Monday, March 21, 2016

Another Yarn Yarn

I'm sure this has happened to you. You nip to the local yarn store for just one skein that you need immediately to finish/enhance a current project. Their friendly personnel help you find said skein right away--hurray! But since you're in this yarn store and you haven't been to this particular one for a while, it would be a good idea to have a quick scout around to see what they've got these days in case you have another yarn emergency. Emergency preparedness, right?

And so it was with me. Just running my eyes over the goods until--oh my stars and garters!! A big ol' heap of one of my very favorite yarns, now discontinued, Rowan Denim by name. On sale! 50% off! OK, it wasn't in one of the actual indigo blue shades that behave so bluejeans-y when washed and worn. It was ecru, but still...

Reader, I succumbed. To all 26 balls:

If you're not familiar with this denim yarn, you may not know that because of its built-in shrinkage, it must be knit to its own specific patterns. There's no substitution. For a while, sold a knockoff yarn, that was much like the Rowan, but sadly, it, too, is no longer with us.

Once home with my bulging bag of cotton, I hauled out my old Rowan magazines to hunt for the sort of gansey pattern I dimly remembered from those august publications in the '90s. I knitted a plain blue gansey with Rowan denim long ago, and finally had to part from it when the denim wear pattern began to lighten up the boobage area on my front and to highlight the girls in a way that was most unseemly. (At least that won't happen with ecru!)

That was when I fell down a nostalgic rabbit hole. Do you remember Rowan in its heyday? The tunic lengths! The baggy volume! It was a heckofa way to sell a ton of yarn.

In Rowan's defense, it was a British company conceiving garments for a British climate, and of  course people needed to show off their knitting chops while chilling in houses without central heating or walking colourfully on the windy heath. Plenty of room under there for more woolen layers and maybe a hot water bottle or heated brick or two.

But not only did the large mass of the sweaters demand a lot of yarn, there was an insane intarsia design trend, possibly the acme of this technique, that required the purchase of many, many balls of yarn, of which you would only use a few yards. Stocks of knitting bobbin companies soared, I'm sure. And it all probably peaked with this amazing pattern:

Persian Carpet, by Donna Lauren. It calls for 30 (30!) different shades of Rowan DK yarn. I don't know how you could use the chart without blowing it up to the size of a table top. 30 colors means 30 different chart symbols. Did anyone ever actually make this sweater? I checked on Ravelry to see. No projects, and in only 2 queues. How long would you dangle this thing in your queue before you cast on? Probably forever, in my case. There would always be something I wanted more than to fiddle with over 30 bobbins and weave in umpty-gazillion (an actual count) ends.

The end of this trawl through nostalgic Rowanland was to wonder if these dead tree publications have any resale value. The answer is yes, indeedy! Many of mine weren't shown on Ebay, but the older numbers seem to go for $20-$40, and one rarity for $120. Don't get your hopes up or your bankrolls out yet though, folks. Old Rowan magazine $20, knitting nostalgia--priceless!

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