Spinrite is the company behind Bernat, Patons, Caron, Sugar'n Cream, Peaches'n Cream, and Phentex yarn. Craft store yarn. Nothing super fancy or high end. But, some pretty good yarns none-the-less. I'm kind of proud of Spinrite. Its head quarters have been based in Listowel, 45 minutes from where I grew up, since its conception in the early 50s. Out of rural Ontario came some of the most popular, most widely used yarns in the world.
Once a year, they host a huge two week tent sale to sell off all the yarn that's been languishing in boxes for far too long, colours that have been discontinued and yarns that have proven unpopular. And, of course, everything is cheap, cheap, cheap.
I met up with my mom (above!) and my aunt for the sale. My mom used to go every year when I was small and stocked up on yarn to make us sweaters and afghans and all manner of other knit works. It was a good thing she and my aunt were there: the sale proved more overwhelming than I expected, so I was grateful to have two experienced knitters at my side to help me wade through the sea of fibers. I had two goals in mind going in: develop my stash and buy some pretty yarns just because so I could have some things to work with when I found a pattern I liked; and buy some yarn for some specifically chosen patterns. Focusing on both of these things was certainly my downfall. I left the sale with way more yarn than I expected, so, surprise, surprise, I blew right past the budget I'd set for myself before going into the sale.
Having now had a day or so to think about it, I have some tips for surviving the Spinrite tent sale or, in fact, any yarn blowout sale.
Know what you want. You'll be most successful at this sale of you have a very clear idea of what it is you're looking for. Bring a number of different patterns with you that you'd like to make. Know the weight and amount you need for each pattern and shop for specific projects. You may not find the perfect yarn for each pattern you bring, but you'll certainly walk away with one or two options to start. I went looking for yarn for these patterns.
Lower your expectations. While you definitely want to have an idea of what you want, keep in mind you aren't likely to find what you want if you have too definite of an idea of what you want. At this particular sale, for example, there was not a single ball of white yarn anywhere to be found - unless you were interested in a shaggy novelty yarn. I saw little of interest in terms of colours among the classic wool balls and neutral colours were lacking in general. And, I quickly determined that I wasn't likely to find three coordinating colours for the afghan project I'd like to start.
Understand your gauges. Fingering, worsted, aran, DK... it's all mixed in together, one box of extra chunky next to a lace weight sequin yarn. And, to make matters more difficult, it's not necessary labeled 'fingering', 'worsted', 'aran', etc. etc. Almost everything is labeled by its specific gauge (ie, how many rows of how many stitches to make a 4 inch by 4 inch square). I think gauge and weight must be one of the most confusing things to understand as a beginning knitter. Make sure you know exactly what gauge of yarn you're looking for in order to get the weight you're looking for. Most patterns will specify this as well as suggested yarn weight.
Don't forget numbers. Everything seems so cheap at the Spinrite tent sale, but allow me to offer you a sincere warning: it adds up, fast. On top of that, because the numbers seem so reasonable, so unattainable anywhere else, walking into that tent, it feels like you don't actually have to pay any attention to those price tags. You do. You really do. Part of the problem with this is that you lose track of what you've dropped into your ginormous garbage bag as you move around the tent. Do your best to keep track, at least an ongoing tally in your head. Next time I go, I think I'll be bringing a pen and notebook with me to keep track and avoid the sticker shock at the cash register.
Relax. It's just a yarn sale. It will happen again next year. You don't need to buy all the yarn, but in the same breath, it's ok to go a little crazy, to splurge a little. It's supposed to be fun, after all! Buy some yarn just because you like it, just because it catches your eye.
I made a video! It's a little shaky - but I think it will give you a sense of what it was like under the tent with the aisles of yarn, box after box after box.
Have you ever been to this sale? Or something similar?