How the Pandemic Ended My Yarn Snobbery

I was a “yarn snob” for about two years. After discovering the joys of buying high quality wool, alpaca, and even silk yarns online, I gleefully knitted cardigan sweaters, pullovers, shawls, and small blankets out of the finest yarns on the planet. Of course, I also had to discover hand washing of all these lovely fibers. My crafting budget took a hit, too.

Then came the pandemic. Within a couple of months, supply lines to all these wonderful all-natural yarns came to a screeching halt. Two companies from which I had previously bought wool yarns closed or sold out. Another subscription service supplying all kinds of wonderfully squishy yarns struggled to get products out of South America. I bought up lots of yarn on clearance or going-out-of-business sales, but my days of buying wooly goodness in the form of knitting yarn were clearly over.

But my knitting was still in high gear. With reduced schedules and lots of free time around the house, I imagine I wasn’t the only one doing more knitting than usual this past year. I imagine many people took up knitting as beginners, too.

My own demand for readily available yarn quickly veered off towards good old-fashioned acrylic. Frustrated with shipping delays for the so-called “luxury yarns,” I found that I could click a couple of buttons or swing by the big box craft stores and get all the synthetic yarn I wanted. 

And is acrylic so bad, after all? I think not. It’s affordable. It’s durable. Projects I made from acrylic yarn twenty years ago still look great. And I can throw them in the washing machine AND dryer without experiencing total disasters. Yes, acrylic yarn is a by-product of the oil industry, but at least it’s used for a good purpose. Right? 

I still love to wear my warm wooly sweaters, especially during these Dogwood and Blackberry Winters of our Appalachian Spring here in Tennessee. I don’t enjoy hand washing the things. But I sure do like going out to the mailbox and getting new acrylic yarn just days after I order it!

Happy Knitting, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Knit Generously – Knitting for Charity

I was in a fabric shop recently when I heard a woman at the cutting counter say this to the clerk: “I want something as cheap as possible. It’s just for charity.”

My immediate reaction was “ugghhhh.” In one respect, I get it. You have your own bills to pay, but you still want to donate your crafting skills to a good cause. You may need to spend as little as possible to make a gift for someone else. But it’s all in the tone of voice, and I had the distinct impression that this woman thought those on the receiving end of her charity crafting didn’t quite deserve anything but the cheapest, lowest quality materials for her project.

It all goes back to the purpose and intention of a gift. Do we go cheap and give as little as possible, even if we could afford much more and much better? Or do we give the best we can afford, thinking about what those receiving our gifts will appreciate?

This is not to say that inexpensive yarns can’t make great charity gifts. I’ve knitted numerous hats, scarves, and prayer shawls using clearance sale yarn or even remnants from other projects. But each of these items were gifts I could be proud to share and present to someone, anyone. I’ve knitted little hats for kids in an orphanage in a cold place, so they could go outside wearing cute, cheerful knitwear that might help them feel good about themselves and let them know that someone, somewhere, cares about them. I’ve knitted prayer shawls for cancer patients and nursing home patients in bright colors to cheer them up and help lighten their emotional burdens. 

My rule of thumb for all of these projects: knit generously. Make a knitted project someone else would truly love to receive and wear. Use yarn you’d use in making something for yourself or a loved one. Because when we knit for charity, we knit for someone who needs to be loved. That homeless person receiving the hat, that nursing home patient receiving a shawl might not have anyone else but you to knit for them and show them someone cares.

Blessings, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of the newly published book The Prayer Shawl Chronicles. The story “Hats for Orphans” in this book is based on her experience in knitting hats for children in Arkhangelsk, Russia.  Available in paperback and on Kindle, included in Kindle Unlimited