Yes, you read that right. No, I’m not shilling for Red Heart. Yes, I actually typed that sentence.
If you, like me, are a 40-something who plays with brightly-coloured string, you might remember the Red Heart of the past. Acrylic yarn so rough it made the scrubber side of a kitchen sponge feel like silk. That was my opinion of the spare yarn my Grandmother had lying around. The stuff that was purpose-made for teaching little fingers to knit. The stuff that convinced me that this knitting thing was the devil’s own handiwork and that I’d much prefer to go play softball with the boys, thank you very much.
This is the reputation that Red Heart has been dealing with for the past 80-some-odd years. I bought precisely two balls of acrylic when I was re-learning how to knit, and promptly shoved them in a storage box with the cheap needles I’d picked up as soon as I found access to
Better Yarn soft wool. Soon my shelves where stocked full of merino and alpaca, and I swore I’d never touch acrylic again.
Right. Then my friends started having babies. Maybe you can see where this is going.
Yes, acrylic is improving.
I had an inkling that acrylic yarns were improving around the time someone suggested I knit a baby sweater or two. Instead, I dabbled in a baby blanket that didn’t get very far before I lost interest. At some point I bought some boutique acrylic from a local yarn store when I finally realized that baby sweaters need to be able to go in the laundry. A couple of years ago, I found that a slightly slubby acrylic had the kind of sheen I wanted for a pair of mittens for a co-worker. It’s been a slippery slope from there.
I recently decided to deepen my knowledge of crochet. Learning new crafts helps me kick-start my brain into learning other things. I think it has to do with being an experiential learner. At any rate, I have some very basic crochet skills, but haven’t used them beyond making the odd chain for a provisional cast-on. Mum gave me a crocheted doily she’d made years ago, and while I’ve tried my hand at it, I found some of the directions confusing (despite your best efforts, Leisure Arts).
I don’t like to start with easy projects.
I wanted to do something more than wash cloths or scarves, so I picked a shawl. A surprisingly easy shawl, once I found a YouTuber who was patient enough to film three videos on how to follow the pattern. Armed with this knowledge, I set off to Michaels in search of something I wouldn’t feel bad about accidentally destroying in a fit of pique. Hey, I can’t be held responsible where something lands when I pitch it across the room! I was surprised to find out that the colours I liked best were Red Heart Unforgettable. I’m a sucker for pinks, purples and blues. Some of the Unforgettable colorways seem to be calculated specifically to target me.
I was surprised at how soft the Unforgettable is! Granted, I’m crocheting with this, not knitting. Totally different way of holding the yarn. Even so, crocheting the shawl took surprisingly little time. I figured I’d be slogging away at it for a few months. It was done within a couple of weeks.
Hold on. There are still some drawbacks.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not perfect. It has a halo, somewhat like mohair, which means it sticks to itself. You better hope you find any problems quickly if you need to rip back, because after a couple of hours being manhandled, the fibres start locking together. Under other circumstances this could be a feature, but for my personal skillset, it was something to watch out for.
Otherwise, I’ve found my Red Heart experience rather pleasant. To an extent where I’ve bought more. I figure there will be another Virus Meets Granny shawl in my future, possibly a Queen Anne’s Lace scarf. In the meantime, I have an afghan that I’m working up out of a bunch of Caron Cakes I picked up on sale after Yule. I’m almost convinced that the reason crocheters keep acrylic companies afloat is through the sheer speed involved in making afghans. Particularly if, unlike knitters, you don’t have to wrap the yarn around half the fingers on one hand.
No, I haven’t forgotten about knitting. I have a perfectly fine sock that I’ve been carrying around in my purse, thank you very much! 😃