Last week I found a great circular and double-pointed needle organizer–this simple accordion file from Target. Mine is bill envelope sized, but you could use a larger accordion file if you have more needles (or needles with less flexible cables). This envelope-sized accordion file would also be great if you have a large collection of double-pointed needles to keep track of. This little accordion file cost about $5, which I thought was a great bargain, especially considering how pricey organizers made specifically for knitting needles can be.
I am a thrifty knitter. I can’t help it. In my devout Baptist home growing up thriftiness was next to godliness. Mom used to tell us that if she had had another son she would have named him “Clearance”. Then in my early marriage when I first taught myself to knit, I was literally choosing between money for yarn to make warm baby things for my daughter and money for groceries. I continue to hunt bargains for fun and profit (and because we are still paying off my husband’s graduate loans). I use coilless safety pins for stitch markers, get free patterns off the Internet, and buy most of my yarn from KnitPicks. I love a bargain.
However, there are times when I can be penny wise and pound foolish. I have learned the hard way that scratchy acrylic is never a bargain, and I’m not fond of dishcloth cotton. I sometimes spend too much time working out my own version of a pattern when I would have been much better off to simply buy the pattern already written out by someone else. There are times when spending a little more can mean saving time or frustration or just enjoying the process of knitting a lot more. I have learned that it’s better buy the right needles for the job, even if it means ripping out what I have already done and waiting for the correct needles to come in the mail before starting over again. Some yarn works better on wood or bamboo needles, and it’s far better not to be fighting with the yarn on the wrong needles through the thousands of stitches that make up even a small project. I now take the time to swatch before a big project partly for the sake of making sure the needles I’m planning to use are really going to work well with the yarn and stitch pattern. Sometimes a pointier tip or a smoother join or a needle with just the right amount of “grab” can make all the difference. I have two sets of interchangeable needles that I bought hoping to avoid having to buy any more circulars with different cable lengths, but I have found I hardly ever use them except when I’m knitting a small project with an odd sized needle (generally something over size 10).
There are times when splurging can be really worthwhile. Sometimes I really crave a luxurious fiber or subtle, sophisticated colors. Here are my strategies for maximizing my own splurges. For handpaints, Etsy has a wide variety for really reasonable prices, and I feel good knowing I’m supporting someone’s artistic endeavors. Lighter weights of yarn (anything from lace weight to sport weight) allow me to get a lot of yardage per ounce, which means a lot more knitting for my money. I often knit these light weight yarns on surprisingly large needles (US 6 through 10), which also maximizes the amount of knitting I get from my precious skeins. Lace patterns are great for stretching yarn a really long way, and also for making projects wearable through multiple seasons. If you live in a warmer climate and wish you could get more wear out of your knitting, try knitting lace. A lace shawl or shrug over a camisole works great in even really warm summer weather, and looks more sophisticated than a tank top. The same lace shawl can be great for layering over a turtleneck or a coat in cooler weather. I also try to find a pattern which will really maximize the qualities of the yarn. Super-soft yarns are great for things that will be worn against the skin. I like to use beautifully colored yarns where they will show, rather than hiding them in handknit socks worn under my jeans. Handpaints need different patterns to show them off properly than solids do. Fuzzy yarns work with some patterns, others are better for smooth yarns. It’s worth it to me to try different patterns until I hit on something that I really love. I generally keep my special yarn purchases to myself, rather than using them to make gifts. Most of my loved ones will not know the difference between expensive cashmere and KnitPicks merino, so you can guess which I am more likely to use when I knit for them. I once overheard another knitter fuming in a yarn shop after having spent an obscene amount of money on handpainted cashmere yarn for a scarf she gave to her sister-in-law. She was horrified to find out that the sister-in-law hadn’t really liked the colors, and had given the scarf away to a charity shop. So, use your splurge yarn in the way that you will get the most joy out of it. Another lesson from this is to only give handmade gifts to people who you know will appreciate the time and creativity that goes into them. Some people are much happier with a gift card for Barnes & Noble.
So, what about you? What are your best thrifty knitting tips? What are your favorite knitting splurges?