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What Should I Consider When Buying Yarn for Knitting Projects?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Buying yarn for knitting projects can be stressful if you do not plan it out well. While many knitters may keep a stock of yarn on hand for working with, sometimes special projects require a trip to the yarn shop. When buying yarn for knitting projects, there are a few things to keep in mind which will make the task much easier, and result in a final product of higher quality.

The first thing to consider when buying yarn for knitting projects is, of course, what the knitting project will be. If you are making a sweater or scarf, you may be working from a pattern which will specify the gauge you need to use, as well as how many skeins of yarn it should take. You may be free handing a project like a hat or blanket, in which case you may not be certain how much yarn you need to buy.

If you are buying yarn for knitting projects for which you have a pattern, consult the pattern to see what type of yarn is called for. In most cases, the pattern is specific about gauge, informing the knitter for example that 30 by 30 rows of worsted weight yarn on number seven needles will make a four inch (10 cm) square swatch of knitting. Furthermore, the pattern will tell you how many feet of yarn you will need to complete it. In this case, you buy exactly the number of skeins you need, knit to test the gauge, and set off on your knitting project.

In cases where you are not working from a pattern, or you plan to deviate from the pattern, buying yarn for knitting projects can get more complex. In these instances, you may want to go from experience, estimating that a similar project needs eight skeins of yarn, for example. Or you can purchase a skein of the yarn you would like to use and knit a test swatch to figure out what the gauge is, which will help determine how much yarn you need.

Another thing to consider when buying yarn for knitting projects is what type of yarn you want. Yarn comes in a wide variety of colors, textures, and configurations from plain worsted weight wool to complex and fun novelty yarns. Yarn for scarves, for example, could be more ornamental and silly. Yarn for blankets should probably be thicker and more practical. Special projects like baby blankets should be make with hypoallergenic yarn that is soft to the touch and will not pill or unravel, potentially posing a choking hazard. When you are buying yarn for knitting projects and have special needs, consult the staff at the knitting store, who are usually happy to help.

Some yarns cannot be worked on small needles, while others will look sparse on big needles. Consider what type of knitting project you are doing and what you want the end effect to look like when you are buying yarn for knitting projects. In addition, try to purchase all of your yarn at once and make sure that it is from the same dye lot, to avoid color variations which might mar your final product.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Sara007 — On May 19, 2011

When starting out as a knitter is there a kind of yarn that is easiest to work with? Also, is there a good price point to start at, assuming I would be making mistakes.

I have seen some really beautiful yarns that look like they would be a challenge to use. Either they have fine fibers, contain beads and sequins, or are so expensive that I would be scared to wreck them. I really want to choose something that will get me comfortable knitting and that will help me progress to new materials.

By manykitties2 — On May 16, 2011

A great way to buy yarn for knitting projects is to take your pattern in with you when you go into the store. Often the staff at a yarn shop will work on projects themselves and are quite knowledgeable about what you may need for a project. You can get some really great recommendations if you just ask around.

Also, don't be too traditional and use the same wool blends all the time. There are many new novelty yarns available in the shops that are made out of great materials. You could try bamboo yarn, some organic versions, or even some made out of recycled plastic bottles.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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