Sunday, February 24, 2008

Crochet Partners: Yardage vs. Ounces

Howdy, folks, excuse me for a minute while I post a response to some dialog going on at Crochet Partners Yahoo group.

The original post complained vehemently that designers should be considerate enough to post 'yardage' requirements for their designs instead of generalized ounces. Others chimed in with similar complaints: why not use the number of skeins- instead of ounces; why do designers use the most expensive yarns for their cutest designs; why use yarns that aren't 'excessively' available and affordable.... yada yada yada... we've all heard these complaints a million times.

Rather than create more tension at CP, I'm posting my thoughts here....

A. Don't blame the Designer; their hands are chained. (okay so I couldn't resist that pun. ;-)
  • You can trust me on this one: all Crochet Designers would much rather use yardage requirements than ounces-simply because that is more accurate, but if a yarn is sold in ounces, then that is how we must 'measure' the usage.
  • The common crocheter will not understand how to compute yardage into ounces, and ounces into yardage.
  • I've worked with Jan Q. Public, and you can never underestimate the stupidity of Jan Q. Public. When selling merchandise to the public, you must cater to the least intelligent, because they can't do it for themselves.
  • (just ask the lawn mower company who had to pay millions in damages to a family who tried to trim their bushes by turning the lawn mower on its side. Now the lawn mower company must include instructions that 'the lawn mower' cannot be turned on its side to trim hedges and bushes.)
  • Trying to use a formula that computes ounces into yardage, is not the best, either. If a yarn is measured in ounces, a skein can be off by a few grams, and still be within accepted weights, but the yardage is way short. I cannot tell you how many times I've run out of yarn on a project, because not all skeins have the same yardage-when they are measured by the ounce.
  • Designers can't use the 'skein count' for patterns, because the yarn manufacturers are changing the size of skeins so often. You look at older patterns that use a skein count, and if you are lucky, they will tell you how much the skein weighs. 5 skeins of yarn, can have a radically different amount of yarn from just a few years ago, and in a few more years.
  • Since most designs are- in some way or another- supported by a yarn company, then designers must use the types of yarns that yarn companies want to promote.
  • If you are designer trying to make a living, you must design what a publisher will buy.
  • If you are a publisher, you must publish designs that will cater to your largest advertisers: yarn companies.
  • Designers don't always get a choice in what yarn is used in their designs after they sell it to a publisher- whether that is a periodical publication that must depend on yarn company ads to survive, or a yarn company using the design for a marketing tool.
  • Make no mistake, most patterns are designed to sell yarn, not the other way around.

B. There are numerous reasons why the industry -as a whole- treats Crocheters like Foster Kids; and folks, the problem is largely based on how we shop. We have no one, but ourselves to blame.

  • More and more, I'm seeing crochet designs using minimal instructions, much like Knitting instructions or some publishers are using more graphs.
  • This is much easier for the designer to write; the publisher to print; and greatly reduces the final cost of a design because less labor and supply costs went into that pattern.
  • This would make Crocheters appear to be 'lazy,' since most crocheters want pattern instructions that explain stitch by stitch, row by row, what to do... like spoon feeding information to school children.
  • Knitters don't use row by row, stitch by stitch instructions... the designer and publisher expect the knitter to be (dare I say this...) smart enough to be able to figure out what to do on their own.
  • We just finished a conversation at Crochet Partners about who does and doesn't like 'symbol' crochet notations... and from my imperfect memory, it seemed like most folks don't like symbol notations.
  • Crocheters want pattern notations that are more expensive to produce, but then they purchase the least expensive thing they can find.

I did a survey two years ago, asking Crocheters various questions on their spending habits and what they prefer to crochet. The results validated most of what I suspected:

  • The Majority of Crocheters prefer to use inexpensive yarns, simple classic designs-if they crochet clothing- and stitch utilitarian projects more than anything else.
  • They don't keep their finished projects, they give them as gifts to family and friends or to charity groups.
  • They crochet more items in a year than knitters, and because crochet uses much more yarn than knitting, crocheters feel they must use inexpensive yarns/threads.

You probably won't believe, this, but my sister and I had this conversation this morning: If Crochet uses more yarn than knitting, and crocheters finish more projects than knitters, then why won't yarn companies cater to us Crocheters? Why won't they supply what we want? My sister doesn't crochet, and she had the answer:

Because Knitters spend more money than we crocheters do.

I offer my humblest apologies to those who don't fit into this next statement:

If you don't like the way things are, whining about it won't help. You must actually DO something, to make a difference.

If you prefer yardage measurements, then buy only those yarns that provide that information on the label; and yes, you will need to pay more for that yarn.

If you want top quality patterns that use yardage measurements, instead of generalized ounces, then you will need to pay more for them.

If you are angry that this cute design uses a yarn that you can't afford, and why don't they make that cute design in a cheap yarn... then you will need to learn how to design your own things, or how to translate other patterns with your yarn of choice.

If you want someone to tell you stitch by stitch how to create this cute/hip/trendy design, then you will need to pay more for it.

As a whole, we crocheters need to stop relying on designers to spoon feed us stitch by stitch instructions, and learn how to 'figure some things out on our own.'

Understand, folks, that I am one of you. I buy Red Heart, because it was cheap and with my allergies I couldn't work with animal fibers. I buy yarn at thrift stores, and yes, two days ago I bought an 8 oz skein of unmarked yarn-probably Red Heart- for 50 cents. I learned this from my grandmother, who never bought 'new' yarn- she crocheted the scraps that friends would give her or what she could find at garage sales.

I rarely buy new patterns, because they are the same pattern on the clearance table as they are hot off the press. The single most important reason I don't buy new patterns is because most patterns don't fit a woman who is 6'1" and a plus size. For me, I will spend more on Red Heart to crochet a sweater than what I could purchase a completed sweater at Wal Mart... yes, even I have said those dreaded words.

I am finally learning that Crochet is an Art and my work deserves better quality supplies.

Until we all believe that we are Artists who deserve top quality supplies and be willing to pay top dollar for those supplies, we must accept our place as Foster Kids in the needlework industry.

The simple truth is:

  • if we want the industry to treat Crochet and Crocheters with the same level of respect as they do Knitters;
  • if we want the industry to invest in our hobby as much as they do knitting,
  • then we will need to spend more money.

Money talks, and if you don't like the status quo, buy the things that knitters buy... or learn to design your self with the yarns you can afford.

Oh, the article I wrote from that survey can be found here: it is a lengthy article... 4pages long.

Sorry, folks, I offer my humblest apologies, but I fought a migraine all day, and I really got cranky at all the whining. Get real. You cannot expect Champagne Quality for the price of tap water. I've been one of the cheapest crocheters on the planet, but I accepted that fact and learned how to cope. Now, I'm learning how to cope in a different way: if you are going to put that much work into something, then it is worth quality supplies.

© Angela ‘ARNie’ Grabowski 2008. All rights reserved. For more crochet fun, visit
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twitchycanuck said...

I found this very interesting. But I think you missed one point - if people want certain types of designs, or information on yarns, etc. and do NOT tell the people who make those yarns, or publish, or create designs, then nothing will happen, The people who make the decisions will not know what the public wants if the public does not tell them.

ARNie said...

Yes, communication is important, but with the freedom of speach comes the responsibility to speak well an in the proper forum.

Writing to yarn companies and pattern publishers telling them what we want, won't do any good if we won't pay the price. And those are the people who can actually do something about the situation.

Whining on message boards, won't accomplish much except dishearten designers who work way to hard for what they industry pays them.

Olga said...

Hi arnie, Read your post about yards versus ounces. Gave me a good laugh, I do not care about either one, always buy more yarn than needed for a project. Being 81 years of age, have seen the changes in yarn over many years. Buy whatever I like in yarns. Crochet and knit, also used to do needlepoint. At present doing crochet, quilting and learning how to use two different embroidery machines. Keep up the great blogs, very interesting to read blogs from someone who knows what is happening.
Olga in Central FL

Shari said...

Well, I disagree with the idea that crocheters are somehow more frugal with their money than knitters.

My grandmother, being Scottish and having lived through the Depression, was very tight wadded with her yarn purchases for knitting. Yet I can guarantee you that she was highly skilled and could produce better quality workmanship with inexpensive yarns than most people of my generation today could with the luxury brands.

I'm also very frugal with my yarn purchases - and I learned to knit first, self-taught at 8, then crochet 2nd at age 20. I know of many knitters who also like classic, simple patterns & yarns.

The truth of the matter is, people will spend money on what they want to, regardless of whether they crochet, knit, collect china, work on cars, etc. Unless a person is a compulsive buyer, most people seem to like to get the best deal for their money's worth, so I don't buy into the cost factor being the reason crochet is treated like the "ugly duckling".

If you look back into history, we don't know when either knitting or crochet were truly started, but you will see that knitting had a head start in promotion. There were knitting guilds in Europe as far back as the Middle Ages, and they were backed by the Catholic Church - which no doubt spread knitting's reach far and wide.

Crochet didn't really become well known until the Irish Potato Famine, and even then it was looked upon as more ornamental in nature, with limited use. How I look at it is that crochet has about 300 years worth of PR work to compete against just to catch up with knitting - all in all, I'd say we're doing pretty well!

ARNie said...

Each person's experience will be different, but in my survey, the overwhelming response was that crocheters are more frugal- especially in their yarn buying.

You can ask any industry insider and they will tell you that Crochet is not as profitable as Knitting, because Knitters-in general- will pay more for their fibers and their resource materials such as magazines and pattern books.

I cover- in detail- the history of crochet and how it came to be associated with commoners:

If the historical treament of crochet were the main reason Crochet is treated like a Foster Kid, then I would argue that the industry wouldn't publish any crochet patterns at all.

The historical treatment of crochet just can't explain why an Industry will provide patterns of inferior or super simple nature to crocheters, but won't provide high quality, beautifully designed clothing patterns. The Industry can see there is money to be made, but won't go the extra mile to provide the same quality materials as they do knitters...

Simple economics better explain why the industry won't treat crochet with the same respect as it does Knitting.

For what Crocheters have accomplished, discovered and created in the few hundred years since its acceptance, then I would argue, we've not only caught up to Knitting; we've surpassed it!

And as long as you are happy with what you buy and create, that is the point of this article. If you like inexpensive acrylic yarn, and the finished product you can create with it; FABULOUS! You are my hero.

My comments are directed to those who believe that the industry should provide them with top quality products and services, but then they won't pay top dollar for those services and products.

If Crocheters want the level of quality in patterns and fibers that the industry lavishes on the knitters... then we need to re-think our budgets and start spending like the knitters do.

Vashti Braha said...

Thank you for this post, ARNie, and for all that you've done for crochet over the years.

Sara said...

Very interesting observations! And, quite true for the most part. I do all sorts of needlework, from crochet, to tatting, to quilting, etc etc etc. I also design (on a small scale) crochet pieces and quilting pieces. Prices, not only of yarn, but of canvas, patterns, material, etc., are prohibitive to a true artisan. Yes, I'd love to buy the specialty yarns, but I usually buy Red Heart, partly because I'm a very down-to-earth type (not frilly or fru fru), and partly because I'm not wealthy, not even comfortable!

Thanks for your visions here. I'll catch up with you here and there, I'm 2 hours north of you!!!

Deborah said...

I became a self-starting, better yarns buying person because I couldn't stand the crochet patterns that were available. I have never made an afghan and probably never will. I made one sweater that didn't fit so I gave it away.

I finally purchased a "stitch bible" and started creating my own patterns. Now I make crochet purses and will soon start selling them. My first generation of bags was pretty cool but the next generation will be even cooler because I have switched to Tunisian.

For this reason, I appreciate the way ARNie wrote her book. She explains the technique then just shows us a whole bunch of stitches for us to play with.

I find this much more fun than working from a pattern that spoon feeds me, especially now that no one is using standardized terms.

I am much happier with my wooden hooks, lots of yarn, and ARNie's' book.

Karie Schneider said...

I have found more pleasure in making my own designs. Each item is unique because I cannot stand writing down patterns as I go. I used to crochet elaborate patterns with insets and filets and front and back post, and using beading and upscale yarns. I could not sell them for enough to get my money back. Now I buy the cheapest yarn I can get, and whip up fast and easy wearable items and sell them on ebay. They always sell quickly. I quit using Red Heart yarn because the quality is not good anymore. It is a shame, too, because they have gorgeous colors. I am allergic to wools and animal yarns so I use acrylic. I sell on ebay because I am too disabled to work. It buys the groceries.

I do not care for using other peoples' patterns. I hate reading patterns. And I get a special thrill when I ship an original design to a customer and they oooohhhh and aaaahhhh about it. I crochet sturdier items and ties the strands before I weave the ends in.

I am blessed to be able to work from home.

I enjoyed your common sense article. (: