Not Your Grandma's Knits: Wool and the Gang

This week's Not Your Grandma's Knits started out in the usual way, with some pretty pictures that caught my eye. But the more I read about Wool and the Gang, the more intrigued I became. Turns out they're not your everyday knitwear brand. Instead of factory production, each of their ready-to-wear items is handmade by a member of "The Gang", their global network of individual knitters. They also sell kits, which contain everything you need (yarn, knitting needles, pattern and finishing tools) to knit your own item at home.d2newone BUT!! (and for some this is a pretty big but)...

These kits aren't cheap. The Lula Hoop Scarf Kit is $74 and gets you 400 grams of 100% Peruvian wool super chunky yarn, a pair of US 19 knitting needles and a pattern to create a basic loop cowl. So there's a lot of chatter on Ravelry, Twitter and knitting blogs about how outrageous the prices are, how hipster and out of touch the brand is with actual knitters and how the expense actually turns away people who want to learn to knit.

But there's also a lot of positive coverage on how Wool and the Gang has helped to make knitting glamorous and cool again, one press release even crediting the brand with "mastermind[ing] an ever-so-cool comeback" for knitting. And after researching these guys for hours on end, I agree - maybe not with the masterminding bit - but a company that gets people interested in knitting is a good thing. Some commentators declare that it's easy to choose yarn and needles and get patterns online, but I think they're forgetting how intimidating it is to face the wall of yarn at Michael's for the first time. Worsted or DK? Acrylic or wool or a blend? And what about needles? What size goes with my yarn and do I use circular, straight or DPNs? After all this trouble, will I end up with a lumpy scarf that I never even wear? If my grandmother hadn't been there to teach me, I may have been too overwhelmed to start. If you can afford it, a Wool and the Gang kit may be the thing to help you finally jump in. 

And as for the price, $74 for two balls of yarn, a pattern and a set of knitting needles sounds like a lot. But they source their yarn from sustainable producers in Peru and their needles look downright luxurious. I recently started selling knitwear and patterns and it's completely changed my view on pricing - $74 isn't just for wool and wood, it has to cover labor, packaging, marketing and so much more in overhead! Fast fashion chains have gotten us used to shockingly low prices for knitwear. But what does an $8 "disposable" sweater really cost us in terms of environmental pollution, resource depletion, labor violations and human dignity?

When all is said and done, I'm glad that Wool and the Gang is here and thriving. They want to make knitting fun and sexy and bring value back to items crafted by hand at home. And, if nothing else, their designs are pretty cool, no?

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So what do you think? Love 'em or hate 'em?

Not Your Grandma's Knits: Johan Ku

More inspiring modern knits, this time by Johan Ku, a designer born in Taipei who started as a graphic designer and is now known for his sculptural, extreme chunky knits. The first photo is from his "Wearable Art" runway collection and is more conceptual than wearable, but the two cowls and mitts from his accessories collection are SO up my alley. 41




Not Your Grandma's Knits: Sandra Backlund

Now don't get me wrong, my grandma taught me how to knit when I was nine and she was awesome. I just wanted to use this series to explore modern knits with a little more edge, to challenge the notion that all hand-knit things look like this: Knitted nightgown 1936

And, holy cow, I'm starting off with a doozy: Swedish fashion designer Sandra Backlund who uses knits in the most astonishing and sculptural ways. Wearable for the average human being? Maybe not. But breathtakingly inspiring? Hell yes.