Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Penny Pincher's Guide to Cheapskate Knitting - Part 4 - Online Knitting & Supply Sources

For an obsessed knitter, the internet may be the best thing since sliced bread for 24/7 yarn and supply shopping.  There are countless online stores, large and small, for every conceivable type of yarn and knitting paraphernalia.  When I'm searching for a certain type of  frugal yarn for a project, I have some top favorites which I will share with you here.  Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments section below.

One of the places I search weekly is  Every Wednesday around noon (Pacific Time) they post discounted yarn on both the "Yarn Sale" section and the "Hot Buys" under the yarn category.  Seems lately it hasn't offered much I'm looking for, but I've snagged some serious bargains in the past for as low as .99/skein for Plymouth Encore, Moda Dea closeouts like Tweedle Dee, Bamboo Wool & Sassy.  They tend to carry a lot of Red Heart & Lion Brand, but when there is a serious markdown on something it tends to sell out quickly.  It pays to get there early when they post the sale items on Wednesdays and do a quick scan.

Probably the very cheapest yarn source I know of is  Super cheap prices on lots of Plymouth, Lion Brand, Filatura Lanarota, Rowan and more.  This is purely closeout colors and yarn lines and they make no pretense.  Once a month or so they have a .99 special on something that is usually pretty awesome.  I bought 200 skeins of workhorse, machine-washable Plymouth Encore DK in neutral solids for .99/each the last time I ordered.  So far I've used it to knit a man's pullover and vest and am starting an ivory baby blanket with it and that only made a tiny dent.  The only drawback on this site is the flat rate $12.95 shipping cost.  I wait to order until I am buying at least 130 skeins so the shipping averages out to .10/skein or less.  Teaming up with a friend(s)to order is also a good way to reduce the shipping hit.

Higher end yarn from the major yarn companies is available on, another of my go-to's.  They have their own low-priced line of yarn in a wide range of fiber weights and combinations along with everything from Reynolds to Naturally to Rowan and lots of patterns and books.  I go to the "Bargain Finder" and scan the newest stuff, much of it 50% - 75% off.  The shipping (it is coming out of Vancouver, BC) seems reasonable if going to the Northwest, not as good when I ordered from Texas.  I have noticed there seems to be a significant savings on the shipping for bigger orders, however.

A recent favorite is, which has some very high-end yarn marked down from 20% - 65%.  Today I found some lovely Nashua, Regia, Rowan and Filatura Di Crosa starting at $3/skein.  The trick with this website is to spend over $35 to get the free shipping and find an additional discount code on, a great source for many of your online yarn & supply purchases.  There have been codes for 20%-30% there in the past.  If you access through to place your order, you also snag a 4% cash rebate. 

The ultimate best source of current yarn sales, both online and in stores is on the postings on the "Yarn Sales" group.  I have found out about some of the most awesome sales both online and at local craft stores of any other source.  If you haven't joined yet, this group alone is worth getting involved for the 411 on sales.

More next time on great online sources for yarn and supplies.  And feel free to share your best cheap-o yarn and supply sources in the comments here.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Penny Pincher's Guide to Cheapskate Knitting - Part 3 - Frugal Yarn & Knitting Supply Sources

I love searching for a good bargain on yarn and knitting supplies and I've spent countless hours honing my cheapskate buying skills (and adding to my frighteningly large yarn stash).  It provides welcome recreation and I find it relaxing on the weekends - my reward for working another week in the financial world and much more fun than grocery shopping.

I am on the lookout for items that can be used for knitting supply/yarn storage everywhere I shop.  Some of my favorite containers came from Ikea.  My double-pointed needles are housed in a "Lidan" bag which was intended as toiletry storage and the "Flort" remote control pocket on my favorite chair keeps my knitting needles and supplies handy.  All sizes of "Expedit" shelving, which is divided into cubes, is ideal for yarn storage with or without the optional fabric "Drona" drawers which will hide an entire project.

There are specific local craft places I look first depending on what I'm searching for.  When I need any good, functional yarn or a knitting tool/needles quickly, I'm always prepared with coupons for Joann's, two of which are conveniently located minutes from my place.  If you're not on Joann's mailing list, get there quick.  They send out a mailer every few weeks that has at least one 40-50% off an item coupon and sometimes several.  They also email coupons regularly, and are willing to accept Michael's (and other craft store) coupons.   Last weekend I walked in with 10 coupons for 40-50% off  any regularly-priced item and stocked up on enough Lion Brand "Amazing" to knit a sweater, which I couldn't have justified at full price.

I have amassed an impressive Clover bamboo single and double point needle collection, all bought with 40-50% off coupons.  There's nothing quite as satisfying as the scritch-scritch of basic bamboo needles.  Several times a year, Joann's  has 10-20% off everything coupons for both regular and sale-priced items.  That is a particularly good time to stock up on needles, crochet hooks, cable needles, stitch markers and any other fun tools you've been wanting to try out (perhaps those pricey rosewood single points).

Michael's also offers coupons, although they don't ever mail me anything and I'm on their mailing list.  I find their coupons online (sometimes it involves Googling) and print them for use at the physical store location near my place or at Joann's.  Several weeks ago I stopped in to use a 20% off everything coupon I had printed online for them.  I was thrilled to find a bunch of unadvertised yarn specials on brands/colors they were closing out, but found when I tried to check my cartload of yarn that the coupon didn't cover closeouts, only sale and regular priced items.  I kept half of the yarn that I couldn't live without since it was almost half-price on closeout.  Michael's tends to seriously discount certain colors and varieties of yarn several times a year to make way for new spring and fall layouts, so check in periodically.

Keeping an open mind about yarn brands and materials is important when shopping at Michael's and Joann's (and AC Moore, Craft Warehouse, Hobby Lobby and other big craft stores).  Even "Yarn Snobs" can have a satisfying shopping experience if remaining open to possiblity.  I used to be the worst of the brand snobs when I owned my yarn shop and looked down my nose at any Lion Brand, Red Heart, Bernat and Caron yarn for their perceived lower-quality, acrylic-laden yarns.  I've come to appreciate many of the brands I once avoided and I've always had a soft spot for Paton's yarns.

Some of my perennial craft store yarn go-to's are Lion Brand Fishermen's Wool, Paton's Classic Wool, all Red Heart's Stitch Nation yarns, Paton's Kroy sock yarn, Red Heart's Heart & Sole sock yarn (love the aloe), Caron's Spa (acrylic & bamboo), Paton's Grace (awesome sheen & drape cotton), Bernat Baby Cakes (cotton/acrylic baby yarn), Lion Brand Baby Wool, and I am not ashamed to be rather fond of Lion Brand Wool Ease (easy-care and cheap).  I'm okay with acrylic involvement these days as long as the yarn in question has at least a token amount of some natural fiber.

In my next blog entry I will tackle the massive online discount yarn treasure trove.  Look out!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Penny Pincher's Guide to Cheapskate Knitting Series - Part 2 - Cheapo Ways to Find Knitting Patterns

There are so many sources of inexpensive and free knitting patterns these days, that it makes the olden days of searching out a local yarn store and buying the instructions on how to knit your next project seem like the stone ages.  The internet has spawned numerous sources of excellent knitting patterns and instructions as have other media outlets since knitting became "hot" again in the 90's.

My ultimate favorite source of  free and minimally-priced knitting patterns is  I use that website to allow users to download my free patterns, be re-directed to this blog to download my freebies and I also sell several of my designs there.  If you're not familiar with this website, it has evolved in the last few years from a basic social network for knitters and crocheters to the epicenter of knitting on the internet.  A generic pattern search using the keyword "knit" currently indicates over 45,000 free knitting patterns available to download, not counting the other 72,000 patterns available to download either on Ravelry or another website for a nominal charge.

The search engine is great on Ravelry as well, narrowing down results with keywords or by pattern attributes, designer names, ratings, and more.  The patterns you like best can be "queued" for future reference.  I currently have 699 patterns in my personal queue that I have either knit already and am storing, or plan on knitting in the future.  Checking the new patterns feed is one of my daily activities as many freebie patterns from other sites, books, blogs and magazines are consolidated there.  I also routinely look up patterns on Ravelry I am considering knitting to read other's comments and see photos of their finished projects.  I have abandoned knitting project ideas after checking that information and discovering that no one else has been able to knit effectively or there are pattern flaws I can't overcome.

There are many individual websites that offer lovely knitting patterns free for the taking.  My favorites are:,, and  Each serves a purpose depending on what type of item I am looking to knit.  Berroco is trendy designs, particularly good for cardigans featuring Berroco yarns (which I like) andgenerally interesting designs.  Straw is all designs made from Crystal Palace yarn, serviceable if simplistic and a little clunky.  Elann has a good selection of freebie patterns, many provided from yarn companies in mid-range style with an abundance of shawls and sweaters.  Knitpicks is getting better as time goes on and offers a large selection of everything from accessories to home decor items, with lots of color-work and felted projects.  They also act as a clearing house for a wide range of minimally-priced designs by independent designers.

Knitty comes out four times a year with new free designs from a wide range of amateur to professional designers.   Knitty's designs are generally fresh and hip, and originally offered some truly off-the-wall knitted item patterns.  The last few years the site seems to be a sock, fingerless-glove and shawl emporium, if that's what you're into.  It remains a go-to pattern source, particularly the pattern library.

Lionbrand has evolved into a huge free knitting pattern source in the last few years.  There isn't a category they don't cover, with many basic scarves, hats, home decor and baby items not found elsewhere.   I've knit many of their typically novice-geared patterns and find some of the garments a bit ill-fitting.  Knowing that, many of them can be adjusted to be usable using the comments and advice from other knitters' experiences.

I've utilized over the years, particularly pre-Ravelry, and it still has many listings in all knitting categories, drawing from many of the websites listed above and others, including blogs.  The downside of that website is having to actually click the links and go to the sites to see what the pattern is about (with none of the advice and photos of other users' projects).

Besides the internet, there are other cheapo knitting pattern sources.  After buying many expensive knitting books over the years and finding I only used one or two of the patterns, I now fully utilize my local public library and save a bundle.  When I find a new knitting book that I want to test drive, I put it in my online library queue and get in line to borrow it for a minimum of 3 weeks (sometimes longer if it isn't in high demand).  If I find I absolutely can't live without owning the book myself, I wait until has one of their 40% off online book sales (several times each year), buy it used on or use a 40-50% off coupon at my local Joann's or Michael's Crafts to snag my copy.  I have also found many cheapo knitting books (sometimes vintage) at my library's book sales.  My last score was a set of early 70's "Creative Hands" volumes featuring needlework crafts (macrame, anyone?) and many awesome knitting stitches and patterns.

And last, but not least, is the improvisation method of cheapo knitting patterns.  I often design my own patterns from scratch.  Once you have knit various objects and understand the basic mathematical calculations and gauge, the possibilities are endless for cheapo knitting designs when you're creating them yourself.  There are a variety of sweater component design books out there to assist, like The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns by Ann Budd and countless knit stitch encyclopedias perfect for winging it.

Be sure to check back for Part 3 of the Penny Pincher Guide on "Frugal Yarn and Knitting Supply Sources".

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Penny Pincher's Guide to Cheapskate Knitting Series - Part 1

Even though it feels like we are finally climbing out of the huge hole our economy, real estate and stock market fell into in the last few years, I think responsible shopping is always appropriate.  I'm proud to have been called many things over the years, from "thrifty" to "tight" to just plain "cheap ass" as I've steadily honed my cheapskate skills.  It is the way I raised my daughters to consume as well.  To this day, they are trained to go directly to the SALE racks at the back of the store, do not pass GO.  We just don't pay retail and I think a lot more people feel this way after what we've all been through since 2008.  Losing your job, your retirement savings and possibly your home makes thrifty living look more attractive even to the most die-hard spender.  And none of us plans on giving up our knitting addiction no matter what the economy...

There is something innately gratifying about getting a good deal.  It enhances the enjoyment of buying something we really want or need when we have the added satisfaction of paying as little as humanly possible for that item.  I can remember what type of deal I got on every skein of yarn, knitting needle and pattern I use on a daily basis.  Sometimes it makes me smile while I knit with those things and certainly adds to the fun of the project and process.   And if anyone criticizes my boundless yarn stash purchases, I can justify/rationalize all of it when it was at bargain prices.

As a former yarn shop owner, I have a distinctly different view on what is a reasonable price for yarn and knitting supplies.  I bought all the inventory for the shop from wholesalers and systematically doubled the wholesale price for the final retail prices I charged in a very upscale tourist-dependent beach town.  Being able to buy wholesale for five years is probably why I keep trying to recreate that situation with every knitting purchase I make now.  

Granted, it is a lot of fun to hang out in your local yarn shop (LYS) and buy only the highest-quality, snooty brand name yarn and tools. I love it as much as the next knitter.  Cheapskate knitting sometimes involves eliminating our yarn snob tendencies and foregoing the tactile experience of feeling over the yarn in your LYS for better prices online and keeping an open mind.

With all this in mind, here goes "The Penny Pincher's Guide to Cheapskate Knitting", a 5-part series here on my blog.  Stay tuned for "Part 2:  Cheapo Ways to Find Knitting Patterns" next week.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Well Behaved Women Don't Make History

I saw this quoted on a bumper sticker yesterday in a Walmart parking lot.  There were other rather insightful bumper stickers on the truck parked next to my mundane little Insight, but that one just spoke to me.  So, I'm going to keep that in mind the rest of 2011 and beyond.  It is both a challenge and permission and I need both.

The Knit Party last weekend was a mixed bag.  On one hand, there were only five of us in attendance (when I thought 12 were coming) so there was a lot of leftover food and wine.  On the other hand, the women that did attend were delightful and we had a great time. 

I taught one woman how to knit from the ground up with the Learn-to-Knit kit I had gotten her for Christmas.  Another woman I had taught how to cast on and knit last year was ready to learn purling.  And another woman who has been knitting off and on for years just needed some advice on finishing a block afghan.  The other woman is grieving from the loss of a husband last year and isn't quite ready to learn to knit.  I'm convinced she will be more receptive later on and I'll be ready to teach her then.

Unfortunately I have broken several of my New Year's knitting resolutions already.  I didn't get a new post on here last week with preparation for the Knit Party.  Also, and my worst infraction, was breaking my resolution to not buy any new yarn until after Presidents' Day.  Darn that website!  I couldn't resist their half off special on and gift certificates.  Combined with 30% off all yarn and free shipping, I was a goner, and ordered immediately.

I got 4 skeins of oatmeal Fishermen's Wool (my current fave), a cone of cream Lion Brand 1878 wool, several sets of bamboo single point needles, 10 skeins of Gedifra Riana Yarn in beige tweed and new point protectors.  Then there was that trip to Joann's yesterday for 2 sets of bamboo double points that resulted in a new spring tape measure and 2 honkin' big skeins of Bernat Baby Blanket in shades of pink/orange for a cushy blankie for little June Bug. 

Yes, India, my oldest,  found out my next grandchild (due in late June) is really a girl and her name is going to be June Alyxandra (middle name same as my middle daughter Jade's).  I'm so thrilled to be able to knit tiny girl thingies and have more plans for projects than I'll probably ever get finished.

I did finish the Anthropologie-inspired toddler cardigan.  I took several pictures but still need to list it on  Not sure if I'm up for recreating it multiple times, but I like the way it turned out.  While I was using the infamous Fishermen's Wool I also churned out another "Oatmeal Slouch Hat" for my shop.  In addition, I designed and knit my new hat pattern "Put a Bird On It!" which is posted here on the blog page using the Iceland Lopi mentioned in the previous posting. 

Also, I am half finished knitting slouchy cabled socks in a lovely pink Rowan Extra Fine Merino DK for a friend awaiting a kidney transplant.  She is very ill and I hope these cuddly socks will comfort her.  I'm also half-finished with another pair of denim blue cabled socks for my daughter Jade, who will be having her tonsils out in another month and recovering afterward at my place.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Icelandic Yarn, Men's Socks and a Knit Party

I was pleasantly surprised this week when friends brought back some gorgeous Icelandic Lopi yarn straight from the source on their quick jaunt to Reykjavik to see the Northern Lights.  It is a really soft Bulky Lopi by Istex and will be a delight to knit.  I will probably knit a stranded earflap-style hat out of the cream and brown, but it must wait in the project queue for now as there are many more pressing things to finish before I can start anything new.

I also finished "Mona's Jacket" and it is blocked.  Not sure if I like it as much as I thought I would.  It fits okay after extreme blocking, but the crocheted buttons seem very clownish to me.  Maybe they will grow on me.

My weekend has been spent making a large knit snack basket/container for my friend recovering from some nasty surgery and simple, cozy socks to recuperate in.  The soft basket is rather clever and is included in Joelle Hoverson's More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts.  It only took 1 1/4 skeins of Moda Dea Tweedle Dee and is just the right size for plenty of Trader Joe's snacks and the cozy socks.  I will definitely make it again in the future - maybe for yarn studio storage or another gift.

The socks really knit up fast and are in my new favorite knitting book, Knits Men Want by Bruce Weinstein (photos by Jared Flood).  They aren't kidding in the tagline either:  The 10 Rules Every Woman should Know Before Knitting for a Man Plus the Only 10 Patterns She'll Ever Need.  The 10 rules are hilarious and so true - I took the time to read the chapters before starting the socks and laughed out loud in between nodding in agreement many times over the accurate observations.  The "Thick and Warm Socks" pattern is in the chapter titled "Rule #8 - Men Can Compromise" and were fun to make out of charcoal DK wool/acrylic.

The photos are beautiful, the projects simple, yet highly useable and cover everything from hoodies to hats to pullovers.  I like the way each pattern has options for sizing each step of the way and the socks turned out great.  Definitely a book to add to your library.  You will reach for it again and again.

Meanwhile, I am readying my place for the Knit Party scheduled this coming Saturday afternoon.  I had so many requests to teach friends and friends of friends how to knit that it seemed the most logical way to accomplish that (and drink some good wine).  I'm excited to get to use my big pine IKEA table which has always looked like a knitting workroom table to me.  I expect about a dozen women and have plenty of yarn in my copious stash to teach everyone with.  

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My 2011 Yarn Diet

So far this year, I have managed to stick with my resolution of not adding to my yarn stash in 2011 until after President's Day (also, ironically, my birthday this year).  This resolution came from the fact that I have 100's (perhaps 1000's) of yarn skeins in my stash already and a change of residence on the horizon (I will have more boxes of yarn & knitting supplies than household goods).  I've also managed to avoid buying any new knitting tools or books.  The large snaps I bought at Joann's last weekend were necessary to complete the "Mona's Jacket" project and that darn Vogue Knitting magazine just showed up in the mailbox. 

It has been difficult for me (harder than I realized it would be) and I  feel like I'm on a restrictive food diet.  When I'm on a calorie-restriction diet, I find myself watching the Food Channel constantly, clipping recipes like crazy and thinking obsessively about when and what I will eat next.  For me, everything starts revolving disproportionately around food.  That's the main reason I don't bother dieting anymore.

Now I'm not just skimming through yarn websites daily like normal, but loading up online shopping carts while telling myself I really NEED that yarn and what a great deal it is that might not come along again. I find myself daydreaming about types and colors of yarn I would like to buy walking back and forth to work and throughout my workday.  As I'm knitting each evening, my right brain opens up and I start dreaming up new projects and designs that invariably require some yarn I don't currently own.  I'm just glad it is yarn I am addicted to and not something much worse...

Fortunately, I haven't followed through on buying anything yet, but February 21st seems like a long time from now.  At least I've been redirecting my frustration into knitting at a faster, more productive pace on my current knitting projects which uses up my yarn stash quicker.  I just finished two loop scarves to post in my Etsy shop, have one sleeve left on  "Mona's Jacket", am about 1/4 finished with Harold's vest and into the rustic child's Anthropologie-ish cardi.  I'm casting on today to make a sweet pink "Elegantly Simple Baby Blanket" for my friend Ben's new addition, Evelyn Rosemary, arriving late this spring.