How to buy yarn: 5 tips

Martingale's Knit and Crochet Friday

How to buy yarnOne of the questions we get from readers is, “How do I knit or crochet this project with a different yarn than the pattern calls for?”

In June, we began to answer this question, starting with a yarn primer. We know that any successful yarn substitution begins with a knowledge of yarn fibers and characteristics.

If you’ve familiarized yourself with the vast and varied world of yarn, you’re ready to learn the next skill you’ll need to substitute yarns like a pro: how to buy the perfect skein. That’s right—it’s time to go shopping for yarn!

Tip #1: Do a little research

Before you grab your keys and shopping tote, read our primer on yarn. Make sure you’re familiar with some of the basic fibers you’ll be encountering, and their characteristics—this background will help you understand how various yarns behave and how that behavior will affect your pattern.

Tip #2: Gather pattern information

Be sure to bring your pattern with you, or write down all the information about the yarn your pattern calls for, including its weight, fiber content, yardage, and color. Even if you’re shopping for a substitution yarn, a pattern’s yarn requirements can tell you a lot about the pattern and how your choice of yarn will affect it. When making substitutions, it’s especially important to note your pattern’s yardage requirements, because yardage per hank or skein of yarn may differ between yarns.

Great Yarns--one of our local yarn shops!Tip #3: Find a local yarn shop

Search online to find local yarn shops. Write down their hours, location, and phone number in case you get lost or want to call ahead to ask about their selection.

Tip #4: Read the signs (and labels)

Every yarn shop will have a different way of categorizing  inventory. Take a look around and see if there are placards or signs that tell you how they’ve organized their selection—or ask an associate to point you in the right direction. When you find the right section, be sure to compare your notes with the information on the yarn label. Each skein should have a label or tag that tells you the fiber content, yardage, and weight.

Read yarn labels and signs
Read yarn labels and signs

Tip #5: Ask for help

You might have noticed we didn’t include any tips for buying yarn online—and that’s because your local yarn shop (and the people who work there) are an invaluable resource. Unless you live too far away to visit a local yarn shop, we recommend buying yarn in person. Small, local shops are usually owned by yarn-enthusiasts (just like you), and they have a wealth of information. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with reading the label on a skein or finding the perfect yarn for your project. They’ll be happy to help!


Stay tuned for our final post on how to substitute yarns, where we’ll give you tips for swapping out yarns in your pattern. Don’t want to miss a post? Make sure you subscribe to Stitch This!.

For more information about yarn and how to use it, check out All About Knitting and A to Z of Knitting.

All about Knitting and A to Z of Knitting
All About Knitting and A to Z of Knitting

Do you have a favorite place to buy yarn? Tell us about it in the comments!


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