Thursday, January 05, 2006

Do Needles Make the Knitter?

Given my lousy track record as a diarist, I'm surprised there's still a blog at this address after 11 months. As kid, a teenager, and an adult I started and abandoned untold notebooks and diaries, paper and electronic.

So why am I still blogging? It's the comments.

I have an entire shelf at home devoted to books of letters and diaries by other people. Anne Frank, Henry James, Strauss and Hofmannsthal, George Bernard Shaw and Ellen Terry. I love reading words written long ago by folks who for the most part probably never intended that those words would not only survive, but go into print between hard covers.

And I know that every time I picked up a pen or sat down at a keyboard, I envisioned some poor schmuck cuddled up 100 years later reading (or more likely falling asleep over) The Collected Letters of Franklin.

Then I would feel miffed, thinking that 100 years was an awful long time to wait for a giggle if I'd written something funny. Not that I would even be around to hear it.

So, I love it when folks comment. I write, you read, you say something, and I get lovely tingles up my spine every single time. And not just when they say the cartoon is funny or the urban snails are awful or we wouldn't ask you to leave the knitting group because you've got hair on your chest. I also find it stimulating to get a brickbat instead of a bouquet.

For example, yesterday's entry included the following passage:
As you would imagine with that many knitters, there was a bit of everything. Knitting, crochet, and one lady with a round plastic object she bought at Wal-Mart that somehow makes hats. De gustibus non disputandum.
For those of you less pretentious than I, the Latin tag means "There's no accounting for taste." Several readers took that to be a slam against the circular peg loom. This was not the intent, though on re-reading the sentences I can understand that interpretation. What I should have used, perhaps, was the equally pretentious but more accurate French cousin "Chacun à son gout," or "To each his own."

I'm at least not pretentious enough to say that's my motto, but if I had to pick one it would be a contender. I don't judge what other people use to play with their yarn. Hierarchies in art or craft are, in my opinion, absurd. The point, to me, is that you should enjoy yourself and achieve your goal, whatever it may be. It's your own affair.

Knitters who look down on, for example, those who crochet tend to forget that in the larger world, many of those who paint, sculpt, or make photographs look at knitters as, at best, hobbyists whose rote busywork results in cute hats.

The lady in question had made a quite lovely hat with the plastic ring, she was radiant with excitement about it, and she was generous in sharing her pleasure with the rest of us. That sort of interaction is the reason one goes to a knitting meet-up instead of staying home.

But this entry isn't intended to be a defense of nor an apology for those sentences. They are what they are.

Instead, the comments on them made me consider the more interesting question of tools and fiber, and what their role is in determining the worth or quality of the finished work–not to mention the perceived quality of the maker.

Now, I don't have an answer to this one, because there's no answer. Instead, since there's (glory hallelujah) enough of you out there reading this to engage in a discussion, I'm opening one up.

Here's your proposition.

You have before you two knitted objects (both imaginary).

One is an Aran sweater, knitted skillfully out of gray Red Heart yarn. The handsome design is original, by an obscure knitter from a small town who has no blog, has never published, is in other words entirely unknown.

The other is a six-foot scarf, in a simple knit-purl pattern, made from 100% top-of-the-line cashmere, handspun and hand-dyed. It was created and knitted by a Legendary Designer, a pillar of knitting.

Here's the question.

What are the relative worths of these objects? And why?

Let me say it again: THERE'S NO ANSWER TO THIS. The joy is in the discussing.

And here's the one rule.

Respect one another's opinions. No cheap shots. No personal attacks. Violators will be shown the door, but if you're reading this blog you're probably quite well-mannered anyhow.

Go.

111 comments:

Jon said...

Wow. I get to go first.

I would say that both are equally valuable. For me it's the process of the creation.

While I wouldn't personally wear either fiber {acryls are too nasty and cashmere is too "too"}, if both creators take pride in their creations, so be it.

So there.

Betty said...

Knitting, as I do, in a relatively a small town, nearly blogless, and pretty much entirely unknown (don't tell my partner or RUs), I've gotta say that knitting seems all too kinesthetic to allow for one-dimensional discrimination... blindfolded, I bet the scarf would win (it's about feel and fiber), but if I couldn't touch and just saw the picture posted somewhere, it might be the sweater (it's about texture and line). Can I wear either garment? Hmmm... gimme that cashmere - it's cold where I live, but not cold enough to rub up against that RedHeart all day.

Kat said...

What Jon said. Both onject are of equal value. For me, at least, knitting is all about the process.

Both items in your example are functional and are designed to be worn so they have that additional value as well.

Even a non-wearable item (such as the knitted digestive tract or uterus or flying spaghetti monster) has some value because of the process. Somewhere, someone values those objects for other reasons too (symbolic, humor, decorative, etc), otherwise why would they have been created.

Annie said...

Interesting question, Franklin. As a knitter, both have a certain value. My answer is probably the obvious one- I prefer the fiber of the scarf and the design/workmanship of the sweater. The person(ality) of the knitter would have no affect on my appreciation of the item- unless I knew the knitter, then it would be all the more valuable to me.

I'll enjoy pondering this question as I knit tonight. Thanks!

Annie said...

Ooops. I meant "effect" not "affect".

:)

goblinbox said...

If they exist because each item was knit/ted by someone who really enjoyed the process - from shopping to knitting to finishing to wearing - they're equally valuable.

Because knitting is such a silly sport if you're results-oriented when you can buy a result in a fraction of a fraction of the time it takes to actually knit one, the journey is more important than the destination.

Plus, Red Heart washes really well. Being a fiber snob is just like being any other kind of snob... although that doesn't mean there ain't a LOT of REALLY FUGLY STUFF being made out there, people.

Cece said...

I would have to say the Aran would be more valuable. The skill in creating your own wearable sweater design, even in just plain garter stitch, is a daunting task, which requires a lot of skill. Add in the complications of cabling and patterning? The thought and time involved in making that sweater (even though in Red Heart) is priceless.

Honestly, pretty much ANYONE can buy super nice yarn and make a scarf.

Very few people have the guts, knitting and math knowledge to design their own sweaters.

And, as a gal who grew up wearing grandma's handknit red heart sweaters - it isn't like the skin curls up and dies when it touches acrylic! It is the 'workhorse' of knitting - wash it, dry it, chew on it, very hard to destroy a Red Heart sweater - the same can't be said for cashmere!

Of course, I've haven't knit something from Red Heart since my grandma taught me to knit 25 years ago....

Jenn said...

My first thought was "value to whom?" To the knitters, or to any knitter, I suppose, all hand-knitted items are of equal value in that we all know how much work goes into an item. We understand the sense of accomplishment in learning a new skill, and so a simple stitch from a beginner is as special as an intricate cable from an advanced knitter. The comraderie of knitters creates an environment where the "marketplace valuation" borders on one of those "isms" that are supposedly unamerican. But when it comes to wearability, I'd honestly have to say I'd pick the scarf. I just can't see wearing Red Heart against my skin for any length of time.

sep said...

hmmm... relative worth.... well, as a Marxist knitter (funny, eh?) I have to say that the red heart sweater has more value than the simple scarf. That is, if we are measuring worth acording to the labor used to produce the object. So, skill, labor time, creativity and human-power count and a scarf will never be as worthy as a sweater.

If you want a non-Marxist interpretation, you'd have to argue that the scarf more held more worth because on a "fantasy?" free market it would earn a higher price due to the status of its creator and the staus of its materials.

I prefer the first explanation.
thanks for an interesting question!
xoxo,
sep

Sorka said...

Boy.. and I had a whole diatribe on the history and worth of loom knitting almost ready to go..heheh
I did pick on you on my blog I must say..

I would have to say that perhaps though the cashmere scarf would be more valuable as far as cost and possibly sensory effect the sweater would be more valuable in the time spent in making it.

The main thing that bothered me in yesterdays discussion of your entry had to have been Cat's comment about the loom knitter and it comes to play here.

"Oh I definitely know what you mean by that round thing and people are so proud of it and call themselves knitters LOLOLOL. "

I wanted to blast her.
There is as much effort and care put into making objects on knitting looms as on needles or crochet or any other creative endeavor. So rather than discounting it because of the method.. celebrate the effort at least!
A person who gets to work by train rather than car is no less a commuter.. a person who uses a knitting loom to create an item is no less a knitter.
Denise
knitchat.com

Kel said...

Anything handmade including the thought and time that has gone into that item is of equal importance to me. I do admit that it would be hard to deny myself something cashmere as I do not own a single "swatch" of it now.

Jen said...

For me, the question isn't which is of more value - the sweater or scarf. If you want to estimate the value of either object, what you must do is measure it against the intent and purpose with which it was created.

Does the Red Heart sweater fulfill the purpose of the designer? Does it have the qualities that he intended when he chose that yarn? Did the design accomplish his aesthetic goals?

Perhaps the Big-Name designer had a different intention with the scarf. Perhaps the plan there was a simple presentation of a beautiful yarn. Red Heart wouldn't do here! The sweater designer's intention may have been to create a warm garment that was machine-washable, but still looked nice, in which case cashmere would have been a bad choice.

To measure these differing goals and intentions against each other is to completely miss the inherent value that each object has in and of itself.

Interesting question, Franklin! And interesting points coming out in discussion!

Terby said...

Interesting question, Franklin. I read it as though the cashmere was hand-knit and hand-dyed by the scarf knitter. Thus, the committment of time and creative efforts were similiar, only the cost of the material differed. So I would rate them as equally valuable. Creative effort is creative effort - it's very personal. I don't think the materials used matter as much as the intent behind it. Thus, even someone's first garter stitch scarf ever knit in Red Heart yarn might mean more to me than one made of cashmere - especially if it was someone who I taught how to knit in the first place.

Anonymous said...

"Hierarchies in art or craft are, in my opinion, absurd. The point, to me, is that you should enjoy yourself and achieve your goal, whatever it may be. It's your own affair."

you said it for me Dear; that's my opinion. the key element in the hand made object is it's ability to hold love. like a cup or the hub on a wheel....it's the empty space that makes it useful ; the space that holds the love.

marie in texas

Susan said...

Relative worths. Hmmm.... The Red Heart sweater (although the yarn makes me gurgle) is priceless. Someone made it out of love. Someone creative and unknown to most, but not to those who love him or her. Legendary designer stuff, eh... I'm not as impressed by the fame, although the yarn is to-dye-for. It's value is more-or-less only monetary. And that doesn't mean as much, at least not to me. Great question.

Isela said...

In my opinion, they are both of value to different markets.

In respect to design, the Aran sweater has intricate techniques geared to the more advanced knitter. However, the simple scarf is attractive to those whom desire to finish a quick project in a luscious yarn.

If I were in the position of purchasing either pattern, I would probably purchase the Aran sweater pattern, even if the name of the designer is not well known.

anje said...

One of your regular readers here. I really enjoy your blog, and I think "journaling" is genetic. I have always had a drive to journal also, and thought it was just b/c I was a little quirky. When my grandmother died I inherited at least 4 (large) boxes of letters (and other family journals). Most were from the WWII era (kids writing home, etc.) but there was one journal written by my g-g-grandfather during the Civil War, and he recorded the news of Lincoln's death. He also had a little "ledger" on the back page which recorded the dates he sent letters to his fiance (later my g-g-grandmother) back home, and received letters from her. So like something I would do! And there were phrases in the diary which were part of our "familyisms" (those little quotes that only your family says but nobody knows where they came from).
Good stuff! Blog on!

Nicholas said...

I don't believe that either object has a fixed value. I think that the worth of each thing is mutable in response to the emotional responses generated by any part of the thing itself, be it the process, the fiber, the style, or the feeling of wearing it. And I don't believe that negative emotional responses reflect negatively on the thing either. I belive it reflects positively because some aspect was able to affect, and that is its innate power, and that power gives it worth as well.

So be it repulsion at the acrylic, awe at the stitchery, disdain for the cashmere's hand-wash only status, or just joy at the feeling of something against the skin, I think that each of these objects constantly accumulate worth. I suppose you could say that the total worth of each object would happen at the end of its lifespan like a tally, but I still think that memories have worth too, and would still add to value.

Maggie said...

Interesting comments, long time lurker, first time commentator, but I have to say this is an interesting debate. I think the sweater, regardless of material, is more impressive because it defines (for me, at least) the essence of knitting - a unique creation that has that knitter's unmistakable mark. It belongs to her. I think, too, that this particular debate has a great deal of potential to spiral into the socio-economic side of knitting. Is her sweater worth less than a cashmere scarf? Maybe, living in a rural area, it is all she has readily available. Maybe it is all she can afford. A big name designer can afford that cashmere, she has that yarn nestled away in her stash and can whip up a scarf made out of it. Some people do not. They knit, still, out of a certain necessity, because 4 or 5 skeins of Red Heart to make a sturdy sweater is still cheaper and will last you longer than a flimsy sweater from The Mart.

In my mind, the sweater is worth more because it is inherently worth more to the knitter. Fiber content, in this case, is secondary. Thanks for the interesting question!

Susan said...

Toddler-at-knee syndrome hastened my earlier comment. I also wanted to add that I'm assuming the Red Heart design was made for one person in particular, whereas the Famous Designer item was made for sale (not a bad thing; au contraire), hence the mass market. Take the latter design and have anyone knit it with love for a recipient, its value goes up in my mind. Depends on how you define value I guess. Love your blog. Your journaling is a gift - not only your own but one that you share. Thank you.

rincaro said...

I find it quite interesting that so many folks are stuck on the fact that it's red heart.

For me the value of the object would lie more in the attitude of the knitter. The aran knitter comes off as humble, but undeniably talented, regardless of her choice of yarn. The scarf knitter comes off as pretentious, as in "only cashmere will do" sort of attitude. I think I'd much rather sit and knit with the aran knitter.

And that, a lot of the time, is how I choose blogs to read. People I would want to invite to my very own personal stitch and bitch.

Kris said...

If you assess value by the content of the yarn then, vote for the cashmere scarf.

If you assess value by the amount of hours of craftsmanship that are involved, then the Aran sweater clearly wins.

If however, the value is assessed by the passion and the thrill of creating something with your own hands, then each has the potential to be equal.

Yes the scarf knitter only made a scarf but she chose the colors, dyed the wool and spun it her/him/self. But... the Aran knitter twisted each cable, mastered their craft and spent endless hours thinking about the process and the recipient.

Both objects have uncalculable value and neither should be judged due to lack of "hoity toity" fibers or lack of intricate stitching.

Now... different topic. Thank you so much for telling me what those ring things are. I see them in Michaels and always wonder about them. But.. my trips to Michaels are usually supervised by a grumpy toddler so I don't have the time to doddle and read what they really are. Thank you also about the comments being the thing that keeps the blogging going. If it weren't for the comments I don't know if I would've kept bloggin.

Julie said...

Hmmm. I'm guessing that my knee-jerk response to take apart the scarf and re-knit the cashmere into something else would not be a satisfactory contribution to this discussion.

Ah. My evil side is showing.

More seriously, both the sweater and scarf are valuable solely as handcrafted items, and neither are particularly valuable to me personally.

Julie

Rebekkah said...

I'm not sure what you mean by worth. I suppose that's probably part of the point of the whole exercise, eh?

I choose not to try to assign a monetary value in this exercise. I just think trying to place a price on hand knits is so complicated that I don't care to think about it too much. It doesn't interest me.

Instead, I'll choose to interpret "worth" as which one is more worthy of my admiration, praise, and sustained interest. It's no contest. The aran. I usually choose to knit things that are visually and/or structurally complex. While having pretty things to wear is certainly a nice side-effect of the whole knitting thing, and one that I take into account when choosing a project, it's not why I knit. I knit because of the challenge. I knit because I am taken aback by gorgeous patterns, and want to try to make them appear, stitch by stitch, with my own hands. I knit things that are interesting, and which take time, concentration, and thought. And to make this relevant to my judgment of worth, I strongly prefer to look at and read about knitted objects that are similar to what I would choose to knit myself.

Soft scarves made out of luxury fibers are nice to touch, wonderful to wear, and to me, things I go to the store to buy. They interest me only so far as they can satisfy my most basic urges for warmth and visceral pleasure. Complicated, visually interesting, and innovative things, even if they're knit out of plastic, appeal to my intellectual and creative side. And those are the parts of me that care about the whole craft of knitting.

Buzz said...

The value to me would be based on the joy you take in enjoying it. Like all "art" the object itself can be appreciated individualy as an object, and/or as a reflection of the artist, and/or the world around it. In the wonky world we live in, to me joy = value.

Areia said...

(Just to ignore the question at hand:)

"De gustibus non disputandum" literally means "Concerning taste there can be no dispute".

I've heard it translated as "There's no accounting for taste.", but when I was taught the phrase in school the emphasis was definitely on respecting other people's tastes (by not disputing them), rather than judging. So to me that phrase said: "Personally, I have no interest in loom knitting, but she can do whatever makes her happy." Which I believe is what you meant to say.

And by all means, be pretentious. Not nearly enough people are these days...

bluecanary said...

I think the sweater has more value, both in the complexity of the design and the fact that it was custom-designed. I always value creativity highly.

I am personally a natural-fiber snob (although I don't care if it's merino or cashmere or whatever), because if I'm going to put that many hours into something (even a scarf), I want the material to be worthy of my effort. This doesn't necessarily mean expensive, but delightful to touch is part of the equation -- not just for the wearer, but for me as I'm working on it. It better be fun for me to pet while I'm making it!

But in terms of the value of the garment, I definitely value creativity and labor highly. As to those who say that context is everything -- if someone makes the scarf out of love, or as a first project, I definitely agree that the gift is valuable to the recipient and the maker because of that. But to an outside (objective??) knitter like myself, although I can applaud the beginner's efforts and think it's awesome, the aran is more impressive/valuable to me, regardless.

Ask me again when my son knits his first washcloth. I'm sure that will be the most valuable I've ever seen!

Franklin said...

This is it, folks, this is exactly what I was hoping for. Extremely stimulating. Do keep it coming.

Anonymous said...

I have a vest, crocheted with love by my grandmother in the late 60s just before I hit puberty, of the oldtime, really scratchy Red Heart acrylic. I don't wear it (I'm not that age or size anymore) but I kept it for my daughters, who refused to wear it for the brief years it would have fit them because of its feel. So what. I am saving it lovingly for my future granddaughters to diss, too--and then love when they get old enough to appreciate it, and too big for it to threaten them either anymore.

Now had it been cashmere it would have been worn to shreds with great enthusiasm and carefully preserved in all its moth-holed glory. Either way, we still have the same thing: a visible symbol of love, from a woman born in 1899 to the horse-and-buggy era. A music professor at the university, before women had the right to vote. Who saw nearly the entire 20th century. That vest represents a vast personal history by being a part of her work.

And I'm rather glad it's too small for me to wear it.

--AlisonH

Stitchy McYarnpants said...

For practicality’s sake, I’d say the sweater would have more value for me. I have a cat who has a tendency to eat fabric of almost any sort. The only two things she doesn’t seem to like are denim jeans and Red Heart afghans (of which I have many). To be able to have a beautiful sweater that I wouldn’t have to squirrel away the very instant I took it off would be very liberating. As much as I love poking fun at acrylics, I tend to choose mostly acrylic and cotton sweaters when I’m shopping. That’s partly for price and partly because I think wool is too hot.

That said, I would probably wear the cashmere scarf every day during the winter, so that would probably get more use. But I’d be afraid of ruining it or having it eaten. It’s like my mother always said, I just can’t have nice things.

I would accept either very happily. As far as the intrinsic value of each, I’d say they were each valuable in their own right, especially to a knitter. To sit there tying yarn into tiny knots with a pair of sharpened sticks is dedication, no matter what the knots end up looking like.

Ann said...

Great idea..points to ponder. When I first read the question my immediate response is that I would like to have the scarf. Maybe that is a shallow response?

As as a newbie knitter I can appreciate the time and effort put into each project. The sweater would take much more effort, but I don't know, I like the idea of a possible one-of-a-kind item by a designer. If the sweater was made by a member of my family or a close friend, hands down that would move the sweater to the top of my list.

In that case it's not about the yarn, the work, the talent, the effort--it's about the love. How can one put a price on that? (That is probably why I have saved all of those handmade ornaments my kids have made during the years.)

I have several blogging options each day. I have a blog for work and my knitting blog. I don't really think anyone reads either one at this point, it's sorta like talking outloud and it makes me feel better. A comment..when they come through I LOVE IT.

Thanks for the thought provoking post.

:o)

Ann

Tiffany said...

I say, beauty is in the eye of the reciever.

If someone you love goes through all of the time and effort to make you a gift - and you can appreciate that, then you come out a winner. And red heart isn't that difficult to care for now, is it?

I would fondle the cashmere, and love it, but if it wasn't made *just for me* I would not love it nearly as much.

I made my husband a sweater for Christmas. He loves it because I made it - and it makes him look good. But he doesn't care if it's made from ASC or acrylic (even if I do :D)

Vah! Denuone Latine loquebar? Me ineptum. Interdum modo elabitur. (Oh! Was I speaking Latin again? Silly me. Sometimes it just sort of slips out.)

Jean said...

THIRTY-ONE comments (at the moment), Franklin -- I've never had more than four. But I know what you mean, about loving every one. About thinking 100 years, or more, ahead.

I would also like to say, about your polite rejection by the Stitch 'n' Bitch group, that it reminds me of an episode in the 50's (or early 60's) when an off-the-road RC church in the Deep South was sent a black priest to say the occasional Mass they were due, and the ladies of the parish met him on the road and told him, politely, no thanks; and the Pope, quite rightly, excommunicated the ladies. (Excommunication, then as now, is not lightly wielded.)

More briefly -- that's outrageous.

Love, Jean

Jamie said...

I have a strange relationship to craft/hobby vs. art. I worked as a living art piece as a tailor in a contemporary art museum. It gives you an odd perspective. To me, the worth is affected by how it is presented. If there is all this advertising about this great and awesome designer and all they have to show me is a simple scarf, I remain unimpressed and even slightly miffed, like I've been taken advantage of by this "designer" showing off by using expensive yarn that maybe I can't afford. And maybe I fear that the unknown might be demeaned for their efforts, or only their mistakes indentified against the "fancy" scarf. I sound very jaded, but I think presentation is very important in determining worth, which I feel many of your commenters have alluded to.

Adele said...

What a thought-provoking post!

I can see the attractions of both items: the thought of a cashmere scarf has me drooling, even here in an Australian summer, while I long to know more about the (theoretical) aran pattern.

Perhaps the unknown knitter chose the Red Heart for its practicality and washability (eg the garment is for a child); on the other hand, a simple stitch pattern is ideal for showing off a luxurious yarn.

I grew up in suburbia and was taught to knit by my mother, who still buys her yarn from chain stores. Had it not been for my blogging friends, I'd not have known that big-name knit designers existed. I'm a self-confessed yarn snob and am currently doing Alice Starmore's Cromarty in a reasonably-priced pure wool.

I won't choose one over the other as I don't believe that was the point of the question. Viva la difference!

Michael said...

For me, value and worth are very relative.

I remember reading a definition of "fitness" which said that individual fitness is primarily a matter of being able to readily do and enjoy the things one does. It struck me as particularly true - because a harpist who sits and practices all day may not be fit in terms of aerobic stair climbing, but she's probably got a high fitness level in terms of harpistry.

It sounds like you've "designed" each of these imaginary garments to be particularly worthy and fit for certain things. The Aran is an excellent example of its type, as is the cashmere scarf.

For me, personally, the cashmere would have more worth in one significant respect - it was hand-spun, hand-dyed, and hand-knit by one person. For me, the completeness and wholeness of the creative process makes things extra special.

Helen said...

Okay..
I value the YARN in the scarf... and even the warmth it may offer (though I'm not a scarf chick ... I try now and then, but ... they're just not me). However, the fact that it's knit by FAMOUS KNITTER adds nothing whatsoever to its value. NADA. Zero. (Well, unless Famous Knitter made it just for ME in my favorite color... --just kidding).

While I probably deplore the yarn itself (assuming it's not merely red-heart, but is current, 100% ack-rylic), even Red Heart has some fine qualities -- durability and washability being two. Despite the yarn, this knitted object has much more going for it ...The original design is worth lots - even if it's unpublished. Someday, some wizard may find it and "read the knitting" to make a pattern for it ... or not. But the fact that it is unlikely to be duplicated doesn't diminish its value. (Heck, in some circles, it increases the value becasue now it's a unique bit of artistry.) Of course, if the gorgeous aran fits its intended wearer, its value goes up in my view.

I'm guessing that the Aran also brought its knitter more joy in the process, and the knitter feels more pride in the final object as well.

I vote for the aran... even though I regret the yarn.

Marilyn said...

I'm late into this discussion but it's a rather interesting one. As Jenn said, "Value to whom?"

I see no value in either item because in order to value a knitted item, I need to imbue it with something more than just esthetics or cost. Would I value my first sweater, an Aran made from Berella Bulky over my silk/wool laceweight shawl made this summer? Absolutely, because of the sentimental value that applies to me alone. Would I value someone else's work over mine? Not at all. I might respect it more but certainly not value it more.

Cat said...

Value is in the eye of the beholder, so both items are of equal value. A complex Aran knit in bulletproof yarn would be just right for the person who wants minimal care but maximum visual effect in a garment, while the cashmere would be just perfect for the person who treats clothes with utmost respect.

If it were me, I'd take the scarf, unravel it and knit it into a much more practical wimple.

As a demonstration of sheer skill, the Aran wins hands down, of course.

Rachel H said...

My first thought was The Aran Sweater, hands down. I envisioned it being designed specially for a treasured friend or family member. Maybe the knitter chose Red Heart because of its praticality if the recipient had a small child at home (even if the parent is wearing the sweater, chances are the child will make it dirty. I speak from experience), or maybe he/she couldn't afford anything else and used the complex stitches and new design to demonstrate how much the recipient means to him/her.

My first thought was that the famous designer was being paid by someone to make something out of this cashmere that could reach a mass market. That took the value down for me somewhat. But then I thought perhaps he/she was in a yarn shop and saw novice knitters oohing and ahhing over some gorgeous stuff (much like my reaction to my first in person Alchemy Yarn experience last night), and commiserating that they weren't good enough yet to try it. Maybe this designer wanted to make something simple and gorgeous that would let someone enjoy the feel of this material without breaking the bank or worrying they'd muck it up somehow. Maybe the desinger envisioned one of these young things making this scarf for her mother or grandmother, shyly handing over the package and saying 'I made this for you myself'...

I guess for me its about the intent, and the pleasure it gives the knitter. I spoke to a woman last fall who knit dolls. I have absolutely no desire to knit dolls myself, but her enthusiasm and pride were wonderful to see, and honestly for a moment made me think I DID want to knit dolls. (um, I got over that pretty quick though)

Anonymous said...

The material is irrelevant to the effort and skill that was put into the creation of the object. And fame is no excuse for a lack of thought in the work.

LaurieM

Tactless Wonder said...

Hmm, your post should be called, "Does the Yarn Really Matter?"

Your description of the two different knitters colors my opinion greatly.

"The handsome design is original, by an obscure knitter from a small town who has no blog, has never published, is in other words entirely unknown."

These words describe the women in my family on my father's side. They live in a town of 1,000 people in the VERY rural VERY agricultural side of Michoacan, Mexico. They knit & crochet like maniacs, they tried to teach me but I can't hold a candle to them. To this day the BEST yarn you can buy, even in the "big city" of Zamora 45 minutes away, 150,000 people, is what the more adventurous bring back from the states. They shop at: KMART, WalMart, & any place they can find cheap yarn that these farmers' wives and daughters can afford.

This is a place where 50 pesos a day ($5US) is the going wage for day laborers. Computer Engineers can make up to 150 pesos a day! (Yes, that's $15 a DAY). You won't FIND cashmere here, but you'll find amazing creations.

It's been said over an over, by people who know the value of the work put into whatever yarn used. Created with care, love, talent, etc., you can't make one "better" than the other just because it's made out of more expensive yarn. Esp. when that yarn may not even be available/heard of/known about by the small-towner.

Now, if it was a comparison of two machine made items, well duh, I think the answer is obvious.

Tina said...

Ah Thanks for redeeming yourself in my eyes (like that matters lol but in case it did!) and reassuring us knitters who use both Pegs and Needles you weren't putting that poor lady down =) I take back a bit of what I said yesterday (the part about having no guts.. I'm sure you have guts, boy guts, snips and snails and puppy dog tails and all) As for your question, I have no idea. Sadly, in this world, probably the well known would be counted as more worth, because of the name of the knitter. But in truth, it's not the worth of the item made, but of the person the item was made for =) (or something such like that) Maybe I should say it matters if it was on needles or pegs? (lol lol)

Anonymous said...

43 comments???!!! Already??? And it's only 7:17 pm my time.
I'll go read em tomorrow. Now I'm gonna go knit!

boobookittyfug said...

First of all, I would dearly love to go find that unknown knitter and hug him or her and praise her or him and, unless allergy was an issue, donate enough good wool to make a similar sweater, and leave with a promise to donate more each year.

Second, although I would not value the sweater for myself to wear, I would value the skilled knitter. I would be itching to unravel that hand-spun hand-dyed cashmere scarf and use the yarn for somthing more interesting.

Carol

boobookittyfug said...

Oh, one more thing.

When I was an early intermediate level knitter, and had no yarn budget, I made a beautiful, original fairisle vest for myself out of sport weight acrylic. I studied Sheila McGregor's book and everything else I could get my hands on, mostly from the public library. I put all my creativity and skill into that vest. I wore it proudly, again and again.

Y'know, it's about time I made a similar item in wool.

Franklin and all of you, you really get the old brain moving again. Thanks.

beadslut said...

When I knit, I knit with the recipient in mind. A child or an adult who will not hand wash a fabric, but would value the love that went into such a gift, would be the foremost factor in my selection of materials.

Were I the recipient, I would revel in the feel of the cashmere, or celebrate the love in the aran, with a turtleneck under it.

If you're familiar with the game Apples to Apples, the trick is to tailor your answer to the person asking the question. This is another choice that is totally dependent on the individual, and I play the "Can of Worms" card

dragon knitter said...

ok, franklin, here's my take. they both have value, but i believe the sweater is better. names don't mean a thing to me. the fact that this was lovingly created (and you have to love it to do an aran sweater like that!), and is an original which may never be recreated, means a ton more than the hand-spun, hand-painted, hand-knit by a well known name. cashmere? meh. i'd like to try it some day, but i'm not worried about it.

as for the whole loom-knitting thing, i know a lot of people who loom-knit for charity, because they just can't make two needles work. i own a set (just bought them last week), and while it is different, it is fun, as well. my dad made a knitting board(same idea as the loom, but for flat knitting) for me as a child, and i still have that, and use it. in fact, i'm thinking about using my largest knifty knitter (brand name, lol) with my chunky handspun to make a hat for afghans for afghans!

susan said...

Good job Franklin...way to find out who's reading. I have no wish to comment on this topic but since you want to know who's out there I will say I am. I enjoy your blog very much. Thanks for the entertainment and the pics.

Cheryl said...

First, I would not award any points for being A Legendary Designer. Second, while I have my own fiber preferences, I try not to judge other people's work solely on fiber content.

Since I barely spin, and dye not at all, I would probably not be that interested in the process of making the scarf. You get cool yarn, you knit it up.

Since I knit, and have loved arans since forever, I would be much more interested in the sweater.

Right or wrong, my perception would be that the sweater knitter had made a greater commitment to the project.

=Tamar said...

All the sensitive, intelligent, creative comments have been made, so here's mine. It's apples and oranges, but in a forced choice I choose the Aran. The scarf is too long to tuck under my coat, and no matter how lovely the yarn, to me variegated yarn looks better in the skein than knitted up. I don't care about designer fame; the design is what counts. I'm allergic to wool and to some alpaca; I don't find acrylics itchy. (By the way, Red Heart is thicker than other acrylics; it's closer to true Aran-weight than 'worsted weight.' But my true love is Orlon.) I would wear the Aran, while the cashmere would be stuffed in a moth-proof plastic bag to be admired once a year and put away again.

amysue said...

I went through a fiber snob period where I couldn't get my head aorund why anyone would knit with "that" (fill in your own "that") stuff. These days I've learned that budget, taste, LYS etc. all play into what some folks aquire to knit with

That said, even if your question had been that two folks in the same isolated town knit the same wonderful Aran with care, but one used an expensive fiber handspun from seaweed eating sheep and the other red heart, I'd give equla props to both.

My 10 year old daughter wears an olive green poncho with rainbow strips and fringe that my grandmother knit me when I was 8. Trust me, if it wasn't made out of the acrylic steelwool that it is she wouldn't be wearing it to school almost 40 years after I did!! Everytime I see her in it I can feel, hear, smell and almost hug my Grandma who I still miss every day.
Knitting for me is not a sport and I don't need to judge or be judged. I've loved reading everyone's comments and thanks for starting the discussion!

Faustus, M.D. said...

I think whichever one was knitted by the more physically attractive person has more value.

marcia said...

Whereas I would say the one that is going to be *worn by* the more physically attractive person has more value.

Or if both are gifts, the higher value goes to the item that does not come with an obligation to always wear it and/or constant reminders of how much work/love went into its making.

Anonymous said...

I'm coming late to the discussion and most of what has to be said has already been said. However . . . something similar to this was brought home to me recently. I went to a very dressy dinner wearing an intricately knitted lace shawl that I made from lace weight alpaca. It probably had several hundred hours of work in it. The lady sitting next to me was wearing a plain rectangular garter stitch shawl she had knitted from fun fur. Can you guess who got all the compliments - yep, the fun fur. At first this really irritated me until I realized that her shawl gave her as much pleasure to knit and wear as mine did me. As someone knitting in relative obscurity (albeit with a blog), I know that I knit for my own pleasure. Despite the fact that I relish recognition from other knitters (yes, I'm as much a comment slut as the rest of you!) and from non-knitters alike, I would do it whether or not anyone noticed at all. It's not the materials but the pleasure and skill. I've been knitting 40 years - intricate lace is appropriate to my skill level. The lady next to me was a new knitter - her accomplishment was just as skillful for her as mine was to me. Soon I'm going to be knitting an Alice Starmore Aran out of a washable acrylic yet to be chosen. It's for my son who is mentally handicapped and could not care for anything that is not machine washable. But I want him to have a project that reflects my skill and by extension my love for him. Dorothy
http://missouristar.typepad.com

Stephanie said...

Dude. It is totally possible that I'm going to need a whole blog entry to answer this.

Vivienne said...

I am usually a wool knitter (on an acrylic budget) but I would like to introduce you to the only knitted garment I have made that has moved me to tears.

It is a tank top in deadly plain stocking stitch, that used just one ball of 99p pure acylic from the Co-op. The 'pattern' comes from a Patons leafelt of the 1970s that my mum used for school jumpers (due to my husband's skinniness, most men's patterns are ridiculously large on him). I hated it all the time I was knitting it because I was so bored, but tank tops are very hard to find in shops, and he needed it for work. It also needed to be completely machine-washable on an ordinary cycle, because he works in a meat processing factory and it can't hang around waiting for a wool load.

There are a hundred reasons to hate this garment, but he has worn it every working day for two and a half years, and the bottom ribbing has just started to wear away. I think that makes it priceless.

(I also think the next one wil be knitted in the round, to make it easier to repair. But it will still be bullet-proof acylic)

Sean said...

WOW...57 comments. That's incredible. I don't get 57 comments in a whole month! I'm jealous. Anyway, on to your question...and I'll write before I read the comments.

For me, the joy is in the doing. It's the ACT of knitting or the fiber winding through my fingers and (on winter nights) the pile of growing, warm fabric in my lap. It's hard to describe the feeling but you know what I mean.

Contract knitting, or knitting for the sake of the finished project does not interest me, unless I'm learning some new technique.

So, I would tend to gravitate toward appreciating the scarf more. But you've thrown in an interesting twist. I love Aran Knit garments (it's in the gene's I guess). The more intricate, the better. So, regardless of the yarn choice I also gravitate to the sweater.

It's not an easy discussion for me because as a knitting instructor I appreciate the craft and skill needed to make the sweater, but aesthetically, I love fibers like cashmere and alpaca because of the tactile pleasure they give.

But for me, I will nearly always choose a natural fiber over a synthetic when knitting for myself. The same is true for clothing I buy...it's just what I like next to my skin.

Great discussion!

LornaJay said...

Hmm. From a long ago discussion on a knitting list (probably ample knitters), the criteria I use are:
Appropriate
Affordable
Available

So, depending on who they were knitted for, and how the knitter felt about knitting them, either could be of greater value....

WDL said...

you should check out http://www.knittingbrow.com/

its a friends blog, but I think you'd enjoy it.


found you through david ...

Thanks
WDL

Rabbitch said...

If they bring both the creator and the recipient equal joy, then both are equal.

If the scarf was made for snob value and the sweater was made from love of the recipient and of the process, then IMNSHO the sweater is more valuable.

Rabbitch said...

Oh, and btw, you're clearly trolling for comments. Slut. *g*

(I'll just sit in the corner and knit a dishcloth now, shall I?)

Jenni said...

My first instinct is to value the Aran more, in part because it was created by a person I could relate to. In an ideal world, both objects would be of equal value. In my little world, I wonder why the Legendary Designer didn't do something more with the fabulous yarn.

Latoya said...

Iiick, the feel of the Red Heart is not appealing and to think I was knitting with cashmere would be too much, but I'm sure I'd enjoy it more. Overall, both projects are important in their own way. Red Heart may be like cashmere to someone else. Besides, having something handmade is all the better because its what the person puts in to it as they knit it; prayer, meditation, wishes, dreams, etc. So, all in all, they are both of worth depending on what one decides to get out of it. I would probably choose to knit the pattern with the icky Red Heart just for its intricacy and to learn something new. I wouldn't enjoy the touch, so I'd probably wear some gloves or take a lot of breaks and have another project that was nicer to the touch.

Kathy Merrick said...

It amazes me that this thought=provoking question results in SO many comments that end in the old "everything is everything" category.
In other words, so many many readers feel compelled to say, "well, I don't like acrylic, but, oh, the love, and oh, I'm not impressed by names".
Well, a whole shitload of you comment at Yarn Harlot every post (I LOVE Stephanie and her writing, so don't cross-burn.), abd she's today's absolute example of famous name.
So get real. please.

Red heart has NO redeeming qualities. None. A complex perfectly knitted Aran sweater made of it is crap. I don't believe cashmere is quite necessary, but Red Heart does not EVER look good. EVER.
Not when new, and not when it quickly shreds ands gets stiff and feh, it creeps me just to contemplate holding it even to knit.

ck said...

I too, am a comment whore! I have never in my life been able to keep up with a diary, journal or the like but some how the interactionary nature of the blog keeps me going.

As far as the sweater/scarf debate...beauty is in the eye of the beholder or Chacun a son gout!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Kathy Merrick for expressing so perfectly how I feel about this.

Mardel said...

Gee whiz, what a wonderful bunch of comments. I think everything important has probably already been said, but that will not stop me from putting my 2 cents worth in.

I think what is of value in these objects is the fact that they were hand made. The simple hand-spun, hand-dyed scarf in a simple pattern vs the intricately hand-made sweater in a mass-produced synthetic material is a trivial comparison. In that sense both are equally valuable because they emphasize the craft of making in a world where so much is mechanized. But even that is probably only a relative value. What the future will value is unknown to us and may surprise us completely; I have serious doubts about our ability to determine what is of absolute value as our judgements are always clouded by the relative and subjective circumstances that surround our lives. I like to think that at least some of do value craftsmanship and the making of things that will ultimately redeem our society.

In terms of relative value, the worth of each is much harder to determine. Others mention whether the object is made with love or for a market. Certainly an acrylic sweater still takes time and skill to make and is more appropriate for certain people and circumstances than a cashmere sweater. A cashmere sweater is appropriate for a contemporary urban dweller who is not hard on her/his clothes or is not a small active child. A cashmere sweater is not appropriate for mucking out the barns, the cold wet winds of the North Sea, or many other places and circumstances. Whether Red Heart is appropriate really depends on many circumstances, but I do believe it has a very important place. Hopefully each item is valued by its intended recipient. Having just received an acrylic scarf for Christmas, made for me out of a yarn that I would never have chosen myself, and would normally reject out-of-hand, I must also admit that the scarf is beautiful and valuable to me because it was made for me by mother.

I am inclined to think that each item, if made with pride in its craftsmanship is of equal value. That said I also believe it is easier for most of us to appreciate the value of the obviously more complex object than of the simple object; but that does not necessarily mean the simpler object is less valuable. Simplicity is much harder to achieve than it often appears.

Susan said...

Hard one. I would be amazed by that lovely handknit sweater, but would immediately hand the nice lady some lovely wool for her next one, since the only place she probably had available for yarn was Wal-Mart. As to the scarf, I am the first person to love a mindless project, perfect for knitting while I have to pay attention to something else and not a chart, and why not do that in a beautiful yarn? Who am I to say what you choose to knit is better than what I am choosing to knit? You’re knitting, good enough for me.

Eldronius said...

Wow, there are so many comments I do not have time to read them all. However, I did enjoy the ones I was able to read.

My Opinion:
I shrug my shoulders to "famous" names and super "fancy yarns". Sure I can say I hate using Red Heart because it feels dry and scratchy and squeaks when I use it, but really the process involved is much more important than the yarn. As long as the sweater looks nice, it has my support.

The scarf, on the other hand, I would expect a lot more from someone who would be considered an expert. It feels like a cheap way to throw out a design in an attempt to keep your name in the light with lots of ooh's and aah's from expensive yarn. Meh.

But each to their own. I would not want either to stop doing what they want.

IRV (YOURIMAGINARYFRIEND@VERIZON.NET) said...

GAWD FOLKS---You can take this to any level. It really depends on so many things. Just for the sake of argument, if someone built a "REALLY BASIC" house for you to live in out of concrete, brick, timber etc, & someone else designed a fantastic home that was beyond your dreams but built it of cardboard----which one would you actually want to live in? To coin a phrase from Jon---I'm just sayin'-----ps--by the way Jon, your cashmere comment threw me as I remember you just made yourself a really cool hat out of NORO CANNA - 100% cashmere--didn't cha?

Gail said...

I would say that the first is more valuable, although the fact that she had to use red heart makes me sad. It makes me think how much better it _could_ have been in a nice wool yarn.

Maybe its a perfect way of seeing how being trapped anywhere, without outside input narrows our view, and makes what we do limited and in some ways, less valuable.

On the other hand, even if you take in everything the outside world has to offer you can still end up limiting yourself. In the second case, the knitter has opened herself up to new fiber, but then limited herself in her pattern choice. On the other hand, maybe she needs a garter stitch scarf.

Pamela said...

The joy of art is in the process, the finished object something to be proud of no matter what. Really.

Lucia said...

Great question! and I am late to the party, as usual.

I freely admit to being a celebrity hound/blogslut (I once got email from the Harlot! and an honorable mention from Franklin! and featured by Ruth!) and a yarn snob, although I used to knit a lot of acrylic baby blankets. (People, those things go *everywhere*. They need to be washed. Frequently. And the kid is not going to sit around waiting for air drying, either.)

I still pick the sweater. Its creator IS a designer, whether anyone knows it or not. If I want a cashmere scarf, I'll design it myself.

I designed and made my DB's GF a pair of mittens for Christmas. She loved them (smart move). I asked her permission to submit the pattern to Knitty, as she might not thereafter have the only pair. For me making or owning or giving something unique counts for a lot. I think I value giving the most.

S.Kate said...

I'm not usually good at getting points across in discussion, but this is interesting, so I'm going to give a try.
If the knitter was happy and the intended recipient was happy with an "appropriately functional knitted item", then the knitted object was a success. The value of one object over another totally depends, given choice or selection, on how the object meets the different needs of the recipient. Red Heart sweater given to, say, an Australian Aboriginal, has little to no value as a sweater, but becomes a sturdy fabric to cushion sitting on rocks or held aloft on two sticks to keep the sun off his head. Long cashmere garterstich designer scarf would have a great value tethering an ox to market in a third world country if suitable rope was not available (and that ox would be stylin'). Both the sweater and the scarf have definite value to us folks currently in cold country, but our own internal voices weigh one against the other according to individual wants and desires, basic needs and lastly prejudice and the "why just meet the need when you can exceed it" marketing machine.
I love cashmere and the tactile luxury of those fibers as much as the next person, but I personally value *intricate* workmanship that is hard, takes time, and is so rare to find these days. I actually cried at an antique shop last year when I rescued a huge cotton rose hand crocheted tablecloth that needed minor repairs for *25 cents* - what an insult to the time, heart and handiwork of that crafter...

Oh, dear. I may have drifted a bit. Sorry.

KSD said...

Their worth is in the joy they gave their respective makers, then, in the joy felt by their wearers.

Nik said...

I'm just writing to let you know that you have somewhat of a following here in Raleigh,NC. A new woman joined our knitting group and happened to mention how funny she thought your blog was. And we shared our thoughts about yesterday's post over knitting.

oh, and both are equally valuable. Although I'd love that beautiful aran in that cashmere.

doloreshaze said...

I don't think either one has intrinsic value to me--I didn't knit the damned things. I'm with the guy who said he was only interested if the knitter was hot.

Liz said...

I'll knit with (and wear) any fibre, so I'd estimate the one which was "worth" more being whichever was knit with more thought and consideration for the person who was going to receive it. The uniqueness also counts, whether it's in the fibre or the design (this year's Best Recipient of my knitting was the four-year-old who checked out that her present was the 'only one in the whole world'...)

Well-worked Aran is a glorious thing. Given an actual real-life choice I'd have to be prised whimpering away from the cashmere though.

Thanks for the blog - wonderful source of food for thought and amusement...

kate said...

Although I must agree that you are, apparently, a slut for comments (but an interesting and likeable one...), this has been an intriguing discussion to read.

Personally, I'm afraid that I can't get much passed the need for a definition of worth or value and the question of "to whom".

I shudder to think that potential definition is based on some sort of fibre snobbism that discounts skill, creativity and love involved in the process of creating a handknitted item. However, taking the position that process is all opens the door to such aberrations as the fun fur flip flops. (oops...my biases are showing...blush...)

Cortster said...

Which has more value?

Ask the recipient.

Example: I had a very complex, beautiful pattern I wanted to knit up for me Mum. She insisted on acrylic. I grumbled a bit while knitting it up but now she showcases that sweater everywhere she goes.

I had a simpler, but equally beautiful pattern for a stole for my sister. Knitted it up in 100% of the softest laceweight merino and even beaded the dang thing. She never wears it (because she doesn't want to mess it up or clean it if it gets dirty. She'll only wear it for special occassions. She does, however, pet it now and then. Goofus.)

Go figure.

As for the knitter (in this case, me), I enjoyed the experience of designing and knitting both of them, much to my own surprise.


Oh, and regarding the peg (table, hand) loom(s). I've got 'em. I wanted to check out the resulting texture (not bad, a bit too loose for my taste) and possiblities. I also wanted to introduce the kids to knitting and perhaps get me Mum, who has Parkinsons, back into the fibre world. It definitely has its place in making some fun things and luring more addicts into the knitting world. ;)

the fiddlin' fool said...

I think the process is what's the most important part of fiber arts. Sure, there is a certain amount of practicality involved, but really only to an extent. After all, none of us would be knitters if our only reason for doing so was production.

Therefore, the person who enjoyed themselves the most while creating the item makes the finished work the most valuable.

Great blog, by the way. Sorry I won't get to meet you at the upcoming gathering at Borders. You'll just have to make the 4th Tuesday.

David said...

I have no opinion one way of the other, I just like your use of Chacun à son gout. I use that all the time. I don't care if it's pretentious.

Drew said...

It's a purely utilitarian and personal choice decision for me...a scarf would win every time! As a lapsed knitter (20 years ago, with only one sweater to have come off the needles), but considering taking the needles up again, I love the idea of having yet another scarf as an accessory, regardless of its origin. However the individual projects came to be, and despite the perceived value of the specific patterns and/or materials, or the "designer" name, it all comes down to who the recipient is. Given that both the sweater and the scarf are really "nothing" until worn, it is the recipient or the wearer who gives it true value or worth. As one who has been known to go back home because "I wore the wrong scarf," again I say, give me the scarf any day!

Felicia said...

As long as the process of knitting made each knitter happy, they are both priceless.

Anyone who knows me knows I love acrylic.

But, I love the process of knitting far more than any fiber I've ever used.

I'm a bit glib, I know. Anyone who creates will tell you, the finished object isn't the objective of any creation.

It's all about the creation.

Robbyn said...

You're right, there isn't any right answer. And I have a hard time even thinking about it since I neither made nor acquired either item.

However, assuming that the creation of each garment was pleasing to both the maker and the recipient (perhaps also the maker)- what more is there?

And if I weren't the maker or the recipient, why in the world would I make a judgement?

Ellen in Conn said...

My motto: variety is the spice of life. I wish I could say it in Latin. I also wish I could still be doing my true love of fiber crafts - handweaving.

Red Heart: no-one else makes that fiesta brights multi yarn that was my first yarn-lust, and I love them for that yarn.

Which is better? What is your goal in knitting? Do what you want and make what makes you happy. Even the Harlot herself will knit acrylic when the occasion requires it.

Freecia said...

Maybe I'm too easy going but I appreciate the process of knitting both. The sweater knitter is skilled, no matter what yarn, and as a knitter, I'd appreciate how much work went into a project, even if I wouldn't knit it. The famous scarf designer has the luxe yarn available to her and sometimes, it is just nice to treat yourself, so I can appreciate the enjoyment in knitting a nice fiber. Plus, there's something great about a simple knit scarf (or dishcloth, if you get bored with basic stitch patterns). It kind of reminds me of my knitting roots. Mind you, if I received such a deluxe fiber in a store bought scarf, I might consider ripping it and knitting a new something out of it ;)

As a giver (or recipient, but hey, whatever happened to considering knitting for youself anyhow?!) of a knitted gift to a non-knitter, I'd choose a nicer yarn and simpler (but not insultingly basic) scarf pattern. This, to me, says "I wanted to give you something that felt good and hugs you on cold days but also understand that you may not know how much work goes into knitting an object so I won't bombard you with a masterpiece that I want to keep for me."

But hey, I also figure that when a recipient is freezing bits off in the cold, no matter what they thought of an item when they received it, they'll think of me then and be very happy.

Lastly, if the item was knit by a person I know and greatly admire, that trumps all. Debbie Bliss could send me a trunk full of clothes and I'd be ecstatic, but one remaining item knit for me by my grandma would be beyond words, even if it were done in my least favorite yarns.

Christopher said...

I love knitting.I knit with anything. Yarn snobs can't hurt me. I do what makes ME happy and that is using all types of fiber for all types of projects. I would ooh and ahh over the cashmere scarf and the acrylic sweater.

Beth said...

As the owner of one of those Red Heart Arans, and a Tibet silk scarf, both are of high value. The aran, made by my mom for my dad, holds many dear memories. The scarf, one of the first I made with "luxury" yarn because I could finally afford it. Both represent eras of my life. It's not the garment, it's the process, and what the process meant.

Jan aka Warrior Knitter said...

I read your post & all the comments (90+). Many posters are saying essentially the same thing but they're saying it their way. I went back & read the post again & decided that although 90+ posters had already had their say their way, they hadn't said it my way. And for me that's the crux of the matter.

To me each knitter knit what they knit to the best of their ability using available or desired materials. They put their personal cast or brand or stamp on it & made it theirs.

The value would be to the knitter & the recipient. Assuming they were knit with specific recipients in mind (for instance, me) I would be thrilled to receive & proudly wear that sweater from someone who thought enough of me to knit ME a sweater. I'd wear it. I'd also be thrilled if Legendary Designer knit me the scarf. Each has it's own value on it's own merit.

Most folks who would see them wouldn't know Red Heart yarn from hand-spun anyway. They would see a beautiful gray sweater that fits like it was made for you & a lovely scarf.



PS: How about multiple choice next time?

Gail said...

I should probably admit that I'm a fiber snob, which might have influenced my last comment. I do think items can have a sentimental value, even if made out of red heart. I have several crocheted afghans my great grandmother made out of red heart (or another not all that nice acylic), and I do love them. I respect the time that went into them. But I never use them because they are itchy in that acrylic kind of way. Instead, I use a wool blanket I bought in Amana, IA at the mill there.

Maybe I just like to think that if her afghans were wool (or at least nicer acrylic), people would appreciate them more. Instead, I end up with the ones I can rescue from family members before they turn into dog beds.

Karen said...

I agree with most of the posters who find value, though for different reasons, in each piece. To me there is also a political dimension, for lack of a better word. I love the idea of producing a garment, no matter how skilled or unskilled, because the work of my hands is something that will not be mass produced, outsourced or globalized. Nor can it be traded on the stock market to enrich the few while impoverishing the many. Each individual's act of creation is in some way an act of rebellion. (Am I making any sense?)

Ann said...

I agree at least in part with first-poster-Jon. I consider the two of them damned near equal. I question the fiber used in both.

To the Aran knitter, I say: "Why put that time and talent into fiber that is (at best)unequal to the time and talent." To the designer of the cashmere, I would ask "could not that gorgeous fiber have been put to better use?"

Not that I wouldn't do(or haven't done) the same exact thing. More than once, in fact.

Franklin said...

Fantastic. I've just finished reading through everything you've written and my brain is humming. Thank you, all of you, who took the time to add your viewpoint to the mix.

Leslie said...

I must admit my initial reaction to some of these comments (gee, Franklin, 95 comments when I started!) was "I hate fiber snobs!" In fact, it's one thing that really rankles me about some of the blogs I read on a normal basis.

If they bother me, why read them? Well, it's sort of like your friends, you know? Everybody has idiosyncrasies that we have to accept or cease associating with them. In this case, I read some blogs for intellectual value, design ideas, technical pointers and because it satisfies my voyeuristic side. So I gloss over the snarky "Red Heart" and "Lion Brand" remarks just as I skim the other stuff that doesn’t interest me.

My vote would be for the Red Heart Aran. Knit with attention to detail and devotion of time it carries a bit of that knitter’s heart (NOT a pun) and life. From the description, the designer picked up a skein of hand spun and died wool which may or may not be his/her own and knit with no recipient in mind, just for the lucre that can be gained from an original design. To me at least, heart and life means more than desire for gain and fame.

Plastic lasts forever, cashmere (or other fine natural fibers) can rot with age and need a lot of extra care. My husband is still wearing the blue acrylic of some sort cardi I made him in 1978. The darns I made with wool during my natural fibers only phase wore out; they were replaced with acrylic about 5 years ago.

Chacun à son gout!

Sravana said...

Well! 96 comments, here's #97.
My initial reaction is the scarf. Like K. Merritt said, Red Heart is crap. I can't believe how many folks think that handspun, hand-dyed cashmere doesn't add up in the difficulty department as equal to knitting an Aran. Just because someone is a Famous Fiber Person doesn't make their contribution less... Not to mention that you want to Keep. It. Simple. when using a luxury yarn, so it is spotlighted.

Scarf, all the way

Celtic Knitter said...

Oh my! my little comment seems so pathetic because you have 97 comments!! Anyways, the aran because it takes way more effort and talent. The cashmere may feel good but the Aran takes way more talent of the part of the individual.

Elaine said...

For me it's the scarf. Not because someone famous knitted it, but because , for ME, it's all about the fiber. I'm a highly sensual, tactile creature. I wouldn't knit at all if it wasn't for the FEEL of the yarn and the article it becomes. That's why I spin, why I knit, why I collect fiber, why I collect yarn (and don't pretend to need to make something out of it) and why I raise and adore my angora rabbits and other people's sheep and alpacas. It's the FEEL. I'd much prefer something simple and ample that feels wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Franklin _

The red heart vs cashmere question and the ladies who kicked you out of the group exhibit the same problem: prejudice. The way I live my life is the way you should live your life. We have images of red heart vs. cashmere, garter st vs. aran knitting. And people who tell people not to come back because you're just not one of us.

Dear god, knitters have faced prejudice from the rest of the world, why do we do it to each other? I have a business where the money I make everyday tells me how well I am doing. But what actually keeps me up nights is whether I treated everyone who came in the door with kindness and respect.

P.S. Franklin - the preacher by the Gap has told me twice I really really really needed to be saved. Growl back. And if you had said homespun vs. cashmere, well that homespun stuff is nasty and had quality problems.

Kathy in Chicago

CynCyn said...

So, I imagine that there are the easy answers... both are valuable (for their own unique attributes), or the cashmere b/c of it's fibery goodness.
Then, I imagined that my grandmother had knit me the sweater, designed it especially for me, while the scarf was knit by an anonymous someone or another.

The acrylic sweater will win every time in that scenario, I think.

Meghan said...

I think that rather than deciding which has more value we should just be considering that even though to us the knitting world is large, knitting, crochet, and anything related are still kind of considered a grandma's pastime in the larger world. So instead of deciding who or what is better we should just be applauding all efforts and take anyone's participation in whatever venue they choose as a compliment to fiber art.
A woman's choice to learn knitting on a cheap plastic loom shouldn't be looked at any differently than a child's learning using finger knitting to learn the process. The point is that they care enough to even try - and maybe after they have been given that taste of accomplishment they will choose to expand their knowledge from that experience.

Michelle said...

Hello, just found your blog today. I'd planned merely to skim & move on. But your writing is immensely enjoyable. I laughed out loud & had to keep reading. I was intrigued by this question.

Bear in mind that I am a complete NEWBIE knitter. At this time, my perception of the value would not be affected by who the knitter was or where s/he was from. So today my (selfish) answer would be that whichever garment inspired me most to go home & get knitting, that would be the one of most (immediate) value to *me*.

However, as I learn about yarn, I find all knitted/spun/crocheted goodies valuable. I want to run the fiber between my fingers, squish it, smell it, (and for some reason, it seems I am developing a desire to amass a great deal of it). Is this normal? ;)

So many interesting comments! IMHO, in the end, all that matters, truly, is that hand made creation is taking place and being shared. Each person creates for various reasons. It's been my experience that the "reason" behind the "art" changes with the passage of time and/or from one project to another.

Having come from an extremely abusive past, I confess it took me decades (& the help of a good therapist) to be able to allow myself to pick up ANY tool & create ANYthing. To me, the knitting looms/rakes are fun! I am grateful for them because I would never have attempted knitting otherwise. I'm having a blast. I am also grateful for white school paste & crayons because at first, with all my fears, that was about all I could handle. As I experience more hand-creating, I develop courage to move on to other crafts. At some point I would like to try needle knitting. To me, it's-all-good. There is no lesser tool, fiber, artist or artistry.

Well, that's my comment. Thanks for such a thought inspiring blog. Take care!
Michelle

Sahara said...

Gosh, I'm the 104th comment. Are you even gonna read this? Here goes.

Executed beautifully, and suited for it's intended purpose, the scarf and the sweater has equal value. The scarf may only SEEM to have more value, because of the elevation of the knitter through critique and publicity. This criteria is important; there are well known designers of items made from Red Heart too. Just check some of the catalogs; Mary Maxim or Herrschners, for instance.

It is easy for us (and even I)to be snobbish; we have more choices today. Even Red Heart's acrylics have advanced in composition.

If you were living–not so long ago– when the choices were rough wool, or the new, affordable, "care-free" synthetics, hey, what would the worth of that sweater be? The knitter wouldn't be "unknown" for long. Go check some old pattern books from the 60's (and those suits were to DIE FOR). And remember, as sweaters were usually worn over a blouse, the feel next to the skin was not a big issue.

Ultimately, value is in the realization of the articles' suited purpose. As Ann Lee (founder of the Shakers) would say "that is best, that works best."

mtb said...

Depends...was the RedHeart knit with Lantern Moon needles thereby cancelling out the yarn?
They are of equal value.

american girl in italy said...

Isn't life too short, really, to be a *knitting snob*. The joy and value comes in the fun you have making something, and the joy and pleasure in giving gifts you have created.

I am a loomer, never enjoyed needles. I think you can make much more elaborate and delicate things with needles, but it is dificult for me. I very much enjoy my looms, and making things for people, and inventing new projects and stitches.

Who cares if something of love was made with needles or a loom? There are far worse things in the world.

bethieee said...

I'm placing valuation at the level of the work done by the person who purchased the materials and made the finished object.
My first thought was an automatic response of the aran, I don't care what it's made out of, I'm impressed by the act of will that goes into designing and then creating a sweater like that.
Then I noticed that the cashmere was attributed as handspun and hand-dyed. If it had been purchased as such, then the aran still wins hands down. If the cashmere had been bought as fiber, spun and dyed by the end creator, then I can no longer declare a winner.
The relative prestige of the materials and the maker is not a factor, simply what work was put in by the creator and the level of attention to detail.
(oy, that's longwinded. Hope it made sense)

Anonymous said...

I'd wear and use the Aran MUCH more than the scarf simply because I would have no qualms about tossing it into the washer and dryer.

I've played with many fibers, I've worn many fibers, but I'm practical down to the bone and I make everything for my kids out of washable yarn. For myself and gifts, it all depends on the recipient and the garment's use.
:)K

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The Ferret said...

I know I am years late on this one but I just had to put in my two Canadian pennies.

To me it all comes down to which person is happier.

It may be an incredible sweater but if the knitter hated every cable and feels that the stitch they mucked up on the third cable in the 250th row (Covered by a cable natch) and didn't notice til it was done and blocked, totally ruins it for them, I'd say they're not very happy and so that sweater has less value.

Wheras if the scarf maker, loves the scarf. it's exactly their colour and it keeps them snuggly warm then I'd say they're happier and thus it's the more valuable piece.

To me the value is entirely dependent on how pleased the knitter is with the FO.

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