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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Yarn Tasting How-Tos

Yarn Tastings are popping up everywhere.  What are they?  What do they cost?  What do you bring?  Can you throw your own?  Let's jump right in.

The goal of the whole endeavor is for knitters to use or collect a "taste" a variety of yarns and fibers, without the financial investment or commitment of buying a whole skein. This is particularly handy with the more expensive fibers.  Sometimes specific yarn manufacturers or distributors host their own tastings, and all fibers involved are from that single outlet.  Other times, the sky is the limit in what you may discover.

This is some info on how the most frequent tastings work.  When a yarn shop has samples made, there are often ball ends remaining.  These are weighed out and labeled in 1oz skeins, or 20yds, or some standard size, and saved.  Sometimes distributors and manufacturers supply sample skeins, or offer new yarns at an attractive introductory price.  These skeins are sometimes broken down into tasting skeins, too.

The party invitations go out, in one of two common formats: either it's a fixed price for a certain number of "tastes", or each taste has a very distinct price based on its cost to the shop.  When you arrive at the event, there are usually a few activities, sometimes a speaker, and the tastes are distributed, often by price level.  Certain ticket prices access certain "taste" levels. 

The highest priced yarns are often the hardest for a shop owner to sell, as they represent the biggest investment per yard.  Cashmere, camel, and suri alpaca are all lovely to work with, but how do you know if they will work with your project?  You need to swatch, and at $25 - $60 a skein, how many swatches can you afford?  With a yarn tasting, you can afford to make more swatches.  Is there a sock or lace yarn you've always wanted to try?  Tasting is a great way to meet new yarns that require a large amount of yardage to complete a project.  And it's a great way to test out novelty yarns, and see if they're a good fit for your next project.

Can you throw your own?  Sure.  Save and thoroughly label your ball ends from your projects, and encourage your friends or knitting club to do the same.  When you feel like you each have some interesting ball ends (say three or four that many of you haven't used yet) plan to get together over some coffee or a glass of wine.  Usually the rule in the informal tastings is "one in, one out".  That is you can take as many ball ends as you bring to the party, within whatever rules chosen by the group.  (If one person brings 15, and everyone else brings 4, it ends up a little strange!)

You don't have to do this formally.  You can just save your ball ends and exchange them with a friend without involving other people.  You don't even need to have a project in mind.  Just remember to label your finished swatches with the yarn and needle info, so when you're ready to use the yarn in your project, you remember exactly what you used!

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