As the blog gets going, I thought I would preference my first project post with a brief how-to. Namely, how to get your hands on the good stuff! It’s not nearly as easy to find handspun yarn as it is to turn into your local Walmart, Joann’s or Michael’s. Finding handspun yarn, with a story behind it no less, is an adventure that almost always proves worthwhile. Below I have compiled my top five ways of procuring handspun yarn. Give them a try and let me know what you think!
1. Your local yarn shop.
Your local independent yarn shop, I might add. Yarn shops are the most important way to connect with your local knitting community. (I won’t digress here why they need our support.) Many shops reserve a section specifically for local yarns: whether the fiber is raised locally or spun locally. Check out the shops in your area and see if they have a nook for the handmade fluff.
2. Fiber festivals.
Fiber festivals are the absolute pinnacle of handspun knitting. If you’ve never been, they are a must see. Not only will large quantities of handspun yarn be available for purchase (side-by-side for comparison shopping), you will revel in the inspiration. While you are there, grab business cards so you’ll have someone to contact when your stash runs low. And for goodness sake, enjoy the celebration of handmade and homegrown!
3. Your local fiber guild.
Fiber guilds support local farms-both at the professional and hobby level. This is an ideal place to find knowledgeable, local spinners. These organizations host fiber markets, issue directories, and can put you in contact with the specific fiber farmer of your choosing (if they happen to be around). The best part? You might get to meet the furry guy who grew the yarn for your hat.
Find your local fiber guild here: http://fiberarts.org/directories/guilds/
A plethora of handspun yarn is available to knitters worldwide thanks to Etsy, the handmade marketplace. Color options are endless and any blend of fiber you can dream up will be there. Numerous and luxurious, these yarns tend to come in at the highest price. The biggest drawback though? You can’t touch before you buy. Find the shop that meets your needs and stick with them. Customer loyalty is well rewarded by most independent artisans.
Needless to say, get yourself over to Etsy to see what’s out there: http://www.etsy.com/
5. Your local knitting club.
Where there is knitting there are spinners. Knitting clubs draw many types of fiber artists and chances are there’s a club in your area with an emphasis on the knitting process-from sheep to shawl. Try out a few different clubs, particularly if you live in a larger area. Eventually, you will find the knitters with the handspun virus, and in the mean time, you’ll get to meet knitters along the way.
Bonus: Learn to spin.
This is an adventure I have yet to embark upon. (Believe me it is coming.) The plus? Virtually endless yarn-as much as you care to make. You get to have a hand in virtually every step of the process. The drawback? Knitting with the learning curve. Practice yarn makes a great gift or give-away to knitter friends 😉
Learn the basics of spinning here: http://joyofhandspinning.com/
As for me, I am one of the lucky ones. My mother, a master spinner, is always willing to donate a skein to my latest idea. In fact, I have a stash of precious yarn that she has spun waiting for my needles. Her network of fiber friendships also keeps me well informed of other techniques and skills: from turning the heel of a sock to dying some roving. But this support system for knitting isn’t limited to those of us with yarn in our blood. Knitting communities are vibrant, lovable, and helpful.
I hope this post has provided you with some knitter networking know-how. There is nothing like getting your yarn straight from the artisan who spun it. And few things could be more enjoyable than meeting the goat who grew your hat. These rewarding experiences are just some of the unique benefits of knitting with handspun. So get out there and strengthen the bonds of our local fiber communities by sharing the process of creating knitted art.
Do you have any tricks or tips for finding handspun yarn? Please share in the comments!