How I Learned to Love Red Heart

by Cathy on April 22, 2012

Don't hate me because I'm not beautiful.

Is it wrong to hate a yarn? Doesn’t every yarn have something to offer?

Eyelash yarn was once cool. I knitted a few long eyelash scarves in my day. I’ve even seen it used effectively as an accent in a felted purse. And that popcorn yarn can be crocheted into an interesting necklace/scarf that makes you say, “Wha?”

But what I’m really talking about here is Red Heart Super Saver. The “beginner’s yarn.” The one that makes yarn store employees want to shriek when they see a customer walk into the store with it in their plastic grocery bag along with their aluminum needles and asking sheepishly, “Can you help me with this?” Well, if throwing the whole thing in the garbage is helping, then yes, yes I can.

What I often find is that the yarn, needles, and grocery bag aren’t the problem. This is a beginning knitter. They don’t know any better. It’s my job to educate them about dropped stitches, proper cast on, and give them a healthy dose of self-confidence. As I deftly move the stitches back and forth on the needles and magically raise the stray dropped stitch back onto the needle, I educate my new knitter about what I’m doing, find out how they got started knitting, figure out how to direct them on the right path.

I started out on acrylic yarn and aluminum needles way back when. I don’t remember there being any other kind of yarn; at least anything that I thought I could afford. Being an avid child crafter, I then as a teenager took easily to crocheted Granny Squares. When I taught myself to knit a few years later using Reader’s Digest book of Needlework, I produced beautiful sweaters, albeit with acrylic fiber. Nowadays, I crochet and knit blankets for Project Linus and we need to use acrylic yarn so the blankets will be washable. Red Heart is the go-to yarn for Project Linus because it’s inexpensive. I agree that it is the roughest feeling acrylic out there and I don’t use it unless it has been given to me for Project Linus. My personal go-to yarn for PL blankets is Caron One Pounder. Now that is a soft yarn. I find that some of the “new” soft yarns like, TLC, or Red Heart’s version, are actually too soft and limp. I truly love Vanna White’s yarn and her modern color palette. Michael’s “house brand” Impeccable yarn is very nice. There are plenty of affordable acrylic alternatives out there.

This brings me again to the issue of education. New knitters just don’t know what’s available. Someone gave them or told them about Red Heart and that’s why they’re using it. Someone gave them those aluminum needles and taught them how to knit. That may be the extent of knowledge that person has about knitting. When that grocery-bag-holding, aluminum-needle-wielding, Red Heart user walks into my knitting store, I want to give them the best feeling they’ve ever had about knitting. I will tell them that there are yarn alternatives. I will encourage them to try a long circular needle instead of cramming 250 stitches onto their 14″ needle. I will pick up their dropped stitches and even show them how to do it. They may not buy a thing that day, but hopefully, they will have the renewed motivation to go home and give it another try.

What we don’t see in that grocery bag is the love and hope that a new knitter brings. Love for the grandchild they are knitting for. Hope that they will be able to make something with their own hands and give it with all the love they put into every stitch.

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