Editor’s Note: We feel there is an important role for both online and offline retail for yarn. People love seeing and feeling the product, as well as talking to likeminded folks in the store. However, many people do not live near a local yarn store, and sometimes the local store doesn’t happen to have exactly what they need to complete a project. For the times you do need to shop for yarn online, whatever the reason, these tips can help you make informed shopping decisions.
I love shopping for yarn online. There’s something really satisfying about adding all kinds of skeins to my virtual shopping cart, dreaming of the day when my budget (and storage!) won’t stop me from clicking “Check out” and purchasing all of it.
Buying yarn online has plenty of advantages. You can save money on luxury fibers since you can often get the yarn at a discounted price. You can also buy yarn online in bulk, nabbing dozens of the same color in one order. And of course, the yarn is delivered right to your door — something much appreciated by busy stitchers.
While buying yarn online can be a lot of fun, it also has some downsides. You can’t feel the yarn, and the yarn color on the computer screen often isn’t the same as the color in real life. If you’re resourceful, though, there are ways you can get around that.
Here are our top tips to make buying yarn online as easy as possible. (Don’t forget to share your tips in the comments!)
1. Read reviews.
Is the yarn itchy? Is it soft? Does it hold up in the washer? Does it pill? These are some of the questions that yarn reviews might answer. If the merchant’s website doesn’t have reviews, a quick web search should bring up plenty of help, including reviews from blogs.
2. Search for projects using the yarn.
We all know from experience that yarns look completely different in a hank vs. stitched. If you’re curious about the drape or stitch definition of a yarn, search online for projects using the yarn to see how it works up. If you’re planning to make a shawl, for example, then look at other examples of the yarn worked into shawls. Observe how the yarn falls and how the stitches look. This might give you a clue about whether it’s the right yarn for your project.
3. Know your yarn basics.
When you can’t touch a yarn, you have to use the given information — and most of the time, the site gives you plenty of details, like the yardage, fiber content, care instructions, weight, gauge and more. The more you know about these yarn characteristics, the easier it’ll be to decipher the details. Check out our complete guide to yarn, How to Choose & Use the Right Type of Yarn Every Time,to learn the basis before you buy.
4. Contact the seller.
Have questions about your yarn? The seller is probably happy to help. Remember, though, that opinions on things like softness can vary from person to person, so you can’t rely on the seller’s opinion for everything.
5. Ask your knitting and crocheting friends.
If you have friends who knit or crochet, perhaps one of them has worked with the yarn you have your eye on. They might even have a small amount of it in their stash that you can test. Stitch friends are great resources, so use them when you’re in a bind.
Worked with Cascade 200 yarn before? If so, it’s a safe bet to buy it online.
6. Go for the tried-and-true.
If you’re feeling uneasy about buying a yarn online that you’ve never used before, stick to buying only your tried-and-true yarns, like Cascade 220 or Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice. You know how they feel and work up, so you won’t feel surprised or disappointed when you open the package.
7. Compare the color on different web sites.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges of ordering yarn online is color. Color doesn’t look the same on everyone’s computer screen, nor does it look the same on every website. You could look at the same yarn color on four different sites and see four completely different colors. Take a peek at the color on several different web sites and see if you can find any consistency.
And speaking of color…
8. Order a swatch card.
Yes, this totally delays the process. You want your yarn, and you want it now! But if color is super important to you, a swatch card is the best option. The swatch card will feature small samples of the yarn so that you can see the color in person before you order it.