If you have recently taken up knitting, or have been knitting for awhile, you probably know by now that buying yarn isn’t as simple as it sounds. It can be quite expensive, making your lovely sweater cost much more to knit than to purchase a sweater at the store! Also, there are many different shades, which can make it tricky to find that one shade that you really want.

Below I’ll discuss the nature of your local shop and online shopping, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Shopping at the Local Yarn Store

The local store refers to any physical shop that you can walk into, whether it is a big box store such as Michael’s, or a store that specializes in yarn. The nice thing about local stores is that you can go there and physically touch and feel the material. Some fabrics work better for some projects than others. For instance, a soft cotton may be more suitable for clothing worn in the spring or summer, while heavier wool fabrics are more suitable for the colder months. Although online stores state the material from which the supplies are made, a good test of the material is to physically feel its texture against your skin.

There is also the social aspect of a local store. If you have purchased a knitting pattern and/or yarn at a shop, you can go in and show your progress to someone who works there to ask for help. Often, people at the local shop are knowledgeable about knitting and knitting materials, since it is a hobby they do themselves. Of course, this is not always true since some people may just be temporary hired hands, but it is much easier to show your work and get help in person than to try contacting a company online for help.

Lion Brand Yarn 601-610 Bonbons Yarn, Brights
Amazon Price: $7.99 $3.49 Buy Now
(price as of Nov 2, 2014)

A local yarn store can hold community events that bring together knitters in the vicinity. For instance, the store could hold knitting classes, or “knit togethers”, which are events in which knitters sit together in a part of the store and knit. This is a great way of meeting your fellow knitters and spending a nice evening chatting away while knitting. You could also get inspiration and ideas for new knitting techniques and ideas that you hadn’t thought of before.

There are also downsides to the local shop. Since the store needs to cover higher costs, such as building rent, utilities and employees, often a physical store will sell products at a higher price. Given the price of yarn, buying five skeins at $12 apiece can lead to a dreadfully pricey hobby.

The quality of the store nearby where you live can also vary. If you are lucky enough to live in a city, there will likely be a few nice yarn shops with a degree of selection. Although, if you live in a small town, there will less to select from, and you may have to purchase your supplies from odd places that happen to carry yarn, such as general stores. Still, going shopping for yarn is a fun experience.

Knit Picks Options Interchangeable Rainbow Wood Circular Knitting Needle Set
Amazon Price: $73.39 $59.99 Buy Now
(price as of Nov 2, 2014)

Buying Yarn Online

Buying yarn online is convenient as long as you have a computer. All online stores are available to anyone, as long as you have a computer and internet access. Online stores have the benefit of variety, so if you can’t find the type of yarn you want at one store, no problem. Just hop over to the next site that has what you want! Also, buying yarn online is more affordable, since there is higher competition and less overhead costs compared to a physical yarn store.

There are a few drawbacks to purchasing yarn online, though. For one, if you need one skein of yarn, the shipping costs can be quite pricey – costing a skein of yarn in itself! The shipping costs depend largely on where you live. For instance, if you are in the US and you wish to purchase yarn from a UK-based store, the shipping costs will likely be more expensive than for someone from the UK. The benefit, though, is that many online yarn stores offer free or discounted shipping if you order a sufficient amount.

Red Heart E728.2515 Soft Yarn, Turquoise
Amazon Price: $3.49 $2.99 Buy Now
(price as of Nov 2, 2014)

Another drawback is that you cannot physically feel the material or see it in person, which are important aspects of determining whether or not to use a certain type of yarn. Depending on the quality of the photograph, the color may or may not look exactly as pictured. It is also harder to tell if the fabric is more likely to pill, or if it has a certain texture. If you order the yarn online and decide it is not what you wanted, you will likely have to pay for shipping costs to return it. This is why it is important that you read the feedback and comments on the yarn or the site in general.

Unlike a physical knitting store, it is harder to reach out for help on a knitting pattern from the online store. Although many online stores certainly do have excellent customer service, the logistics of the communication method make it harder to describe any issues you are dealing with. However, there are various online knitting forums where you can ask other members for advice and help.

Purchasing yarn online is quickly becoming a more popular medium, with the rise of internet businesses. With lower costs and increased feedback, purchasing yarn online at stores such as Amazon is the primary option for many knitters. 

Buying yarn at a store or online?

When deciding where to purchase yarn, it depends upon your preferences and priorities. Both physical local shops and online stores exist for a reason – there is a market for both types. If you want to feel the yarn and be more involved in your knitting community, going to a physical store is a good option. If it’s lower prices, convenience and variety that you’re looking for, shop online.