Knitting on a budget

Knitting on a budget

Things are getting more and more expensive, so I thought I would pull together a few ideas to make sure you're making the most of your knitting budget.

Some will be fairly obvious, while others might give you a new way to think about things!

Make a budget

Here's a fairly obvious one, but actually set a budget for knitting for the year. When setting a budget there are two ways to approach it:

1. Ask yourself what you can afford to put towards knitting each pay cycle, and then pop that amount whether it's $2 or $15 into an account to use for your knitting projects throughout the year.

2. Take stock of what you'd like to achieve with your knitting this year and then find a way to budget for it. This might apply more if you knit lots of gifts, or have a larger budget to work with.

I'm an option one person, I like to have some money set aside for knitting projects then think carefully about what my top projects will be and make sure I put most of my budget towards that.

Be really selective when choosing projects

Getting caught up in the excitement of knitting patterns being released is very easy. Some designers seem to be dropping new patterns every week, and we need to make half of them to stay current. But remember, knitting should last you a lifetime, or even if we're being conservative, it should last at least 5 years! So when you see a new pattern that you 'have" to make, I suggest saving it in a folder (on Pinterest, or Instagram) and leaving it there for 2-4 weeks, if you still love it, that's a sign that you weren't just caught up in the hype of it but really do have a connection to the pattern.

Aside from your general feeling about it, it's also good to ask yourself a few other questions to help you decide if this is a project worth investing in.

  • What do I have in my wardrobe that I will wear with this?
  • How often do I see myself wearing/using this?
  • Is it the pattern that I love, or something else (the colour the sample was made in, the styling of the person modelling it, is it similar to something I've knit before)?
  • Will I learn some new skills by knitting this pattern?
  • Can I afford yarn that's appropriate for this project?

Make a schedule too

If you have a wall planner or a diary, mark down any projects you know are going to be a priority this year. For example if you want to knit something for a new baby, for your partners birthday or you really want to learn a new technique like fair-isle knitting then schedule in when you plan to work on those projects - and start saving ideas of what project you will make, what yarn you will use and how much of your knitting budget you will put towards it.

That way if you get distracted by a beautiful new pattern or yarn sale you can check whether you have the time and funds available to fit it in. You can always change your priorities if the new thing really is a must-knit. But it can be really useful to have things written down so you know that you are making a conscious decision to choose that project over something else that you had in mind.

Less is more

If you've been really selective about what you're knitting and you've prioritised some key projects that are really important to you, bear in mind that the biggest investment that you will make in this project will be your time, so make sure you choose wool that you're going to love to work with, and that will make your finished object shine. Creating a few amazing pieces through the year in yarn that you love will make you feel prouder than smashing out something every week in yarn that doesn't look great, and doesn't teach you any new skills. And if you're giving a gift that feeling will only intensify.

Don't feed your stash

Well, don't feed it too much anyway. Everyone has their own taste and "go-to" yarn types and colours. If you see one of your go-to's on sale and you know that you'll use it within 6-12 months then by all means grab it and hold on to it for your next project. The same applies to special yarn, for example, something unique and hand-dyed that you won't be able to get later.

But it's not usually the best idea to buy yarn that is not in your usual fibre or colour range unless you have a specific project in mind for it. Those are the yarns that end up sitting in our stash, soaking up our yarn budget, and often get shoe-horned into projects so we can "get rid of it" leaving you feeling a bit dissatisfied with the finished object. I'm a firm believer in a stash being a place for a couple of very special balls of yarn among a small selection of classic yarns that you stocked up on while they were on sale.

Consider lightweight yarns

Thinner yarns on smaller needles mean that the final fabric that you create is thinner and lighter, so the yarn covers a greater surface area. So if you're making a jumper in dk weight yarn, it might require 10-12 balls of yarn. While a similar style/size jumper knit in fingering weight yarn is likely closer to 6 balls. And 50g of wool usually costs about the same price, so can knit a jumper for almost half the price.

With these projects being knit on smaller needles they usually take a bit longer too, so knitting projects that last longer will mean you do a few less per year (saving you a bit of money).

You'll want to bear in mind however that choosing thinner yarn may limit your choice in a project, for example cables usually look their best in a plumper yarn. But you may open yourself up to new techniques like colour-work or lace-work. The most important thing is still making sure that you end up with a garment that you love and will wear for a long time, so you might make the decision to stick with a thicker yarn. The weight is just something to factor in, and exploring something new may make knitting even more fun for you.

Get to know gauges and how to sub in yarns

You can also look at alternatives, and work out the total project cost using the recommended yarn vs an alternative.

One great way to do that is to get to know gauges. A project like the Champagne Cardigan by PetiteKnit uses Double Sunday held with Tynn Silk Mohair, with a gauge of 18 stitches per 10 cm. A size M requires 12 balls of Double Sunday and 6 balls of Tynn Silk Mohair, which would cost approx $288.

However, Heavy Merino and Fivel both work up to the 18 stitch gauge, without requiring an accompanying thread. In Heavy Merino you would require 11 balls at a total cost of $187, and in Fivel you would need 13 balls at a cost of $208. Now with both those substitutions, you will miss out on the fluff of mohair, but you will still get an incredibly soft garment, with a beautiful finish, at a much cheaper price - without compromising on yarn quality.

Try new fibres

Us kiwis are pretty obsessed with merino, and with good reason, it's soft, lightweight and very easy to work with. However there are other types of wool out there that have their own special properties, Norwegian wool gets softer with time, yarns with nylon in them are very durable and have great stitch definition and lambswool has a beautiful rustic quality to it. Merino is one of the more expensive yarns, so exploring what's available in other fibres may help you find more budget-friendly options, and introduce you to a new favourite. Just remember to check the gauge and running length of the yarn if you're making a swap in a pattern.

A word to the wise

When I first started knitting I tried to save money by knitting thinner yarn on larger needles to stretch the gauge out to make it fit a pattern. That was definitely a mistake, the finished garment didn't hold it's shape and only got saggier and baggier with time. Plus it seemed to pill much more than when I knit things closer to their recommended gauge. I would have been better off using 3 projects worth of yarn in one project to end up with something nicer that I would have gotten a lot more wear out of!

Don't forget about 2nd hand shops where you can often pick up a bargain, just go with an open mind as you never know what you will find. And there is also yarn swapping, if something has been lurking in your stash for a while maybe it's time to see if a friend has something to swap it for, or you can turn to Facebook where there are yarn de-stash groups (or Marketplace).

So I hope this has some useful tips for you. Please remember that the biggest investment that you make in a knitted garment is your time and energy, careful planning and being really selective about what projects you make will have the biggest impact on your budget and enjoyment. 


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