How To Measure Yardage And Stop Playing Yarn Chicken

How to Measure Yardage and Stop Playing Yarn Chicken | withwool.com

The urge to finish all the things bit me hard in August. I’ve finished a sweater and a cabled scarf, and have moved on to the Norma Blanket that I cast on in 2012. Part of the reason Norma still isn’t finished is because I’m knitting the expanded version. The other reason is that I wanted to use every yard of nature’s brown Fisherman’s Wool I had in my stash. That’s a grand total of 1,860 yards and the expanded version calls for only 1,500 yards. 

Well, I finished the extended charts and still had a skein leftover which meant I had to chart the extra rows. But how many? To answer that question, I’ve been tracking my yardage. I use this trick a lot to figure out both how big I can knit something before binding off and when I need to stop to knit edging. It’s also pretty handy when you’re working on a pattern with growing repeats. Shawls, blankets, socks, sweaters, hats, and anything you can knit or crochet are all fair game.

How to Measure Yardage and Stop Playing Yarn Chicken | withwool.com

To track your yardage, you’re going to need a scale that can measure in grams. I use a basic digital kitchen scale.

How often you weigh your yarn depends on what you’re making:

  • If you’re making something where the stitch count stays the same, like a scarf, you only have to measure once. After you’ve cast on and worked a few rows, weigh the yarn ball, and knit a few more rows. 

  • If you’re making something small, - say a pair of stockinette socks or a hat - weigh, work at least 4 rows, and weigh the yarn again. The numbers will be more accurate over a larger number of rows than just one.

  • If you’re making something with a larger stitch count, like a shawl, you can knit a single row or pair of rows between weigh-ins. 

  • If making something with repeats, measure the yarn before and after working one repeat. Even if the repeats get larger as you go, you’ll have a better idea of the amount of yarn required. 

  • Weigh the yarn when the stitch pattern changes. A section of straight stockinette isn’t going to need the same about of yarn as a section of elongated stitches, cables, or slipped stitches.

  • Tracking yardage for projects where the stitch counts increase or decrease is a little more complicated. The good news is that, in most cases, the amount of yarn it takes to knit a row isn’t going to change that quickly. You don’t have to measure after every single row like I did for 100 or so rows of the Norma blanket. Maybe you measure yardage every 5, 10, or 15 rows. Just check regularly and keep your notes handy.

How to Measure Yardage and Stop Playing Yarn Chicken | withwool.com

Once you have the numbers, it’s time to do the math. There are two options. The first is a little easier and gives an estimate. The second is more precise but requires more math.

Option 1: Divide the grams of remaining yarn by grams per row. The answer is the max number of knit-able rows, including the bind off. Next subtract the bind off and number of edge rows, if any, from the max row number. That answer is how many rows to work before starting an edging or binding off. If you’re working a repeat, divide the number of workable rows by the number of repeat rows. 

As an example, here’s the math I did to find out how many more rows I needed to chart out for Norma. At the end of the chart I had 268 grams of yarn and was using 7-8 grams per row. Thanks to my meticulous measuring, I knew it would take a lot more stitches to need 9 or more grams per row.

268 grams / 7grams per row = 38.2 rows

268 grams / 8 grams per row = 33.5 rows

Since I’m going to be using more and more yarn with every row, I went with the 8 gram result which means 33 rows in the maximum I have yarn for. 

33 rows - 7 edge rows - 1 bind off row = 25 rows

25 rows / 8 rows per repeat = 3.1 repeats. 

So, I can knit 3 full repeats before starting the edging. Plus, I have a little wiggle room with the yardage, and hopefully not have to play yarn chicken during the bind off. 

How to Measure Yardage and Stop Playing Yarn Chicken | withwool.com

Option 2: Instead of working with row counts, this option focuses on finding stitches per gram. 

Why worry with the number stitches per gram of yarn? It’s great for estimating the yarn required for patterns where the stitch count changes from row to row. If you’re designing a pattern, you can use stitches per gram of a swatch to estimate how much yarn the pattern will need before you cast on. The only downside is that you need to have a fairly accurate stitch count. In the example below, stitch count could refer to the number of stitches per row, per repeat, or the number of stitches worked between weigh-ins. 

Stitch Count / Grams Worked= Stitches Per Gram

732 stitches / 7 grams = 104.5 stitches per gram

Armed with the number of stitches you can knit per gram and a spreadsheet of stitch counts, you can figure out exactly how much yarn a row, repeat, or bind off with need. Take the numbers with a grain of salt though because gauge changes and yarn isn’t always evenly spun. You can also follow the steps in the first method with stitches per gram as well. 

How To Measure Wraps Per Inch

Got a fresh skein of handspun yarn off the bobbins or spindle? Heres a different way to measure wraps per inch. | withwool.com

The usual method for measuring a yarn’s wraps per inch, commonly abbreviated as WPI, is taking the yarn and wrapping it around a WPI gauge or a ruler. Count the number of times the yarn wraps around the gauge and that’s the WPI, which is used to determine a yarn thickness*. The problem with wrapping yarn around a gauge is that it’s easy to stretch the yarn and get a skewed number. Jillian Moreno recommends rolling and moving the gauge instead of wrapping the finished yarn. I like to do something different.

Got a fresh skein of handspun yarn off the bobbins or spindle? Heres a different way to measure wraps per inch. | withwool.com
Got a fresh skein of handspun yarn off the bobbins or spindle? Heres a different way to measure wraps per inch. | withwool.com

My handspun isn’t always as consistent as I would like it to be. So, instead of measuring a short 6-12” segment of yarn which might be wildly different from another 6-12”, I measure WPI after the yarn is in a skein. I pull away a few strands from the rest and fit them into the gap on my gauge. If there’s space, I add a few more. If it’s crowded, I take a few out. The yarn isn’t stretched at all. Plus, the WPI is a more accurate average of the entire skein, and it’s a lot to harder to fudge the numbers. 

I got my gauge from Girl on the Rocks a few years ago and it’s been a great tool. 

One more thing. There’s not a lot of agreement on a standard WPI for yarn weights, much less an industry standard. Some sources match up and some don’t. This post from Ask The Bellwether offers a good explanation of the situation and includes tips for matching handspun to commercial yarn. Even though there's no agreed upon standard, I like measuring the WPI of my yarn since it makes it easier for me recreate or match a yarn later. 

Spinning Yarn With Sweaty Hands

There’s no way to say this without relying on a host of cliches, so I’m just going to come out and say it. My hands sweat. Sometimes a lot which makes it hard to do things without messing them up. Half the time I’m writing with a napkin under my hand to keep my notebook from turning into a soggy mess. Damp hands make knitting almost impossible without a fan. Spinning yarn, especially drafting singles, isn’t much easier, but I have stumbled upon a helpful trick to keep the working end of roving/top from turning into a mangled clump. 

Instead of holding the roving in my hand, I drape it across my fingers and palm. The tail of the roving is held between the bottom edge of my hand and my thigh. Since the bottom of my fiber supply hand is securing the fiber, those fingers don’t have to do anything. When I do have to use my thumb, it is inches away from the tip. Only the hand I’m using to draft touches the working end of the roving which keeps the fibers aligned in one direction. Holding the fiber this way still gives me plenty of to work with and keeps me from unconsciously putting a death grip on my roving.

Since the fiber supply hand doesn’t move at all, this tip won’t help if drafting backwards or long-draw. So, stick with drafting styles that favor the forward hand. Also don’t forget the fan and a cold drink. 

How To Make A Blocking Board

What happens when you have to block your knitting (shawl, lace, mitts, color work, what have you) and are completely lacking in pin-ready space? You make your own blocking board. After finally binding off a small shawl I was ready to block it, but I’d just moved to a place without carpet. I couldn’t take over the bed or furniture either with wet garter stitch and pointy pins. Foam mats weren’t in the cards either. The good news was that moving left me with plenty of boxes that I could use instead. If you’re in a similar spot, here’s what you’ll need:

 One large cardboard box (mine was 41.5” x 27” flattened)

A towel large enough to cover the box

Packing or Mailing Tape

Scissors or Knife


Step 1: If you can still put stuff inside the box, it’s time to change that. Cut the tape holding it together and flatten out the box. 

Step 2: Tape the box’s edges together like so. The two layers of cardboard will be thick enough to support pins and stretched out knitting. 

Step 3: Wrap up the box/now board in the towel. If the towel’s bigger than the box, fold over the edges and tape them in place. 

There you have it! One DIY blocking board ready for pins and knitting. Mine seemed no worse for wear after a couple of days with a shawl and a cowl pinned to it. Can see myself getting a fair bit of use out this blocking board before I need to upgrade. 

How To Make and Spin Fauxlags

How to Make and Spin Fauxlags | withwool.com

What are rolags and what are fauxlags? The answer to both of these questions is happy little burritos of fiber. They look the same, spin the same, and create the same kind of yarn - an airy woolen handspun. These preps also have added benefit of being quick to spin since the speedy long-draw or a variant is a must to easily draft them. Plus, they’re fun to to make and spin.

The giant difference between the two is how they’re made. Traditionally, rolags are made on hand cards or blending boards and rolled off into a tube. Or they can come straight off a drum carder. Fauxlags are generally made from pre-made batts, carded roving, or top. The only tool you need to make a fauxlag is a long smooth stick-like object such as a dowel, a knitting needle, or a chopstick. Fauxlags are easier to make than rolags because you don’t have to learn how to use hand cards. Plus, a simple dowel is much cheaper than a drum carder (I still want one though), a blending board, or hand cards. Making fauxlags is also an inexpensive way to see if you like working with this prep before investing in dedicated tools for rolags. 

Let’s get rolling!

To make fauxlags, you’ll need fiber - roving, top, or a batt all work - and something long and smooth to wrap it around. Dowels, knitting needles, and chopsticks all work. 

I’m using an 8” dowel and a Fantasy Batt from GwenErin Natural Fibers.

How t  o Make and Spin Fauxlags | withwool.com

Before we get down to tearing and rolling, we’ll need to prep the fiber. If you’re working with a dense, thick batt, loosen up the fiber by pulling on the sides. We’re not trying to tear it into strips yet (unless you want to change up the colors or textures), just thin out the batt so it’s easier to work with. Fluffing up the fibers helps with roving/top too if it’s compacted or slightly felted. 

How t  o Make and Spin Fauxlags | withwool.com

Before we start striping the batt, pull out a few strands to measure staple length. If the fiber is 3” long, you’ll want to space your hands at least that far apart. Any closer and the batt/roving won’t separate because you’re holding both ends of the staple.

How t  o Make and Spin Fauxlags | withwool.com

Batts can be difficult to tear evenly and the dowel lets you hold the batt evenly across it’s width for a neater edge. Hold down the dowel with one hand and pull the batt into strips with the other. It’s totally okay if the strips don’t have a clean edge or come away in clumps. Before you roll, you can stretch and pull them into a uniform piece.

If you’re working with roving, you can skip the dowel for this step. Just grab the fiber between your hands and start pulling it into chunks.

How t  o Make and Spin Fauxlags | withwool.com

This is the same piece that was torn off in the above photo. I tugged and pulled it out to even the edges and make it easier to roll. When you’re happy with the shape and distribution, put the dowel on the bottom edge. Wrap the edge around the dowel and start rolling. If you're having a hard time holding the bottom edge, you can use a second smaller dowel to hold it in place. 

How t  o Make and Spin Fauxlags | withwool.com

After the fiber is all wrapped up, I like to roll it a few more times with a little extra pressure. Those last few rolls secure the outside edge of the strip and create a firmer fauxlag. I’m not trying to create a super dense prep - that would be hard to draft. The right amount of pressure keeps the fauxlag squishy yet firm which stops it from collapsing during spinning.

How t  o Make and Spin Fauxlags | withwool.com

The last step is slipping the rolag off the dowel. Now repeat these steps to your heart’s content.

How t  o Make and Spin Fauxlags | withwool.com

Here’s my finished batch. I got 9 fauxlags from this 1.1 ounce batt. The first two I made are a little thicker because I didn’t roll them as tightly - didn’t make any difference when I spun them up. 

Time to spin!

Pick an end and slowly pull it out to pre-draft the fauxlag like so. I draft just enough to join a piece to the leader or the previous fauxlag. Since the fibers are all rolled up together, long-draw is the best way to draft these beauties. 

How t  o Make and Spin Fauxlags | withwool.com

Thanks to the magic of tripods, cameras, and video editing software, I was able to put together a video of the spinning process. I hope this helps answer any questions about how to spin fauxlags and rolags. It’s my first video tutorial so let me know what you think!

Notes On Felting Handspun

In the weeks before I packed up and moved, I had the urge to finish up a few lingering projects. One such project was finishing a Texel single that had been hanging around the place since January. The Texel was a special skein since it was the first I’d spun of that breed (Click to read the full breed review). Because it was a first, I wanted to get the most out of the 4 oz and preserve the color which meant spinning a single. An added bonus was that I get to try an idea I got from Hedgehog Fibers, intentionally felting handspun. Why felting? Singles aren’t the strongest of yarns and felting would make the yarn more durable and pill resistant. My less technical reason was that I’d never done it before and wanted to experiment.

First thing to do was set up. I filled the sink with the hottest water I could get out of the tap, 131º F. The cooler on the left was filled with cold. Both had enough water to fully submerge and swish the yarn around. Both also had a generous helping of soap. I used unscented Eucalan because that’s what I had and didn’t want to over felt the yarn washing out dish soap. A few guides I’ve read also recommend shampoo which is probably easier to rinse out than dish soap as well.

Prep done, the skein went into the hot water bath to soak before I went to work on it.

Once I was happy with the yarn’s level of sogginess, it got a vigorous stirring. I used a straw to spare my hands and somehow managed to stay dry during the process. My kitchen started to smell like lanolin too. 

After 20-30 seconds of agitation, I plopped the skein in the cold water. Lots more squishing and swirling was had.

The yarn got another hot and cold water dunk with plenty of swirling and smooshing. After the third trip through the hot water, I decided to see how the felting was coming along. I pulled out the skein and squeezed out some of the water. The skein hung straight with few curls and looked firmer - I know, an exact description. Individual strands were sticking together but weren’t difficult to pull apart. What really convinced me to stop though was the complete lack of stretch when I snapped the skein between my hands. Before going into the water, the skein had stretch and give, but, now, there was none at all. 

The yarn got one last dunk and swirl in the cold water before I wrapped it up in a towel to squeeze out excess water. After snapping the yarn a few times more between my hands, it got several good thwacks against the kitchen floor before being hung up to dry. 

The left photo is what the yarn looked like before the snapping and thwacking. The photo on the right is after. Big difference.

One interesting thing I noticed before draining the water was the color of the two baths. The hot water in the sink barely changed color at all, but the cold water turned reddish-yellow. I’m not really sure why the different temperatures affected the dye differently. 

3 baths was just enough to lightly felt the yarn which was exactly what I wanted to happen. The thwacking did roughen up the finish a little but I like the finished texture. It’s hairy, but not too hairy, and I can pick out the kemp, AKA guard, hairs if I want too. If Texel had luster like Merino, thwacking would probably have dulled the skein but that wasn’t an issue here. 

Part of the reason I lightly felted the yarn was because I didn’t want to massively reduce its diameter. Before felting, the skein was ~12 WPI which makes it sport weight. After felting, I was surprised that the yarn was still ~12 WPI. What did change though was the yardage. The skein started with 304 yards and ended with 286. Had I kept felting, both the WPI and yardage would both have changed drastically.

I’m calling this little felting experiment a success. The process was easy and relatively fast. Felting singles is something I’m definitely going to do on a regular basis. Plus, I love everything about the finished yarn. It’s not often that I have a plan for my skeins as soon as they’re dry but this one is different. It’s going to be a pillow once I decide on a pattern. Maybe something with short rows a-la Lizard Ridge

How To Weave In Ends Without A Tapestry Needle

Learn how to weave in ends without a tapestry needle as you knit! | withwool.com

There are two great reasons to learn how to weave in ends without a tapestry needle. One, you don’t have to stop knitting to look for that one tapestry needle which has probably wandered off already. Where do they go? Ahem. Two, you can weave in ends as you go instead of putting it off until after the bind off or, if you really loathe working them in, never doing it all. 

Learning to weave in ends without a tapestry needle can be finicky the first few times you do it, especially if you’ve never done color work, but it’s worth the effort. Not only does it save time during finishing but it’s also versatile. You can use it with stockinette, garter, and in pattern. It still works if you’re increasing and decreasing. The ends will follow the curves and angles of short rows and chevrons without creating extra bulk. While it is noticeable on the wrong side, weaving in ends sans needle is neat and tidy. Plus, it even works with slippery yarns.

Sounds pretty cool so far, right? I thought so too which was why I used this method to weave in the ends when I switched colors on the Cuddly Chevron Baby Blanket. The deadline for that blanket left me in a dust with half finished knitting and weaving in the ends without a needle as I went cut out one last step at the end. 

Step By Step

Learn how to weave in ends without a tapestry needle as you knit!   | withwool.com

efore we get started, there’s one you need to know that’ll make learning this technique much easier. It might seem like you’re just knitting as usual with the new yarn but it’s actually wrapping around the tails as you move them back and forth.

Learn how to weave in ends without a tapestry needle as you knit!   | withwool.com

When it’s time to switch colors (or time to add another ball of yarn), work one stitch in the new color. The tail should be about 6” so you have enough yarn to hold on to.

Learn how to weave in ends without a tapestry needle as you knit!   | withwool.com

In the opposite hand of your new yarn (if you have the dexterity to do all this with one hand, mad props), hold the tails of both colors together.

Learn how to weave in ends without a tapestry needle as you knit!   | withwool.com

Wrap the tails around the right needle from top to bottom.

Learn how to weave in ends without a tapestry needle as you knit!   | withwool.com

Work the stitch normally with the new yarn. Just the new yarn will be caught in the stitch and the tails will fall to the back. This is exactly what you want.

Learn how to weave in ends without a tapestry needle as you knit!   | withwool.com

Work the next stitch with the tails held behind the needle.

Learn how to weave in ends without a tapestry needle as you knit!   | withwool.com

Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you’re satisfied with how much you’ve woven in. I usually aim for 1 - 2”. Drop the tails, cut the old color, and keep on knitting with nary a tapestry needle in sight.

See how all the steps come together below.

Learn how to weave in ends without a tapestry needle as you knit!   | withwool.com
Learn how to weave in ends without a tapestry needle as you knit!   | withwool.com

Here’s what the woven in ends look like on the wrong side of the knitting. The tails follow the curve of the chevron with no problem and are quite secure. A quick note: I waited to cut the tails until after the blanket came out of the washer and dryer.

Tips  & Tricks

Learn how to weave in ends without a tapestry needle as you knit!   | withwool.com

t the switch between the grey and the blue, the blue yarn isn’t evenly woven in. Since the tails are just wrapped in the working yarn, there’s no need to redo it. Just tug on the tail until it’s neatly in place.

Learn how to weave in ends without a tapestry needle as you knit!   | withwool.com
Learn how to weave in ends without a tapestry needle as you knit!   | withwool.com

What if the tails were woven in too tightly? As shown above on the left, the stripes will pull in and pucker at the change but it’s easy to fix. Gently pull the edge out until to loosen up the tails and straighten the edge like in the right photo. If the tails get pulled out to far, just tug them back into place.


How To Work Lifted Increases In Garter Stitch

This the second tutorial for the Cuddly Chevron Baby Blanket. The first tutorial is 5 Ways To Use Stitch Markers

Lifted increases have been my favorite way to add stitches to my knitting since I first heard about them in New Pathways For Sock Knitters. (Thank you, Cat Bordhi!) When working in stockinette, lifted increases, specifically LLinc and LRinc, are easy to work, not fiddly, and don’t create big holes or blemishes in your knitting. Over the years I’ve experimented with them in other stitche patterns and lifted increases work just as well in garter stitch as they do in stockinette. So, when I was swatching for the Cuddly Chevron Baby Blanket, LLinc and LRinc were the first increases I tried and they worked wonderfully. LLinc is an abbreviation for Leaning Left Increase while LRinc stands for Leaning Right Increase. Use them together and you get matched, symmetrical increases which makes my designer’s brain happy. 

I’m trying something new for this tutorial. The increases will be shown with BOTH step-by-step instructions AND a gif demonstrating the technique. Happy stitching! 

How To Work LLinc In Garter Stitch

Knit to the spot where your pattern says to increase.

Insert the left needle up into closest bump directly under the right needle.

Insert the right needle just like a regular knit stitch.

Wrap the yarn around the needle and work it the same as a regular knit stitch.

Ta-da! One new stitch on the needles.

How To Work LRinc in Garter Stitch

Knit to the spot you need to increase.

Insert the right needle up into the first garter bump directly under the left needle.

Slip the stitch onto the left needle and move the right needle behind the left. Wrap the yarn around the needle and work the stitch the same way as knitting through the back of stitch. 

Check back February 3rd for the next Cuddly Chevron Baby Blanket Tutorial, Weaving In Ends As You Knit. No tapestry needle required!

5 Ways To Use Stitch Markers

Stitch markers come in lots of shapes, sizes, and materials. They can be flexible rubber rings, simple metal triangles, intricate jeweled baubles, or cute beads on wire. You can even make them on the spot from small pieces of leftover yarn, paper clips, rubber bands, or hair ties. Stitch markers can be one continuous piece or able to be opened up and “locked” on a specific stitch. These little tools can do a lot to help with your knitting even if they are easy to lose between couch cushions.

Use them to mark the Right Side of your work. When you first cast-on for a garter stitch project, it can be hard to tell the Right Side from the Wrong Side when you pick it up after a break. Take a stitch marker, different from the rest if you’re using a lot of them, and put it a stitch or two in from the starting edge of the Right Side. Pick up your needles and don’t see the marker near the tip? Then you’re on the Wrong Side of your work. 

Stitch markers can be used to mark more than just stitch repeats. On the Cuddly Chevron Blanket, I placed a marker every time I had to increase or decrease. It kept me from having to count (or miscount) every stitch and left my mind free to listen to podcasts or watch a movie while I knit. 

Clover-Locking-Stitch-Markers.jpg

Lockable stitch markers are great for tracking your progress. When you’re working on a big project and it starts to feel like a slog, start your knitting for the day by putting a locking stitch marker on a just knit stitch. When you’re done, you’ll easily see how much you’ve accomplished. This trick is great for seeing progress on sleeves, sweaters, and socks, but can be a bit discouraging if you’re knitting a blanket from the center out.  

stitch-marker-tips.jpg

Stitch markers are also great for counting rows. Here’s also where locking stitch markers come in handy again. When you’re starting a new section of knitting and need to knit a certain number of rows/rounds, say for the ribbing on a pair of toe-up socks, put a locking stitch marker on the first row and count from there. You could also put a marker every 5 or 10 rows so you can see how many rows you’ve knit at a glance. 

Stitch markers are really helpful when you’re casting on a large number of stitches. I can count 20 stitches without losing my place much easier than I can count 400. So, after you cast on 20 sts, place a marker and repeat until you have the required number for your pattern. No miscounting here.

P.S. Here’s one last tip for all the hand spinners out there. Locking stitch markers make it much easier to measure the yardage of skeined handspun. 


Cuddly Chevron Baby Blanket Tutorials

1. Tips for Using Stitch Markers

2. Working lifted increases in garter stitch (January 27th)

3. Weaving in ends as you go without a tapestry needle (February 3rd)

How To Keep A Handspun Yarn Journal

Write down ratios, twist direction, yardage, and more so you'll always know how you spun your favorite handspun. How To Keep A Handspun Yarn Journal | withwool.com

When I first decided to teach myself to spin, keeping notes seemed like a good idea. As soon as there was actual yarn coming off the spindle, which took longer than expected, I made a little notebook from index cards bound together with a rubber band and a paper clip. After each little skein was finished, it got a page in the notebook that included the fiber, color, yardage, and weight. There were plenty of exclamation points whenever I hit a new yardage record, say spinning 70 yards when the most I’d spun before was 54. Eventually, I got lazy. I wanted to spin more I wanted to jot things down. I spun and told myself I’d update my notes later. Yeah, that never happened. I don’t know where that notebook is but I’m sure it’ll turn up. 

Now that I’ve got an awesome spinning wheel, I’ve come round to taking notes again. The ‘Favorite Things’ post from the Sweet Georgia blog was a perfect reminder why I should. When I spun on spindles, I had a hard time producing consistent yarn over multiple skeins. Why bother with notes? With my wheel I can set ratios, tension, and count treadles which makes it easier to spin multiple consistent skeins. Keeping notes is suddenly much more important because spinning for large projects actually seems possible. Handspun with a consistent weight and gauge is crucial when the end goal is to knit it into a sweater.

I’ve started using Ravelry to track some of the information I need. The ability to stash fiber and handspun is a great feature and I’m glad to have it but I don’t always update it like I should. Plus, I don’t have to worry about single strength or finding wifi with a notebook. 

The first step in keeping a handspun journal is finding the right notebook. I went with the Moleskine Cahier because I like the size and the 3-pack is a good price. Also, grids forever.

Write down ratios, twist direction, yardage, and more so you'll always know how you spun your favorite handspun. How To Keep A Handspun Yarn Journal | withwool.com

Here’s a sample of what my notes look like. At the top, the date starts with when the fiber was first prepped and ends when the twist is set. Then a project name. Next up is the info on the fiber: dyer, type, color, and amount. Info for the finished skeins includes yardage, weight, and WPI before and after setting the twist. The remainder of the notes are all about the spinning process. Where the singles spun S or Z? How were they plied? What was the tension and ratio? How did I split the fiber? How did I handle the color - barber pole, fractal, or chain-ply? What is the final yarn going to become? Is it a gift? Am I trying to recreate a previous yarn? Just spinning for the joy of it? It’s all there.

Write down ratios, twist direction, yardage, and more so you'll always know how you spun your favorite handspun. How To Keep A Handspun Yarn Journal | withwool.com

At the very bottom of the page is one last thing, a page number. What good is keeping a notebook if you can’t find anything in it? Having page numbers means that the first page of the book can be an index. When it’s time to document a new project, the title and the page number go here. No more flipping pages to find info about that skein spun months ago. Even better, the index makes it easy to record more than just finished yarn. Write down your spinning bucket list. Plan for Tour de Fleece or Spinzilla. Catalog stash acquisitions or make a spinning shopping list. 

Write down ratios, twist direction, yardage, and more so you'll always know how you spun your favorite handspun. How To Keep A Handspun Yarn Journal | withwool.com

The ‘Favorite Things’ post reminded me of something else I’ve been meaning to do - labeling handspun. After all the important details go in the notebook, the info is copied onto a mail tag and then tied to the skein with baker’s twine. When I pick out handspun from the stash, the yardage and weight are right at my fingertips which makes deciding what to make slightly easier. 

Create Marled Yarn with Chain Plying

How To Chain Ply Variegated Yarn To Create Marled Yarn | withwool.com

Ever fallen hard for a skein of variegated yarn? Yarn that’s beautiful in the skein, but, when knit, turns into a pooling and flashing mess. There are several ways to combat pooling yarn. You can stripe with another yarn or knit from alternate ends every 2 rows. You can change the gauge or slip stitches or do all manner of finicky things. What happens when none of that works and you’re ready to stuff into the very back of the closet?

How To Chain Ply Variegated Yarn To Create Marled Yarn | withwool.com
How To Chain Ply Variegated Yarn To Create Marled Yarn | withwool.com

I had about reached that point with a beautiful skein of orange and blue fingering weight yarn. The reason it didn’t end up forgotten in a closet was because my closet isn’t that big. Besides, my yarn stash is a bit too small to intentionally lose yarn. I tried tons of different tricks to get the colors not to pool but nothing really worked. I was about to move along to another project and a solid yarn when I came across Amy Christoffer’s Moxie Pullover. The sweater is knit with two different colors of yarn held together to create a lovely marled fabric. Why not ply that stubborn skein to create a marl? 

How To Chain Ply Variegated Yarn To Create Marled Yarn | withwool.com
How To Chain Ply Variegated Yarn To Create Marled Yarn | withwool.com

After starting a movie, I sat at my wheel and decided to chain-ply the yarn instead making a 2-ply. Didn’t want to risk the color repeats matching up in a 2-ply and creating a thicker yarn with the exact same pooling problems. Less than an hour later, I had a wonderful marled yarn that I wanted to knit with instead of intentionally misplacing. 

Short and Sweet Directions for Chain-Plying Marled Yarn

How To Chain Ply Variegated Yarn To Create Marled Yarn | withwool.com

1. Figure out which way the yarn is plied. Commercial yarn is usually plied to the left, S twist, so you’ll need to chain ply to the right, Z twist. If you’re plying a single, spin to the left.

2. Wind the yarn into a center-pull ball.

3. Chain-ply. Use a wheel or a spindle, both work just fine. 

4. Once your finished plying, let the yarn rest for a day so the twist can settle into the yarn.

How To Chain Ply Variegated Yarn To Create Marled Yarn | withwool.com

5. Wind the yarn into a skein.  Never mind the crazy tendrils.

6. Soak the skein in a cool water bath with wool wash or gentle soap. Rinse carefully if the yarn isn’t superwash.

7. Hang to dry.

How To Chain Ply Variegated Yarn To Create Marled Yarn | withwool.com

Now the yarn is ready to be wound and knit up into marled goodness. FYI, chain plying will reduce the yardage by a third. This fingering yarn’s original 400 yards turned into about 133 yards of aran weight. So, instead of socks or a shawl, there’s enough yardage to knit a slouchy hat or a small cowl or fingerless mitts. Could even squeak out a small pair of slippers.  Bring on the marl!

How To Chain Ply Variegated Yarn To Create Marled Yarn | withwool.com

How to Un-Ply Yarn

Plying can be magical, but it doesn’t always turn out the way you expect. Here’s how you can your un-ply your handspun to get the results you want. How To Un-Ply Yarn | withwool.com

Plying is magic. You can combine 2 or more strands or even just one and turn them into something beautiful and balanced. So, why would you ever want to un-ply yarn? Well, plying doesn’t always turn out the way you think it will. Maybe after plying 2 singles together, you realize that they would look much better chain-plied. Or, the colors barber pole instead of matching up. If you’re working with a commercial yarn, you could split the plies to use for sewing seams, attaching buttons, or embroidery.  I un-plied a skein of handspun because I’m stubborn and and wanted to the colors to match up. 

In order to make un-plying a less tedious process, you’ll need:

  • the yarn to un-ply - a few yards or a few hundred
  •     a spinning wheel or spindle
  •     a lazy kate or a small cardboard box and knitting needle combo to act as a lazy kate
  •     something to wrap freed singles around - small balls or origami stars or a ball winder
Plying can be magical, but it doesn’t always turn out the way you expect. Here’s how you can your un-ply your handspun to get the results you want. How To Un-Ply Yarn | withwool.com

1. With the spinning wheel or a spindle, remove twist by spinning the yarn in the opposite direction of the plying. For commercial yarn which is generally plied to the left, spin to the right. Remove as much of the ply twist as possible without adding any extra twist to the singles.

Plying can be magical, but it doesn’t always turn out the way you expect. Here’s how you can your un-ply your handspun to get the results you want. How To Un-Ply Yarn | withwool.com

2. Set up the bobbin or cop on the kate. If you’re using a lazy kate, separate the plies and pull them to opposite sides of a bobbin rod. If you’re using a box, cut slits in the cardboard for each single and pull them all through. In this tutorial, I’m splitting 2 plies but you can also take apart 3 or more plies with the same method.

Plying can be magical, but it doesn’t always turn out the way you expect. Here’s how you can your un-ply your handspun to get the results you want. How To Un-Ply Yarn | withwool.com

3. Evenly pull on the singles to prevent tangles and start wrapping. One single went to the ball winder the other was wrapped around a turkish single. 

When you’re finished, you’ll have at least 2 tangle free singles to work with. Sew on some buttons, embroider, or ply them together all over again. These singles went under the scissors to match up the colors before a second attempt at plying. Definitely worth the effort and the time. 

Plying can be magical, but it doesn’t always turn out the way you expect. Here’s how you can your un-ply your handspun to get the results you want. How To Un-Ply Yarn | withwool.com
Plying can be magical, but it doesn’t always turn out the way you expect. Here’s how you can your un-ply your handspun to get the results you want. How To Un-Ply Yarn | withwool.com

How to Wash Excess Dye Out of Yarn

...or, I’m really tired of my hands turning blue.

A few months ago, I was spinning some bright blue roving into yarn. The roving, besides from being easy to draft, was pretty and soft but turned my hands and spindle blue. Drafting the singles, blue hands. Plying the singles, blue hands. Skeining the yarn, oh look, blue hands. Thankfully, a bath to set the twist was a perfect time to get rid of all that extra dye. But first, research. To the internet!

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My first thought was to try a vinegar bath since I’ve repeatedly heard that adding a little vinegar to the water will set the dye. Numerous blog posts and message boards later, I came to the conclusion that just soaking the yarn in vinegar wouldn’t do a thing. There also has to be heat for the vinegar to do it’s job since the vinegar acts as mordant which lets the dye set on the fiber. I wasn’t willing to cook my yarn which meant the only way to fix the blue problem was to wash the dye away. 

If, like me, you don’t put your yarn on the stove, you’ll need a sink, cool water, and good soap to wash the dye away. Wool wash is the best choice but dish detergent works too. I used a combination of Dawn Ultra and Eucalan.  

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1: Fill the sink with enough cool water to let the yarn soak and float. Add soap after the sink is full to prevent suds that you’ll just have to rinse away later.

2: Dunk the yarn in the water. Let it soak for a few minutes and gently swish it around. If the water dramatically changed color, immediately skip to step 3.

During the yarn’s first dunk, the bath turned so blue that I couldn’t see the bottom of the sink through 4” of water.

 

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3: Drain the water and rinse the yarn with as little agitation as possible. Repeat as necessary. 

I had to put my yarn through 5 separate baths and it was still dripping blue water when I hung it up to dry.

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Pro Tip: Even if you’re using a soap that doesn’t need to be rinsed, agitate the yarn as little as possible. Wool and other animal fibers can still felt in cool water. All the rinsing and agitation can add up over multiple baths. If the yarn does start to felt but you catch it soon enough, the yarn will still be salvageable and knit-able. 

I accidentally felted my blue handspun but stopped washing the yarn when I noticed the felting. I hung it up even though it was still dripping blue water. When it was dry, I had to pull the skein apart one strand at a time. I lost some yardage to shrinkage but I didn’t have to cut anything. Surprisingly, I like the yarn better felted.

Pro Tip #2:

Be aware that the yarn might lose some of it's color during the repeated baths. Mine went from gym short blue to sky blue. 

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Easily Measure the Yardage of Handspun Yarn

Keep losing count when you're trying to tally the yardage of handspun yarn? Here's how stitch markers can help out! | Easily Measure The Yardage Of Handspun Yarn withwool.com

Whether you're spinning for Tour de Fleece, Spinzilla, or for a particular project, you'll have to figure out how much yardage you have eventually. This locking stitch marker trick will help you keep count no matter how much you've spun. 

Keep losing count when you're trying to tally the yardage of handspun yarn? Here's how stitch markers can help out! | Easily Measure The Yardage Of Handspun Yarn withwool.com

Once the singles are plied and the yarn off the bobbins or spindle, skein up all that precious yardage. Instead of counting every wrap in one go, grab some locking stitch markers and let them keep keep track of the yarn. Just count 20 wraps, or whatever number you like best, and bundle them together with the stitch marker. Repeat till every strand is corralled. Count the markers and you’ll know exactly how many wraps you have without losing count somewhere in the triple digits. No need to wonder if you’ve counted every wrap or double-counted by mistake. The stitch markers are doing all the work.

Now all the need to go is a little math. Multiply the number of wraps by the circumference of the skein and you’ll have your yardage. If you want the yardage of all the individual singles, multiple the final yardage by the number of plies.

Keep losing count when you're trying to tally the yardage of handspun yarn? Here's how stitch markers can help out! | Easily Measure The Yardage Of Handspun Yarn withwool.com

Pooling Yarn and What To Do About It

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It’s orange. It’s blue. It’s sock yarn and it’s been in my stash for years. I remember buying it way back when in 2009, folks. At the time, I wasn’t worried about how the colors would knit up because this yarn was going to socks. Simple socks too. Whether they were ribbed or plain stockinette, it didn’t matter if the colors pooled or flashed or did any other strange things. Skip forward 4 years to 2013 and the yarn that would be socks is going to be a shawl instead. That changes things a bit. Suddenly, how the colors knit up matters a lot. Pooling and flashing are things to be avoided at all costs. 

What exactly is pooling and flashing? Pooling is when colors clump together and knit up into big splotches, AKA pools or puddles, of color. Flashing is similar to pooling in that colors clump but will stripe and move around like a bolt of lightening in your knitting.

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So, I swatched the yarn by casting on for a top down shawl just to see what the colors would do. Once I got a few rows into the pattern, there was pooling and puddling. Puddles so big you’d have to jump across them if you found them in a parking lot. Even then, you’d probably still end up in ankle deep water. So, I ripped out the shawl and started experimenting with different and easy ways to mess with the color repeats. 

The variegated yarn I’m using, Kaleidoscope, was dyed by Blue Ridge Yarns and has the very appropriate color name of ‘War Eagle’. Most of the skein is dyed with short repeats of orange and blue where each color is 3” - 4”. Then there is a long section where each color is 12” long.

THE FIRST SWATCH

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The first swatch and two other swatches were knit using the pattern below. Needle size was also the same except for the third swatch.

  • Cast on 40 stitches with the long tail cast on. 
  • Knit 4 rows of garter.
  • Knit 30 rows of stockinette.
  • Knit 4 more rows of garter and bind off.

The first swatch, knit on 2.75 mm needles, was knit to establish a baseline. It’s important to know how the yarn knits up if left to its own devices. Both colors make little pools but are interrupted by the longer sections of color. Certainly doesn’t look bad but what it doesn’t work for your project? First option, stripes.

THE SECOND SWATCH

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 Instead of knitting with one of the skein for the entire project, knit 2 rows with one end and 2 rows with the opposite end. If you have more than one ball of yarn, knit 2 rows with one ball and 2 rows with another ball. 

If the project is worked in the round, there’s one more option that is rather fiddly when knitting flat. Alternate the working yarn every row. You won’t have to worry about jogs or any of the other tell-tale signs of stripes since you’re working with the same colors. 

Switching the ends every 2 rows didn’t really work for this swatch since it created a textbook example of flashing; exactly what I’m trying to avoid. There is another option though.

THE THIRD SWATCH

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The third way to affect color in knitting: change the gauge. This last swatch is knit the same as the first but at a much larger gauge on 4mm needles. There’s a little pooling and a flashing but neither dominates the knitting. They kind of meld together to make a more cohesive whole. 

Just be aware that changing the gauge might not always work for a project. You could get away with adding 2 extra stitches per row to a garter stitch scarf. Adding or subtracting 2 extra stitches per 4” on a sweater is a recipe for disaster. So, if you like how a yarn knits up at a certain gauge don’t try to force the yarn and an incompatible pattern together. Find a different pattern that matches your preferred gauge and make something you truly enjoy.

CONCLUSION

The easiest options for combatting pooling and flashing in knitting are alternating the yarn ends every 1 or 2 rows and changing the gauge. All yarn is different, especially hand dyed yarn, and the only way to figure out the best option is to swatch. See what happens, experiment, and have a little fun with it. Don’t think of swatching as wasted knitting time. Swatching is like meeting someone new for coffee before going on a week long camping trip with them. There are some things you just need to know first.  

 

Wander the Web 6: Link Love Edition

Once again joining up with Crafty Pod and Link Love to share goodness from across the web. This week’s theme stays close to home and focuses on the most popular posts from yours truly. When I first read through the schedule several weeks ago, it got me thinking about how I haven’t made many tutorials in the past few months. That had to change so I started brainstorming and writing and photographing and editing. In the past two weeks I’ve managed to post two tutorials, How to Ply Leftover Singles and How to Clean Dye Off Spindles, and have a few more in the works. 

While I’m working on the new stuff, check out my most popular tutorials.

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How To Sew On A Button With Yarn - Can’t find matching thread? Use yarn from your knitting or crochet project to sew on buttons without extra bulk. 

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Kumihimo Tutorial: Part One and Part Two - A step-by-step tutorial for making a round kumihimo braid complete with clasp.

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Origami For Plying - Learn how to fold a simple origami star to help ply yarn off a spindle.

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How to Knit Afterthought Heels - A how-to and tips for knitting afterthought heels that won’t suffer from gaps or require picking up stitches. Bring your scissors!

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Make a Bow Gift Tags - Use leftover yarn and bits of cardstock to make care labels and tags for knitted and crocheted gifts. 

How To Ply Leftover Singles

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 In a perfect world, we would spin singles with equal yardage and have none left over after plying. I’ve heard tales of this happening to a few lucky individuals but, for the rest of us, there’s going to be extra. Those last few, or not so few, yards sit on bobbins or spindles or straws or chopsticks while we forget about them completely for the next project. That is until we need that spindle or ran out of straws for extra yarn. I know that I have plenty of un-plied singles from when I first started spinning and had no idea what to do with the extra. My last few spinning projects have also left me with leftovers and I’m tired of them taking up space in my spinning box. The remaining yardage can easily be turned into a 2-ply yarn since the hard work of drafting is already done. 

The leftover single can have a lot more yardage than you think. A plied mini-skein can give you a little breathing room on the final rows of a project or be enough to knit a small trinket - like a Christmas ornament or bookmark. Plus, the mini skeins are cute and perfect for petting on a stressful day.

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Wind the yarn off the spindle (or bobbin or straw) into a center pull ball. You can use a ball-winder, a nostepinne, or your hand. Just go slowly or risk snapping more delicate singles.

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Once wound, pull out the end from the center and the outside. Tie them together in a knot and you’re ready to start plying with a spindle or a wheel.

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The ends will pull out smoothly in the beginning but, as more of the singles move to the spindle, the ball will start to collapse. Go slowly and keep an eye out for potential tangles.

  

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Let the fresh yarn rest for 24 hours before picking something small to skein up the yarn before dunking it in a bath. I used two small lamps and a book for a third un-pictured, mini skein.

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Finally plied and finished, the yellow skein has 13 yds and the blue has 29 yds. I haven’t quite figured out what I’ll do with these skeins but, in the meantime, they’ll look cute on my desk.

How to Clean Dye Off Spindles

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Dye bleeds. It’ll cover your hands, your clothes, and perfectly innocent yarn. Not even spindles are immune. The pencil roving I started spinning last week has been great to spin except for the fact that it’s been turning my hands and favorite spindle blue. Once the first single was finished, I finally had the chance to take my spindle apart and see how drastic the color change had been.

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Blue, very blue. My blue “Smurf” fingers clued me in that the change would be severe but it was still disappointing to see the difference. It’s pretty, I’ll admit that, but the shaft is not the amazing amber color that it was when I first received the spindle as a gift a year ago. I’d rather have the amber back and, if fiber has turned your spindle an unwelcome color, you probably want it looking like its original self too. Plus, I want to get rid of any dye that might rub off on future projects. Here’s how I removed the extra dye.

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Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap to the rescue. I keep Dr. Bronner’s around because it’s a gentle, mild soap that can still get the job done. Plus, you can use it for cleaning just about anything.

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Wet a paper towel and squeeze out the excess water. Add a few drops of soap and start rubbing the stains. If the dying was recent, you should see a difference right away. Switch to a clean, damp cloth or paper towel to remove the soap. Pat dry.

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 The shaft still has a blue tint along with a few blue spots where the dye got into the grain but the spindle is much closer to its original color. Now I just need to find a way to keep the roving from turning the wood blue again. 

Tips for Spinning Yarn on the Beach

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One of my goals for Tour de Fleece was spinning in public. I knit in public all the time but hadn’t worked up the courage to spin in public until last week. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d actually do it which is what finally made me suck it up and get it over with. If I was going to spin beyond my front door, I was going to enjoy my surroundings. So, spindle in hand, I headed to the beach. There was all the sun, sand, and waves that I enjoyed on my daily walks. A spot was found and the only thing left to do was actually spin. I started spinning reluctantly but lost any thought of nervousness once I found my rhythm. People stared but it wasn’t the end of the world. It was actually pretty nice and I’m looking forward to spinning on the beach (and in public) again. If you want to try spinning on the beach too, here are a few things I learned:   

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  1. Sand is everywhere, so bring a towel. It’s the beach and sand will end up in places you didn’t know existed. A big, oversized towel will provide some (relatively) sand free space to spin. If the spindle drops, the towel will be there to catch it and spare your yarn from the sand.
  2. Use the wind to your advantage. Part of the reason to visit the beach is to enjoy the sea air. Make it work for you. Stand at an angle that will keep your fiber or singles blowing away from you and your work. Not having to hold your fiber out of the way might make drafting easier too. 
  3. Use the sky and the sand! The sky and the sand are great, uninterrupted backdrops to inspect your spinning. Analyze your plying or just admire your handiwork.
  4. Mind the tide. Waves are great to listen to but they like to travel. If you start spinning near the waves at low tide, they could be at your feet before you know it. Don’t forget about the spray either. Wet wool is hard to work with.
  5. Be prepared for stares. Yes, stares. Seeing someone zoned out with their phone is far more common than seeing someone spin yarn. It’s only natural that people will be curious. Don’t get nervous. Instead, smile and maybe even say hello. 

As always, bring along all the regular beach necessities; like sunscreen, a hat, and a snack, too. Spinning is fun but sunburn is not.

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How to Find Yarn Shops Using Ravelry

Whenever I needed yarn or just felt the urge, I’d pop over to my favorite yarn shop. Now that I’ve moved, my favorite shop is over 2,100 miles away! That’s a bit too far away to satisfy my yarn cravings, unfortunately.  Having a great yarn shop to visit is such a big help and I’m desperate to find a shop near my new home. I looked for yarn shops with Google Maps and found a few options but there wasn’t much information available for most beyond a name, an address, and maybe a website. So, I turned to Ravelry which has proven itself to be a great knitting (and crochet and spinning and weaving) resource. I found so many more shops and so much more information than with Google. If you’ve just moved, are looking for yarn shops to visit on a trip, or just want to go somewhere new, Ravelry is the place to start looking.

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Once you’re logged in, click on the “Yarns” tab at the top of the page.

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Right under the “popular new yarns” box is the Local Yarn Shop Directory. You can search by shop name, city, address, or zip code. I’m going with zip code since I want to see all of the shops in my general area. If you’re visiting, typing in the city’s name might give you better results.

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After you click search, the next page lists all of the yarn shops within the area. You get their name, address, website, and distance from search address. To narrow down the results, change the mile filter near the top of the screen if you’re getting pages and pages of results. You can also choose to view the shops on a map when you click the “Location Map” tab.

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When you click on a shop, you’ll go to a page that tells you all you need to know: name, address, contact info, and hours. If the shop has a website or a twitter account, those links will be there too. You can even see a map and get directions. Just as helpful, you’ll be able to see individual yarns that people have bought at the shop and brands the shop carries. Definitely useful information when you’re trying to decide if a shop is worth visiting.  

Have fun finding your new favorite yarn shop!