Let’s talk about making the most of a GREAT sale — choosing yarn that will suit your queue, complement your stash, or make the perfect gift for a knitter friend!

Yarn for the Queue
My queue is out. of. control!  Even after the annual New Year’s purge, it’s ringing in at a whopping 333 projects!  My first step: choose my top ten.  That’s right, TEN projects.  I like to have options!  I’ll download any PDF files to my phone for quick reference while I’m shopping, and in the meantime begin making a list according to gauge, fiber content, and total required yardage.  These three considerations are the most critical when substituting yarn for a project:

  • Is it the right weight? Working up a baby sweater in sport vs. worsted can have drastically different results.  Take the time to note yarn weight and gauge, or stitches/inch.  This information will help you when looking at yarn labels at the store, and ingratiate you to busy yarn shop employees!  A difference of 2-4 stitches over 4″ can easily be adjusted by changing needle sizes, but more than that and you may be looking at a difficult substitute. 
  • Will it drape like the sample in the photos?  Wool and wool blends are springy and bounce back to shape while alpaca drapes and drapes. . . and drapes. Some cottons stretch, while bamboo can be inelastic.  Keeping the fiber of the called-for yarn in mind is important when shopping a sale and looking for a bargain substitute:  That cute, fitted wool cardigan will quickly outgrow the wearer if worked in alpaca! 
  • Do I have enough yarn?  Use yardage, not grams or ounces when substituting.  Different fibers have different weights, and you may find yourself painfully short if you’re making the leap from a recommended wool yarn to a wool/cotton blend!  When in doubt, buy that safety skein. You can always make a hat with the leftovers!

Facelift for the Stash
It’s a good idea to have a few basics on hand: sock yarn for last-minute gift knitting, lace yarn for that friend who needs a lovely little pick-me-up, washable yarns in gender-neutral shades for baby announcements, and worsted wool for that awesome new sweater pattern you found while surfing Ravelry that you MUST cast on for before bed!  But how much should you buy when you see a good SALE?

  • Socks: 100 grams/approx. 440 yards will make a pair of adult-sized socks.  I wear a woman’s 9.5 and have never run out (not EVER!), and I make my legs about 7″ tall.  If you tend to knit large mens socks, grab two balls.
  • Shawls: Smaller-sized shawlettes are all the rage right now, and most require 400-600 yards.  For a more traditional, full-sized shawl, aim for 1200-1600 yards.  Keep in mind that shawls and shawlettes are also lovely in fingering-weight (sock) yarn, too!
  • Baby Items (worsted estimates): Blankets will land around 700 yards for stroller size, 1200 yards for crib.  Sweaters, 400 yards; Hat & Booties sets, 200 yards.
  • Sweaters for You: Spend a few minutes surfing Ravelry for the following sweater types: cardigan, pullover, shrug.  Let’s use cardigan as our quick-and-dirty example:  Go to ravelry.com, then “Patterns,” then type “Cardigan.”  A whopping 23,328 results come up!  Along the left side of your screen are a series of categories to help you narrow down your search:  choose “Age or Size: Adult,” scroll down and hit “Worsted,”  then keep scrolling to Yardage.  The vast majority of patterns are in the “900-1200” and “1200-1500” range.  I’m usually a Small/Medium, so I can safely estimate that 1200 yards should suit any patterns begging to be cast on at midnight!  Without spending too much time looking at specific patterns, you too can have a basic guideline for your yarn buying.

Yarns for Gifting
Keeping the above guidelines in mind, seek out the unusual:  hand-dyed, handspun, locally produced, or simply unusual!  If you’re excited by it, your knitting friends will be, too!  Just make sure you buy sufficient quantity — and when in doubt, pick up that safety skein!  Your friends will love you for it, promise.