Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Yarn Quality and Composition

I recently came across a question on r/crochet regarding yarn quality and price. The poster wanted to know more about the various materials yarn is typically made out of and how much good yarn should cost. All of the yarn she used on a regular basis came from craft stores like Joann Fabrics and Micheal's, or big box stores like Walmart. I got a little too excited about answering her question and practically wrote an essay! Thus, I thought I would recycle that information here for your benefit. Here is what a said to her (with a few edits):

Before I answer, I want you to know that I still totally use yarn from craft stores, like Vanna's Choice, Caron Simply Soft, and Jiffy. I'm using Simply Soft in a project right now! Also, these are just my opinions and experiences, so feel free to take them with a grain of salt.

Basically, almost anything you can get at a craft or big box store is going to be considered bad or mediocre quality yarn in the serious yarn world. In my experience, there are four basic price points for yarn that roughly equate to quality. For our purposes we will address them at their regular prices, not their sale prices.

We'll call the first category "low". These yarns are the cheapest and widely available at the places you mentioned. Red Heart Super Saver is the most popular of these. Anything that sells for between $2 and $4 for roughly 300 yards or more would be considered pretty low quality. They are most likely 100% acrylic and not very soft. Cheap cotton like Lily Sugar N' Cream would qualify too. I personally try to use Super Saver only for amigurumi, bags, and other non-wearable items. I am happy that it exists because yarn can get expensive and it's better for people to be able to have fun and make things with cheap yarn than it is for them to be prevented from crocheting because of cost. Quality yarn can really set you back a pretty penny!

The next group is "mid-low". These would be the nicer lines of the cheaper brands: Lion Brand Jiffy/Vanna's Choice/Cotton Ease, Bernat Mosaic/Alpaca Chunky, Caron Simply Soft/Spa, etc. Generally between $4 and $7 for ~300 yards. These yarns are still mostly low in quality but have a much nicer feel and range of materials. Instead of just straight acrylic you'll see blends with wool, nylon, alpaca, etc. I often buy yarn from this category because it is still cheap while not sacrificing too much softness. Great for large items like blankets.

Next we have "mid-high". This is probably my favorite category. It usually isn't found in craft stores, only local in yarn stores, although I have seen it at Ben Franklin Crafts. Price per 300 yards ranges between about $7 and $15. A few examples would be Cascade Yarns, Berroco, and Noro. The quality of these yarns is very good. They are soft and a pleasure to work with. The colors are rich and balanced and the strands are consistent. These yarns are unlikely to be 100% acrylic, though they may be a 50% acrylic blend or similar. Wool, nylon, silk, cotton, alpaca, and bamboo are all popular choices, as well as less common materials like bison, camel, and qiviut. You may find some hand-dyed and indie (independent) yarns in this group. These yarns will create a beautiful finished product and are especially good for wearable items.

The final category is "high". These yarns will likely be from $16 to $30+ for 300 yards. Fine merino wool, angora, and cashmere are in this category as well as higher end hand painted (for truly unique pieces) yarns. These yarns are incredibly soft and will often be environmentally friendly as well.

About 45% of the yarns I use are "mid-low", 45% are "mid-high", 5% are "low", and 5% are "high" as a special treat or a gift from someone. If the item you are planning on making is a special one, consider investing more money in the yarn. Something like Cascade Cherub is only a few dollars more than what you can get at the craft store and it is much more fun to work with. The results will be softer and glossier.

For cheap yarn that is of higher quality than what you'll find at a craft store, consider Knit Picks.
What are your favorite yarns?


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