There’s been some movement toward more locally minded buying habits across the board of late, and the yarn crafting market is no exception. If you know your U.S. History, and I do apologize to my overseas readers for the U.S.-centricness of this post, you know that American wool mills were at their height in in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There’s a lot of reasons for the decline of American-made wool—labor disputes, the Depression, and later a rise in acrylic yarns, among others—but thankfully there are still a few mills producing wonderful, quality yarns.
As far as I know, aside from Brown Sheep Company’s Nebraska mill, functional wool mills are really only in New England right now, but I would love to hear about working mills in other parts of the country.
Since it can be quite difficult to buy local, American-made yarn in a local yarn store without taking into account the carbon footprint business of shipping said wool, I’m going to gloss over that point of contention. If you live near a wool mill in New England that sells direct to consumers, I’m incredibly jealous of you and you should buy lots of yarn from them.
If you’re looking to buy American-made yarn (by which I mean yarn from sheep that are raised in North America and fleeces that are processed in North American mills), do look into Tanis Gray’s Knit Local, blogged about here. Included in that book are well-known yarnies such as Quince and Co., Brown Sheep, and Brooklyn Tweed.
Photo from a Ravelry user’s stash, showing the new Quince and Co fingering weight, Finch
So if you’re adding yarn to your wish list for the holidays, stroll into a local bookstore and pick up Knit Local so you can be well-informed when making your to-buy yarn list.
In addition to buying locally made yarn, there’s an emphasis on buying from local merchants. Unfortunately, not all of those American-made yarns are available in your neighborhood LYS, but I would like to make a case for buying from those merchants as well, if you have the option. In certain parts of the country, the LYS may not be suited to your particular tastes—good luck buying a rustic jumper weight wool in Florida (I tried, but apparently I was the only one there who wanted to knit fair isle in the summer). These days I’m blessed to have three yarn shops in my town, two within relatively easy walking distance of my apartment, and a fourth on the way (I do realize this is insane but I’m not complaining). Even between those three, I don’t always find exactly what I’m looking for, but I do try to check there first. I don’t know if other publishers are doing this, but I did just recently discover that Interweave has a special $5 rebate on Interweave products (I’m assuming that means magazines and books), now through the end of December if a product is purchased at a local craft store.
And while I do urge you to buy from local brick and mortar stores when possible, that’s not always possible, if you live in some place like Florida or a smaller town without easy access to a yarn store. For those instances, I would recommend the following virtual yarn stores (listed in order of how I remembered them and nothing else):
Eat. Sleep. Knit. – great selection of indie dyers
Jimmy Beans Wool – now carries fabric, too!
Yarnmarket.com – wide range of commercial yarns
WEBS – offers great discounts on bulk orders
Mr. Yarn – fantastic prices on Malabrigo, Madelinetosh, Dream in Color, and more.
There’s a ton of virtual yarn stores, those are just my first go-tos. If you have other recommendations, please share them in the comments! And if you plan on buying gifts (for you or for others, no judging here) on Friday, please try to turn to your local shops before hitting up the big box stores (or after hitting up the big box stores if you’re one of those people who is in line at 3 AM; me, I prefer sleeping).