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Choosing yarn for knitting: When to splurge & when to save

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

Knitting is not a bargain hobby. It CAN be — if you limit yourself to low-priced yarn or shop only the sale bins. We've even tried thrifting sweaters and unraveling the yarn for reuse. All viable options ... and yet, with fantastic inventory and online accessibility to really talented yarn makers, it'd be a shame NOT to dabble in some top shelf yarn for the right project.

Now this goes back the the quintessential conundrum of yarn budgeting: What is the right price for your project? Well the Newbee Knitters have some opinions about that. Whether what follows is justification or validation, the method works for us and maybe it will help you make yarn choices you can live with too.

Small, Simple Project = Splurge.

Small, simple projects are those with very little detail or complicated stitchwork to "carry" the finished object. Think long stockinette mittens, like these classics from Purl Soho. Stunning in simplicity, this project is carried by the yarn. And with little required yardage, one skein of high-end yarn makes something truly remarkable. The yarn featured above was a Newbie Knitter splurge (eek!) even at the sale price and is featured in another post as an example of small & simple = splurge-worthy.

Large, Complex Project = Save.

Large, complex projects are those with design detail or stitchwork that adds dimension to the finished object. Think an oversized colorwork pullover like The Papa sweater by Junko Okamoto. Bold and impactful, a project like this can easily carry lesser-priced yarn because the piece is a statement in and of itself.

Gift for Adult = Splurge.

If you're knitting for someone knitworthy (if you don't know what that means, see Ysolda's fantastic blog here) then by definition it is meant to be something special. If you do it right, the lucky recipient is going to keep it for the long haul, so make it count.

Gift for Child = Save.

Knitting for kids is a temporary sport. Plus, everything needs to be washable. So, these projects are not for the cashmeres of the world — not matter what the pattern calls for. The same goes for baby blankets: If it is not washable, it's going to be a burden on the parents. Think "baby yarn," cottons and affordable superwash.

Dream pattern = Splurge. 

Eyeing a pattern for like, ever? Think you'll live in it if it comes out like the photos? Willing to invest hours and hours to make it a piece that lasts a lifetime? Then splurge. But by god swatch & block and spend the time you need to craft the project carefully!

Impulse pattern = Save. 

We've all done it: Impulsively jumped on a trending pattern which lands at the top of our queue from outta nowhere. The knitting equivalent of a fast-fashion move, you find yourself embarking on an exploratory venture that ideally gets knocked out fast. In such cases, we say don't break the bank on premium yarn. Stash is best, but if you have to buy, we suggest choosing a yarn that meets the spec and your fiber preferences, at a price that doesn't lessen the natural high of taking a leap of faith.

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