Yarn shows this autumn are back in full swing. Are you going to any? Yarn shows are like tempting sweetie shops for most knitters and it can be easy to get distracted. Do you ever buy what you don’t need or won’t use, buy something because you love it, and then have it remain in your stash unloved or spend too much and regret it? Keep reading for my top tips on how to find the perfect yarn for your project at the yarn shows you visit. Lets think about making a garment as this is something I often get asked about.
Plan before you go
Make a plan; look at your favourite patterns and make a list of what you need. Decide which will be the best fibre type, colour, texture, thickness etc. Remember, you don’t have to use the same yarn brand and colour for the pattern you have. (Read this blog for more information on yarn substitutions.) If you aren’t sure, chat to the stall holder, ask lots of questions so that you are confident in your choice. Exhibitors want you to be happy with your purchase; they love what they do and want you to too!
Do you have a colour in mind or do you want to see what takes your fancy? Making a garment can be quite an investment in time and cost, so think about what you will wear it with. What colour/s will fit with your wardrobe? Can you wear it with several outfits or is it going to be for a specific occasion or look? Yarn shows are always a riot of colour! Sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming and hard to focus on the project you have in mind.
A friend, Saj Collyer of Stitch Fest South West and Fibre Quest yarn shows gave me a top tip. Make a mini mood board of your project. Include the colour theme, yarn type, fibre type and thickness, tension, needle size and any extras like buttons you need. Perhaps even the fabric you want to yarn to coordinate with. Something like this….
Did you know that yarn dyers sometimes offer a custom dye service? This means that you can get (almost) the exact colour you want. Bear in mind that dyeing is not always a super exact science though, chat to the exhibitor and discuss what’s possible.
Yarn type and thickness
There are oodles of yarn blends and fibre types now. From 100% wool, breed specific wool, wool blended with another fibre like silk or alpaca, cotton, bamboo and exotic fibres like pineapple, banana and Seacell. When you are planning what yarn you need for your garment, think about the function of the garment. If its a long, cabled cardigan, alpaca won’t be a good choice because it will stretch and droop out of shape, and doesn’t hold stitch definition well. If you want to make a pretty, lacy bolero, an alpaca blend might be perfect. Have a look at the website info page here from more details about yarn properties.
Although it is possible to substitute a thicker or thinner yarn in a pattern, its quite tricky. Not for the faint hearted! When making a garment from a pattern, the shaping has been worked out for a particular yarn thickness, over a set tension and anything which works to a different tension will give a slightly different shape. You can substitute yarns of the same thickness and tension though.
Does your garment need a textured yarn? It can be fun to use yarn with a slub (little thicker bits), bloom or halo (fluff around the yarn) or blended texture like a linen wool mix. Patterns that have plain stocking stitch and rib can look good with another texture, but cable and lacy patterns don’t. Somehow the stitch detail is lost in the texture and all your hard work will not be shown to best effect. So although that beautiful slub yarn might be the perfect colour and weight for your pattern, it may not be the best texture. The same applies to yarns that are textured with colour. So a variegated yarn looks great over stocking stitch, and perhaps a dense lace, but Aran styles and airy lace patterns look less effective.
Does your garment need buttons or fastenings? At yarn shows there are usually exhibitors who sell buttons of all shapes, sizes and colours. Perhaps you’d like fancy ceramic buttons to make a statement on a plain garment, or wooden buttons of an Aran cardigan…. Yarn shows are the perfect place to find those finishing touches to make your garment really special and unique. You can often get extras like needles, crochet hooks and yarn bowls too so be on the look out for something special.
Cost at yarn shows
Yarn shows this autumn are sure to have beautifully hand dyed yarns and fibres. These are usually more expensive than shop bought big brand yarns which are produced in vast quantities in industrial mills. Whilst this means that your finished garment will be more expensive than if you used a shop bought yarn, you will be getting something unique. If you set a realistic budget and stick to it you won’t go far wrong. You will also be supporting a small business and making a difference for that exhibitor. Its also about the whole yarn show experience. Remembering as you use the yarn- the show you went to, the people you met, the fun you had and the conversations about your project that helped you make your choices.
Yarn shows this autumn I’ll be at:
- The Creative Craft show, West point, Exeter, from 22/9 -25/9/22. Link Here
- 3 Bags Full Liskeard town Hall, 1/10/22 Link here
- Woolly Weekend, Kelly House, Lifton, Devon, 8&9/10/22 Link Here
- Stitch Fest South West, Newton Abbot racecourse, 5&6/11/22 Link Here
Hope to see you at one of the yarn shows this autumn!