Affording The Craft

“You can’t always get what you want,
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need.” ~ You Know Who

A few creative ways I’ve obtained the object of my craft other than purchasing:

  1. Test knitting for a yarn store designer in exchange for gift certificates to that store’s fine yarns. I literally walked in after seeing the spectacular hand-dyed yarns and asked, at first was told they had enough testers, but later got a call. Always worth a try.
  2. Being gifted generously donated yarns from a yarn-store owner to continue my ongoing project to donate handknit shawls to moms of critically ill children at the Seattle Ronald McDonald House, since I lived there for a year and these moms are close to my heart.
  3. Turning funds from any commissioned works I make for others into more yarn.


This list is by no means comprehensive, but I am sharing sources here for yarns I’ve enjoyed working with that meet my need for at least some natural fiber in the lower end of the cost range. I believe strongly in the vision of a plastic-free world and supporting shepherds(esses) and independent small businesses hand dying natural fibers. But sometimes a maker should not force themselves to forego a medical appointment, have a delinquent heating bill, or go to the food bank in order to buy yarn. Been there, done that. 2019 is a new opportunity to double down my focus on inflow and outflow and live more in harmony with my means, despite my constant urge to create and make new things.

  • Berroco Yarns – I’m making the Arboreal sweater I intend to gift to my daughter from Berroco Vintage DK, which is at least 40% wool and comes in 288 yard skeins. The color depth is wonderful of the yarns I’ve worked with, and I’ve had zero issues with fiber quality or breakage. Many retailers have sales making many of this company’s wool-acrylic blend yarns in sweater quantity at least under $80 range.
  • KnitPicks – I’ve worked with four of these yarns so far and have enough of the squishy Simply Wool Eco Wool at year-end sale to make the Appalachian Shawl in my 2019 Make Nine. I love Hawthorne Fingering 80% wool/20% polyamide for shawls because it comes in huge yardage (450+!), used in combination with other yarns for colorful pops. (Example photos)

    I loved working with a 50/50 bamboo/merino wool yarn called Galileo because of its shine and soft drape. Sadly had a breakage and ply quality issue with the Mighty Stitch line, which is 20% superwash wool, 80% acrylic I used for baby items. I ended up cutting out sections of yarn in the center of several skeins. Wool of The Andes is highly affordable but is a more rough feel than I like to work with for large-scale projects like a bed-size blanket I started to make. My hands actually hurt after working with the yarn, which does not happen with every natural wool, but maybe I need to toughen up. This is one of my unfinished projects stored. Should I ever attempt a large blanket again, I would go with a superwash or a seamed piece-work approach, since I didn’t think through the fact I had nothing other than a bathtub big enough to hand wash said blanket.

  • Fairlight Fibers and The Woolly Thistle are two affordable ways for folks in the US to obtain wonderful European-sourced fibers, without international shipping.
  • Skeinz – There are over 1,000 breeds of sheep worldwide, but Merino wool that originated with a Royal Spanish flock in the 1700s and 15 sheep on a ship to Australia, turned into a market where today 50% of the world’s Merino is sourced from Australian breeds. Drought and market changes in the 2000s have caused a decline in Australian flocks, but they still produce close to half. Skeinz is a resource for affordable New Zealand wool. I say “affordable,” because the exchange rate for a $6.50 NZ skein is $4.40 USD, but of course you do need to pay for shipping, so it depends how badly you want to work with this quality milled fiber. I have not myself, but I have met a few folks who had decades-old, incredibly well-wearing handknit garments made from New Zealand wool, and it truly feels different than anything I’ve worked with.
  • Cascade Yarns – For a year in my 20s, several years after the Cascade company started I visited their warehouse in Pioneer Square Seattle before I had other responsibilities than to myself, and I took a freelance gig making display garments for LYS owners who purchased a certain quantity of yarn. I’d get home to my studio apartment after a day of work as a receptionist in a health center and stay up until 2 a.m. knitting. Yes, I am now a proud knitting nerd, though at that time just a lonely one. Cascade yarn is truly a workhorse and all their lines have generous yardage for cost of many fiber blends. It’s a great source for sweater quantities, and I’ve used Cascade Heritage for solid color blocks in many shawls.
  • Little Knits – Another Seattle yarn source that has jaw-dropping sales for quality yarns. You just need to get on their email list to be notified of weekly deals.
  • Hobium Yarns – Looking into making a sweater from Kartopu alpaca/acrylic sport yarn from this source, because it’s the lowest cost I’ve seen. But I can’t speak to its quality until I try it. I have heard folks who work most of the time with acrylic like this affordable source for yarn.
  • Fabulous Yarns – I hesitate putting this in any “affordable” category, but I absolutely adore Madelinetosh and Malabrigo Yarns from South America. The colors, the feel! But I rarely can afford them. So the only time I’ve purchased them is in a sale through this source, because I’ve found it to be the most cost-effective I’m aware of with their overall discounts, especially when they are having a targeted sale.

There are many more big vendor online sources like Love Knitting, Webs, Jimmy Beans Wool, etc., but short of creating a phone book, I will stop here.

It’s always a joy to hand feel yarns before you purchase, so whenever possible check out your LYS, but again, note to self, if your choice is food or medicine or yarn, choose food or medicine.