Sometimes I'm asked why I often use 'cheap' yarn in my samples. At other times, I see 'cute' signs proclaiming "Life's too short to knit with cheap yarn!" I thought I'd take a moment to talk about these concepts.
First of all, what IS 'cheap' yarn? Obviously, it's non-luxury, less expensive- but how much less expensive does it have to be to qualify as 'cheap'? It's relative, isn't it? Although every knitter seems to have a different definition, I would guess that the most people probably mean acrylic yarns available through mass market retailers, like Michael's or Walmart or similar chains.
One point of view is that a knitter is going to be spending (depending on the project) hours, weeks, months, or even longer working with the yarn in question, and then, someone will (hopefully) be enjoying the finished project for months, years, generations even. Looking at it that way, certainly buying the very best yarn you can afford, and that you will enjoy working with, makes sense. I would never discourage a knitter from indulging in the most beautiful, tactile yarn he or she could afford to use.
On the other hand, there's an important caveat there- "could afford to use." So many knitters, for one reason or another, have quite limited yarn budgets- and the more you knit, the more yarn you need to buy! For some knitters, 'cheap' yarns are all they can afford, even using sales and coupons. I have seen the argument that by shopping online and finding closeouts and bargains, one can buy much higher quality yarn at mass-retailer prices, which may be true, and I'm always in favor of shopping around and getting a bargain- if that's what someone chooses to do.
I guess what really bothers me is the way even in the knitting community people judge each other. I've heard some hurtful comments about people's yarn choices, and seen customers shamed in yarn stores for asking for acrylic yarns. Too many times I've seen knitters embarrassed, and seen them feel like they had to apologize for their yarn choices, and justify them.
I know some knitters who are self proclaimed "yarn snobs." I think that's great- if you're a snob about your OWN yarn choices. There are so many options out there now- vegan, hand dyed, environmentally beneficial, locally sourced, fair trade, recycled, reclaimed, I can't even begin to list all the categories. Whether you choose your yarns by environmental impact, color, washability, sustainability, or by what's on sale, enjoy them. If someone asks for your recommendation, or your philosophy on yarn choice, please share! But as with so many other things, let's be supportive of each other, and let's remember that what brings us together- our love for knitting- is so much more important than divisions like yarn choice. After all, the greatest factor in any knitted project isn't the yarn choice, it's the love and time and skill put into completing it.