Most knitters love what they do because of how tactile and sensory their materials are. To gather the right yarns and needles usually involves handling the yarn, making sure it has the right level of softness and integrity for their project.
However, there are fewer and fewer knitting stores on the high street these days, only last year my own local one in Reading closed down, and while your nearest John Lewis might have some of the things you need, most knitters look to the world wide web for their yarn.
I’ve written this post to give you some tips and advice to help navigate the world of online yarn buying and to share some of my favourite places to spend my money.
Where To Start?
Wool Warehouse stock a massive collection of yarns, from the budget-friendly to the more luxurious. Not only that, but they stock patterns, needles and notions to supply you with everything you need for your project. They might not have the biggest range of indie yarns, but they stock almost all the leading brands and have a particularly good range of Drops yarns.
If you’ve never been to Loop’s store in London, then you’re missing out. For overseas knitters, it’s often the tourist attraction that comes second only to Buckingham Palace. Their online store is great too and stocks dye companies like Qing Fibres, Madeline Tosh and Quince and Co.
Love Knitting is a company similar to Wool Warehouse. They might not have the most up to the minute indie dyers in stock, but they do have all the usual suspects in great abundance. Think Rowan, Sirdar, Rico and Lion Brand.
For yarns in cool colours and a wide variety of chunky wools, make sure you check out Wool and the Gang. They also have some fabulous kits, which can be quite expensive but provide some serious inspiration.
We Are Knitters
Whoever said knitting is reserved for unfashionable old ladies, has clearly never visited The WAK site before. They specialise in kits, and the designs they create would look at home among any top high street retailer. If you’re not following them on Instagram yet, go and check them out.
I have subscribed to The Loveliest Yarn Company's newsletter and they always provide me with a weekly dose of inspiration. They stock some great brands, like Skein Queen and Olann.
You might have been to their London store, or taken part in some of their classes or events, but The Village Haberdashery also stock some great yarns. My particular favourites being The Fibre Company and Madeline Tosh.
Some of my favourite yarns are created by indie dyers and brands and they are just impossible to get anywhere else. However they do usually have their own websites or sell through Etsy, so here are a couple of my favourite artisans…
Tips for buying yarn online
Don’t buy in bulk first
If you’ve never bought the yarn before, or bought from the company, it can be a good idea to buy a small quantity first. I know that this can add an extra delivery charge to your overall bill, but that way you’ll know you’re getting what you really need.
If you’re not sure whether you’re getting the right yarn for your project, then get in touch with the people who run the online store. Most of them will have a wealth of knowledge about knitting and will be more than happy to give you advice.
Check the dye lot
If you’re trying to match a yarn to a colour you already have, then as well as checking the colour name and brand match, you need to check that the dye lots are the same. Even slight differences can become noticeable in a project.
Make use of Ravelry
Ravelry is so useful in many ways, but I’ve found it particularly handy when I’m checking to see if a certain yarn or colour is right for me. Occasionally, different computer monitors can show colours in a different light, so by looking at yarn reviews on Ravelry, and photos of other people’s projects can give me a better idea of what it might look like in real life.
I hope these tips and online stores give you a good place to start, but if you have your own favourite shops then please add a comment below. I love to find a new place to indulge in growing my stash.
(All images, aside from the first, are screenshots taken from the retailer's own website and are not mine.)