Buying yarn to knit can be both exciting and overwhelming, with these 4 simple steps I hope to help make it a productive and fun experience for you.
FEEL the yarn. When I say feel I mean really feel it in your fingers, give it a good 'squidge'. The reason being is that you are going to be knitting with this yarn, it will be in your fingers for the duration of the scarf/jumper/hat...whatever your knitting project, so make sure you like how it feels, ideally you love it and cannot wait to work with it.
POKE about in the yarn. This tip is specific to multi-coloured yarn. Don't take the surface impression as a full measure of what colours or even the proportion of colours are in the skein (coiled loop) of yarn. Poke about to gauge how much 'pink' there is or even to potentially discover a colour you can't see on the surface that you may not actually like and want in your knitting project.
SMELL the yarn. Yes, really, get your nose in there and inhale. All natural fibres have some element of lanolin, the natural grease the sheep/goat/alpaca produces that maintains, cleans and waterproofs their fleece. Some yarn producers will wash this out entirely but others won't. Lanolin has a somewhat 'farmy' smell and some of us love it (hello, my name is Alice) and others have a real aversion to it. You can wash your garment once it is knitted to remove any lanolin smell but before then, you will be working with this yarn and if you really dislike the smell now you are setting yourself up for a challenging knitting experience.
ASK for your yarn to be wound. Increasingly yarn is presented and sold in skein form, a coiled loop of yarn. DO NOT try to knit directly from this loop as you will quickly get into a tangle and have to start cutting the beautiful yarn you just spent, possibly, a small fortune on. Instead when buying it, ask the yarn store employee to wind it into a ball for you, this is a free service and they have equipment that makes it pretty fast to do. They may ask you to wait 10 minutes but the alternative is having to find a patient person at home to sit holding the untwisted loop over two outstretched hands while you painstakingly handwind the strand into a ball...all before getting to actually start knitting. So ask if they don't offer.
Laurence Olivier assisting Vivien Leigh wind yarn
And for those that like a more visual guide, here I am demonstrating with some yarn from my own 'stash' - the knitter's term for yarn collection. I also show you how to re-twist a skein of yarn for those that think it looks complex...spoiler alert - it's not!
Finally I can assure you as a former yarn store employee that no staff member is going to look at you oddly if you do any or all of these things when shopping for yarn. In fact if you don't touch, poke, smell before buying we will know that this is not a confident purchase, that you are not necessarily a knitter. That is not a crime however, but ultimately 'good' knitting is all about you as the knitter feeling happy and confident with what you are doing...if you ask me!
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If you are a beginner knitter or simply want to brush up on your basic skills, check out my Beginner Knitting course or pick the specific skills class you need with the single class options.
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