a tale of one (or two or three or four…) yarn

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I’d like to use the opportunity of today’s topic to talk about an issue which is of everyday concern to knitters in my region, Southeast Europe, but which I rarely see mentioned on blogs from other countries. When bloggers from the UK and the US (my main source of company for morning coffee) start to write about yarn, they are inevitably writing about some luxurious blend that they couldn’t resist, some brand name they got on a bargain, or some cheap yarn that surprised them with its quality. Yet, when I go to the yarn shop here in Croatia, there are completely different worries on my mind.

While I am personally very lucky to travel quite a bit abroad, and use my travels as an opportunity to treat myself to an occasional brand-name, luxury-blend, high-quality yarn, like many knitters here for most of my projects I still depend on what is offered locally. There is one big yarn factory in Croatia and most of what’s on offer is due to it. The name of the factory is Unitas, and the names of the yarns always make me smile – they are simply popular Croatian female names. I rarely use my namesake – Ivana, because its colours never appeal to me, but its existence makes me happy nonetheless.

If you want variety of colour and weight, Unitas is your best choice in Croatia. The problem is, there is sometimes a bit too much variety. I present to you: several colours of Unitas Lucija.

All the yarns pictured above are from my stash, and every single one of them has the same label:

The composition is 50% wool and 50% acrylic. The recommended needle size 3 – 3.5mm. On Ravelry, Unitas Lucija is listed as a fingering weight. All good so far. But look closer. Do these look like the same yarn to you?

Not to me. And it ain’t the colour that’s the problem. Unitas simply doesn’t seem to have grasped the idea the yarns of the same name should preferably have the same characteristics. These yarns are not the same weight, they knit up to a different gauge, their elasticity ranges from completely stiff to wonderfully bouncy, some of them feel like they are pure acrylic and some like they contain mohair, and they are not even remotely spun or plied in the same way.

From left to right:

  • a soft 2-ply,
  • a strange novelty yarn in which the two colours feel like they’re glued, rather than plied together,
  • a single ply that resembles raw roving and breaks easily,
  • a construction of many thin tiny threads that seem to have been joined together in an i-cord method.

All. The. Same. Yarn.

I’d like to note here that I didn’t select these yarns with the intention of emphasizing the differences – I just pulled out all the skeins of Unitas Lucija I have in my stash and started taking photos. And it’s not a problem of just Lucija. There is the same problem with Marija, Ana, and all the other female-named yarns from Unitas’ offer. Yes, even with Ivana.

Have you ever seen a Rowan or a KnitPicks or a Drops yarn that has this much variation in itself? And can you imagine the problems of trying to select matching yarn for a project that requires two colours of the same yarn? Or the frustration of never knowing what gauge the yarn will be, even though you’ve worked with the same yarn ten times before? Or not knowing if it will be splitty or not, because you are encountering ten different plying methods in one shelf full of the same yarn? These are the problems knitters in my neck of the woods face every time they enter a yarn shop.

And that’s why I don’t need to write about two yarns today. I can take the same yarn and write ten different stories about it. It might sound like a fun idea at first, but when it comes to practicality, it quickly loses its appeal.

I just thought it was time someone finally said something about it.

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About fridica

I started knitting completely by accident, when I was visiting my parents for a holiday in 2008. On a boring Sunday afternoon, I decided to dig through their stash of books to see if there was anything interesting to take back to my apartment. A knitting manual happened to be one of the books I found. I got curious, my mom immediately dug out her old needles and yarn stash (which she hadn’t used in a decade at least), and in a few minutes we were both casting on - she by memory, I by following the instructions from the book… :) Since I normally prefer learning from books, this was ideal.. I took the book home with me, and very very soon - I was an addict.

56 thoughts on “a tale of one (or two or three or four…) yarn

  1. What an ace post. So interesting and unexpected.

    I can’t imagine yarn shopping with almost no idea what you’re getting. I guess it rules out a lot of online shopping.

  2. We are talking about this all the time in Serbia. And conclusion is that Unitas needs to pay some fees for every new yarn (label) that puts on market. So that is why they put different yarns under same label (to save the money). One friend of ours knows much more about this, and I bet she’ll leave you a great comment with more infos ;)

    • Bah, I’m sure most of us would rather they had less variety, but focused on making several yarns higher quality. I’m looking forward to hearing from “one friend of ours” – who is it who is it? :))))

      • Mislim da nam je “igla za heklanje” ;) pricala o tome na nekim od nasih skupova

  3. oh that is AWFUL! That must be so frustrating to see lovely projects online and not be able to get matching yarn except by luck! I guess all you can do is buy a yarn you like in enough quantity to make something, swatch and then try to match gauge with a pattern on Ravelry. It seems like the only way to go. How frustrating it must be. You’ll have to cultivate a friendly Brit to post yarns from the UK!

    • Honestly, I think the knitters here (at least the older ones) are simply used to it – most of them don’t really knit from patterns so I guess they’re not bothered too much, they just make up their gauge as they go along. It’s the “new generation” of knitters, the online-global-community-pattern-based ones that are really upset about it.

  4. Who knew that was possible? Don’t they care about quality-control or anything like that? How much money do you think it really saves? Geez — you’ve got a tough time.

    Pretty colors though :)

  5. That sounds massively frustrating. I don’t know what I would have done if that had been my yarn selection as a beginner. It took me a really long time to develop an eye for yarn so I was pretty dependent on the label.

  6. oh my gosh, this is so fascinating! And especially relevant to me, since I’m going to be in Croatia in May, and was totally wondering about the yarn! I’ll send you a private message, maybe you can point me in the right direction and give me some tips. :)

  7. That’s a really interesting post. It seems to me the company is shooting itself in the foot and positively encouraging its Croatian customers to buy overseas brands on the internet. I agree that you should write to them – why not suggest they read what you’ve written here?!

    • Unfortunately, most customers won’t, because they are vastly less expensive than buying online. A 50g skein of this yarn is about EUR 1.50… I wouldn’t mind them being more expensive in order to get quality, but I’m guessing most people are going with cheap.

  8. Wow. WOW. That is insane. Does it at least match when you buy a bunch of the same color at one time? Gives new meaning to ‘some variation between lots’.

    • Hehe, yes, lots and colours are the same. They have colours numbered in the hundreds, so I guess when they’re numbering them they take into account both the plying method AND the colour. E.g. the two whiteish natural coloured yarns pictured are numbered as different “colours”, so you at least have that to guide you…

  9. Goodness! What an experience yarn shopping must be for you! I’ve been inside a couple of Polish yarn shops, and I’m guessing that is a similar experience. Will the balls of one colour all be the same, or can one batch differ? Crazy!!!

    • Hehe, yes, lots and colours are the same. They have colours numbered in the hundreds, so I guess when theyre numbering them they take into account both the plying method AND the colour. E.g. the two whiteish natural coloured yarns pictured are numbered as different colours, so you at least have that to guide you

  10. That is absolutely crazy! I was not crocheting when I was in Croatia, but, was given some hanfmade doilies…so is does thread yarn have the same problem? So interesting to read the differences….guess we have it really good in the US…

    • No, I don’t think there’s the same problem with thread for crochet doilies – and I think that’s a more popular hobby than knitting (at least for older women)…

  11. Very interesting post! And how weird that all the yarns have the same name! Although it is cool that they have a yarn with your name :)

    Greek brands do give different names to their yarns most of the time, but it’s not always easy to find it on the label!

  12. Wow, my condolences!
    I live in Israel where shops carry mostly Turkish and Italian yarn. The few local yarn companies mostly make acrylic in garish colors, so usually I avoid them.
    Apparently one of the Turkish companies, Nako, has a single yarn name that’s like a grab bag of weird mill ends, or something similar. The yarn is called “Export” and has no yardage, weight, color etc. on the label. One ball of “Export” that I bought was a 75-25 wool-nylon sock yarn (100g), another ball was a worsted-weight tweedy acrylic (50g). Ravelry shows that the “Export” yarn also comes in bulky – with the exact same label.
    I find all of this amusing (rather than annoying) because my LYS never tried to pass this jumble as different colors of a single yarn. Sorry for the long rant :)

  13. Thanks for putting together this post. I have heard of this before but never seen it. Makes your yarn shopping look more adventurous than mine. I’m glad you are able to travel abroad to get more regulated yarns.

  14. I’m trying to figure out why they would create such different yarns under one name instead of many? Anyway, I enjoyed learning about it! Cheers!

    • O’s comment (third one from the top) might explain a thing or two… It seems possible that they have to pay a fee for every new yarn type they register, and so to avoid that they simply don’t register them. I’m not sure if that’s just a theory but it sounds plausible.

    • Aw, now I feel bad for giving Croatia a bad name! :) But instead of buying yarn you could go for some wonderfully crafted lace (particularly famous and special is the one from the island of Pag). You’ll definitely come across lots of handcrafts in souvenir shops, so that might be a nice replacement for yarns!

  15. Amen to everything you wrote. I don’t even try to buy Unitas yarns by weight or fibre content anymore (when I was a true knitting n00b I asked if they have 100% merino for 3 mm needles. You should have seen the look the sales lady gave me.). Nowadays I mostly look at the color and then decide if I want to knit with that fibre/texture/needle size or not.

  16. Thanks for bringing this up, I’ve had that problem with Unitas for ages but didn’t want to criticize them in case someone might be offended. Not that it doesn’t happen with other yarn manufacturers but nowhere as much as with Unitas, they have a serious problem with consistency.

  17. This is such an interesting post, Ivana. Here in Italy, I usually have no major problems with yarn – though the selection is much more limited than it is abroad – but I have the kind of issues you describe for almost all other crafting supplies.
    PS I didn’t quite realize that this blog event was running this week already — I think I’ll probably end up following it through your blog :)

  18. I LOVE this post. I can’t afford to travel abroad, so I relish the opportunities to learn bits about life around the world.

    Your yarn situation is incredibly frustrating. I admire you for soldiering on! I can’t imagine doing colorwork with such randomly plied yarns!

    Thanks for sharing.

  19. That’s an interesting post! Just enjoyed reading and looking at the photos – and you have to be strong to survive such variety in yarn by the same name :)

  20. A da isti ovaj tekst prevedeš i pošalješ Unitasu? Po meni nije pošteno prema kupcima pod jednu etiketu stavljati različite proizvide. Čak i onima koji nemaju iskustva u pletenju dovoljan je jedna pogled na sliku niti da shvati kako nije riječ o istom proizvodu. O cijeni se može diskutirati, 1.50 euro nije mnogo, ali ako platiš 100% vunu 1.95 euro, dakle neznatno više u odnosu na njihovu cijenu, k tome svaki put kao da igraš lutriju i ne znaš što će iz štrenice izaći onda ipak je puno.
    Vrlo često nailazim na njihove konce ovdje u Italiji, zadnji koji sam ugledala je bio za Coats, dakle Unitas radi za strane partnere, pa nije isključeno da se nešto od tih viškova nađe pod domaćom etiketom.

    • O, to mi je stvarno nova informacija, nisam imala pojma da rade za strane partnere! Moda su to zaista ti “vikovi”, ali ini mi se da je Unitas nekako dosljedniji u toj svojoj nedosljednosti, tj. da je vjerojatnija mogunost koju je Olga spomenula, da moraju platiti dodatne mare za svaki novi tip vune koji stave na trita pa to onda ovako zaobilaze.

      Iskreno, malo me strah uletavati naim firmama s ovakvim upitima, jer sam imala ve neugodnih iskustava da umjesto da objasne budu bezobrazni i izlaze s nebulozama tipa “tko vas plaa da to govorite/piete”…

  21. That’s so frustrating. But the worst thing is (don’t know if you’ve noticed this) that sometimes, the same yarn in the same color, but different dye lot has some of the same problems. I remember running out of yarn once (if I remember correctly the yarn was Irena) and when I went to buy more I discovered they only had a different dye lot then mine was. Now, the shade wasn’t all that different but the “new” stuff was much more elastic and the gauge was also slightly different.
    At least they haven’t managed to mess up their cotton yarns yet ;)

    • I hadn’t noticed that :( I do usually buy more than should be enough for a project, so I haven’t had may occasions where I ran into a different dyelot of the same colour. Actually, most of the dyelots I’ve seen were numbered “1”, which made me think that Unitas never repeats a colour, and that they only ever have dyelot 1 :D

  22. By far the most interesting post on today’s Knitting and Crochet Blog Week topic! Thanks for sharing this highly surprising issue – I guess you’ll have to make a lot of single-coloured knits then… I don’t think I’ve even encountered a yarn where there was ANY difference between the colours. Except maybe that black dye is usually very hard on the fibres.

  23. Pingback: Yarn Shopping in Istanbul – Tarihi Kürkçü Han – Laylock

  24. Holy Horse!

    I am so glad to get an entirely new perspective about locally available yarn from someone who lives in another country. It makes me ashamed to ever complain about yarn available here in the US.

  25. I expect the same quality on all yarn with the same name, but I understand that’s not the case in your country.
    Internet shopping is a bliss :)

    • If only internet shopping would do it for me… I’m not a big fan when it comes to yarn shopping online! And also, with customs fees, it can be quite a bit more expensive than normally…

  26. please could you provide the exact adress of the yarn factory? I can no find it in internet justo to have the adress and the opening times, than you so much for your help

    • I don’t have it, sorry. There used to be a shop off the main square in Zagreb, but I haven’t checked back in more than 5 years, so it might have closed by now.

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