Yarn. Yarny yarny yarn yarn yarn. If you’re not addicted yet you soon will be. Knitters and crocheters like to flash their stash at any given opportunity. Literally, they post pictures of their new yarn purchases like normal people do of their newborn babies. I have a sizeable stash, but it could always do with being a bit bigger…
So, I’m going to start with some blog posts about this wondrous substance. Where to get it, what it’s made from, what types of yarn to use for different projects, yarn weights and how not to totally cock-up your project by using the wrong one, how to work out what weight you have when you no longer have a ball band, what a ball band is and how to understand the gibberish printed upon it, the lot!
I’ll start with where to get it.
YOUR LOCAL YARN SHOP
There are two types of yarn shop and you need to identify which one, if any, you have in your town. I live in Ipswich, Suffolk and I am lucky enough to have two yarn shops in town, one of either variety.
Yarn shop type A – a traditional wool shop. I have nothing against old ladies, I hope to be one some day, but they do have a particular hunting ground. You can easily identify this type of shop by the type of yarn it sells. 4ply, DK, aran and some weird and wonderful chunky frilly scarf yarns that you couldn’t think of something to do with if your life depended on it. All in shades of mint green, lemon, peach and powder blue. There will be a lot of yarns that say “baby” in the title and all the patterns will involve frills. Older ladies are very generous with their knitting, they love to give things as gifts and they just love making things for babies. There will be ribbons. On everything.
This type of yarn shop is good for emergency purchases. You won’t find any hand-dyed silks here. If you go in looking for anything not designed to make baby clothes you will be disappointed. The most expensive wool will be £4.00 a ball. It’s great to practise with, but it won’t make your work shine. You can get some good cheap yarns here but they will mostly be pastel coloured acrylics. Of course, sometimes that’s what you need.
This shop is extremely flammable.
Yarn shop type B – Modern yarn shop. Spiritual haven. A sweet shop for those with fatter wallets.
Take your credit card, it’s going to get a hammering. They will have some lovely and reasonably priced yarns, but you won’t see them next to the hand-dyed Peruvian alpaca and silk…which has already made it’s way into your open arms.
There will be a good range of many different weights and types of yarns, ranging from lace-weight through to the yarns made from recycled fabric strips. All the colours of the rainbow. Hooks and needles to keep anyone happy and from brands other than Pony. Natural fibres, merino wools, silks, linens, cottons, wools. Deliciousness.
You will also find a community here. There will probably be a knit and natter/stitch and bitch group where you can meet other yarn enthusiasts, eat cake, and fondle other people’s work. They don’t tend to do these in Yarn Shop A from my experience, not sure why.
If you have either of these shops in your town, use them, treasure them. It will probably be more expensive to shop there instead of online and that’s OK. Sometimes you won’t be able to wait for delivery, you need it now. Sometimes you just need to feel the yarn. No distributor is going to describe their 100% lambswool as scratchy as hell but it might be. A lot of online shops don’t allow returns at all and very few offer free returns. Don’t get stuffed by buying 8 balls of wool which you will never use because you couldn’t feel them first. Sometimes you just need some advice. What length circular needles should I use for this? Would this be better in wool or a wool/acrylic mix? Your shopkeeper will know. If you don’t shop there because you think it’s expensive it won’t be there when you need it. Support your local economy when you can, it will be your support network. My favourite local shop is Jenny Wrens Yarns on St Peter’s Street and it’s smashing. If you’re local, give it a look.
ONLINE FROM A WOOL WEBSITE
I use Wool Warehouse. Love Knitting. I recently took a punt and bought some yarn from site called Zarela which worked out really well. I have a friend who runs Suffolk Socks, online purveyor of all things socky and delicious (people who knit socks REALLY knit socks, as it turns out). I also sometimes ship in from Ice Yarns in Turkey which is incredibly cheap, but the postage takes a while. They have some terrible cheap yarns and some lovely natural fibre ones so it can be a bit hit and miss.
It’s convenient and it’s cheaper, but you have to wait for it to rock up and unless you’ve bought that particular yarn before, it can be a bit pot luck. The colours can be difficult to properly portray on the screen.
Poundland, QD, ALDI. They all sell yarn. Some of it even has wool in it. Most of it doesn’t. It is, however, super cheap so it’s great for learning or making things which you know will be destroyed.
Some sell new wool (Age UK for example) and this is basically a smaller version of Yarn Shop A. They will also sell various second-hand balls of wool. Most of it will be old and frogged but it’s OK for odds and ends like bunting or for practise when you’re starting. Sometimes you find a steal, mostly you don’t, pretty much like any charity shop visit, really.
YOUR LOCAL MARKET
Never as cheap as you hope it will be. Lots of acrylics and baby yarns here, a bit like Yarn Shop A. Not the kind of place to buy nice hand-spun natural fibres. Ribbons, again, and tons of those plastic buttons you had on your school cardigan that seemed to smile at you.
Can be great, can be utterly dreadful. I bought some bamboo yarn from China once. I thought, they must be good with bamboo, right? That’s where the Pandas live. It said it was DK. It wasn’t. Maybe 4 strands of it held together would have been DK. However, I have also had some total bargains from people destashing so it’s a bit of pot luck again. You pays your money, you takes your chance.
Hand spun and hand dyed deliciousness. You bank account will hate you. I just bought some hand dyed silk from Magpie & Me at a local fair. It is slowly becoming a scarf for me. It was supposed to be a cardigan for my daughter but I could just see in her 2 and a half year old eyes that she didn’t REALLY appreciate it, so the offer of a cardigan was rescinded and a scarf it became. I’ll show you some pictures when it’s done. It’s not even finished yet and I have more photos of it than my daughter.
ETSY/INSTAGRAM/FACEBOOK FROM INDEPENDENT DYER
Like craft fairs but worse because you can pay with PayPal. That’s not even really money, right? It doesn’t count.
So, to recap, but it in person or buy it online, but you will buy it.
Yarn is dangerously addictive.