When I started to go through what so many knitters experience - the behavior of stashing - I couldn't help but notice how incredibly expensive yarn could be.
Prior to taking up knitting, I had always assumed that hand-knit items were costly because of the labor involved. It had never occurred to me there was also a premium on the raw materials involved too. Of course, yarns were simpler when I first went to a yarn store, and if it wasn't wool, it was crap.
Now that my stashing habit is rapidly impoverishing me and I have ceased purchasing lip gloss, eating sushi, drinking wine and buying fiction to support my yarn habit, I start to look more seriously at *gasp* acrylic.
As my friend Cindy once pointed out, "it's all about keeping the cost of the raw materials down." She then sent me a link to Smileys Yarns for some good deals. The deals are good, but the shipping at $10 can break you. They do ship faster than JoAnn's so that was a plus. However, Elann has exceptionally speedy shipping, though a very discrete selection of more high end yarns than either Smileys or JoAnn's. But I digress.
So when is it ok to use acrylic, the lowest on the fiber rung, yarn?
I now have resolved the two schools of thought on yarn buying:
1) buy expensive yarn because you knit for pleasure and you want your finished goods to feel good and last a long time.
2) buy cheap yarn because you can experiment without breaking your budget.
My feelings on acrylic - it's acceptable to use for baby items that will need to be machine washed often. These items will be drooled on, vomited and yes, peed and pooed on. *shudder* Indelicate actions, and not worthy of cashmere or silk, or other dry clean only or hand wash only yarns.
The exception? Heirloom baby items. Hell, those are knit for the benefit of the parent, not the baby, and will be set aside in a chest never to be seen again until aforesaid baby grows into adulthood and has their own offspring. For heirloom, I say, "Sure, buy the Debbie Bliss Cashmerino."
For other projects, I now have adopted the theory that given how little time I have in the day, I should indulge in fewer projects but use the high end yarn. Silk from your own worm farm in HongZhou? Bring it on. Hand-painted in Norway? Bring it on. Hand spun by monkeys in the jungle? Bring it on. Also, when gifting within a budget, I'm looking a smaller projects. Ie, instead of an aghan that would cost me a cool thousand bucks in yarn, I am thinking, "maybe they would like a wine cozy or booga felted tote bag."