I get asked a lot about where I buy stuff, specifically the stuff I used to make my stuff. So in this post I’m letting you in on my yarn buying habitat. I would like to keep this list referenced in my side bar and I want it up to date and as extensive as possible so would welcome suggestions for additions – either by comment or email.
How I buy yarn
First off I have to say, I shop for yarns in a few different ways, based on the way I categorise yarns in my mind.
At the base of things are the bog standard yarns, which are usually around the $5 for a 50gm ball mark. These include a number of yarns produced by Cleckheaton, Patons, Panda and so on. Nothing wrong with them, and many are quite good value. I would use them for things like toys, everyday outer wear, blankets, tea cosies, experimental projects etc. I would quite often buy these yarns from chain discount stores like K-mart or Spotlight and sometimes I can pick them up in good nick from the op-shop. I am not a fan of acrylics or novelty yarns but if for some reason I really wanted something in that line I’d shop for them in the same way. I don’t think too hard about these purchases and they are often incidental.
The next rung up I would call specialty yarns. These are in the $5-10 for a 50gm ball range and I would use them for projects in which I was investing time, from which I wanted longevity, which I wanted to look special or unique, or where something like softness was particularly important. I would use specialty yarns for baby clothes, lace projects, socks, hats, adult garments (where I was confident of the outcome!), stoles, special gifts. In the main I offset the greater expense of the yarn by choosing smaller projects. I might buy specialty yarns on sale or as a consequence of word of mouth, or for a particular project, or because I just fell in love with it, but generally I get them because I am out looking for yarn.
The top tier of yarns I would call luxury yarns and they cost more than $10 for a 50gm ball – sometimes a lot more! I don’t use these yarns often and very rarely for big projects. Their cost is the result of highly expensive fibres like cashmere, high labour costs like hand spinning or dyeing, or reputation for really superior wear and quality. I most often buy a luxury yarn when I have a specific mission, and I have thought about it quite a bit. I would probably have done some research, checked out feedback and projects made with that yarn on Ravelry and maybe even visited yarn shops to fondle the yarn a couple of times before actually making the purchase. I might use a luxury yarn for something that is very small like a hat, or something I see becoming an heirloom like a lace stole.
Places I go in real life to look at and buy yarn
Spotlight in Brunswick - not my favourite place to buy yarn, but it comes through when I am desperate for something straightforward. Occassionally I pick up a bargain here, or a good workhorse yarn and increasingly (although my local Spotlight is not very good for yarn) it has the occassional better yarn, like the new range of merino cashmere blend.
Cleggs in the City – their stocks of yarn are seasonal, so if I want to knit socks in summer I wouldn’t bother, but they have a good array of yarns including excellent European manufacturers such as Rowan as well as Australian and
Wool Baa in Albert Park – Wool Baa is a delightful shopping experience. Aside from the wool bit, they have good toys for keeping kids amused, an excellent array of pattern books, tables and chairs so you can sit and contemplate a project and staff who are very knowledgeable and helpful. On one visit as I sifted through about 100 balls of Noro, they even brought out cups of tea for my shopping companion and me. But of course that wouldn’t amount to much if the yarn was crap, so luckily they have good yarn right across the three categories too. I like their display – you can see all the yarn at once – and the way it is organised by weights. If this was closer to home I would be here more often. So it’s probably a good thing it is two tram rides away…they do have an online shop, which I have used a few times, but it isn’t a patch on being there.
Sunspun in Cantebury – Ok you got me, I’ve never actually been to Sunspun, but I keep it on the list because so many people shop here who make great stuff and it always comes up on people’s yarn shop lists. From what I understand it is similar in stock range to Wool Baa and if I lived on that side of town I am sure I’d be in there all the time.
Marta’s Yarns in Malvern – the late Marta was a master dyer and a visit to her shop was always about the colour. Her base yarns were also excellent, but her colour combinations were what set her apart. Her daughter, husband and sister have kept the business going in a greatly pared down form and the shop is still well worth a visit for beautiful specialty and luxury yarns. You can always find something interesting and unusual at Marta’s and the colour combos in their own dyed yarns continue to live up to Marta’s reputation.
Hand Weavers and Spinners Guild in
Bendigo Woollen Mills in Bendigo – you can also buy from the Mill’s online shop or by mail order but a visit in person is great to get the feel for ‘Bendy’s’ products (and a visit to the bargain room out the back) is well worth it is you are in the area. Bendy’s products are exceptionally good value and while most of it is in the bog standard price range, I really like the feel and touch of their yarns a bit more than the highly machined feel of other yarns at this price.
Wool on Piper in Kyneton – I’ve been buying from this mill shop since I was a teenager (then called the Meskills wool store) and while I hear the store is for sale, I hope we’ll continue to see their products around. Like Bendy you can buy through mail order but a visit is best for a first time purchase. Meskills wool is excellent value, particularly the 500gm hanks of natural colours in 8 and 12 ply, perfect for a big rugged jumper or coat. The store also stocks a few other yarns and wool products, like sheep skins, woollen socks and garments.
Pear Tree Products in Torquay – Pear tree yarns are amongst my most favourite of the small scale Australian luxury yarn producers as their yarns are light and super super soft and come in lovely and unusual colours. The owner of Pear Tree has deliberately chosen the mill to get an old fashioned and not overly processed feel to her yarns and I love it. The shop is a total delight, with all kinds of things to look at and buy aside from yarn. Pear tree also handles sales through it’s website and has a presence at many shows like
Purl’s Palace in Daylesford – yarn is only one product carried by this shop, but they have a very nice little selection of specialty and luxury yarns and the shop is very beautiful. They also carry a range of very fancy buttons.
Wool and Craft Fair in
When real life isn’t an option I buy yarn online at places like
ecoyarns.com.au – for yarns which are eco friendly and sustainable in both fibre and production this store can’t be beat. Some really lovely lovely stuff.
wiredforfibre.com.au – a great place for undyed as well as hand dyed yarns and accessories including addi needles (my favourite). They send out free sample cards to help you get a feel for their undyed yarns and I think this makes choosing much easier.
etsy.com – there are a whole stack of really creative dyers who sell super special yarns through their Etsy stores. Just browse and stand back.
yarnworkshop.com – very good value (though the postage is a killer) bulk undyed yarns from an expat aussie in
yarn.com - WEBS is a major US online yarn company, and though I haven't bought from them I used to listen to their podcast and they carry an excellent range! You do have to pay for the shipping from the US, but otherwise they are good value.
discontinuedbrandnameyarn.com - a site that deals exclusively with discontinued and thus discounted stock. Again, I haven't shopped, but I hear you can pick up the odd bargain here if you are prepared to pay for the US shipping.
elann.com - another discontinued and discount yarn site, this time in Canada.
google.com – there’s a range of yarns I know about, but which aren’t readily available in oz. I have been known to cruise online shops though in search of people who ship something in particular to
**Many online retailers also have email newsletters which can be well worth signing up for - especially those that carry discount lines which change frequently. You get the heads up early when a limited amount of stock is available.