Sunday, December 22, 2013

Guest Post: Frugal ideas for the yarn-loving crafter by Cindy Koepke

Guest Post!!!!  Thanks Cindy for offering this great content, and sharing your frugal ways.  Yarn works is beyond my scope of knowledge, so this is great added content.  Enjoy loyal readers!

Frugal ideas for the yarn-loving crafter
by Cindy Koepke
Winter has settled in for a good long stay here in the North, so your thoughts may have turned to creative indoor activities. Maybe you also have a New Year's goal to save money. You don't have to break your budget to enjoy knitting, crocheting, weaving, or spinning. A great place to start is with the usual frugal advice: smart use of coupons and loyalty programs, and patience to wait for good sales. But wait, there's more to know.

There is so much free craft information online! If you haven't already, join, a free online community. You can find free patterns, learn from other crafters, get ideas for your next project, and research yarns if you need to substitute. There are a lot of free video tutorials on Youtube if you get stuck on a technique. and offer online video classes you can do at your own pace, and they have several free courses. is a fabulous free online magazine with lots of patterns and a great archive from previous issues. There are a lot of craft blogs can be another great source of free patterns and technique info, not to mention inspiring ideas.

Look for groups or craft guilds in your community because nothing beats the learning and camaraderie that comes from doing your crafts with others. Often more experienced crafters will be happy to give you a few tips or steer you to someone who can teach you more. They might also be able to clue you in to good deals on gear and yarn (more on that below).

When it comes to books, make good use of your library and its interlibrary loan program. Some (not all, sadly) used bookstores have great craft sections, and they are well worth seeking out if you want to build your own library! Once a year, Interweave Press offers steep discounts on many of its excellent titles during its Hurt Book Sale. 

You don't need a lot of gear to get started in any of the yarn crafts. Scissors and a measuring tape are essentials, plus of course, the main tools for your chosen hobby (knitting needles, crochet hooks, handspindle or spinning wheel, weaving loom). Used gear is often a great way to go. Most craft "hardware" is sturdy and will still have lots of life left if you buy it pre-loved. Check out garage sales and Craigslist. Ask your friends and relatives; you might be surprised who has some craft gear tucked away in the basement that they don't use any more. I have an extensive knitting needle collection made up of hand-me-downs and new purchases I've made (some with coupons and loyalty points), with a good number of crochet hooks and assorted notions as well.

For spinning, you don't have to have a wheel; handspindles are inexpensive, very portable, and more productive than a lot of people believe. You can even make handspindles yourself pretty easily. There is a large community of spindle users on Ravelry if you don't have one locally. Outside the spinning community, a lot of people recognize spinning wheels from fairy tales and pioneer history but may not have heard of spindles. Spinning on handspindles is thousands of years older than wheel spinning and every bit as fun. If you do decide to go for a wheel, look for a used wheel in good repair. Unless you are very handy, stick with a name brand so you can find instruction manuals, spare parts, etc. Do your research and ask folks in your craft group if you can test drive their wheels before you buy. Buying new? Some shops will offer package deals with fiber and accessories that are a good value.

Large weaving looms can be very expensive if bought new, but I've seen some excellent values on craigslist for used looms. My personal interest is in smaller simple looms, and I made one out of PVC plumbing pipe (and I have very minimal construction skills) from the instructions in Sarah Swett's book, Kids Weaving. It's a great beginner book and not just for kids. Beware the small looms marketed to kids that are usually displayed with the creative toys. Some are very nice, but some have very wide warp spacing that is of limited use. Backstrap weaving is still used in several parts of the world; this versatile weaving method requires only a few smooth sticks and weaving yarn to get started! Check out the article in the Weavezine archives or the backstrap weaving group on Ravelry. 

There are a lots of places to look for yarn while keeping within your budget. The Knitmore Girls (  recently discussed this topic on their podcast (episode 252) and in their Ravelry group, and you'll get some excellent advice there. Check out the sale shelf and sales events at your local yarn store. Ask for yarn store gift cards for your birthday. Look online for mill ends or discontinued yarns on sale. Organize a craft supply swap with friends: everybody brings their surplus items, spreads them all out on tables, and shops the swap for no money. You can donate any leftovers to charity. You can unravel an old sweater from the closet or the thrift store (tutorials online) and make the recycled yarn into something new. Unwanted T-shirts can be cut into long continuous strips of "yarn" for making rugs, bags, and other sturdy items.

For spinning, you can save quite a bit of money by buying unprepared fleece from a farm or shop. You would be spending time instead, washing the fleece, carding or combing it, and maybe even dyeing it yourself (Kool-aid and food coloring work quite nicely). A middle route would be to buy the fleece and get a wool mill to prepare it for you. If a whole fleece is too much for you, split one with someone in your craft group. So do some exploring, and let your creativity be fueled by your frugal goals!

1 comment:

  1. One addition: FREE e-books (pdf files) on many spinning topics at !