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.