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It's a yarn sale, a yarn drop from your favorite dyer, a festival ... and you are excited about buying new yarn!

You want something special, but not too much. You want all the good feelings that come with squishy new yarn, but you don't want to add excessively to your stash. You already have too many "now what am I going to do with this?" skeins.

Here's my best advice for shopping for new yarn in a way that balances joy, consumption, and budget.

1. Buy for a project type, not a specific pattern

Many folks will suggest that you go to a festival or sale with a list of patterns you want to make and buy yarn based on that list. However, I've found that buying for a pattern gives me a sense of obligation. As in "I now need to knit this specific thing in this specific yarn." I'm much happier when my stash has yarn in sufficient quantities or in well-coordinated sets to give me the perfect option when a (new or older) pattern strikes my fancy.  

2. Know how much yarn you need for your favorite type of knitting

Here are yarn requirements for three types of comfort knitting projects:

  1. SOCKS: 1 gorgeous skein
    Nearly all sizes of socks can be knit from 1 skein of fingering weight yarn.

  2. SHAWLS: 2 to 4 skeins of matching or coordinating colors
    If you're smaller-bodied, choose 2 coordinating or 2 matching colors in fingering weight. If you're larger-bodied, choose 3 or 4 coordinating colors or pairs of colors in fingering weight.

  3. SWEATERS:  Here are size-inclusive sweater quantities for a mid-hip sweater with long sleeves—meaning you can knit any size of most any sweater pattern up to a 62" (155 cm) chest circumference (not including cabled sweaters, which require more yarn)*
Fingering weight  | gauge of 24 sts to 4 inches (10 cm)
2260 yards
5 skeins of my Targhee Sock
6 skeins of my 80/20 Sock or Cashmere Blend

Sport weight
  | gauge of 22 sts to 4 inches (10 cm)
2100 yards
7 skeins of my Harvest Sport or NSW Merino Sport

DK weight
  | gauge of 20 sts to 4 inches (10 cm)
1920 yards
9 skeins of my Merino DK

Worsted weight  | gauge of 17 sts to 4 inches (10 cm)
1660 yards
6 skeins of my Targhee Sweater

Bulky weight  | gauge of 12 sts to 4 inches (10 cm)
1040 yards
9 skeins of my Harvest Bulky

*yardage requirements calculated on StashBot

3. Let your creativity flow with ideas for stripes or colorblocking.

This is especially helpful if your favorite dyer or sale doesn't have enough matching skeins of a particular color. Use a second, coordinating color to finish the bottom of a sweater and the bottom of sleeves for a super cute colorblock look. Nearly every sweater can be changed to a striped sweater by knitting equal stripes of coordinating colors. This is also a great way to use a POP color in the midst of other more muted colors.

4. Transform a fingering weight shawl into an ultra-squishy, larger, worsted weight shawl with a strand of mohair-silk.

Just buy the same yardage of mohair-silk to go with your fingering weight yarn and knit the shawl at a larger gauge. My advice: if pattern calls for a US size 6 needle (4.0 mm), up-size to a US size 9 (5.5 mm).

5. Buy yarn for a project you want to cast on right now (in other words, bend guideline #1 😉).

Here are 8 seasonal projects I'm loving right now, with yarn weights from lace to bulky ...

Fingering weight shawls by Tyne Swedish

(links are to Ravelry)

Choose 80/20 Sock, Cashmere Blend, or Targhee Sock
(left to right:)
  • Afternoon Tea: 2 skeins of one color and 1 skein of a coordinating color (3 skeins total)
  • Victory: 1 skein each of three colors (3 skeins total)
  • Strength: 2 skeins each of two colors (4 skeins total)

Summer-weight garments

Oolong Tank by Aimee Sher
3 skeins of 80/20 Sock, Cashmere Blend or Targhee Sock to knit any size

Kittenish Tank by Tina Tse
Tina designed this tank with my Harvest Sport yarn! (Mine is the banner image. I made with a deeper V and deeper armholes.)

3 skeins each of 2 colors (sport-weight) to knit any size.
Note: Tina used two different colors rather than one for the "blue" background, and it gives a gorgeous subtle plaid appearance. You can try the same!

A transitional-season shawl in DK weight

Oracle by Tyne Swedish
4 skeins of one color, or try color-blocking the design with 4 coordinating colors.
Choose Merino DK

Savor shawl by Kavitha Raman
Kavitha designed this shawl with two skeins of my Merino DK!

Choose 2 matching skeins of Merino DK

Transitional-season garments for worsted or bulky yarns

Building Blocks Drop by Aimee Sher
choose Targhee Sweater

You'll need:
Short sleeves: 6 skeins to knit any size
Long sleeves: 8 skeins to knit any size

-or- choose any fingering weight base + mohair/silk
Short sleeves: 4 skeins of each base
Long sleeves: 5 skeins of each base

If you don't want bust darts, this is a perfect pattern for easy striping! Pick 6 different colors of Targhee Sweater for an adorable short sleeve drop shoulder vest/top

Ursa by Jacqueline Cieslak (links to Ravelry)
choose Harvest Bulky | 8 skeins to knit any size -or-
Targhee Sweater (4 skeins) + Mohair/Silk | (3 skeins)

Photographs used with permission © Tyne Swedish, Aimee Sher, and Tina Tse.