Is there a pithy term for when you buy a yarn that looks great in the skein, but looks horrible knitted up? If not, there needs to be, either for the fiber itself (as I understand, this also happens occasionally to spinners, where gorgeous roving becomes meh yarn) or for that sinking feeling you get when what you thought was going to be self-striping sock yarn turns out to pool like mad (and not in a good way).

I don’t even know why I’m knitting with this terrible yarn. Well, okay, I suppose I do. To borrow a line from Daria, you know that conscience I don’t have? Well, it got to me. I decided to knit my mother-in-law another pair of socks, even though I am steadfastly opposed to doing any Christmas knitting this year (except the hat I was planning to make my husband). I haven’t knit her a pair of socks in a couple of years, but apparently she loves them and wears them all the time. I figured that as long as I had no active projects on the needles (when’s the last time that happened?), I’d be remiss in casting on another thing for myself.

Of course, I did anyway (a Narragansett, which I had told myself I could start once I lost some weight, and since I’m down 40 pounds, I suppose I’ve earned it). But it got a little frustrating right away, not because it’s bad or hard, but because I, to borrow a line from Casey McCall, am a big ole honkin’ doofus. First I added an extra yarnover, right in the middle of a stockinette section. I’ve been adding YOs quite a bit lately, but it’s always been right at the end of a row on a sock, and unless it’s a complicated stitch pattern, I always just twist it and knit it together with its neighbor. If you didn’t know it was there, you’d probably never find it.

This time, though, it was right in the middle of the round. I can only surmise that I put the project down, and picked it up again and started in on it without checking the position of the yarn. When I came to it, rather than undoing 160-odd stitches (like I should have), I tried the same trick, but after a few more rounds I realized that trick just doesn’t work with a solid gray worsted yarn.

That fixed, I continued knitting and got about 7 rounds done before I visually checked my increases. To my dismay, I realized I had missed not one, but two yarnover increases (fortunately, they were on the same row). I have done some pretty intricate surgery on socks to avoid ripping back, but I had no confidence in my ability to drop down several rows, finagle an extra stitch worth of yarn, and work it back up again, all in a way that wouldn’t be obvious to an outsider. This time I threaded an extra circular in as a lifeline and tore it back down, and refused to work on it anymore for the time being.

So I needed another project, but what? Another pair of socks? For myself? In this, the season of giving? And anyway, Christmas is only ten days away! That’s nowhere near enough time to finish a pair of socks. I’ll start on my Puckers.

Except that didn’t work out so well, either, probably because the yarns I’d chosen, while both fingering, were fairly disparate in their actual weight. Kroy is significantly thicker than Truly, and I was not happy with the fabric I was getting with the latter. Then I remembered I had some solid black Kroy (I was using one of their FX line for the contrast color) so I felt no compunction about frogging. (Plus, I need to sit down and work out what kind of heel I need to use if I really do want to make these socks toe-up. The most obvious answer is short-row, but a short-row heel has never fit me, no matter what kind of gussetry or trickery I attempt.)

I was back at square one: I only had one project to work on, and it was in time out. (Well, I also have a few that are in hibernation that I’d just lost interest in. Also, I could have made some hexipuffs, but I didn’t feel like cutting the batting. I have a very selective type of laziness.) I decided to make my MIL a pair of socks, using a fairly basic pattern, and a ball of sock yarn that I had no other plans for: Endurance Socks by Wisdom Yarns.

I found this yarn for around $3 at Tuesday Morning. I had no reason to think that just because it was cheap, it was… well, cheap. I had found a few yarns there that I really liked, including sock yarns (Araucania Ranco, Aslan Trends Santa Fe), so I had no reason to suspect this yarn would be the headache that it is. I just had little use for the screamy colors, so I was never very interested in this particular line. But when I saw a ball marked down (I want to say it was 60% off), I figured I’d add it to my burgeoning mountain of woolly goodness.

But if I’m honest, this belongs in the badness pile. This shit is more aggravating to work with than Caron Simply Soft. (I know, I know, it’s the acrylic for people who don’t like acrylic. But I don’t like yarns with a sheen to them. Whatever they use to give them that shine, makes my hands feel disgusting. I much prefer Loops & Threads Impeccable.)

First, there’s the pooling issue. That’s probably what I get for trusting the label: if you look at some of the stash photos, you can see a picture on the yarn label itself, where it works up into narrow stripes. The colorway I have (Coral Reef, although I somewhat-affectionately refer to it as Screaming Orange Zonkers) has very short color repeats, so it wouldn’t knit up into neat stripes unless you were making toddler socks. I could have chosen a pattern to reduce it, and I didn’t, so that’s on me.

The most annoying thing about the yarn, though, is the “7% hollow fiber” listed on the label. I’m not entirely sure what the point of it is, except maybe to add some elasticity to the yarn. The hollow fiber has a lot less give than the wool fiber, so I guess if it was knitted up with absolutely no tension, it would be stretchy, in the same vein as Cascade Fixation. The problem is, the slightest bit of tension pushes the outer fiber down around the core, and the effect accumulates as you knit. You can push the bunched-up fiber further and further down the ball, but it gets harder and harder to do the more you knit.

I actually ended up cutting and rejoining the yarn, to see if maybe I had started it wrong (however you could do something like that), but after a few rounds, it was right back to where it had been before, bunching and kinking every few rounds. Eventually what I ended up doing was, after every pattern repeat (four rounds), I’d untwist the yarn to separate the plies, and then snip the core thread, which is white and easy to see.

It also has the tendency to occasionally peek through the knitted fabric, which you can see in my project photo:

I’m sure she’ll like them anyway. After all, the other pair I made for her was the lovely Honey Socktails, made from the absurd-looking Sapphire colorway of Serenity Sock Weight. Now that I’ve plunged into them, there’s no turning back.

However, I’m pretty sure this will be one of the few balls of yarn that I will happily throw away the remainder of once I’m done.

It’s not all bad news, though: good yarn is on the way!

I have finally managed to get my hands on some Regia Extra Twist Merino. I fell in love with this stuff when a coworker showed me some socks she’d knitted with it. It had to have been in her stash for a while, because it seems to be discontinued – but only in the US. I also managed to snag a deal on free international shipping, so I ordered some DK-weight wool/nylon/acrylic yarn (similar to Berroco Vintage) for husband socks. They say you shouldn’t throw good money after bad, but whoever decided that, probably never had a yarn habit.