3 Best Yarns for Beginning Knitters

When I first started knitting, I would never think of putting a ball of yarn in my basket if it cost more than $5. Red Heart, I Love This Yarn (Hobby Lobby) and Loops and Thread’s Impeccable (Michaels) was all I used. Most of the time I didn’t even buy them unless there was a sale. I even bought old sweaters or blankets at the thrift store or goodwill just to rip them out and re-use the yarn. I know – that was a little extreme I’m not suggesting you do that.

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But I do suggest to all my new students that they start with these three yarns for two reasons:

1) They are not a big investment. Before you decide if you will love knitting (you will) stick to the $5/skein yarn instead of the $30/skein stuff.

2) It is so much easier to learn on plain yarn than fuzzy, ribbon, mohair, or any other novelty yarn. Please just don’t do it.

If you ask me to make you a large blanket I will still turn to Michaels for Impeccable yarn. Priced at $3.49 for 4.5 ounces, it has a nice color selection, it isn’t too rough for a baby blanket, and once in a while there is a sale that makes it ridiculously cheap.

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Michaels’s customer service has impressed me as well. My Sister-in-law once offered to shop for me while I was in Korea. I sent her the colors and she filled up her cart. The cashier commented that she must have a big project. When she explained that it was actually for me stationed overseas with my Soldier, the cashier offered to take 20% off as a Military Discount. I suppose that would’ve been a pretty elaborate story for 20% off if it hadn’t been true but the cashier had no proof of that. She didn’t need to make that offer. That’s the kind of service that keeps customers coming back. And the yarn is great too.

Hobby Lobby’s brand, “I love this yarn/cotton” is a very nice budget yarn as well. You will pay $3.66 for a 7oz skein. It will work very well for first projects. It has a nice feel and is easy to work with both on the needles and on the budget.

Red Heart Super Saver is a great “learning yarn” I wouldn’t choose it for that gorgeous sweater I saw on Pinterest. But I would use it to practice a new technique, cast-on, or pattern. Some say it can be scratchy. It can. For a baby blanket or other item that might be cuddled with or held up to a chubby cheek, I would pick the other two. But for most other items (mitts, dog sweater, hat, novelty items) a trip through the wash and Red Heart is almost as cozy as the others. Plus paying just $4.29 for a 7oz skein gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside too.

Remember – you will not want to show off your first projects. You really won’t. You’re just learning and making plenty of mistakes. Your stitches won’t be consistent and you shouldn’t be focused on making them consistent yet. Just knit. Just crochet. All of that perfection comes with time. I’m not saying you shouldn’t pull back your crochet or tink (un-knit) your knitting to fix mistakes and learn to do it right. If you are going to take the time to learn this craft you should strive to do it right. But if you focus on perfection you will drive yourself mad. When starting out – just focus on learning and developing. Use the cheap yarn and enjoy the process. Make a few mistakes. Finish a piece and master a new technique and then laugh at the hideous neon-green yarn you picked. I did. Then throw it out (it cost all of $5) and start again with a nicer yarn the next time. Your taste in yarn will grow along with your confidence in your abilities. Until then – remember everyone has those first projects they aren’t proud of. EVERYONE. And if you are going to chuck it later. I would much rather it be Red Heart at $5/skein than Wollmeise at 44 Euros!!

My first blanket mid-way through the stitch-together process. Lovely huh?

 

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And what’s on my needles 5 years later.

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How to Leave a New Salon Smiling – Your PCS should make your life a mess but not your hair.

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I need to get back to this haircut!! Circa 2011.

I was stressed-out for weeks before my latest PCS. Not because my son was changing schools, my belongings were changing houses and my whole life was about to be turned upside down. I was horribly concerned that I would not be able to find a good hairdresser at our next location. Hey – I think my worries were perfectly valid. It took me three years to find a gal who could provide the perfect “Pink meets Ellen Degeneres” look without making me look like Roxette or Annie Lennox. I also knew we would only be at our next location for 6 months, so you can appreciate my concerns.

I decided to take my hair into my own hands. No I did not cut or color my own hair. I’m slightly more advanced than that. I didn’t have that figured out at age 6 or 16 but those are funny pictures in my parents’ photo albums and not the point of this story. I did take an opportunity to quiz my hairstylist before my last appointment. I plopped myself into the chair of Amber Beronio at Blonde Salon and Spa in Killeen Texas (insert shameless plug here) and asked her just what information her incoming military spouses should bring with them for their first appointment. She said it is all about the color. The cut is important too but if you don’t share with a new hairdresser what color has been used or when it was last applied you are increasing your chances of a disaster.

“That happens a lot,” she said. “They say they have no color and the color lifts beautifully at the roots where there really wasn’t any color but the rest is a mess and then you have to start at square one and sometimes that means a lot of processes that really aren’t good for the hair.”

So honesty really is the best policy when it comes to hair color, at least at the salon. And she says don’t be shy when meeting your new stylist. They WANT to get it right and they need the info from you to do that. Typically it can take 1-3 visits for her to really understand what a client wants. But together we came up with a list of things to ask your stylist before you leave that can help your next salon meet your expectations the first time. And don’t be shy about asking. I was at first but Amber told me that most stylists that work near military communities should understand.

“I would never get offended because being in a military town I’m used to my clients leaving,” says Beronio. “I do that a lot for my clients that are moving out of town and even go so far as to find a new stylist. You may not do everything the same way but the more information you have the better you can satisfy them.”

If you are preparing for a PCS be sure to take this list of questions to your last appointment. Again – don’t be shy.  A good salon will be happy to help you.

1. What brand and formula of color was last applied and when?

2. How does this client like her hair to look afterwards?

3. How does she like it texturized?

4. How does the hair lift (if lightened) or how porous is the hair (if darkened)?

5. Any other special notes.

For example the card Amber wrote for me said things like:

Client has extremely thick hair and needs double the bleach than you would assume. She likes it to look platinum and not brassy. Thinning shears work better than razor thinning. It also contained the exact brand and formula of powdered lightener, AKA Bleach, so a salon using the same brand can replicate her “recipe.”

When you get to your next duty station you can use websites like Yelp.com to research salons or put the work out on Facebook.com that you are looking for a new stylist but there is one tried and true method that I like to employ. Find someone with a killer haircut/color and ask them who does their hair. Works every time. From there you can go to that salon’s website and research the types of products they use and whether they provide regular training opportunities to their stylists.

With these tips you should have more control over the success of your first visit to a new salon without having to literally take your hair into your own hands. Trust me the pictures in my parents’ photo album are not pretty.