TRENDY YARNS AND STANDARDS AGAIN

Thanks to everyone who sent kind thoughts to String on its blogiversary. I’ll keep going as long as time and fun-factor allow.

Trendy Yarns

I seem to have hit some major chords with my rant about self stripers replacing solid color sock yarns, and by extension – other trendy yarns pushing more classic stuff off the shelves. People both left comments here and wrote to me about it. I understand that yarn shops are businesses, and must respond to market forces in order to maintain their (usually precarious) cash flow. They stock what people are buying, and can’t afford to keep other things sitting around if they don’t earn their keep, too. Right now people are grabbing up the frou-frou yarns, and ignoring the other stuff.

Still, I’ll be very happy when the current wacky yarn fad dies down a bit. I am thrilled at the variety in the stores, but 95% of that variety is stuff that leaves me cold. Aside from a present or two around the holidays, or as a splash here and there for contrast, I have very little interest in fuzzy, furry, sparkly, or otherwise wildly festooned novelty yarns.

I do like texture, but not at the expense of knitability. I like boucles, astrakhans, some slubby yarns, and terry-type and velvet-type textures (especially washable ones for kids). If most loopy yarns weren’t made from mohair, I’d like them, too (mohair and I don’t get along). I also like the texture imparted by the various styles of plying – everything from densely cabled yarns made up of tons of tiny plies, to supersoft singles. Obviously, I also like classic yarns, too – smooth multi-plies in all weights. It’s all of these I want to see more of. In every fiber and blend. In colors rich enough for Byzantium, and juicy enough to eat. But not another skein of technicolor road kill, please.

Standards

As you can probably tell, I’m not a big fan of the standards efforts promulgated by the consortium of mass-market yarn makers and publishers that compose The Craft Yarn Council. While I applaud their efforts to promulgate knitting and crochet, especially their sponsorship of learning events, I find other things they do to be less effective. To be fair, I suspect that like all committee efforts, it was more important to satisfy as many needs of the membership and achieve a bullied consensus, rather than to meet the needs of the service constituency.

I’ve ranted about the yarn weight standards before. From last week’s post, you can also see I’m not keen on skill level ratings. In the same standards document they also outline standard abbreviations for knitting and crochet (no argument there, but the set is very basic); garment sizes (on the small side, but useful).; and needle sizes (which I note is not necessarily the size set used by all needle makers, nor the equivalents marked on all European labels, and which ignores knitting needles below US #1). All useful things, if limited. But the most pressing needs were ignored.

What I really wanted to see was a standardized set of knitting symbols; a standardized knitting font; and recommendations for standardizing schematic pattern representations similar to the methods used in Japan. Now all of these are probably quite controversial. Each publisher does the symbol/font thing in a slightly different way. Switching among the vast variety of symbol sets is tiring (to say the least); and lack of uniformity is one factor that has limited wider acceptance of charted instructions. I’ve tried to encourage the chart-shy as much as possible, but have found that many of them are turned off by having to learn a whole new symbol set for each book or magazine they try to use. The knitting community needs a standard symbol set. If the CYC was truly forward thinking, they’d seek out similar industry councils worldwide, and come up with an international symbol set.

On the graphical pattern layout suggestion, I’m not advocating a wholesale shuffle from text-based or text and charted patterns to Japanese style layout (doing so would probably blow mental gaskets off more than half of the knitters in the US); but many of the elements of that style would be assets if included in pattern format here. The time to suggest a standard is BEFORE a practice seeps in willy-nilly, so that early adopters all follow formats and methods as similar to each other as possible.

I’m trying to find Japanese pattern on line so I can show you what I’m writing about, but so far I haven’t found one. Yarn makers and dealers there don’t seem to provide the freebies that US and European yarn sources do. Still, here are some aids that can help you get the general idea:

I note that the CYC also sponsors a teacher certification process. I’ve got mixed feelings about certifications in general, especially in disciplines that do not involve health/life-threatening, major investment, or life-bending content. Kindergarten teachers, EMTs, and accountants all have jobs that should include minimum competency and content standards. But knitting instructors?

Yes, I know that any know-nothing yutz can hang out a shingle and purport to be a knitting teacher right now, no questions asked. Many do, and have classes that quickly overtake them in competency. But at the same time, I don’t want to see instruction limited to people who have sat through a couple hours of classes and/or forked over for a paper credential from this or any accrediting body. Neither classes nor a piece of paper guarantees competency as a teacher of a hands-on discipline. All requiring such certifications does is limit the pool of teachers to those who have had the time and money to pursue the credential. But that’s the Child of the ’70s talking again…

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