Within the community of knitters and crocheters, “yarn stash,” or sometimes just “stash,” is an actual term. It refers to the amount of yarn one has hiding in the closet or under the bed, likely in an attempt to keep one’s significant other from knowing exactly how much yarn you have (or from knowing how much you spent on yarn that month). If you knit, crochet, or do anything that that requires the use of yarn, then you probably have a yarn stash.
Knitting is perceived by many to be a thrifty sort of craft. Instead of dropping $50 on a designer sweater, you can just make one yourself, right? Sadly, this is not an accurate picture of what knitting entails. Many non-knitters may not realize that the yarn is often the most expensive part of any knitting project.
When I bring this up with people who are new to knitting, they almost always cite a particular brand of cheap acrylic yarn that can always be found at big box stores. That brand is inexpensive, but it is also like sandpaper next to your skin. There is a place for this variety of acrylic yarn, but that place is not in hand-knit clothing. Why would you want to put all the effort into knitting something beautiful if you can’t actually stand to wear it? Life is too short to knit with cheap yarn.
Don’t despair! It is possible to source higher-quality materials without having to pay exorbitant amounts of money, although sometimes doing so requires even more creativity than the actual knitting.
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Thrifty yarn stash ideas
Method One: Recycling old sweaters
How to do it: Take a trip down to your local second-hand store and browse their sweater section. Look for something kind of bulky. We’re going to be unravelling it later, so make sure the yarn out of which it is made is a weight that you are comfortable knitting. It is possible in this way to obtain really gorgeous yarn, yarn that is made out of cashmere, angora, and merino wool. Stuff that would ordinarily set you back about $50 per skein.
When you get your sweater home, you need to unpick the seams. It is important to unpick, and not just cut the pieces apart. When that is done, find the bind-off edge. This is the “end” of the knitting. Most sweaters are knitted starting with the bottom and going up, so the bind-off edge is likely to be near the top of the sleeves or at the shoulders. Once you get the end unbound, it’s just a matter of unraveling the sweater and rolling the yarn up into a ball. It can be knit as is, or, if you’d prefer to block it to get the tell-tale curls out of the yarn, this is the time to do it.
While that sounds pretty simple, depending on the quality of the sweater, it might be horribly difficult to unpick. However, if the yarn is nice enough, it will be worth it. Once at a local clothing exchange I obtained a really ugly, but free, Ralph Lauren short-sleeved turtleneck sweater. The yarn was a blend of cashmere, angora, and merino. Heaven! But, it being a Ralph Lauren, it took me ages to unpick that darn thing. The mittens I intend to knit with the reclaimed yarn will be worth every second I spent wrestling with the parent sweater.
Method Two: The Yard Sale, and its Maiden Aunt, the Estate Sale
I will come clean and say that I have had some success with this method, but not a lot. If you go to a yard sale with the express purpose of looking for yarn, prepare to be disappointed. It’s hard to tell ahead of time whether the person having the yard sale is a former yarn addict. But if you already browse a lot of yard sales anyway, definitely keep your eye out for yarn. (Or, more old sweaters). There will always be someone who is getting rid of her stuff and doesn’t fully appreciate the value of what she has. That includes not only yarn or sweaters made from high quality material but also other knitting and crochet supplies.
Once I came away from a yard sale with a whole grocery sack of nice acrylic/wool blend yarn which cost me $3.75 altogether. The same yarn would have cost upwards of $40 at the store. However, I have been to many other yard sales without having quite so much luck.
Method Three: Make Your Own Yarn
I’m talking about spinning. This could be its own 50-part series of blog posts, and indeed, there is even a quarterly magazine devoted solely to this topic. I include it here under false pretenses, because people don’t take up spinning to save money. But what embodies a provident, thrifty, self-sufficient mentality better than the ability to make a cute hat out of fluff?
I won’t turn your hair white with horror stories about the high cost of a decent spinning wheel (spoiler: it’s high.), but if you are interested in dabbling in the art of spinning but don’t want to spend your life savings, you can get a simple drop spindle and some spinning fiber for less than $20. Many online retailers cater to handspinners. Etsy is also a good place to look.
Spinning yarn instead of buying it allows you full control over every aspect of the finished product. I like to begin with a specific project in mind, and I can choose the fiber content, the weight, and the color. If I am working from a fleece, I can even choose the wool from a specific sheep, because every fleece has its own unique characteristics.
I taught a Survival Mom webinar on the subject of spinning, “Learn How to Spin Your Own Yarn.” Watch that for a good, overall introduction to both spindle and spinning wheel yarn spinning.
If you have ever thought of taking up spinning, I encourage you go for it. You might find that you’ll never go back to purchasing mere yarn.
Have any of you ever found yarn in unlikely places? What do you find is the most frustrating thing about finding good yarn?
- Ravelry.com for a super-helpful forum, patterns, and a lot more.
- The Woolery for spinning supplies of all kinds.
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