, I never thought about using acrylic for babies. I shudder to think how many of my new-mother friends have delicately made wool items from me that they can't bear to use because of the handwashing issue. That said, I made a fabulous crochet blanket for my nephew that my sister used endlessly. I have no idea how she washed it and last time I saw it, it was still in great shape. It was a rather delicate item, too - lots of 4ply (fingering weight?) I don't know.

We are mercifully free of Lion Brand here. But I'm sure we have plenty of our own shitty stuff.

Alwen said...

". . . how do you get straw and twigs in silk?"

ooo ooo, call on me, I know I know!

Here's the deal:
Good silk, they raise the silk caterpillars, let them spin their cocoons, then they kill them. That way the cocoon is all one nice long silky silk fiber.

Tussah silk is from wild silk moth caterpillars doing their thing in the tropical forest. They eat what they want (so the fiber varies in color), and they spin their cocoons wherever they happen to be, including bits of leaf or whatever.

That's where the straw and other vegetable matter comes from: bits of the whatever.

People go out and hunt for them, kind of like wool-gathering, only for silk cocoons.

Tussah silk can vary wildly, wildly I tell you, in quality. I was given a silk-angora sweater for Christmas once, and couldn't figure out why I was picking bits of clean yellow straw out -- until I read about tussah silk.

debsnm said...

Way back when, in the olden days, when I learned to knit, the only place to buy yarn was T,G & Y - otherwise known as the "Five & Dime" - and the only thing they sold was Red Heart & Aunt Lydia's Rug yarn. So, I learned to knit on acrylic yarn. It's still my work horse today. A lot of the Red Heart yarn is stiff and hard to work with, but once you wash it, it softens up so nicely, and with just a little bit of care, it won't ball up. It's my favorite for baby blankets, because it can be thrown in with all the baby clothes and washed for all it's worth. The kidlet is now 15, and we still have the baby blanket I knit for her while I was preggers - it's too small for anyone to use for anything, but it's held up nicely.
Lion Brand has NO customer service - I know, I've fought with them on many, many occasions. I have about forty-seven-eleven skeins of that damned Homespun - it was a pretty color, and I was sucked in - until I tried to knit with it!!!!!!!