Sunday, April 28, 2013

Knitting on the Cheap

As I've said in the past, you don't always have to spend a fortune to knit well, use great fibers and great needles, and even to build a great knitting library.  I meant it then, and I mean it now.

It's easy to spend a small fortune on good tools, great yarns, and classes.  (Though, as a teacher, I'm a big fan of spending money on classes...)  The full-price retail of most hand-knitting yarns and tools IS heavy, considering what it costs to by a machine-made piece of knitwear.  So what do you do if you're a knitter on a tight budget in serious need of a really good knitting fix?

Today I had one of my favorite knitting moments: Estate Sale sign on the way to where I needed to be, and I had 20 minutes of leeway in my schedule.  I wandered in, sad for the family's loss, but also curious as to what the family had chosen to part with.  According to the family photos, this family had only sons, and mom was a knitter.  A good knitter. 

There was a treasure trove of yarn, knitting books, needles, and notions.  The yarns were hand-labeled with content, source, dyer, and who  spun or manufactured it.  They were selling it for a dollar a skein, 3 for $2.  Naturally by the time I arrived after 3 in the afternoon most of the knitting things had been picked over, and yet still there was good stuff.  I chose a variety of hand-dyed sock yarns.  Then I chose a cashmere/merino blend, hand-spun and hand dyed.  And some Manos del Uruguay skeins that she had balled and paired with a terrific mitten pattern.  It was late in the day, and they gave me all ten skeins for $2!

I'm told her library of knitting books had been cut down by over half, and there were still over 10 titles there.  Only one was a book I didn't have, and I grabbed it up immediately.  It was "The Yarn Girls Guide to Beyond The Basics", and it was marked $10.  They gave it to me for $1. 

$3 later, I left with a retail value of over $350.  Is this normal?  NO.  This was a good score.  But it isn't that far out of the ordinary.  I've found cashmere at the Goodwill.  I've found matched pairs of Addi circs at yard sales.  I've found ebony Lantern Moon straights on Craigslist.  I've purchased bins of yarns at yard sales and found they included hundreds of dollars in antique notions and high end yarns (including my favorite find ever, hand-hewn ivory crochet hooks!).  Sometimes a student of mine will tell me that it's creepy to them to shop "used".  I don't think so.  Someone loved these yarns and these tools.  They ended up with people who don't want them.  And rather than throw them out, the folks who don't appreciate them have made them available to us. 

People stop knitting or sell off knitting things for many reasons: allergies, arthritis, abandoning a project, change in interest, moving to a warmer climate, changes in work schedule or hobbies...  Maybe they've switched from knitting sweaters, and have now become addicted to socks, or vice versa.  Or they've taken up golf.  Or started building dollhouses.  Not really the point.  The point is, you can choose to pay a lot, or you can choose to pay a lot less.  It just takes an occasional stop at the thrift shop, yard sale, and estate sale to check out the current offerings.  Websites like Craigslist (for everything), eBay (for yarn, needles, and magazine back issues), and (for books), will also save you a small fortune.

The one thing that shopping for knitting supplies on the cheap does require of you is flexibility.  You can find high quality pretty consistently.  You cannot, however, find exactly what you want exactly when you want it.  I wasn't planning on sock yarn today, but I know I'll use it.  If I need 2 sets of size US 1's knit those socks in the double circs method, either I need to be patient until I can find them thrift shopping, or I need to pay regular price at my LYS. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Coming Back to Life

I looked at my blog today with horror as I realized it's been almost three months since I've written.  Life's been a little nuts since the first of the year.  Many of you have sent kind words, warm thoughts, and encouragement my way, and it has taken hold.  So here's a quick recap:

I moved, and then sliced my hand open.  Then off to starting a new job.  Next, a really strange schedule.  Then, sadly, I lost my mother.  That set me reeling.  And through all of it I had a very hard time knitting.

My charity hat knitting is behind right now, as I haven't made a hat for April.  I'll get back on the horse and get it done.  I hope you've all been keeping your commitments to knit for those in need.  Share pics!  We'd all love to see.

It's nice to come back to the cozy world of knitting.  I'd like to stay here for awhile.  Thanks for keeping my spot warm!