I had a whole other post I was going to put up today (I’ve been neglectful of the blog because I’ve been so darned busy) but I received a comment on my previous post which I feel bears addressing:

Dear Annie,

I saw the preview for your Western Point skirt today on the IK site, and noted that it is made with Tilli Tomas yarn also. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but why are you using a yarn that is so expensive? I don’t know one knitter that can afford that yarn, much less to make such a big item like a skirt. If I were interested in make a design with this yarn, it would take some serious research to get a yarn that has the same drape, heft, sheen, etc. but without a $35/sk price tag. What gives, Annie?

– Christina

Christina, I feel your pain. Here’s how I explain it:

When designing a sweater, or any garment, there are parameters which have to be set. Generally, for me, these involve (but are not limited to) the following criteria:

Is it do-able (physically possible for someone else to create)
Is it attractive or interesting to inspire someone to make it?
Does it break any barriers or do anything new?
Will it be fun to work up?
Do I like it – would I like to make it if I saw it published?

Sidebar to these main concerns are:

Can it be made to be flattering on a variety of figure types?
Does the cost of the materials justify the garment?

It’s important to have some limitations when designing – in fact, I find parameters a good way to focus my mind and compel myself to be a bit more creative. But I can’t make every person happy with every design.

The answer to Christina’s question is that the Tilli Tomas yarn is the only yarn that felt 100% right for this skirt. There is NO other yarn out there that had inspired me – for this skirt – like the Tilli Tomas did.

By definition, a skirt will take a lot of yarn – and in the case of this skirt the design came first, yarn choice second.

When a sample ball of the yarn was sent to me I realized that it was such a perfect fit that I had to change the yarn originally intended for the skirt. The drape, the flow, the lightness of a knitted fabric ribbon is a wonderful thing – and excellent for a skirt. I felt very lucky that I found the perfect fiber for my design.

I’ve known (KNOW!) what it’s like to have a limited budget. To make this skirt will be expensive; you will either pay in $$, or you will pay in time spent finding or making a substitute. For many knitters this is part of the challenge that is quite enjoyable. In the case of Nile and Cleopatra, I hadn’t found another yarn that fulfilled the same feeling as the Tilli Tomas yarn.

Yes, you can find substitutes for this yarn. Alternatively, you could buy some silk dupioni yarn and cut it into strips and knit with that (the yarn created by this technique will be similar to the new Lantern Moon yarn by Leigh Radford, which has thready edges and is connected with knots. I will have a skirt worked up in this yarn in my book, Romantic Knits – yes, another skirt!) I know that involves a lot of work, but anything worthwhile is going to take sacrifice (either in expense or time) and – when all is said and done – that’s part of the whole beauty of knitting.

We put a lot into our knitting – those of us who are fortunate to be able to afford expensive yarns buy them without thinking twice. Most of us save up and buy something special when we can afford it. Many of us choose less expensive alternatives (and there are some magnificent ones out there!). I try to cover a broad range of yarns and prices in my books (Men Who Knit will feature several items worked up in Knit Picks yarns to provide a balance of yarns for several price ranges.

So I guess the short answer is that what gives is that I could not have made that skirt in any other yarn – I wasn’t inspired to do it. I tried, but the Nile and Cleopatra yarn spoke to me in a way that I couldn’t ignore. And the Tilli Tomas is amazingly fun to knit with – that is something I can’t ignore, either!

Regularly Scheduled
I was going to post about my knitters for this book, and how the process has been a tremendous learning experience. There have been two instances where garments weren’t completed, but I feel that these ended up being positive for both myself and the knitter in question (I hope!) In both instances I had to finish the garment and learned a lot about explaining exactly what it is I’m looking for in a knitter.

I’ve been amazingly gratified, though, with the high quality of the knitting that’s come in. I was stunned to receive this skirt back from HOLLAND about 2 weeks after I’d sent it to Miriam Tegels (the world’s fastest knitter) – she did a MAGNIFICENT job on it! If she wasn’t off camping right now I’d have her knit up another project (or 3) for me!

This lovely sweater came in from Oregon – Carol’s working up a pair of stockings for me, too – THANKS Carol!

This was one of the unfinished pieces. My knitter worked like a maniac on it, and did a WONDERFUL job, but it wasn’t until she was binding off that she realized how far off the gauge was. This has happened to EVERYONE – and I felt under pressure due to time constraints, but not really upset with the knitter – it was more of a communication failure than anything else, and communication takes two people!

Since the garment was easily twice the size it needed to be, I did a little judicious sew, cut & sewing and have altered the pattern a bit. It’s still a surplice, it’s still lace, but now it ties in the front. The pattern will, of course, be rewritten to reflect this. This happens every now and then, and quite often it turns out being a very happy accident!

Back to my knitting – a skirt to finish today, some lace edging to add to another piece AND two hats to work up. Wish me luck!

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