As people wrestled with the boredom and anxiety of quarantine, more than 38 million Americans turned to knitting. A full 20% of them were first-time knitters and I was among them, painstakingly trying to figure out each stitch from YouTube tutorials and books. Every so often, I would throw up my hands and give up on my project because my yarn had gotten tangled into knots.
I wasn’t the only one. Spinrite—the largest yarn manufacturer on the market and the owner of Red Heart, Bernat, and Caron brands—has repeatedly found in focus groups that knitters of all skill levels get frustrated by how easy it is for yarn to get tangled, slowing down the knitting process. So the company has developed O’Go, an entirely new, patent-pending format for its yarn that launches this week on Amazon for preorders. The large, donut-shaped roll of yarn is engineered to eliminate tangles. The company believes it will allow experienced knitters to finish projects more quickly—and prevent newbies from giving up on the craft altogether.
Yarn is one of mankind’s earliest inventions: Archaeologists have found yarns going back 20,000 years, when humans first discovered they could take fibers like cotton and wool, spin them into threads, and then knit them into fabrics. Over time, there have been plenty of innovations in the realm of industrial knitting including, most recently, high-tech 3D knitting software powered by neural networks that allows anyone to design a pattern on a computer. But for the hobbyist or DIY knitter, yarn hasn’t changed much since the 1800s.
These days, yarn comes in several formats. You can buy a hank or a skein, where the yarn is loosely twisted into a circle or oblong shape. To get started with one of these, you need to untangle the yarn, then wind it into a ball, which can take 3 to 10 minutes, according to Spinrite’s research. (Or 20 minutes, in my case.) Alternatively, you can buy yarn that is already wound into a ball. But then you find yourself dealing with new problems: Once you start knitting, the ball can roll around the room or get wound up, creating knots and tangles.
“This annoys even experienced knitters,” says Lise Snelgrove, Spinrite’s director of marketing. “When you get a tangle, it can take up to 45 minutes to untangle it, and it really breaks the joy of what you’re doing—especially since many people turn to knitting because it is relaxing.”
Despite these pain points, the yarn industry hasn’t been quick to make changes. Many people are drawn to knitting because it is a traditional craft, Snelgrove points out, so knitters simply adapt to the way things have always been done. But as Spinrite interacted with consumers and held focus groups, it was clear that tangles were a pet peeve for many knitters and crocheters. The company interviewed 400 customers, 71% of whom said they had experienced knotted yarn, 80% of whom said they would like tangle-free yarn, and 61% of whom said they would stitch more frequently if such yarn existed. “It’s the number-one complaint in the whole category,” Snelgrove says. “People just assume it is part of the craft, but we asked ourselves why it had to be.”
For the past two years, Spinrite’s designers have been working on a new format that would allow knitters to continue using yarn they enjoy, without having to deal with tangles. The solution was to wind yarn into a round hollow tube that is twisted around to create a donut shape. When you want to get started on the yarn, you simply snip a plastic tie that connects two edges of the donut. There is no winding required; you just find the edge of the yarn and start knitting. The yarn slowly comes off the donut in such a way that it does not get twisted.
Spinrite offers O’Go yarn in single colors and in multiple-color combos. A single donut might have four or five colors in it. This means that if knitters want to, they can stop knitting in one color and pick up another color on the donut. This saves them the trouble of carrying multiple yarns in different colors. Spinrite tested the O’Go on more than 400 knitters and crocheters in North America, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. These users said O’Go yarn is easier to handle and allowed them to enjoy the stitching process more. And it also prevented the waste that comes from cutting out tangles and knots.
The O’Go will catch your eye in a craft store, given that it looks like an enormous donut (though Snelgrove foresees a challenge ahead in introducing this new format to knitters, who tend to return to yarns they are familiar with). There will also be instruction cards on the yarn, along with plenty of how-to videos online.
While Spinrite began designing this new yarn before the pandemic, the timing of the product couldn’t be better. There are millions more knitters in the U.S. today than there were a year and a half ago. When I tried the O’Go, I found that it was a very simple system that made a world of difference. I didn’t have to waste mental energy transforming a skein into a ball or undoing a knot. I could simply finish my scarf, or hat, or blanket.
O’Go yarns cost $12.99 each and are available on Amazon for preorder. Starting August 20, O’Go yarns will be available at Joann, Michaels, and Walmart stores.