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.

Pandemic Knitting – How it’s Changed Us As Knitters

Hello Knitters! Yes, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted on this blog. When the pandemic hit, I took a break to relax and live a very quiet life in lockdown. Then, my beloved husband was diagnosed with a rare and advanced cancer in the spring of 2020 and passed away in December. My knitting kept me sane and relatively calm, but I found myself with writer’s block for the first time in my life. It’s time to get back to writing again, so here goes. 

It’s been quite a year. Just about everything we do has been affected by the pandemic, and knitting is no exception. Here’s just a few areas where the practice of knitting has changed:

Learn-to-Knit Opportunities

Have you recently taken up knitting? If so, you’re certainly not alone. Lots of folks have taken up new crafts or sought to improve their skills. At the beginning of the pandemic, I signed onto the online learning platform Bluprint and learned to pick up stitches neatly, make button bands for cardigans, and tackle the art of short rows. Sadly, Bluprint was sold in mid-2020 and re-emerged as a new version of Craftsy. Other online learn-to-knit platforms advertise heavily on the web, reaching out to new and intermediate knitters. I just signed up for a “learn new knitting stitches” kit with Annie’s Kit Clubs. It appears that learning to knit via video is here to stay, with readily available, affordable, high quality platforms.

The Yarn Supply

Even as we have more time than ever before to knit, our collective stash may be dwindling. Sources of high-quality, all-natural yarns have been moving targets. I previously bought several kits from Kitterly, but they seem to be scaling way down (what little they offer is on deep clearance). Bluprint offered wonderful yarns, but their stash didn’t transfer to Craftsy. Knitcrate, however, has managed to keep the luxury yarns coming, despite delays in shipments from Peru and challenges with the U.S. postal system. 

If you want acrylic or other synthetic yarns, however, the big box stores seem to have plenty on offer. From my own personal experiences, the “order and pick up at the curb” services did not work. One understaffed big box store left me waiting at the curb for a half hour and never did come out with my order. (I had to go inside and stand in line.) Another big box store cancelled my order, saying they didn’t have in stock what their website said they had. But if you actually go in the big box stores, they will have plenty to choose from. 

The End of Local Yarn Shops?

Once upon a time, I went to a tiny little knit shop in Knoxville called the Knit Wits, where two sweet elderly ladies taught me to purl and how to make a sweater. They carried lovely yarns from Europe. I remember them fondly. And I may remember more local yarn stores as something I “used to frequent” before this pandemic is over. The local yarn store in my community of Farragut closed early into the pandemic. Though I’m aware that other yarn stores in the greater Knoxville area have offered curbside services and online Zoom knitting circles, I haven’t participated or taken advantage of these offerings. To stay connected to the knitting community, I’ve veered more towards large online groups on Ravelry, where’s there’s always someone online, day or night, to chat about yarn, fuss about supply issues, dream together about planned projects, and show off your finished work.

While I do support the notion of local yarn stores, I wonder if they will be able to survive in the future. The online stores offer plenty of wonderful yarns, and they almost always have all you need to finish even the largest of projects. I’ve found local yarn stores in South Carolina and North Carolina that sell their inventory on Amazon. They sent my yarn quickly, beautifully packaged, and with free shipping. Perhaps this hybrid model of “local yarn store that ships all over” is the new model that will keep the locals in business? 

All in all, the craft of knitting is in great shape, with more enthusiastic knitters worldwide than ever before. With incredible opportunities to try new yarns and connect with knitters all over the world (and more time on our hands for many of us), there’s never been a better time to knit. 

Blessings to all my knitting friends, 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.

Knitting Through Times of Crisis

I’ve never understood why anyone would willingly work on a tedious, difficult, and mentally taxing knitting project. Until now. 

Since my teen years, I’ve always been a “meditative knitter.” Give me a project that’s easy to memorize, not too difficult, and lets me zone out. I love to make prayer shawls, easy pullovers, and straightforward yoke cardigans. 

As I’ve tried to up my knitting game, I’ve tried more difficult patterns and techniques. This past fall, I took a course in double knitting at the Vogue Knitting Convention in Ohio. Double knitting took every bit of concentration I could muster. I found myself thinking, “if I’m ever in a situation where I want to block out every single thought in my head, I’ll do this kind of knitting.”

Well, here we are. On the evening of March 12, the school system closed for the year. By the next afternoon, the shelves of my local grocery store were cleared by panic buyers. Then, six weeks later, my husband was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer and given only months to live. 

Needless to say, I’ve spent a lot of time knitting my way through these crises. During the worst moments, I’ve sat in my home office, working on an extremely intricate pattern with tiny needles and ultra-thin yarn, blocking out every single thought and emotion running through my body. I still work on a meditative project each and every day as my personal self-care and spiritual discipline. But I’ve also added a half hour of knitting that vanquishes thoughts of everything else going on my life, if only for a few minutes. And this has helped me simply get through each day, taking me away from the huge responsibilities suddenly placed on my shoulders.

So now I know why knitters work on all those difficult, intricate patterns and stitches. For me, it’s a more hard-core form of the meditative knitting I’ve always done. At times like these, I value my knitting for giving me peace, for giving me something tangible and constructive to do, and for helping me keep my sanity in a time of crisis. 

Blessings to all my fellow knitters facing times of crisis, 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.