In the first part of our introduction to knitting, we looked at the different types of needles and some things to think about when purchasing them. Now, we’re going to consider buying yarn for your first project.
So, the first obvious consideration when buying your yarn is the colour. Different shops will stock a smaller or wider variety of colours, so if you want a very specific shade, your best bet is to look in a craft shop, or even one specific to knitting supplies themselves. There are many shopping websites that will sell yarn, and these will offer probably the largest variety out there, but you should be careful with these since you’ll get a better idea of what it will look like in the finished product if you see it up close before buying. It might be best to do a little research first to find the best shop for knitting supplies in the area, and once you’ve found it, you will be able to go back there whenever you need to restock.
The next consideration when buying your yarn is the yarn weight. This can be found on the label and will be between 1 and 6 with 1 being the lowest. It refers to the thickness of the wool, and if you want a big chunky knit, then a higher yarn weight will be better than a thin one, which would better serve a dainty and delicate piece of knit-work. Though it might seem obvious how thick a piece of wool is simply from looking at it, it is best to check, since sometimes, while wool may be thick in appearance, this may be due to a large amount of excess air within the yarn, and the yarn will knit considerably more tightly than one would assume. You should know that the measurement of yarn weight is different in the US and UK, so make sure that the measurement you’re reading is the correct one. On the label it will also likely suggest a needle size to use, so take this into account too if you already have a set of needles that you’d like to keep using.
The type of yarn is also an important decision to make. Yarn comes in all different textures as well as weights, from explosive and fluffy to your more basic straight wool. It can be wool, cotton, acrylic or many other types, and there are a great number of novelty yarns that can be used including sequined ribbon and feather boa styles. Also, as I explained in my ‘Crochet vs. Knitting’ article, you can use pretty much any long fibrous item as yarn, including metal chains and torn up plastic bags. You can probably tell just from looking what wool you’d like to use in your project, and this is much more easily done in a real shop as opposed to over the internet, since you have the added ability to feel the wool as well as see it. It is probably good to choose quite a basic wool for your first knit, since you do not want to load too much on yourself too fast, and in any case, if you weren’t interested in using the conventional knitting yarns, it is doubtful you’d be learning the skill in the first place.
It is likely that for whatever project you attempt, you will need more than one ball of wool (and as a side note you should definitely work out how much you need before going shopping), so consider whether you really need the most expensive variety for this project, or whether a cheaper alternative will be alright in this case. If you want to get really cheap wool, some budget shops such as Poundland stock the basics, but these will be a little scratchier on the skin than the higher end yarns you might be able to find in craft shops. Charity shops too often offer a basic selection of yarns and other knitting supplies.
Look at the ways in which the yarn is provided if bought, since there are various methods that are used to roll it up before selling in shops. The most common methods are in balls, skeins (the oblong shape you probably think of when you imagine buying wool) and hanks (a twisted shape). It is simplest to buy your yarn in one of the first two methods, since these can be unwound straight into the knit, while to use a hank of wool, it must first be untwisted and then rolled up into a ball before use.
Now if you’ve gone through both this article and the last one, you should have the two main things you need for starting your first project, your yarn and your needles. In the next article we’re going to look at what some good starter projects are and how you can advance your skills from there!
Image from: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/sites/www.open.edu.openlearn/files/imported/13843/wool_catland.jpg