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Wales, United Kingdom
Documenting one couple's attempts to live a more self-sufficient life.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

What's the point of knooking?

I started drafting this post a while back. It was a rather waffly discussion of the various reasons people might want to spend time on crafts. Then Susie said it much more concisely: I am not really a process knitter. I do like the process but I only really do it for the finished result. That's what I was trying to say! It's not about the process, it's all about the finished product.

Then nagging doubts started to creep in. The disappointment when I had to put the knooking hook aside at the end of the baby blanket to start a sewing project... my delight at finding a really good excuse for a knooking project... the fact that I was making dishcloths for goodness sake!

I wouldn't be able to look myself in the eye if I caught myself making knitted flowers...

... but I might quite easily be tempted by Killer Easter Bunny egg cosies.

I may have to face up to the fact that I am a process knooker.

However, that wasn't where I started from. The point of making things, for me, has to be to save money. I need to know something about the costs involved here. I had planned to make up the whole ball of dishcloth cotton into cloths, but I ended up swapping the rest of the ball for some butter, so I don't know how many it would have made. I suspect that at £2.30 for the ball, it's quite an expensive way of buying dishcloths.

I tried to work out the cost of yarn for a jumper - I looked up patterns I liked the look of, tried to find yarn that matched the description of what was needed (and looked nice), and worked out how many balls would be needed from the quoted yardage. I thought I must be getting it wrong, because I was ending up with at least £40 per jumper. It's true I was completely out of my depth, knowing nothing about yarn, so maybe I was just looking at very expensive yarns. I tried to find some that were cheaper, but couldn't get the cost down to much less than £20 for a jumper's worth of yarn.

Then before I got round to writing this post (and I was looking this up yesterday morning), Susie beat me to it again! She wrote a blog post all about the cost of craft materials. Reading this was reassuring in some ways, because it confirmed that it wasn't just me not knowing what I'm doing - yarn really is that expensive - but it was disheartening for the same reason - yarn really is that expensive.

The conclusion seems to be that I've found a hobby I love doing, but can't afford to indulge in it. Unless...

When I started learning to knit, it was meant to be one part of a bigger project. A friend has promised to lend me her spinning wheel, but there didn't seem much point learning to spin if it turned out that I hated knitting. What if I went one step back in the process, and bought ready-to-spin wool? The first place I looked was the shop of someone whose blog I follow, Colour it Green. Here I found carded wool for sale at 90g for almost £9. Eek! I'd been looking at 50g balls of wool for around £2 each. I've no doubt this is the highest quality wool, but there's no way I can afford that!

A little googling revealed that, whilst this price isn't unusual, it is possible to buy spinning wool more cheaply - I found some for £2.10 per 100 g at Handmade Presents. This has come down to less than the cost of spun, dyed wool, but not vastly less, and I have no idea of the quality. If I find that I enjoy spinning as much as knooking, then this might be worth doing, as it brings the cost down to something reasonable for the jumper and I'd get a lot of entertainment thrown in.

On the other hand, perhaps what I actually need is a sheep.

Sheep behind tree


  1. It may be worth approaching your nearest sheep farm, on the off chance that if you cut out several of the middle persons you could get wool for next to nothing ... though then you have the additional processes to go through - cleaning, dying, etc.

    Maybe angora rabbits?

  2. I might well do that, Catherine. It would be silly not to, considering the nearest sheep farm is just next door!

  3. I hit that "how much?!!" wall a couple of years ago - and only buy really really nice yarn for very small projects (I have a couple of lovely snood/neck warmers from beautifully dyed organic wool, since I knew they'd take no more than 100g). I read recently that someone spent £50 on yarn for a scarf - it was a lovely scarf but I wouldn't spend £50 on a coat let alone a scarf!

    I try to get cheap yarn from people destashing on eBay and I also pick up a surprising amount in charity shops -- but it's hard to get enough for a full garment from those place, usually just the odd ball or two. I also frog old jumpers if the yarn is still in good condition.

    I'd advocate spinning though - as you say, it's twice the entertainment ;) I got some cheap combed tops from eBay but if there was a sheep farm next door to me, I think I'd be very tempted to see what I could pick up from - would be awesome to know I'd made something from complete start to finish :)

  4. Ooh, there's quite a lot on ebay, isn't there? That could get dangerous.

    I do like the idea of processing the wool from start to finish, so I'm quite keen to learn spinning. I'm not actually serious about keeping my own sheep - there are plenty round here already - but I have considered plant fibres...

  5. Well, I'm a process crafter. I am not particularly interested in the stuff I've made once I've made it - I'd give away the socks off my feet (if I could knit socks). I have literally taken blankets off beds and handed them over to the admirer.
    What I do like about fibre crafts - more so crocheting than knitting, I find - is that you can use up every last scrap of yarn. So I might buy an expensive sock yarn every now and again, but every last inch of it is used, even if it's for something nonsensical like an egg cozy for the boiled eggs I never eat.

    I understand the appeal of creating your own wool. If I had space for a sheep, I'd be sorely tempted :-)

  6. I've been down exactly this road - basically by knitting wool into a jumper you destroy half its value, which is strange as farmers can hardly give away their fleeces. That said, it's getting harder to find 100% wool jumpers so it is one way of getting your hands on a really top quality jumper (well, if you're a better knitter than I am). My current solution, not yet put into practice, is to turn all my old moth-eaten jumpers into socks because finding good socks can be hard. It's that or, as you say, a sheep. I'll be interested to see how you get on...

  7. I've been thinking about using old jumpers for socks since Louisa suggested it, and even identified a candidate jumper, but like you, Townmouse, haven't put this into practice yet. The main problem is, I'm a bit scared of socks!

    I should probably make clear that I'm not seriously considering getting "A sheep." I've been following a discussion elsewhere about how unsuitable this is for sheep, which are flock animals and shouldn't be kept alone. I'm not really considering keeping several sheep, either, as we don't have the space and don't want to make the kind of commitment necessary to keep livestock.

    On the other hand, surrounded by sheep farms as we are, I probably will look into getting a raw fleece and learning how to scour, card and spin it into yarn. It would be hugely satisfying to see the process through from beginning to end, even if the finished jumper is a bit rubbish!

  8. I bought a whole Jacob fleece (good for spinning), a cheap drop spindle, and a bag of the expensive combed washed etc fleece. I found I get much better with the cheap whole fleece (which was about £8 for the whole thing) than with the washed stuff- the lanolin in the fleece makes it easier to spin. Plus, I doubt that I will ever run out because I tend to spin very sporadically...

    I realiee this post was a while ago, so as I keep reading I might find out more about your wool adventures :)

    1. Hi Nicola :-)
      That's interesting to hear about spinning with the lanolin still in, I'll have to try that when I eventually get back to spinning. I'm afraid there's not much on the woolly theme recently, but I hope you enjoy my other blog posts.


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