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We’ve all seen Instagram and the amazing creations with the most gorgeous hand-dyed yarns. We follow the hand-spinners and the hand-dyers and we daydream and look at all those hats and scarves and sweaters and shawls everyone is making and just drool. Like the yarns above I picked up while on our road trip through Oregon wine country.
Then we look at our own yarn stash and start putting our work down. Maybe you don’t do it everyday, but you’ve done it at least once, admit it! Your work is substandard because you’re using big box craft store yarn. It runs through our heads, no shame in admitting it.
I’m here to to tell you none of that is true. I ran a very successful crocheting side gig for years using craft store yarns exclusively. I still love using them! So I made a list of things to consider each time this thought runs through your mind AND ways to bulk up your yarn stash and your notions on a budget:
1.) Handmade is handmade. Those hats everyone is buying at Gap and Target … not handmade. Acrylic, polyester and … made in a factory by the thousands. Your hats? Maybe still acrylic but handmade with love and much more exclusive. You are different, set yourself apart and be proud of what you have created. Did I mention that hand-crocheted items are not able to be mass-produced? There is no machine in the world that can replicate what we do with crochet, my friends. Own that!
2.) Don’t compare yourself to others. The other knitting lady at the craft fair spins her own wool and makes her own felt flowers to sew on her hats… Her product seems far more artistic and beautiful than your own crazy rainbow beanies and crochet baby hats with silk flowers from the craft store. So? There are still several reasons that customers may choose your product over hers. Price point is a factor sometimes and let’s be honest …. Artsy Earth Mama needs to charge more to compensate herself for her time. She also only has one product: her wool. You don’t think she looks at your freedom to buy whatever you like and has some pangs of jealousy? She’s trying to focus on branding herself in a much different way and it takes much more time to build that kind of clientele. Not to mention she has to hear constantly from customers how expensive her items are and how they’re allergic to wool. So don’t assume she is superior, she’s just another artist with a different vision.
3.) Never be ashamed of your yarn stash. People are sharing the hand-dyed yarn from a local farm that they paid dearly for (guilty) and it’s gorgeous and boutique and who is going to care about that new yarn cake from Hobby Lobby you’re so excited about? Answer: Someone like you!!!! Someone ASPIRING to be at the level you’re at! It was only $7.99 and it’s just pretty. You love it. So make something amazing with it , spend $3.99 on a pattern that you love and for $12 make a hat we are all envious of! Show us what you can do! It is, after all, about the art at its core, not how much you spend on yarn. Below are some of my favorite inexpensive staples:
4.) Shop Sales. As someone who spent years figuring out how to make a profit with her crochet … I’ve tried it all at least once. Yes, yarn goes on sale. It’s usually the time of year you’re busy selling but … it happens! Sign up for emails from your local craft stores (and yes, even the local yarn shop selling those gorgeous wools!) Use. Every. Coupon. 40% off one item? Worth the trip! Buy the expensive skein you’ve been wanting but can’t justify. I recently stocked up at Hobby Lobby during their 30% off all yarn sale …. totally worth it, I found some great things! Joann Fabric has button sales, Michaels has bead sales … they rock my world. Also spend time ‘favoriting’ yarns on Etsy. After the first of the year, people put a lot of these yarns on sale to make room for their new creations and Etsy will notify you when items you have favorited go on sale! This is a great way to support other artists and still stay within your budget. My only caution is to be careful what you buy on clearance. These can be yarns that are being discontinued and …. you may find the perfect thing to do with them and then never be able to find them anywhere again. It’s frustrating.
These sales and coupons help keep your costs down, just remember to price your items as if you paid full price; your work is worth it. Invest some time and money in stocking up when it’s on sale and working on items all year instead of rushing through your work during the fall and winter. Build that stock and take your time to enjoy your craft!
5.) Those fur pom poms are so gorgeous and delicious and wouldn’t they just bring your things to another level!? Yes. And they can. Tip: these go on sale at the craft stores too! Also, Amazon carries them in bulk. I know, they’re not handmade and they’re not the super exciting unique and custom colors but …. they come in packs of 12 or more and they’re decent quality. Blow dry them to fluff them out and they’re just as complimentary to your work until you can save up the money to do an order of those gorgeous fluffy babies you’ve been drooling over at $7 a pop. Truthfully, I have a mix of all of the above and I choose the right one based on whoever the hat I’m working on wants to become. Make your own rules!
6.) Online and real-life Garage Sales have yarn! Search Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Etsy, etc. There are a lot of people who have given up on their yarn craft and are clearing out their stash at an amazing price. If you’re out garage-saleing in your town, watch out for yarn as well! Estate sales can have some great things. Be selective, don’t buy up every stash listed and wind up with odds and ends and yarns that you don’t love; buyer’s remorse is real. But they ARE out there and you can find some seriously good stuff! Etsy is really great for searching discontinued yarns, someone has some somewhere and they’re dying to get rid of it.
7.) Thrift Stores. This can be hit or miss. Sometimes it’s a sad selection but … it’s always possible to find something amazing that you can use for very little. Never hurts to hunt a little, right?
8.) Use your scraps! Only 20 yards or so left? Don’t throw it out! I have an entire BLOG about what you can do to use up yarn scraps and odds and ends, 1/2 skeins, etc. Don’t throw them out when you can make something useful with it!!!!
9.) Work to find FREE patterns. I know there are some amazing patterns out there for sale, I’ve seen them! I’ve bought them, heck, I sell them! But there are some really great free ones as well. Ravelry is probably my favorite site for searching patterns, free and for sale. Other crafters are a wealth of knowledge!!!! Join the community; you won’t be sorry. When I used to see gorgeous patterns, I would check the hook size (I don’t use gauges) and find a yarn I could afford that recommended the same hook size and go with that. So don’t shy away from the patterns using hand-dyed wool or anything you can’t afford. Make it work for you!
Collecting free patterns and getting your style down is an important step if you ask me, which is why I offer free patterns in addition to listing on Etsy. Yes, I deserve some compensation for my creations, but I also want to encourage other crocheters at a different level to create beautiful things. I remember what it was like building my brand!
10.) Follow bloggers! Many of us post free patterns that you won’t find anywhere else, keep up with you through emails, and you may just discover an inexpensive yarn that you love and want to work with! This community is amazing and large and willing to support us at all levels of learning and making. Reach out and support the bloggers who are helping you grow! Someday you may be one of them!
Happy Hooking, Hookers!