Thursday, April 19, 2007

how much is too much?

so yesterday, i spent much of the day looking for subs for the SKB. i looked at cotton/silk blends, cotton/linen blends, cotton/bamboo blends, cotton/synthetic blends, silk/bamboo blends, bamboo and silk subs. and basically, i didn't come up with anything that made me 100% happy. the prices ranged from around $40 (including the price of beads) to $150 for the tilli tomas.

which brings me to my main topic. how much is too much money to pay for a sweater? i'm leaving aside all the TT controversy for now. i just want to know generally--how do you decide if the cost is worth it?

so far, the most expensive sweater i have knit is Sahara.
Sahara from StitchDiva
the hipknits silk cost me around $80, with shipping from UK and the exchange rate. $80 is a lot of money, but i have worn the sweater constantly since i've finished it--maybe more than any other sweater i've knit so far. (except maybe Glee, and really--it wasn't inexpensive either) although the stretching has made it more like a loose-fitting tunic, and the pilling is annoying, the sweater is still soft and shiny. it is neither too hot nor too cold, and it works well in multiple seasons. the hand-dyed colors are unique and i can be certain that no one else in the world has one just like it. i get compliments every time that i wear it, especially from Spicy Jesse, who refers to it as my "sexy sweater." to me, that 80 dollars was definitely worth it.

i guess what i am getting at is how much of a bargain is a bargain if you never wear the finished garment? generally i am good at shopping around, and most of the sweaters i have knit have been in the $25-$40 range. but how well did i really make out on this $10 knitpicks tank that i have worn maybe 1 or 2 times? there seems to be very little correlation between price of materials and overall satisfaction with the finished garment. i suppose it is a relief that sweaters can always be frogged and made into something else if you are unhappy with the result. i will probably end up ripping out soleil and recycling the knitpicks shine. even if it was only $10, it's going to waste if i never wear it.

and i am very lucky that i'm on the smaller end of the spectrum. i would imagine the average price of a plus-sized woman's sweater would be significantly higher than what i typically pay, even if you constantly shop for deals. i purchased a bag of rowan calmer to make my mom a sweater for her birthday for about $100. and it was on sale. it stinks that the stakes go up even higher the larger the size you knit.

i just wish that there was some way to predict overall satisfaction before making such an investment. my main reasons for tentatively saving for the tilli (and/or begging family members for birthday money contributions) are 1) i'm lazy and don't want to string my own beads (and more importantly--i'm not confident that i could get the right result), 2) i probably will not pick the right beads on the first try, and the cost of the garment would obviously go up the more beads i have to purchase, 3) i really want a deep cranberry red, and either the Ruby Red or the American Beauty seems like a good match. which, btw, if anyone has experience in person with the colors--i'd really appreciate your input. i don't look good in orangey reds, and i don't want burgandy or wine. i really am looking for a fresh-blood cranberry red. does one of those two shades fit the bill? 4) despite its drawbacks, i am really happy with the spun silk i used before, 5) i want this sweater to be shiny and sparkly. did i mention sparklies? 6) all the subs i've priced out that i believe i'd be happy with are all in the $100 to $120 range. and dammit, once i've already forked over $100, another $50 doesn't seem like all that much. but maybe that kind of thinking is a little ridiculous, and 7) in the past two days i've looked at a LOT of finished SKBs, and i just haven't seen any FOs with substituted yarn that compare to the finished tillis. they are just beautiful.

so i dunno. what kind of thought processes do you go through when making your decisions on yarn choices?

Edit: Some very interesting points have been brought up in the comments. Lacey, I never thought about the "entertainment" factor. it is true that going out for drinks or to dinner can get expensive quickly, so i probably should add that variable into my reasoning. i probably get just as much enjoyment out of creating something as i do during a night out on the town.

as far as the knitting challenge or skills involved: i have learned that i am not a process knitter. generally the things that i finish quickly are the ones that i am excited about wearing. i could knit the most complex aran or colorwork sweater in the world, but if it isn't flattering to wear i would likely rip it out with little remorse in losing the results. i love pretty clothes. i can waste a large portion of my day just looking at clothes, and i like figuring out how i could adapt different styles to suit my shape and taste.

i am going to stew over my options for a little while longer. even if over time it turns out to be a small and worthy investment, i don't want to make my decision based on impulse. after all, a new knitting mag or book is bound to come out and i may instantly become enamored with something else. i can't say it hasn't happened before.


  1. I generally think of $80 as a decent amount to pay for yarn for a sweater, but I wouldn't hesitate to go over if I thought it would be worthwhile. Another thing to consider, though, is whether the amount you pay for the yarn will be made worthwhile in the knitting. I have heard tales of people getting very bored with the stockinette in SKB (but mostly from Miss Violet, who seems not to love stockinette). Venezia was about $80, but I probably would have paid a little more (had it not been a gift) because I knew there'd be a lot of fun knitting time in there.

  2. Good topic. I think the most about color when I buy yarn if it's cheap yarn, and I think most about the deal I'm getting if it's more expensive yarn that's on sale. I also think about how much I've spent lately on yarn and if I can justify an expensive purchase! I find I prefer to buy a lot at a discount (like the WEBS 25% or littleknits' sales) instead of buying 1 expensive project at a time.

  3. Hmm, I have never spent even 80.00 for yarn for a sweater because I do not feel comfortable spending that much since I have other obligations other than just myself. That said, if it was just me, myself, and I, I would spend whatever amount I wanted to make a sweater.

    So if you have the money to spend, go for it. Like you said, if you spend $100.00 for a less expensive yarn, why not shell out the extra $50.00 to get exactly what you want?

  4. The thing about knitting is, making your own clothes usually isn't cheaper than buying store-bought ones. Even if you get the yarn for $10, you have to figure in the amount of time you take to make it.

    It's not about being economical - it's also entertainment, and it's a luxury. To take time and custom-tailor something for yourself. If you factor in the time you take to make it as monht don't like that particular yarn (it's very loosely spun and pulls apart easily). I don't know if I've spent that much on a single garment since... but I regularly spend $20 for a pair of socks. I will pay the price for things that are made to higher standards, and things that I specifically want.

    Anyway, I think $150 is worth it. Especially considering your experience with Sahara, and since you know you want something sparkly and silky and all that.

  5. The American Beauty I've seen is not at all orangy, but not too far toward burgundy, either. It's like prick-your-finger-blood red at its brightest, with the darker parts looking like they were lightly washed with charcoal grey. All tones of true red, no oranges or purples. It's beautiful in person. The Ruby Wine is lovely too, but a little more toward the burgundy range. If you look at the KnowKnits Simple Elegance pattern at, you'll see it knit up.

    For what it's worth, I made the SKB out of Tilli yarn, and I wear it at least once a week. After the initial few wearings, where it stretched and developed a slight fuzz, it settled down. No more stretching, no additional fuzzing.

    The beaded yarn is basically Pure And Simple loosely plied with a strand of very lightweight yarn with beads, maybe every two or three inches if I remember correctly. You could do the beading yourself. The beaded skeins come in anywhere between 75 and 130 yards, depending on the weight of the beads, but the Pure and Simple is more than 200 yards. It's a better deal to bead your own yarn. On the other hand, there's something to be said for having all of the yarn show up ready to be knit, and the beads in the Tilli yarn are so pretty...

    I'd say that it's not too much to spend if it's exactly what you want.

  6. So, sometimes blogger takes what i type in the word verification box and uses it to replace what I typed. Oops.

    What I meant to say was:

    It's not about being economical - it's also entertainment, and it's a luxury. To take time and custom-tailor something for yourself. If you factor in the time you take to make it as "entertainment" (yknow, money you aren't spending on going on drinking or to dinner or to the movies or shopping for sweaters) it's not so expensive anymore.

    The first sweater I tried to make (and never did) was from Debbie Bliss Aran Tweed, and I paid about $70 for it on sale. I wouldn't do it again, but just because I don't like that particular yarn (it's very loosely spun and pulls apart easily). I don't know if I've spent that much on a single garment since... but I regularly spend $20 for a pair of socks. I will pay the price for things that are made to higher standards, and things that I specifically want.

    Uhm.. etc and so on, see above mangled comment.

  7. That's a tricky question. You never know exactly in advance, how much you'll like a certain yarn and how it'll hold up with time, even when other people told you about it. Some of my cheapest sweaters hold up the best and some very expensiv yarns were dissapointing. I like to think they are balancing each other out... But I do think that some of todays "new and hip" yarns are expensiv because of their novelty rather than their duralbility, so I am careful.

  8. I have spent anywhere from 30 to 160 for a sweater. The way I see it, you spend so much time knitting a garment and if it turns out poorly because of the materials that is a waste. On the other hand, the most expensive sweater I made is one that I have never worn because I hate how the yarn pills (Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk) and I think it looks awful. So that sweater was totally not worth the money.

    I say, spend the money--just make sure it is worth it.

  9. I say if you extrememly love it and the yarns its made from........get it! You are worth it.

  10. I'm very much a bargain hunter, and my yarn usually comes before the pattern. But once in a while I fall in love with a pattern and splurge for the yarn. I think the most I've spent for a sweater is about 80 bucks too.
    Have you considered using Tilli Tomas yarn only for the beaded part and substitute for the rest of the sweater? That might work out cheaper.

  11. I think the TT would be lovely, especially since you do want the beads. I'd say go for it if you can. Yes, be thankful you are on the smaller spectrum. Due to my bust size very different from my shoulder size, it is a pain finding a sub if at all possible. What can be a cheap $20-40 range for someone, would be almost double for me. It can be done, I *cough* have a few sweaters worth of yarn ;)

  12. On the other hand, I'm staring at the color card for Sarah's Yarns 100% spun silk, and the Red Beauty has got to be the richest, loveliest, velvet-rope red I've ever seen. It's a cool-toned red, not orangy at all. Please buy some so I can live vicariously through your purchase.

  13. Great minds think alike, Suzanna. i have the color cards also and i was thinking the exact same thing, right before i found your comment.

    plus joanns is having a sale on beads this weekend. i think i may have found a solution!

  14. The most I have spent on a sweater is around $100. It was Dream in Color Classy and to be perfectly honest, I was disappointed. Cascade 220 sweaters have held up much better, was just as soft (if not softer) and less than half the money, especially when you can hit the $4 something sale at Webs in the spring. I have spent a lot of money on other sweaters for silk blends and a finer gauge. It is truly hard to find yarns like that at a better price, but usually, I don't buy unless I can find something on sale. I have a very limited budget, and knitting is my passion, so I do have to always be careful. 



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