How the Pandemic Ended My Yarn Snobbery

I was a “yarn snob” for about two years. After discovering the joys of buying high quality wool, alpaca, and even silk yarns online, I gleefully knitted cardigan sweaters, pullovers, shawls, and small blankets out of the finest yarns on the planet. Of course, I also had to discover hand washing of all these lovely fibers. My crafting budget took a hit, too.

Then came the pandemic. Within a couple of months, supply lines to all these wonderful all-natural yarns came to a screeching halt. Two companies from which I had previously bought wool yarns closed or sold out. Another subscription service supplying all kinds of wonderfully squishy yarns struggled to get products out of South America. I bought up lots of yarn on clearance or going-out-of-business sales, but my days of buying wooly goodness in the form of knitting yarn were clearly over.

But my knitting was still in high gear. With reduced schedules and lots of free time around the house, I imagine I wasn’t the only one doing more knitting than usual this past year. I imagine many people took up knitting as beginners, too.

My own demand for readily available yarn quickly veered off towards good old-fashioned acrylic. Frustrated with shipping delays for the so-called “luxury yarns,” I found that I could click a couple of buttons or swing by the big box craft stores and get all the synthetic yarn I wanted. 

And is acrylic so bad, after all? I think not. It’s affordable. It’s durable. Projects I made from acrylic yarn twenty years ago still look great. And I can throw them in the washing machine AND dryer without experiencing total disasters. Yes, acrylic yarn is a by-product of the oil industry, but at least it’s used for a good purpose. Right? 

I still love to wear my warm wooly sweaters, especially during these Dogwood and Blackberry Winters of our Appalachian Spring here in Tennessee. I don’t enjoy hand washing the things. But I sure do like going out to the mailbox and getting new acrylic yarn just days after I order it!

Happy Knitting, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Pandemic Knitting – How it’s Changed Us As Knitters

Hello Knitters! Yes, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted on this blog. When the pandemic hit, I took a break to relax and live a very quiet life in lockdown. Then, my beloved husband was diagnosed with a rare and advanced cancer in the spring of 2020 and passed away in December. My knitting kept me sane and relatively calm, but I found myself with writer’s block for the first time in my life. It’s time to get back to writing again, so here goes. 

It’s been quite a year. Just about everything we do has been affected by the pandemic, and knitting is no exception. Here’s just a few areas where the practice of knitting has changed:

Learn-to-Knit Opportunities

Have you recently taken up knitting? If so, you’re certainly not alone. Lots of folks have taken up new crafts or sought to improve their skills. At the beginning of the pandemic, I signed onto the online learning platform Bluprint and learned to pick up stitches neatly, make button bands for cardigans, and tackle the art of short rows. Sadly, Bluprint was sold in mid-2020 and re-emerged as a new version of Craftsy. Other online learn-to-knit platforms advertise heavily on the web, reaching out to new and intermediate knitters. I just signed up for a “learn new knitting stitches” kit with Annie’s Kit Clubs. It appears that learning to knit via video is here to stay, with readily available, affordable, high quality platforms.

The Yarn Supply

Even as we have more time than ever before to knit, our collective stash may be dwindling. Sources of high-quality, all-natural yarns have been moving targets. I previously bought several kits from Kitterly, but they seem to be scaling way down (what little they offer is on deep clearance). Bluprint offered wonderful yarns, but their stash didn’t transfer to Craftsy. Knitcrate, however, has managed to keep the luxury yarns coming, despite delays in shipments from Peru and challenges with the U.S. postal system. 

If you want acrylic or other synthetic yarns, however, the big box stores seem to have plenty on offer. From my own personal experiences, the “order and pick up at the curb” services did not work. One understaffed big box store left me waiting at the curb for a half hour and never did come out with my order. (I had to go inside and stand in line.) Another big box store cancelled my order, saying they didn’t have in stock what their website said they had. But if you actually go in the big box stores, they will have plenty to choose from. 

The End of Local Yarn Shops?

Once upon a time, I went to a tiny little knit shop in Knoxville called the Knit Wits, where two sweet elderly ladies taught me to purl and how to make a sweater. They carried lovely yarns from Europe. I remember them fondly. And I may remember more local yarn stores as something I “used to frequent” before this pandemic is over. The local yarn store in my community of Farragut closed early into the pandemic. Though I’m aware that other yarn stores in the greater Knoxville area have offered curbside services and online Zoom knitting circles, I haven’t participated or taken advantage of these offerings. To stay connected to the knitting community, I’ve veered more towards large online groups on Ravelry, where’s there’s always someone online, day or night, to chat about yarn, fuss about supply issues, dream together about planned projects, and show off your finished work.

While I do support the notion of local yarn stores, I wonder if they will be able to survive in the future. The online stores offer plenty of wonderful yarns, and they almost always have all you need to finish even the largest of projects. I’ve found local yarn stores in South Carolina and North Carolina that sell their inventory on Amazon. They sent my yarn quickly, beautifully packaged, and with free shipping. Perhaps this hybrid model of “local yarn store that ships all over” is the new model that will keep the locals in business? 

All in all, the craft of knitting is in great shape, with more enthusiastic knitters worldwide than ever before. With incredible opportunities to try new yarns and connect with knitters all over the world (and more time on our hands for many of us), there’s never been a better time to knit. 

Blessings to all my knitting friends, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

The End of the Knitting World as We Know It?

Last fall, my knitting world was at its best. I attended a knitting convention with an abundance of yarn on offer. I had a terrific subscription service sending me luxurious yarns from Peru every month, and if I wanted anything at all knitting-related on short notice, I just jumped in my car and headed to a lovely local yarn store or took my pick from three big box craft stores near my home.

That was the best of times – knitwise – and now it’s looking like the worst of times. I can certainly place orders for yarn, but will I actually receive it? Who knows?  Some of the yarn I ordered during this quarantine took a month to arrive; other yarn has yet to arrive. One of the big box stores flat out cancelled my order. My go-to source for looking up unfamiliar techniques I needed for advanced projects, Bluprint, announced a shut-down in late May. Then, boom, yesterday the local yarn shop in my community announced its closing. 

Will we ever get back to the “normal” ways we purchased yarn and learn new knitting techniques? Even in the last two weeks, I’ve changed how I buy yarn and from whom. Most of my yarn purchases had moved to online purchases anyway, but I’m finding myself looking closely at which sellers actually have yarn in stock and which do not. I’m delighted to have found a yarn store in South Carolina that seems to have lots of yarn on hand and gets my yarn shipped to my door in two days. If it weren’t for all this change, I would never have ordered from them.

Despite this rapidly changing economy, the knitting world will eventually settle out. There WILL be changes, and some of those changes WILL be for the better. Though we’ll mourn the loss of our favorite local stores, we may well celebrate finding new purveyors of yarn we’d never heard of before. 

Knitting has been around for hundreds of years, if not longer. Whatever happens to our favorite knitting suppliers, we will still manage to get hold of some kind of fiber and make something beautiful with it. The world will go on, change and all, and we will keep on knitting through the good times and the bad. 

Blessings, Cindy

This is my first blog post in a couple of months. I’ve been homeschooling and caring for a family member with a serious illness. Thanks to everyone who has checked out my older posts and read my books!!! Much appreciated!!!

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Is Yarn As Addictive As Candy?

It’s been said that yarn-buying and knitting are two separate hobbies. I’m inclined to agree. With all sorts of lovely, soft yarns on the market these days, it’s easy to get carried away. 

This past year, I made the big switch from buying cheap, synthetic yarns to buying higher quality, all-natural yarns. I’m really glad I did. The yarns are softer and much better looking. As an environmentalist, I can feel better about purchasing more sustainable products. 

After bumping up my knitting skills in the last year as well, I’m also ready to say, “my knitting is worth the better yarns.” If I’m going to use my much-practiced skills and well-honed techniques, I should quality materials. If you’re just starting out, using cheaper materials is recommended. But I’m well past that stage in my life. It’s time to “own” my more advanced stage of knitting.

Yet I still go through a heck of a lot of yarn, as much as I knit. It’s hard to pass up on the pastel violet yarn that would make a gorgeous springtime sweater…or the yellow and orange sherbet fingerling alpaca that would be just the thing for a summer garment…or the silk and wool blend navy blue yarn that would match everything in my winter wardrobe. 

Yarn is indeed as addictive as candy. One look, and you want to indulge. Visions of all the great sweaters, scarves, cowls, hats, and even summer tops dance in your head. You feel better just having the stuff in your hands. And, like candy, you can have too much. Your yarn storage bins bulge with yarns that’s been sitting there, un-knitted, for the last several years. You cringe at your credit card bill and vow to say “enough!”

It’s “yarn diet” time for me, I’m afraid. I’ve promised myself I’ll knit through the four sweater projects and three or four smaller stashes of yarn before I buy any more yarn. But once I’ve knit through these projects….I can buy more yarn!!!

Happy Knitting (and Yarn Buying), Cindy

Cynthia Coe is a writer, book reviewer, and avid knitter. Her books and blog posts can be found on her Amazon Author Page

A Shout-Out to Ewe Knit & Sew for the swirl-pop yarn in the photo! What a great marketing idea!

The Perils of Knitting the Stash

Some say buying yarn is as much of a hobby as actually knitting yarn. I’m guilty of that myself.

You go to the yarn store and see those lovely skeins calling your name. You only have a vague idea of what you will realistically do with that lovely yarn. You buy it on faith…or maybe hope…or maybe just sheer avarice. You take it home and maybe leave it in your “to do” basket of planned or unplanned knitting projects.

But there those lovely skeins of yarn sit for weeks. Or months. Or even years. 

My longest running member of my yarn stash is a bag of undyed cotton yarn I bought on vacation in Monserrat years ago. Who has yarn purchased on a Caribbean island?! I had to have it. I had misty plans of making a summer sweater from that yarn. After the island was nearly obliterated by a volcano, I kept that yarn around just to remember a wonderful place I had once visited. I now have a more solid plan to knit a shawl with it.  We’ll see.

The perils of keeping a stash is that you, ultimately and inevitably, have more yarn that you’ll probably use. If you completely knit through your stash on a regular basis, you’re a better person than I. But most of us over-buy yarn with nothing more than hopes and dreams. If we do use skeins from the stash, we often have too much yarn and skeins left over, too little to use for something else. Or worse, we haven’t bought enough for a project, finding that out long after the yarn is available. 

So what’s a knitter to do? Keep feeding the stash? Put yourself on a yarn diet? 

I’m challenging myself to donate unused yarn to schools or children’s summer programs. I’ve got a big bag for some lucky organization! But in the meantime, I’m eyeing that lovely new yarn I just spotted in the craft store….

Happy Knitting (and Stashing!), Cindy

Cynthia Coe is a writer, book reviewer, and avid knitter. Her books and blog posts can be found on her Amazon Author Page.