Some folks will think I mean the never-ending desire for more yarn, but that’s not quite what I have in mind here. 😉
In the not too distant past, if you wanted to learn how to knit or crochet, you could make the attempt in one of two ways. You could find someone who knew how to do it and wouldn’t mind patiently teaching you. Or you could find a book somewhere and, sticking out your tongue or biting your lip or what-have-you in concentration, try to make heads or tails of the diagrams and illustrations while simultaneously grappling with your yarn and hook or needles.
Nowadays, though, we’ve got a whole new way of learning: YouTube. It is both wonderful and terrifying all at once. There may have been a time when you could type in a keyword as generic as “knit” or “crochet” and not be overwhelmed, but not anymore. You’ve got to be specific, baby! And even when you are, type in a term like “single crochet” or “purl” and you’ll get so many hits, you won’t know what hit you.
Here’s the thing about videos for beginners, though. Quite a few of them will tell you something vague like, “Grab your hook and some yarn.” Um, what yarn is this now? Oh, yeah. I should probably go get some yarn. And then you go to the craft store, electronic or physical, and Wow. 😮 I think I might actually go bankrupt shopping here!
If you get a book, many crochet or knitting instruction books will tell you, Don’t buy all the pretty yarn you see! But that’s only if you look at the right book first! Even with this warning, the temptation to just buy gobs of everything that draws your eye is very strong, and only the limits of your bank account and credit cards will sometimes stop you.
While the videos will rarely tell you which yarn to buy, I’ve read at least a few books that recommend you buy some wool yarn; and usually they will specify worsted weight. Really, Teach? You want me to buy some fancy wool yarn? What if I don’t even like crocheting or knitting? Then I’ve got this expensive wool yarn I have absolutely no use for. I’ll just get some cheap acrylic yarn! Yeah! Ew. Oh.
But I digress. Here’s what happened to me when I first ventured onto YouTube to learn to crochet: the first video I watched told me to ‘grab some yarn.’ So I did. Three huge, colorful, acrylic skeins of it… which I ended up hating and giving away. Then I watched a different video, and the yarn the lady used looked so scrumptious I tracked it down and bought about a half dozen skeins of it in a rainbow of colors (more acrylic, but a softer one I loved at the time). Only later I discovered that I had plenty of yarn, but not enough to actually make something coherent, like a halfway decent throw made of sunburst granny squares. So much yarn, yet not enough!
So what’s a rookie to do? If you’ve never picked up a hook or needles before, and you’re not sure you’ll even stick with it, I would tell you, “Don’t break the bank on a pile of yarn.” My suggestion is to find some yarn you like–color, texture, etc.–and buy one skein to start. Use it for a test drive of the craft you want to learn. (It’s a good idea to avoid single ply yarns in the beginning, as they are often difficult to pull back when you make mistakes.)
Have you found you like knitting or crocheting? Now’s the time to go get enough of that same yarn that you can make some thing or a number of things with it. How do you know if you’ll have enough? Many times, the yarn labels will offer free patterns and they will tell you exactly how much to buy in order to make the object. (Free hint: Buy a little extra, just to be safe. I try to make sure I have at least a hundred more yards of a color than the pattern says I need, and I buy however many skeins necessary to make that so.) If the label offers no patterns, you can usually check the website of the yarn’s brand to find beginner patterns.
What if you’re like me, and you can’t exactly reach out and touch the yarn you think you’d like to try? What if your only option is to order yarn online? Well, here’s where things get sticky!
I love Ravelry.com; I really do. It’s an awesome site, so useful, and so helpful on many, many levels. But darling, you can drown in there, too. So be careful! Go to the site, sign up, and, on the main page, look for a little box that has the banner “Quick Search”. The search field is set to “Patterns”, but if you click on that button that says “Patterns”, you can change it to “Yarns”. Then you can type in the name of the yarn that has caught your eye. Now, you can either read comments about that yarn–it’s the tab on the far right–or you can look at projects made with that yarn. Sometimes the notes Ravelers have made on their projects will mention their experience with the yarn. If the majority of people have good things to say about a yarn you’ve never tried before, give it a go! If it has lots of negative comments, steer clear, at least for now.
Fair warning, if you enjoy either craft or both, your yarn stash is bound to grow and grow. But knowing how much yarn you need for each project you undertake and buying only that will help keep things under control–kind of! I can’t make any promises. 😉