MUSEUM OF BAD IDEAS – YARN/COLOR NAMES

Aldmort’s comment on my calling a color "run-in-the-rain-racoon" got me thinking about a favorite silly topic: the names picked by marketing for yarns or colors.

Now I’ll happily put up with all sorts of nonsense, but it seems that ever so often those involved in the naming lose touch with reality. My favorite Bad Idea of 2004 so far is the Lana Grossa yarn, Brillo. It’s actually a rather soft and shiny fiber blend – but you’d never know that from the name. (Non-North Americans might not know that "Brillo" is a trade name forone of the most widespread brands ofsteel wool/soap pads.) Alamo is another bad yarn name. Am I supposed to associate that with adesperateand bloody battle, or the car rental outfit?

I realize that yarn names are at best, the product of intense focus on behalf of a marketing group, or at worst – the brainstormed bastard child of a bunch of people sitting around donuts and coffee after midnight. The most effective names evoke a mood or tickle the mind about a property of the yarn. They don’t have to be literal. After all, if everyone sold yarn called "Fuzzy Wool Worsted," we’d also go nuts.

I like names that communicate something about the yarn. I think that Waterspun is a good name for a partially felted yarn. Elastico tells me the stuff stretches. Techno Fur says fuzzy synthetic and Lazer FX says shiny light and mirrors.

Neutral names abound. Most of the place names and a few of the person-namesapplied to yarns fall into this group. Some do evoke an image. I wouldn’t expect a yarn called "Florida" to be a polar-weight wool (the three Floridas in the yarn review collection are all cotton or cotton blends). I wouldn’t expect a yarn called "Alaska" to be something worn in the summer (also three, all wool or bulky winter-type yarns).

I detest names like Anna (two in the yarn review collection).A yarn named "Anna" might be anything. Isadora would be a better "people name" for a yarn. It makes me think of the famous (and famously reckless) ballerina Isadora Duncan. I think unconventionality,luxury, silk, sheerness,and fluttery – all associations with her dance style, the classical costumes she affected and theveil or scarfthat killed her. Of course you might be turned off by the same associations. That’s what the marketing people are supposed to figure out. Names like "Mousse" are also problematic. There are four in the yarn review collection, ranging from K1C2’s Aran weight mohair blend, to Katia’snylon worstedand Artfiber’s novelty yarn. All very different and none exhibiting what I’d think of as mousse-like qualities.

Color names are even worse.

I can deal with things like "moorit." That’s a traditional designation for one of several undyed colors right off the sheep’s back. But what the heck are these?

  • Lichen
  • Hero
  • Bramble
  • Swarm
  • Hansel

And if you think I’m picking on Rowan exclusively, what about these?

  • Depths
  • Tingle
  • Firefly
  • Gelato
  • Thursday
  • Honesty

Don’t get me wrong – I like color names. A yarn with a color name is easier to remember than a yarn with a number. But I want the names to tell me something. Carnation, Blush, Powder, Azalea and Antique Rose are all perfectly good names forpinks – each giving me a roughidea of what hue is meant. Even Ballerina dredges up a color association andimage. Honesty may be a good policy for labeling, but as acolor name it tells me nothing.

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