A Chronic Disease

I've feared this disease for quite some time, about as long as I've been knitting, in fact. Denial, bargaining, natural alternatives- none of it has seemed to help. The simple fact is this- I have yarnsnobery.

The final crushing blow, the thing that made me realize just how far the disease has progressed, came a few days ago. I was reading through my Facebook feed and came across a picture of yarn. Now, this is something that normally gives me great pleasure but this picture was different. I knew in an instant that this photo was of something dark, evil, wrong. This was a picture of cotton.

A quick glance at the caption confirmed it. Sitting before me was what my sickened mind has come to believe is blasphemy.

I tried knitting with cotton once. I convinced myself that it would be wonderful for a nice spring hat. The light and dark green strands knit together would combine to create the perfect spring time hat.

The experience was unpleasant, even intolerable. The yarn was gritty and unyielding with a strange drape that my disease simply could not handle. I finished the hat, but just barely. I was sincerely afraid I would break out in hives.

The disease began to manifest early in my knitting career and I think it was encouraged by my knitting mentor. I now suspect that he may have been a sufferer himself.

In one of the strange twists of the sickness, I think there is an innate tendency to want, even need, to pass it on to others. This is exactly what my ill mentor did. I'd been knitting with a wool/acrylic blend for my first few scarves when Philip and I met for our first lesson. We decided to cast on a hat and he had the perfect yarn for me. He dug around his stash (which is what he called the random piles of yarn gracefully placed on every free level space in his apartment) and found what he was looking for. Two balls of a wool/angora blend.

Philip handed me the yarn which I suspect he had infected with the disease. (Science is still trying to determine if yarnsnobery is viral or bacterial but Philip must know it's source). Once that yarn hit my hand, I immediately began to exhibit symptoms. Before I could even begin to experience it with my fingers, I dove in to the ball, face first.

I smelled the wonderful wooliness and caressed my cheek with the scintillating bunny hair. Here in my hands was heaven. Yarn was to be my new solution to all life's ills. Wool was my new friend, angora my lover. I had arrived.

Since that time, I've more than happily paid $30 for a skein of alpaca that might make a single hat just because it was soft. I'm working on a pair of socks right now that will require nearly two balls of $20 noro, but that fabulous single ply yarn in all its colorful beauty is a blend of lamb's wool, kid mohair, silk and nylon. (I must confess, I do sneer a bit at the nylon, but it's a necessary evil when it comes to socks).

I've even gone so far as to be a breed snob. Apparently, there's some people that think putting "100% wool" on the label is sufficient. I will not buy a yarn if the breed is not listed. I need to know if I'm working with merino, blue faced leicester, australian, rambouillet, lincoln, icelandic and so on. Each breed, while knittable, is different and I would like to know what I'm getting in to before I shell out cash for fiber.

The sickness reached a new height this summer when I went to the Estes Park Wool Market here in Colorado. I had never seen or even heard of Paco-Vicuna. I have also never touched a cloud, but I swear that is exactly what touching this fiber was like. I had to take it home. I paid $48 for a single ounce. I don't know that I'll be able to make anything with that little puff of wool, but I do know that once it is yarn, I will love it with an unrivaled passion.

There is no cure for this disease. It is chronic and incurable. Medicine may one day find a cure, but until that time, the best solution seems to be acceptance. I may require some monitoring from time to time. Non-snobs may have to check my stash, making sure it isn't taking over my living space or my credit card balance. The doctors don't seem to think it will be fatal. So, for now, I get to indulge my disease in happy bliss. Of course, I'd indulge it anyway. This yarn snob will never work with cotton again.

For my fabulous yarn from snobbish fibers, check out my etsy shop at etsy.com/shop/knittingman81.


scottly's picture

Hmmm....The right fibre for the project is my philosophy. Petroleum based fibers are rarely the right fiber for any project simply because most of it is cheap, nasty to the touch and is just a wool imposture, but I have used high end acrylics, acrylic blends and micro fibers because they felt good to the touch and were the right fiber. I've used lovely cottons and cotton blends, once again, when they were right for the project. When it comes to wool I have to say I don't even come close to knowing one breed from another with the exception of Merino, which I dearly love. I've heard vicuña is to die for as is Qiviut niether of which have I been lucky enough to use. I try to remember that my life should be about widening my horizons not narrowing them so with that in mind, as long as the fiber is worthy of the project I will probably not turn my nose up at it.

Tom Hart's picture

Cotton, is it? Have you ever tried jute? That’ll give you pause. Big time. It has given me several months worth of pause.

The thing is, there is just something about animal hair versus plant fiber (and I don’t know where silk comes in there, never having worked with it) that is just about incontrovertible as far as people who actually knit with it go. I’ve knit with cotton and I’ve knit with jute and as far as what they’re good for (rugs and doormats) you really can’t beat them. But in terms of the actual experience of knitting, I’ll take yarn spun from animal hair anytime. Yarn spun from animal hair has got give in spades. Cotton and jute do not. It’s just a solid fact.

That’s all I’ve got to say at this time.