Thoughts of a Tightwad Knitter

It is funny how knitting has changed from a household chore, a source of income, a daily family need, and a skill taught as commonly as reading is taught today, to the complete opposite: a hobby, a source of monetary outflow, a “time-waster,” and something thought of as too “difficult” for just anyone to do.

Today, very few people remain untouched by this recession/depression/whatever you want to call it (doesn’t it get old reading about whether it technically meets either definition?). Knitters, myself included, have not escaped the changing economic situation. Even if you are doing just fine during the, lets call it Great Repression, it is suddenly in vogue to be frugal. There are even new rules of etiquette springing up about not showing your wealth or prosperity off now.

So, since cashmere is so 2006, how does one knit “on the cheap?” How can you continue to enjoy your “time and resource wasting” hobby if you or a spouse have lost a job/taken a paycut? How can you make your expensive hobby less expensive?

Here are some suggestions for frugal knitting from a down-right tightwad.

-Request a log-on for Ravelry. The site is teeming with thousands of free patterns of anything, and I mean ANYTHING you could want to knit. There is no shortage of buyable patterns as well, and many are very inexpensive, but my point is that you could knit for the rest of your life and never knit up every single free pattern kept on that site. Aside from free patterns, Ravelry also has an area for members to offer yarn for swapping or buying. Groups can be created by members and you could set up a Ravelry group for your local area (if there isn’t one already) and you can get to know knitters local to you and work out barters and swaps among them. Ravelry is the best free source there is for knitters on the internet.

-While your at it, check out Knitty for more fabulous free patterns.

-Learn to spin. It isn’t hard. Spinning is a skill almost as old as making fire. You can do it. I promise. You can order a pound of wool from a source like Halcyon Yarn for as little as about $13 for the basic domestic wool. Think of what you could do with a pound of wool that you spin into yarn yourself. It is highly economical and if you love to spin, you get the dual joys of spinning and then knitting it, and if you enjoy dying, you can triplicate your dollars and combine all three.

-Most knitters do not just knit things for themselves. If you just love to knit and don’t mind giving the gift of your knitting away, then plan ahead for Christmas. It is much easier to justify paying $18-$20 on a ball of Kureyon sock yarn when that is going to be the entirety of your sister-in-law’s Christmas gift. Or if you pay $40 for a big lot of yarn, it is easier to justify it if it will become a cardigan for your brother for Christmas. In this way, you get the joy of knitting, the ability to possibly spend LESS on Christmas gifts than you would have otherwise, and if you plan well in advance, you can hit sales (I got Kureyon for $14 for the socks I am knitting for Christmas) and do it even more economically.

-Knit what you have, even if it is crap. This might sound harsh, but if you love to knit, just for the sake of knitting, and you have a couple of pounds (or more) of yarn lying around that you really don’t like but you got it because it was 4 for a $1 10 years ago, use it anyway. Knit it into hats, scarves, mittens, or blankets and donate it to your local homeless shelter or your local battered women’s shelter. I can assure you that the receiver will not care if it is acrylic, cotton, or fuschia wool; they need warmth and shelter, you need to knit; it is a win-win situation.

-Suck it up and knit acrylic. It sucks. I know. I hate acrylic now. It is a petroleum-heavy product and it just doesn’t feel the same, but when 300 yards of acrylic is $3 and 180 yards of wool is $10…well…if you don’t have any trouble with the ethics of acrylic, you don’t have to be a genius to see where the savings are.

-When you can, buy from a small local business. But know that in supporting them, you will possibly pay a higher cost; get on your Local Yarn Store’s mailing list and hear when they have big sales and clearances; check out the seasonal craft bazaars in your area. When you cannot buy local, try Etsy. I once picked up 6 ounces of beautifully hand-dyed roving for $8 once because the dyer didn’t like the result and was selling it cheap. I supported an artist and I got a great deal at the same time. When you cannot afford Etsy or your local store, do not be over-ridden with guilt because you had to go to Michaels or Ben Franklin or even Wal-Mart to feed your need. There is no sense in feeling guilt over something you cannot change. Just knit in peace wherever your yarn came from.

-Recycle. If you knit a project years ago and don’t like it or your skills have increased and you wouldn’t be seen dead with that old thing or would never admit you actually whipped that off your needles, then unravel it and put it to new use. Lots of other knitters suggest hitting thrift stores and recycling handknits and crochets you find there, but I have mixed feelings about it. Maybe it is because so much of what I have found have been absolute horrors. Or maybe it is because I actually do get a ping of guilt over the thought of unraveling someone’s hours of labor. Either way, I have not had success with buying used and recycling old hand-knits. Still, if you do find something and it works for you, then by all means, rip away and make that old ratty thing into something new and good.

-Borrow. Not yarn of course. Needles. If you take advantage of Ravelry or other knitting sites that put you in touch with local knitters or you go to local KnitNites, you have contacts. What if you are working on something and need a crazy size needle you would be highly unlikely to need again? Talk to other local knitters and see if anyone has that size and ask to borrow it. You might be surprised how easy that is. Or, ask at your LYS. LettuceKnit in Richmond offered to loan me a Size 5 circular while theirs were backordered. I declined, but hey, I appreciated the offer and would be far more likely to take them up on it now.

-Try Craigslist, Freecycle, flea markets, and yard sales. With so many people in need of extra cash, these things are flourishing and you might really do someone a favor by giving them $10 to take their unneeded knitting supplies off their hands.

What ideas do you have for cutting the costs of knitting?


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by katie on April 13, 2009 at 3:01 PM

    (i found this entry on the tag surfer). it’s funny- i was planning on writing an entry like this tomorrow.

    if you do know how to spin- see if you can make friends with a local wool producer. my father got three full fleeces for me for christmas one year for next to nothing because he happens to be friends with the farmer. sometimes they’re willing to sell to you cheaper if you go directly to them instead of at festivals or vendorships when they have to pay fees to be there.


    • Posted by laruse on April 13, 2009 at 3:19 PM

      That was almost one of the suggestions I made. I actually recently used Craigslist and posted a wanted ad in the farm section asking for sheep and alpaca breeders who planned to shear soon to contact me. I had several offers of high quality raw fiber ranging from free to $2 an ounce from local sheep, alpaca, and even angora breeders in under an hour.

      Also, thank you for the ping-back!

  2. It honestly never stops to fish slap me at just the kind of stuff you see about or happening on Craigslist.


  3. In the Janesville, Wisconsin area there are 3 opportunities each week to learn how to spin, knit, and crochet absolutely FREE! Did you know you can create a working spindle from just a pencil, a cup hook, and a piece of cardboard? Visit to learn more about the gatherings offering YOU opportunities to learn and share.


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