I recently wrote a blog post with tips for buying weaving yarn at a big box store. I thought I’d follow it up with a few tips for buying yarn online. First, I’ll repeat that if you are lucky enough to be near a yarn shop, there is nothing like seeing and feeling the yarn for yourself, but not all of us are that lucky.
Buying online can be tricky. Most yarns are labeled for knitters or crocheters and don’t speak in exactitudes. Although the Craft Yarn Council has developed standards for yarn sizes as they relate to needle sizes, this doesn’t always translate well for weavers. You have probably heard the rule of thumb that a size 5 heddle will most likely work well with bulky yarn; size 8 with a worsted- or DK-weight yarn; size 10 with a sport-weight yarn; and a size 12 with a sock- or fingering-weight yarn. Within these guidelines is a huge range of factors that go into selecting the yarn, such as fiber content, construction, and end use.
Here are a few quick tips that may help with your search:
- Search published patterns for looks you like and seek out similar yarns online. The blog post I wrote on yarn substitutions may help with searching for yarns online that have similar characteristics to ones you see in patterns.
- Amass your own yarn library by ordering color cards and yarn samples. This is how retailers buy their yarns—they get color cards and samples from their suppliers. Some retailers offer this service to their customers, for instance Yarn Barn of Kansas offers a large selection of sample cards to choose from.
- Buy from an online retailer that has a brick-and-mortar weaving shop. There are many online retailers with physical shops that cater to weavers and speak rigid-heddle. A few legacy shops that come to mind are: Halcyon Yarn, Hill Country Weavers, Mielke’s Fiber Arts, Paradise Fibers, Yarn Barn of Kansas, WEBS, Woolery. I feel like I’m forgetting more than I’m remembering. If you have a favorite shop that you order from online that speaks rigid-heddle, give them a shout out in the comments below.
- Order kits even if you don’t want to weave the project. Kits that are designed for rigid-heddle weavers are a great way to pick up a variety of yarns for weaving in color combinations that you know will work. Cotton Clouds specializes in rigid-heddle weaving and offers a wide variety of kits.
- Order more than one shade of a color and ask the retailer about return policies. Color is perhaps the trickiest part of ordering online. Computer screens just don’t show true color. I have a student who orders what she thinks is the right color, and then two safety colors. She will either tuck the other two away for future projects or return the yarn. You may only get store credit or have to pay a restocking fee, but if color is important to the outcome of your project, the extra expense may be worth it. I try not to abuse this policy and build a stock of color cards over time, so I rely on this method only occasionally.
- Seek out shops wherever you go. I just got back from a teaching gig at Sheep Thrills in Florida. They have a lot of customers who visit the store on vacation, take classes, and then order from them online when they get home. If you have visited a shop on your travels and see they carry rigid-heddle weaving supplies, ask if they sell online. You will have at least seen some of their yarns in person and have an idea of what they carry.
Over time, you will build a stock of go-to yarns that you know will work well for most projects. We know that acquiring yarn really isn’t the challenge, it’s using it all.