Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Just Like Consumer Reports. For Yarn.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about scarves. Thanks, Lolly! One that I am just dying to cast on is the very popular "My So-Called Scarf" in that lovely Manos del Uruguay Wildflowers wool I bought on my yarn crawl. Then I got to thinking. (Uh-oh.) If I wanted to make more of these scarves as gifts, maybe I could save a little money by using Lion Brand Landscapes instead. As Gwen Stefani might have sang, "I'd have all the Manos in the world, if I were a wealthy girl." But I'm not.

But would I really be getting a better deal? I set out to do a little comparison shopping and thought you all might be interested in what I learned. So, here I present another in an occassional series of Lion Brand v. Fancy Yarn smackdowns!

My-So Called Scarf calls for two skeins of Manos del Uruguay multicolored yarn. That's 276 yards of a heavy worsted-weight yarn. It's 100% wool. At the LYS where I purchased it, it cost $14.99 a skein, but I found it at Jimmy Beans Wool for $13.50 a skein and a limited selection of colors can be found at eBay Express for only $9.99 a skein.* If you buy it at Jimmy Beans, you'll pay $27 for the yarn to make this scarf. This is unequivocally a beautiful, soft, delicious yarn that is also a fair trade product.

On to the Lion Brand alternative. Landscapes looks a lot like Manos or Malabrigo. It's a space-dyed, unplied soft yarn which comes in 55 yard balls. However, it's 50% wool and 50% acrylic. It's a bulkier weight than the Manos, so let's assume you would need a little less of it. Four balls would give you 220 yards, probably plenty to make a similarly-sized So-Called Scarf. In the Lion Brand catalog, Landscapes is sold for $5.99 a ball. I found it at Knitting Warehouse for only $4.73 a ball. If you buy your yarn from Knitting Warehouse, the project will cost you $18.92. It's important to note that although this yarn has a high synthetic content, it is not machine washable. Lion Brand claims that it will felt with machine washing and drying.

Conclusions: I have knit a scarf with Landscapes and I get many compliments on it. But it's not nearly as soft and pretty as the Manos yarn. If you buy Manos, you are providing economic opportunity to rural craftswomen, who are being paid fairly. You are also getting 100% wool rather than a synthetic. If you are willing to be flexible about your color choices, you can buy the yarn for this project on eBay for just a dollar or so more than you would pay for the Lion Brand yarn. I could charitably say that it's a toss-up, but to me, getting a natural fiber that's handspun and dyed is worth the extra money. You can make the call.

* I'm going to ignore shipping costs, as they can vary widely. To keep things simple, I'm just going to compare the cost of the yarn. One could say that the Lion Brand yarn has a cost advantage in that it can be found in big-box craft stores, avoiding shipping costs, but the ones that I frequent don't always carry it.


Blogger Karen said...

What a great comparison. I agree - for a few extra dollars, I'd go with the Manos too. Natural fibers and economic opportunity are worth it to me.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Liz K. said...

Thanks for the informative post. I certainly prefer paying more to support craftswomen who produce a superior product than two corporate bohemoths, Lion Brand and the Big Box.

12:19 PM  
Blogger jillian said...

Excellent post! I believe that natural fibers and quality yarn is worth the cost - and especially when the cost, when you really get down to it, isn't that far apart. I see Lion trying to fake out the consumer - thinking they are getting the best deal, but the informed consumer would see otherwise!

1:37 PM  
Blogger Ava said...

Thank you! I didn't know Manos was fairtrade. Makes me feel good about buying it, though I wish I'd thought to look for it on eBay first! (Love your blog!)

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that's a very interesting comparison. i'm kind of a bit fussy when i buy my yarn. im not really a big fan of synthetics, so i would spend the extra for the pure wool. also, i want to be able to enjoy the yarn when i am knitting with it (otherwise it's likely that i wont finish the project) and the manos looks like it would be a treat to knit with. i would tend to knit less projects but use yarn that i really enjoy. :0) x

4:26 PM  
Blogger Lolly said...

Very interesting comparison, Laura (and thanks for the plug on the scarves group!) I too would choose the Manos... or even the Malabrigo, which I got at $12 / skein from It really is worth it, in my book!

When is the show? soon, right?

4:43 PM  
Blogger Glaistig said...

I have some Landscapes in my stash and it's not bad at all. But who can resist Manos? Not me. In fact, I don't know whether I will ever end up using the Landscapes skeins so if you'd like some (for free baby), just let me know! I can take some pics or give you the color refs :)

5:54 PM  
Blogger Dr. B. said...

Thank you so much for the "My So Called Scarf" pattern. All the Manos in my stash that has thwarted and mocked me at every turn will finally see who's boss with this pattern. I can feel it.

Also, thanks for the great (and ethical) analysis!

6:49 PM  
Blogger msubulldog said...

Okay, dang it! I'm going to cast on for that Manos sweater! Tonight! :P

7:18 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

Plus, if you buy it in person you have to pay sales tax anyway.

And how did you know I've been toying with the idea of making one of these? Scary!

10:53 PM  
Blogger Anastasia said...

Actually, there's a couple of people on eBay who will buy Manos in Peru and ship it to you for $4.99/skein plus shipping - the user is southwool.

10:58 PM  
Blogger Kristy said...

This is a great comparison you've done. I've knit from the Landscapes, too, and it is not nearly as wonderful as the Manos. Unless you are knitting several of the scarves, I'd say the Manos truly is worth it. I've also knit the My So Called Scarf pattern and it is wonderful. A very rythmic, fun knit and the results are of course fabulous!

12:15 AM  
Anonymous JessaLu said...

Thanks for the comparison - I haven't seen or touched Lion Brand yarn in months...and I haven't seen any of the new stuff (I don't live near a Joanne's or Michaels...and I'm not allowed in the craft section of Walmart anymore...long story) :o)

4:28 PM  
Blogger Mama Urchin said...

I love when you do posts like this. It's nice to be reminded to think through a yarn choice.

11:45 AM  
Blogger mary said...

Brilliant review and comparison! I agree with Lolly that you could use Malabrigo. It's one of my favorites, and you can get it on WEBS at a great price. When all of your knitting friends pool their order together, it's scary how easy it is to hit that $125 mark and get 25% off. That makes the scarf $18! Plus, each hank is about 215 yards, so you'll have plenty left over for the next one.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Rachel said...

I'd subscribe to an all-yarn Consumer Reports. I can't get enough of yarn reviews, and your persuasive cost-benefit analysis is, well, persuasive. (Great observation there, Rachel.)

I don't know how Lion Brand has pulled the wool/synthetic over the eyes of so many for so long. I'm glad I am aware of the alternatives!

10:06 PM  

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