How much is a Jumper worth?
Primark Autumn/Winter 2015 collection have this rather nice Aran knit for £10. They don’t say what it’s made from but I’m guessing acrylic, probably made on a machine in a factory paying at the most minimum wage. For those buying it, I expect, it’ll end up worn for a short while and end up in a charity shop for the start of summer.
Yeah, I suppose, from a distance no one knows it’s acrylic, and some might even imagine a relative with Irish ancestry knitting a traditional Aran just for their favourite niece or grandaughter. Maybe.
I recently heard a talk from Rosemary Eribe who runs a knitwear company in Scotland. Her jumpers start at £175 and I suppose when you have to choose between a £10 and £175 jumper most people would sit firmly on one or the other sides of the fence.
But here’s a thought, how long will the acrylic jumper last? It’s designed for one season, and recently I’ve found myself sewing up seams for a neighbour who’s a bit partial to cheap clothing. Thankfully my neighbour has me next door who doesn’t mind sewing up a sweater seam (it’s always the seams). But for those who don’t live near by you could be paying another £10 to get that repair done.
Then there’s the concience cost, as a person who’s experienced poverty I don’t like the idea that I’m climbing out of the pit by standing on the shoulders of someone else. You couldn’t even buy the acrylic wool to make a jumper for under a tenner, so somewhere, something is being cut.
Actually, how many sweaters do you need? I don’t have any, I have a couple hoodies, still being a bit of a tomboy I guess. I’d like one, but I just haven’t found the one I want yet. Yep, I’d like one. Not a cupboard full, just one. I’d rather save and buy one perfect jumper than pay for a sweater every few months that will get thinner with every wash, isn’t insulated, so not warm in winter (which defies the point of one) and will last for a few years at least.
Eribe sell hand knitted items, yep hand knitted, by Scottish knitters. A bit like the shreddies knitting nanas, but real. I like machine knitting (most of my degree seems to be on machine knitting) but there’s no comparison to a hand knitted jumper.
I was in a class at Uni last year talking to a tutor about quality. I’m assuming the tutor isn’t a wool worker because she asked why I wouldn’t consider acrylic as a quality yarn. I gave no answer, where would I begin?
Wool is a hollow fibre, which traps air keeping you warm. It has an amazing abilies listed in great detail on the Woolmark page. Words like Natural, warm and cool, odourfree, biodegradable, stain-resistant, static-resistant, breathable, soft and renewable all come to mind.
You can have your £10 acrylic, that is man-made, doesn’t wick sweat away, doesn’t keep you warm… in other words doesn’t do the job a sweater is made to do. Or you can invest in a traditionally made, pure wool, UK made jumper that will last far longer than a one season fad.
But here’s the other reason to consider jumping from the cheap side. Tradition.
I’ve been considering my jumper for a while (I spent less time choosing my tattoo) I want a gansey sweater, you can get these knitted for you in Whitby for a reasonable cost. Y’see, my dad’s family were fishermen, and a gansey becomes a link to my heritage.
The patterns on ganseys and arans were local to the place you came from, and I want to choose a pattern that links my family and me. I want a heritage sweater that says I’m from fishermen stock, I have salmon fishing in my blood, but I also come from a Christian family, so I want to include a pattern that recognises that part of my life. That’s what these patterns did, they told stories.
I want my jumper to be more than “that’s what we’re wearing in 2015” but a story of a family, a heritage. Suddenly £175 doesn’t seem all that much (and lets be honest, a tattoo often costs much more).
Of course, for those who still think the price is far too high, you can always take up knitting and make your own. That’s what I might end up doing, I’ve been spinning a lot of Bluefaced Leicester recently in a blend of natural sheep colours.