I joined Twitter last year after swearing I would never, ever participate in something as silly as that service. Bear in mind, I also said the same thing about Facebook. There are several reasons that these types of services can be of great help to artisans.
First, say you are working on a pattern and you get stuck, don’t know what an abbreviation is, or are having a problem selecting a pattern. Head over to your “Tweeps” and ask! This is a great resource for finding new patterns, getting opinions on patterns or yarn that you are considering, etc. I found Cookie A’s Monkey socks pattern in exactly this way.
Second, as a stay at home mom, it is really nice to be able to “chat” with others when I’m sitting at home watching endless hours of kid’s movies and cartoons as I’m working on my various projects. It’s even nicer when these relationships that are developed online transition into the real world. I’ve met several of my knitty tweeps in real life for knit time at local yarn shops, and they are just as delightful in person!
Third, if you are a seller on Etsy, Artfire, or simply in craft shows, social media is a great way to promote your items and what you are doing! Pattern notifications, both for sale and that are listed for free… those postings run rampant on Twitter. Special sales, discounts, and promotions are consistently listed on social media. I’ve found out about huge sales from Lantern Moon and Blue Moon Fiber Arts through these channels and have saved a ton because of it!
Finally, it can result in great opportunities both for individuals and businesses. I have made enough connections that I will be working with a dyer and spinner in the future with her new business that she is starting up! I’ve always been computer savvy, but was late to the social media game. I am so excited to say that I have embraced it whole-heartedly, and I wish more crafty types would do the same! It really is a great networking tool, and can be used as much or as little as you like.
What is the first thing to look for when choosing yarn? Is it color, weight, feel? Or is it the location that you purchase it from?
There are basically three options if you want instant gratification and want to start your project immediately. You can head to a local farmer’s market, a “big box” craft store – think JoAnn, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, Wal-Mart, etc., or a local yarn shop (LYS). What is the difference, really? They all have yarn and a good variety of yarn at that!
So, let’s start with the largest of the options: the craft store. This is a fantastic option if you are trying to a project on a small budget. A ball/skein of yarn can cost anywhere from $2.99 to $10.00 – and that’s the maximum of the range. There are always sales, and usually coupons.
There is a wide variety of acrylics, wools, cottons, sequins, blends, eco-friendly, baby yarns, and sock yarns to choose from. When I started knitting about ten years ago, you could basically get either acrylic or cotton yarns from the craft stores. The stock (and quality of that stock) has improved drastically in the last decade. Some of the latest additions that I’ve noticed have been the “Bamboo Ewe” and “Full o’ Sheep” from Debbie Stoller’s new line of yarns.
The craft stores are a great, economical option – especially if you are trying a new skill, like knitting in the round, or attempting to learn to crochet. The downside of the craft stores is that chances are, there might be one or two employees there that knit or crochet, and they probably won’t be working when you are there. It’s an “on your own” type of experience, and if you’re a novice, should the yarn your pattern calls for isn’t there; substitution might not be a possibility. There is also the environmental factor – these goods are shipped cross country in most cases, made in other countries, and the stores do little to support your local economy.
Next up is the LYS option… awesome choice! I’m a huge proponent of these, even though they are slightly pricier – anywhere from $7.00 all the way to $50. The stores are usually staffed with the owner and a small, select group of employees – who have experience with the product. They are on hand to make recommendations, substitutions, and help with pattern selection.
Often, patterns that your LYS carries won’t be available anywhere else. The variety of yarns might be smaller than at a big box store, but orders are usually possible and only take a few days… most also have websites or email where you can arrange an order a few days in advance.
Many LYS also have knitting space, serve tea or coffee, and are a great place to meet and chat with other knitters and crocheters. These shops are usually arranged by weight as opposed to by brand or type like in a craft store.
Smaller, more intimate, and based in your community, your local LYS usually participates in things like school fundraisers or “First Friday” events, and offers special discounts on classes and yarns depending on the month or season. These stores also tend to stock local products, and occasionally spun yarn from the employees themselves!
Finally, there is the option of the Farmer’s Market. Talk about choosing to support directly from the source! Many markets have farmers that also have sheep, and they will bring the wool (from sheep, alpacas, llamas!) as a side product – this is usually already spun, but you can find bags of straight wool. One of the farmers I’ve seen even puts the name of the sheep it came from on the label.
So when you name your sweater ‘The Maybelle Sweater’ on Ravelry, it actually came from Maybelle! A quick word about online shopping – yes, this is a great way to go if you already know the product or are prepared to make a large purchase so that your dye lot is consistent. Shopping via the internet – or trading too, is perfect if you are in the planning stages of a project and have time to wait.
No matter which store you choose, as craft stores are improving their selections, the LYS becomes more endangered. Support them! Go to a knitting night, escape from the house and go chat and sip tea and make new, knitty (or crochet-y) friends!
Red Heart’s Eco Ways Recycled Blend Yarn Review
- 70% acrylic, 30% recycled polyester
- 186 yards, 113 grams
- Machine wash warm – gentle cycle, tumble dry low
Because I make so many things for kids, and living in the Northwest…well, if you don’t use something with some form of recycled fibers people look at you like you have three heads. I saw this yarn on one of my trips to the craft shop for Fiber-fill. The Eco-Ways blend was on sale and I thought, hey I’ll give it a shot.
Overall, not too bad! While it does have a slightly “acrylic feel” to it while knitting, it doesn’t “squeak” or have a rough finish to it when the project is completed. I used this for two different projects (for a child’s ball and on a preschooler’s backpack) and am currently using it on a third project. The yarn is durable and holds up well under washing and drying.
I would recommend this for smaller projects or projects specifically for children – simply because you can toss it in the washing machine without worrying about what will happen to the piece. While the pattern given on the wrapper lists an afghan, I think this yarn might have too rough of a feel upon the completion of that project.
Definite bonuses: inexpensive (around $3), easy to care for, usually on sale! Unfortunately, the colors I’ve seen in the stores are all pretty neutral. The bright colors are only to be found on-line.
I found a really good selection at the JoAnn Fabric and Crafts website: www.joann.com
Most advanced knitters carry around with them a bag, full to the brim with tools to help make their knitting time easier and more productive. But when you’re just starting out a trip down the knitting aisles of your local craft store (or a visit to the notions section of your LYS) can send you into a tizzy in a hurry – all those extras, many with little to no explanation!
Never fear, Robyn is here! With this handy list of my seven favorite items you’ll want to have in your notions bag from month one – along with what each item is used for and some possible substitutions! – you can be sure you’ve got everything you’ll need to make your knitting time just as productive as the pros!
Stitch markers. These bad boys can be bought in bunches of plastic, multi-colored packs, or you can purchase them from Etsy sellers and other knitters. I’ve had my plastic ringed stitch markers almost from day one, and have slowly acquired some pretty beaded ones that I whip out when knitting something extra special. Don’t feel like you need to spend a lot of money on these, though – especially at first. You can even substitute strands of contrasting colored yarn, safety pins, or hoop earrings in a pinch!
Yarn-only scissors. No matter how new you are to knitting, you’re going to need to cut your yarn ends off at some point. I recommend keeping a pair of “knitting-only” scissors in your knit-kit. This way your scissors won’t get dulled by cutting paper, hair, or anything else, and you always know where your scissors are! Mine came from the dollar bin at Target, although I know knitters who have spent up to $20 on their pairs.
Cable needle. You may not think you need this at first, especially if you’re not cabling quite yet. I’ve used my cable needle to pick up errant stitches, however – this is actually more often what I use it for! I got a three-pack at my local craft store, so I know I’ve got a cabling needle that will work for any size cable I want to make!
Darning needles. When weaving in ends, I’ve known knitters to use crochet hooks, but I prefer a plastic, blunt-tipped darning needle. Buy these in bulk, as you’ll find they are the item that most often goes missing!
Row counter. I’ve pretty well stopped using mine at this point, thanks to an app on my iTouch – if you’ve got an iPhone or iTouch, you can find knitting apps for free! Most knitters, however, slip this onto their circular needle so they never lose track of which row they’re on!
Tape measures. I buy mine at the local craft store when they’re on sale for $1 – they’re known to be stolen by my kitties for play toys, and can break pretty easily. I should probably buy a nice one that won’t break, I guess. This comes in handy for measuring gauge, for measuring length/width of your knitting, and for determining sizing.
Pencil. I keep a mechanical pencil in my knitting bag at all time – perfect for marking rows and notes onto my knitting patterns, and great in a pinch to write something down or even pick up a stitch!
While there may be dozens of other tools knitters will tell you to pick up, or tools you’ll come to love in your years as a knitter, this basic kit will keep you happily knitting from day one!