Knitting Blog

8 Things to Look for When Buying Yarn Online

Editor’s Note: We feel there is an important role for both online and offline retail for yarn. People love seeing and feeling the product, as well as talking to likeminded folks in the store. However, many people do not live near a local yarn store, and sometimes the local store doesn’t happen to have exactly what they need to complete a project. For the times you do need to shop for yarn online, whatever the reason, these tips can help you make informed shopping decisions.

Tips for Buying Yarn Online

Get tips for dealing with the fun yet sometimes challenging task of buying yarn online.

I love shopping for yarn online. There’s something really satisfying about adding all kinds of skeins to my virtual shopping cart, dreaming of the day when my budget (and storage!) won’t stop me from clicking “Check out” and purchasing all of it.

Buying yarn online has plenty of advantages. You can save money on luxury fibers since you can often get the yarn at a discounted price. You can also buy yarn online in bulk, nabbing dozens of the same color in one order. And of course, the yarn is delivered right to your door — something much appreciated by busy stitchers.

While buying yarn online can be a lot of fun, it also has some downsides. You can’t feel the yarn, and the yarn color on the computer screen often isn’t the same as the color in real life. If you’re resourceful, though, there are ways you can get around that.

Here are our top tips to make buying yarn online as easy as possible. (Don’t forget to share your tips in the comments!)

1. Read reviews.

Is the yarn itchy? Is it soft? Does it hold up in the washer? Does it pill? These are some of the questions that yarn reviews might answer. If the merchant’s website doesn’t have reviews, a quick web search should bring up plenty of help, including reviews from blogs.

2. Search for projects using the yarn.

We all know from experience that yarns look completely different in a hank vs. stitched. If you’re curious about the drape or stitch definition of a yarn, search online for projects using the yarn to see how it works up. If you’re planning to make a shawl, for example, then look at other examples of the yarn worked into shawls. Observe how the yarn falls and how the stitches look. This might give you a clue about whether it’s the right yarn for your project.

3. Know your yarn basics.

When you can’t touch a yarn, you have to use the given information — and most of the time, the site gives you plenty of details, like the yardage, fiber content, care instructions, weight, gauge and more. The more you know about these yarn characteristics, the easier it’ll be to decipher the details. Check out our complete guide to yarn, How to Choose & Use the Right Type of Yarn Every Time,to learn the basis before you buy.

4. Contact the seller.

Have questions about your yarn? The seller is probably happy to help. Remember, though, that opinions on things like softness can vary from person to person, so you can’t rely on the seller’s opinion for everything.

5. Ask your knitting and crocheting friends.

If you have friends who knit or crochet, perhaps one of them has worked with the yarn you have your eye on. They might even have a small amount of it in their stash that you can test. Stitch friends are great resources, so use them when you’re in a bind.

Cascade 220 Yarn

Worked with Cascade 200 yarn before? If so, it’s a safe bet to buy it online.

6. Go for the tried-and-true.

If you’re feeling uneasy about buying a yarn online that you’ve never used before, stick to buying only your tried-and-true yarns, like Cascade 220 or Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice. You know how they feel and work up, so you won’t feel surprised or disappointed when you open the package.

7. Compare the color on different web sites.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges of ordering yarn online is color. Color doesn’t look the same on everyone’s computer screen, nor does it look the same on every website. You could look at the same yarn color on four different sites and see four completely different colors. Take a peek at the color on several different web sites and see if you can find any consistency.

And speaking of color…

8. Order a swatch card.

Yes, this totally delays the process. You want your yarn, and you want it now! But if color is super important to you, a swatch card is the best option. The swatch card will feature small samples of the yarn so that you can see the color in person before you order it.

Do you have any tips for buying yarn online? We’d love to hear them!

FREE Guide! Choose and Use the Right Yarn

types of yarn guide

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34 Comments

janetTrostrud Walker

Dear Crafsy,
I returned the kit, “California Dreamin” on January 9 and have not heard from you about credit or a voucher for another kit.
the reason I returned this kit is because it used “fingering” yarn and it was difficult to work with…PLUS..the directions were very difficult to understand.
Please respond. The kit should have arrived to Your center two weeks ago. my tracking number is…7250044240516300173196752028

thank you,
Janet T. walker

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Natasha

Oh, you know, maybe use your Local Yarn Shop and actually SEE the yarn and FEEL the yarn. Saves a lot of effort in the long run and you get to meet like minded people and have a good chat on a lovely day out.

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Claire

i own a yarn shop in the UK. I don’t do it to make my fortune, I do it because I’m passionate about fibre, texture and colour. There is NO substitute for touching yarn and getting advice from a bricks and mortar shop. Just saying…

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Sue

I’m afraid I no longer buy online. Over here in the UK I’ve found that apart from a few offers the majority of yarns are actually cheaper in my yarn store. I know exactly what I’m getting as I can feel it, see physical samples (not just photos) of items knitted up, get expert advice from the shop owner, I can take it home with me. The trip to my local LYS is always a pleasure. You just don’t get the friendly help and advice. To me, the only plus side of ordering online is the OCCASIONAL bargain AND the wider choice. For everything else a visit to your local LYS is far more preferable AND pleasureable!

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Ana

Brilliant! I totally agree with you 🙂

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Helen davies

This article saddens me we should be promoting our local yarn stores.
I’d only buy line online if it was difficult for me to find a store.the yarns in my local store are sometimes even cheaper than online and no waiting for deliveries I get to use my lovely yarn the very same day I chose it !
Any helps or advice needed is always given by staff or other customers it’s a fantastic social outing to visit your local store.
If your able get out and visit your local yarn store today – dot key your local yarn store become a thing of the past !

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Barbara Young

Punctuation?

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Gina Bell

Well what can I say?
I have a small independent yarn shop in Scotland, I am never going to retire wealthy, but I enjoy interacting with customers, offering help and advice with knitting and stocking some wonderful yarns and the bits and bobs that go with them. It is difficult enough trying to compete with the big boys on the internet. My thoughts are at present unprintable, but think of this…..by the time you have read and digested, not to mention carried out, the advice given here on how to buy online….you could have popped in to your local yarn shop, had a feel of what you were buying…..looked at the exact colour you were after…..got some friendly advice, perhaps some free instruction….and best of all…helped a small business stay open.

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Catherine

Ever heard that phrase “It’s so difficult to find a good yarn shop these days” ? Buying on the internet is the biggest reason for that. Yarn shop owners are passionate about what they do, they love helping people choose the right type and colour of yarn for a project. If you buy your yarn and pattern from your local shop they are happy to help if you get stuck with a pattern. Try getting that kind of service from an on-line seller. Support your local yarn shop.

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Misa

Why on Earth would I shop online when there’s a good yarn shop down the road?! As a crocheter of limited means, I can rarely fill an online cart with enough yarn to qualify for free P&P, pushing up my expenses, but I can buy one or two balls from my LYS without issue. Plus it’s so nice to natter to someone who shares my enthusiasm and can offer advice when I need it!

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Barbara

I was very sad to read this today. How can online ever take the place of a real yarn shop? It simply can not. In my shop you get to see feel and even smell if you wish all of my stock, you get free help and advice and even free bags. So many times I have helped customers who have bought online only for it to eventually arrive and not to be the colour they had hoped for. Also my prices are very often cheaper or the same as online. The advantages of your local yarn shop are many but a few, you can see it, feel it, take it home right away, you don’t need to part with any personal details, I don’t need to know your name your address or your bank details. So think on, when we are gone the big online boys will be able to charge anything they like.

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Bonnie

I would never buy on line. Tthe prices in our local yarn shops are often cheaper, you can see what you’re buying, put together colours and make sure they go and take it home and start straight away, and get help if you need it. I dont want to see the shops disappearing off the high street and the only way to make sure they don’t is to use them

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Kath

As this article implies, buying online involves a number of risks: the site might not be trustworthy, the colours might not be true, the descriptions will be subjective and, after you’ve sent off for your sample swatch (if the site provides them) or asked your friends about the yarn you’re considering, well, wouldn’t it be easier to just pop down to your nearest yarn shop? You might also be pleasantly surprised by the prices in a bricks and mortar shop too. Online has its place, especially for some kinds of shopping and for shoppers without local shops, but if you’re lucky enough to have a LYS, maybe give them a try and put your hard-earned cash back into the local area at the same time?

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Chris

I find it strange that none of the above comments echo the feelings in the original post.
As the owner of a yarn shop here in the UK, I am constantly asked for help from customers with both yarn and patterns bought onlne. The main thing they ask about yarn is “What patterns do you have for this yarn?” The yarns in question are usually fairly obscure brands, strange tensions and generally, if not standard gauge, not easy to find patterns for.
Can you go back to the supplier and ask them?
Will they refund, at no extra cost i.e, refund and pay the postage for your return?
Will they suggest alternative yarns if what you buy isn’t suitable?
Will they help and guide you through a complicated design?
Don’t forget, the “Big Boys” are only selling yarn because we’ve recently seen an upsurge in interest in both knitting and crochet, they’re in it solely for the money!
Independent yarn shop owners, such as myself, opened our shops because we love yarn, knitting, crochet, seeing our customers happy, everything to do with the crafts.
We will certainly never be rich, probably don’t make enough profit to even pay ourselves the legal minimum wage, but will always be there for you to call into our shops for help, support and to cheer you on in your yarny endeavours.
Spend your hard earned cash with a local yarn shop and you’ll keep it in your High Street, spend online and you’ll lose us all.

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susan

My ‘local’ yarn shop is nearly 100 miles distant. It’s a treat to go, but I will shop on-line. Sometimes, I shop by phone. It’s lovely to chat, on-line or by phone, and get feedback. Small independent dyers/weavers love to share their joy of their crafts. A couple times, these short long distance interactions have been more pleasant than actual in-store encounters.

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Sandra Oakeshott

This has clearly been written in the interests of Craftsy who are online sellers of lots of craft related stuff including yarns. How about a blog in support of B&M yarn shops around the world. Yes I do have a yarn shop in the UK I work 7 days a week from 10 am – 5 pm I close for 3 days at Christmas so I can spend time with my family. I love being in my shop and can’t imagine life without it. I love helping my customers choose yarns and patterns. If they bring in an old family pattern that grandma used to knit I am able to guide them to the right yarn to use. Can the online sellers do that. Where is the industry going to be when all the yarn shops close down because of the online competition. There will be no shops left to go and feel the yarns and see the colours, browse through the patterns get free help and advice. Go to classes. Or just go for a chat. We all keep our prices as low as possible. We all love our shops but we do need to be able to earn a living wage. Most of us don’t! Please support the bricks and mortar shops. Many do mail order even if they don’t have a website. Give them a call and see if they stock what you are looking for. Thank you for taking the time to read. Happy knitting/crochet x

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Karen

I live about 100 miles to the nearest lys, and it has only the more common lines. While the advice here is good for online stores, I’ve found I really enjoy being surprised. I like the hunt for a really good bargain and sometimes gamble on eBay. I’ve found that when looking online, it’s best to use a general guideline instead of for a specific pattern, order enough yarn for the kind of item you want to make and a bit extra. I’ve ordered some that when I got it, I was so impressed I had to order a lot more for other projects. Or the wool I ordered for socks but turned into huge shawl because it was lovelier than anticipated.

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Jill

I also live a fair distance from the wool shop so shop on line. I love looking for bargains and have a pretty good stash now. The only tip I can give is that if you are buying a wool different to the pattern then make sure you check the yardage of the the wool and adjust how many balls you need accordingly. I once bought some gorgeous wool at a bargain price but needed to buy 3 more balls after the offer had ended and ended up spending £54 on a jacket for my 9mth old Grandson. A lesson learnt.

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Ana

Somethings you can buy online: like books, music, films…
Some you do that at your own risk. Food is one of them. Another one is Yarn. There’s no substitute to local yarn shops for this. You can see the real colours, feel the yarn, ask questions about its suitability for your project. You get inspiration as you will see other beautiful things there. You don’t have to pay postage, and you might find that the yarn you want is discounted, or they have other offers. …PLUS if you get stuck with your project or can’t understand the pattern or you want to learn a new technique, they will be pleased to help you. ‘Online’ there’s no human touch, there’s no assistance for your problems. And by buying in a proper shop you’re supporting a real person, not a faceless corporation. These people build community, most of them run knitting/crochet clubs or lessons, and have rent, rates, bills to pay, whilst faceless corporations have minimum expenses, offer minimum employment, and let’s face it, most of them know shitake mushrooms about knitting/crochet. So, go to your local yarn shop, have a chat, and buy lots of yarn 🙂

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Vickie

As an owner of an LYS I cannot agree with your comments about ordering online. In a shop you can see the true colour, you can touch the yarn, you can get technical advice on the spot, you can get help choosing colour ways and so much more. The yarn industry cannot exist with the LYS we are the foundations of this craft. The Internet cannot help you when you make a mistake nor can it offer you the level of personnel service you get in a shop. Support your LYS and shop local, if your local shop can’t help you can always ring another one most of us do mail order!

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Vivian

Clothing manufacturing went to the Far East and closed down all the clothing factories in the UK, The spinning mills were all closed down too, thousands of people were left unemployed. Similarly to how the steel workers are facing unemployment at the moment.
Every time you buy online a yarn shop owner has to think about if it is worth them staying open.
Soon the only place left will be online!
You will be left waiting to see if your yarn really is that candy pink you need, if it really does feel as soft as silk, if it really does handle well.
Then when it isn’t what you dreamed it would be, you will be left waiting for the response, then the trip to the post office to send it back, then waiting for the replacement to arrive.
How many hours have you just wasted doing all that when you could have gone and seen it with your own eyes, touched it with your own fingers and interacted with other people that love doing the same thing you do!

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Sandie

What a waste of every true knitter and crocheters time the yarn online websites truely are! You make all the Yarns look good. How can any creative person possibly buy anything from a photograph lol! Why not spend your time in your last local yarn shop, looking, touching, interacting and planning your projects. You never know, you might even be able to negotiate a deal to compare with the so called bargains of the internet. Give it a try. I did and now never touch any Internet yarn bargains….

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Xandra

I agree that buying yarn in person is best. It supports local yarn shops and you can feel and see the yarn before you purchase it. However, there are MANY people who do not live in an area that has a yarn shop nearby. Are these people to never purchase yarn except from Hobby Lobby and Michael’s? The comments seem unfairly biased against online shops, without considering the reality that brick and mortar yarn shops are not available to all who enjoy knitting and crocheting. I have had great success with my online yarn purchases, and I am glad that during the times that I didn’t live conveniently near a local store, I had another option for higher end yarn.

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Knochet

I completely agree, nicely said!

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Sharon

when I visit my local yarn store I am instantly transported into a world of colours and textures. I meet fellow fibre fans and can share tips or find help. Why would I want to shop for yarn on line?

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Lynn

This really just highlights the problems of shopping online. If people insist on buying yarn this way there will be no shops left for the ones that do support their local yarn shop! And that will be a huge loss to the high street. You just can’t beat a bricks and mortar shop. Please, go out and look and feel and smell and chat to the owner. I guarantee it will be far more enjoyable than sitting in front of a contraption that already takes up most of your time!

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Nicola

I to have a B&M shop. I love opening the door every morning and seeing the colours and feeling the textures of the yarns. I stock a huge variety of different yarns to appeal to all needs. It upsets me greatly when I here people buying online and telling others to do so. If you come into the shop or phone me you know I have what you need and you don’t have the hassle of wondering if it will all turn up. It will be a sad day if all the B&M shops disappeared because of the online giants

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Teckla

I believe there are merits to both options. Yes, in the shop you can see the color and touch the yarn. They have patterns and most will answer questions and are very helpful. Some do online orders, some don’t. Unfortunately, in my experience, they are quite a bit more expensive for both yarn and notions. The closest shops are 30-45 minutes away, and while I occasionally shop them, I am just as likely to shop online. Once you have some experience with yarn and with a few online shops, you have a fairly decent idea about what you’ll be getting. I also read all I can about fibers and pay attention to the different types of yarn that I buy which gives me at least a general idea of how I can expect them to handle if I buy online. Yes, I have had some surprises, but like someone else said, I kind of like that. I am challenged to learn something new. Another thing I consider is the purpose of what I am making. Some projects definitely call for the best quality and workmanship and I definitely head to the LYS. Other projects designed for day to day service may work just as well in a mid range fiber. I try to balance these things so that I can afford to make things for charitable/service projects. Otherwise, I’d be very, very limited in what I could do. Let’s be kind and understanding. Every area is different and every person is different and has different circumstances. I wish there was a way to make everyone happy, but that’s not likely to happen.

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Barbara

I’d love to support my LYS. Unfortunately, the owner is less than pleasant to do business with and they have lost a good customer. The next nearest is a 45 minute drive. All these posts say “support your LYS”, but it sometimes can’t be done. Online is then the only option.

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Laura Adamsa

I don’t use yarn at the moment but if I did, I would prefer to see it in person. However, I also have health problems which keep me from doing much shopping so there is a place for online business. I hope the local yarn shops can stay in business as they are so much fun for people to go to.

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Knochet

Did everyone miss the opening paragraph?!? I t says both are important. If you don’t stay near yarn shops or if your yarn shop doesn’t offer enough of what you need to finish then you have to find other means of finishing your project. I don’t think the article is saying don’t shop small business, to me it simply looks like an “if you have to this is what you do…”

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Jean Allen

I totally agree with Knochet! SO much negativity…Wow. I was searching for most-liked online yarn stores and found this fantastic article. I used to support my LYS that had “normal”, mid-range brands, but it had to switch inventory/purpose to quilting, which is popular in this area. Now, the only LYS under 50 miles away is all specialty/indie/high-priced, one-of-a-kind yarn… for what some call “yarn snobs”. Yes, it’s beautiful, but most of us cannot afford it and also want something that is machine washable when possible.
The regular craft stores have a spotty selection of brands, and don’t stock nearly as many types or colors within those brands as they could. And they won’t order what you want, either.
So, until the mid-range yarn brands and colors are stocked in good quantity locally, this yarn buyer will start buying at some reputable online U.S. yarn stores.
Thank you, Craftsy, for a very helpful article! I’m not a member of your site, but I will be checking out your online yarn offerings since many commenters mentioned your site as one of the better sources with good sales! 🙂

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Deborah Swann

I live on a small island in the Caribbean. Some stores here sell yarn but it’s all acrylic worsted, DK or fine crochet thread. That’s it….nothing else….
Please re-read the “Editor’s Note” at the very beginning of this article, in particular –

“However, many people do not live near a local yarn store, and sometimes the local store doesn’t happen to have exactly what they need to complete a project. For the times you do need to shop for yarn online, whatever the reason, these tips can help you make informed shopping decisions.”

This is me and I found the advice quite useful.
May I please continue to order online without feeling guilty about contributing to the possible demise of a store owner located thousand of miles away? I really can’t afford to hop on an airplane every time I want to buy two or three balls of yarn.

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Amethyst Boheur

I really liked it when you said that before buying a yarn online, the best thing to do first is to read reviews to know if the texture is soft, if it runs, or if it gets untangled in the washer. I will be sure to take note of this and if I do not see reviews, then perhaps, I can go to an actual dealer for help. Thank you. Hopefully, I find the right wool thread for me because I plan on knitting a scarf for my boyfriend for his birthday.

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