I’m teaching another session of my “Knitting 101” class for beginners at tangled purls tomorrow. The hardest part about teaching this class is the fact that there are SO many important things to talk about with new knitters and never enough time. With that in mind today I feel inspired to share some tips for new knitters…a few things that would have been helpful for me in the early years (although I was always to shy and to stubborn to ask for help)
SO on that theme I thought I would expand upon one of the first topics I cover in my knitting 101 class…how to shop in an LYS (or local yarn shop). For new knitters this can be a totally overwhelming experience. So many brands and fibers and types of yarn. Who can makes sense of it all at first?? Even knitters who have been working with yarn for years can find this to be a daughting experience at times. I am lucky enough to have had the benefit of working at a couple of patiruclarly awesome shops and have an especially good understanding of the way such places work. SO… to help my fellow knitters out, I thought I would put together a list of my top ten tips for getting the most out of your favorite yarn shop…
1. (this one is REALLY important) ASK FOR HELP!: No to yarn shops are exactly alike, and no one knows a shops stock better than its employees. So never be afraid to strike up a conversation or to tell someone what you need. LYS owners and their employees are some of the most passionate and dedicated fiber people out there, chances are they will be thrilled to help you with whatever you need, be it finding a pattern, yarn or notions.
2. Know what you are shopping for — Start with a project in mind: Now this may not be true for everyone, but in my experience, if i have even the smallest idea of what I am looking for my overall experience at a shop is generally much happier. Sometimes that means a new project, and it means digging through bins of patterns and looking at books until you find something that inspires you. Sometimes all it menas is looking for one skein of worsted to knit up yet another one of those quick hats that you can make in your sleep. But it can be exteremly overwhemling trying to buy yarn for some random mystery project that has yet to reveal itself. This generally leads to a big stash of skeins that are never quite right for what you want to make. Its expensive and can be frustrating. Starting with some idea of what you want to make can ease a lot of this tension:)
3. Pay Attention to the Layout of the Shop: in my experience, although this is not always true, most yarn shops are orgized according to yarn weight. That means that the finnest yarns will all be in sort of the same place, the medium in another, and the thickest in another still. That way, for customers who come in with a pattern or a project already in mind, they can see all the yarn that would work for said project gathered up in one space. Of course this isn’t always true. I’ve been in shops that are organized by brand, and (yikes) in shops that aren’t organized in any particular way at all. But regardless, for you as the shopper, getting a sense of what the system is will REALLY help you start to see what might work for your knitting needs, rather than just a sea of soft squishy colorful goodness (as great as that is)
4. Learn a little bit about yarn weights and types of yarn: this is a big and complicated thing to learn. But the gist is that different project call for different weights (thinknesses) of yarn, and in order to have your project come out the way you want you need to make sure youre getting the right weight and type of yarn. More on this later, but for now…just know it is important
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Share: going back to point number 1…most yarn shop employees are really into helping knitters find exactly what they are looking for…be that a project, yarn, instruction, notions, pattern support…the list goes on and on…however, a big part of being able to help someone is understanding what they are looking for and what kind of project suits their needs. One of my favorite things when working at a yarn shop is when a customer comes in and says something like the following…”
Hi there! I have been knittng for about 5 years…I’ve made socks and hats an a few baby items but I have never made a sweater for an adult and I would like to try…can you help me figure something out?”
in that little bit of background and bio I am able to get a sense of what that knitter’s skillset is, what they are looking for and what kind of project would fit his or her needs. I can then show them lots of basic sweater patterns, maybe a couple of books on sweater technique, and yarns that will be sturdy and can handle being ripped back a few times to make the learning process easier. On the other hand if all that customer says is “I want to make a sweater” I have to do a lot more guess work and might not be as useful to them. Basically, treat your LYS as a resource. And don’t be afraid to own your skill level, no matter what it is. Tell us with pride and let us help set up you for success.
6. Have a home base shop: another important way to get all you can out of a yarn shop is to go there frequently. If you are lucky enough to live in an area with multiple yarn shops, check them all out, and maybe try to settle in on one that matches your personality/budget/knitting needs best. See if they have a knit night (hint…they do) and go there often. If its the kind of shop where you can just stop by and knit for a bit do that! (if you’re a social knitter that is). Almost all LYSs have amazing frequent shopper cards or point systems. At both shops I have worked at the frequent shopper point systems basically equated to a 10% discount for consistent customers. That is a pretty good deal for the hardcore knitter! Many have events and activties like classes, lectures from well known knitters, knit-a-longs and the like. My consistently visiting one shop you’ll get learn about all of that stuff and make the most of it, whereas bouncing around from place to place keeps you form ever really learning about all that one shop has to offer. It also means that your home shop will get to know you, what you like to knit, what you need help with, and and help you along your own knitting journey. Its also awesome to be able to share your projects with them.
7. Check out classes and events: once you have a home-base shop find out if they offer classes, workshops or host events. LYSs can be amazing hubs to learn new techniques and to be inspired to try new things. They are so much more than a place to buy yarn, but if you don’t ask you’ll never know:)
8. When shopping away from home…stick to the unique stuff: for years as a new knitter when I was traveling I would go into a new yarn shop, spend ages looking around….and end up walking out with yet another bag full of malabrigo, cascade, some other realtively easy to find yarn. I did this because it was familiar, because I knew I would like it and I knew I would use it. What it took me a while to learn though, was that when I was shopping far away from home what I really wanted was a keepsake from my trip. Most yarn shops know this and stock a few local or exclusive items that will serve just this purpose…something special and new to remember your trip.
9. Don’t be afraid to hunt and dig…but always be courteous. Never be afraid to do a little digging to search for that one skein in that one dye-lot that youre looking for. There are often more skeins of what you need hiding just out of sight. But also, its importnat to be courteous. When you’re looking at yarn in a hank its generally okay to open it up and untwist it to get a better sense of the color. But rather than just shoving it back onto the shelf, take it up to the front so they can put it back together again. Shop owners far and wide will love you and throw flowers at your feet for this generous act.
10. Check your DYE LOT: buying yarn for a sweater? a blanket? pretty much anything where you need more than one skein? make sure before you take your purchases to the counter that you check to make sure all the yarn you bouht came from the same dye lot. The lot number will be printed on the label, and yarn from the same lot will be better color matched than yarns for different lots. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, so always ask if you arent sure….but in general it is better to be safe than sorry.
So there you go…my top 10 tips for helping you navigate a yarn shop. There are of course lots more good things to keep in mind…I would love to hear them if you have thoughts or comments!
Best of luck and happy yarn shopping!