How to save on knitting yarns

Knitting and a similar craft called nålbinding, which uses only one needle rather than two to create a woven web, have been practised for at least two millennia.  Some ancient pieces, created with very fine cotton thread, are remarkable for their intricate stitching and patterns, and if you wanted to set a goal for yourself in knitting you could do no better than to produce similar workmanship.

People have strong reactions to taking up knitting:  one either loves it or one does not, and if you fall into the first category you'll find yourself making not only garments but other items like toys, potholders, iPhone covers (yes, really), cushion covers, tea cosies, and even appliance covers should you get carried away.

Your cheapest source of supply:  recycled yarn

Knitters tend to produce in great volume once they're underway, and you'll be able to work most cheaply if you learn to unravel old jumpers for their yarn, buying them in thrift shops when your personal supply is exhausted.  Selecting the proper jumpers and then unraveling them so the yarn can be reused requires its own technique.

To get an idea of what to look for, Oxfam currently has almost 600 jumpers just waiting to return to yarn.  You can find cashmere, lambswool, angora, mohair, and other speciality fibres, but you can't make your purchases online because you'll have to examine the garments first.

You want to select only those that will unravel into one continuous strand, or as close thereto as possible, and in order to do that you won't buy jumpers with serged seams, which are made of separate knitted bits stitched together.  Don't choose worn garments, because the material is often frayed, and check the insides as well as the exterior surfaces for signs of wear.

Most knitters don't care for scratchy wool and acrylic yarns, and given the vast selection in used sources you can afford to be particular, but if you're captivated by a novelty yarn then by all means indulge.  If you find out what day your favourite thrift shop is restocked, you can visit every week and take your choice of the new arrivals (larger sizes yield more yarn).

Spinning your own yarn

Taking the notion of saving by handwork one step further are the people who begin their knitting projects by purchasing their own fleece direct from the sheep farms.  You can buy the entire fleece or parts thereof, and there's currently at least one offer of free fleece given to anyone who comes to collect it.

Some of the farmers also spin, and in that case you can buy either the fleece or the yarn made from it.  There are various implements involved in the spinning, like carders to comb and prepare the wool, a drop spindle or spinning wheel to generate the yarn strand, and a device called a niddy noddy on which to wind your newly finished yarn for storage.  The drop spindle is vastly cheaper than the spinning wheel (£20 as compared to £350), but it's correspondingly more labour-intensive to use. Payday Loans could provide the additional funds needed to enable you to purchase a spinning wheel if you are not able to operate the more difficult spindle.

Yarns to dye for

If you choose a light-coloured sweater to unravel, or spin a pale natural fleece, you'll end up with yarn you can dye yourself.  The professionals recommend Kraftkolour dyes from Australia, because the dye penetrates well and there's a beautiful spectrum of shades, but if you feel like concocting your own dyes that is the cheaper method.

You can create vegetable dyes from common plants, and we all know about the propensity of deeply coloured liquids (grape juice and red wine, coffee and tea) to pigment the fibres on which they're spilled.  In addition to the colouring matter (onion skins, cabbage, fennel, even Kool-aid) you'll need metallic compounds called mordants to fix the colours-- iron and alum are both cheap and safe to use.

As you can see, Kool-aid produces a rainbow of vivid hues while vegetable colouring is much more subtle, but both types of dye bring the satisfaction of having done the work yourself.

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