Episode 34: How to Source Yarn (Inexpensively) for Your Business

How to source yarn inexpensively for your business on the Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Show

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This Week’s Episode

I’m talking about ways to source yarn inexpensively (or for free) for your yarn-related business. This topic was suggested by Beate from Patterns Tried and True.

Getting your yarn for less (or for free) can have a huge impact on your profits as a yarn related business! In this episode, I’ll be sharing 4 ways to source your yarn for less money.

The 4 ways are:

  1. Establish a wholesale, maker, or professional crafter account with a yarn company
  2. Apply for yarn support for your crochet and knitting patterns
  3. Shop for discounts
  4. Use  discontinued yarns

Not every one of these ways will be right for your business, but hopefully one or more is!

By the way, I know nothing about the world of spinning (sorry spinners!), so I don’t share any resources for fleeces or roving. If you’re a spinner and know more about discounted options, let me know so I can update this page!

Establish a wholesale, maker, or professional crafter account with a yarn company

Many yarn companies will establish wholesale, maker, professional crafter, or teacher accounts with indie businesses who aren’t yarn shops. There may be a lower order minimum for these smaller vendors than for a yarn shop, and the yarn prices will be substantially below retail..

In general, your business will need to have a tax ID and permission to collect sales tax through your state to take advantage of these discounts. If your business isn’t already formalized and you are located in the U.S., you may want to check out the Small Business Administration Learning Center or contact SCORE for advice and mentoring.

If you’re a dyer, you may want to check out Henry’s Attic. Although I haven’t worked with them directly, I’ve heard good things about their yarn. (Full disclosure: I previously worked with Galler Yarns, which is owned by the same family.)

Red Heart’s contact page has more information about establishing a professional crafter account. You can also reach out to your favorite yarn companies through the website contact page and ask if they provide discounts to makers, teachers, dyers, or whatever your type of business is.

Apply for yarn support for your crochet and knitting patterns

Yarn companies will often provide “yarn support” to designers/authors who are creating samples in their yarn. Typically, the company will provide the yarn at no cost (or at a substantial discount) in exchange for being listed as the only yarn in the pattern and/or on Ravelry.

Some yarn companies will only provide yarn support for patterns that are published by third parties (i.e., magazines or traditionally published books), while others also provide yarn support for independently published (i.e., self-published) patterns.

If you’d like to pursue yarn support for upcoming designs, reach out to yarn companies and ask about their process for requesting yarn support. Some companies have a form to complete while others want to see a magazine-style design submission with a sketch, swatch, and description. There are also companies comfortable with just a description of the design and a link to your Ravelry designer page. Knit Picks has a great webpage explaining their Independent Designer Partnership (IDP) Program. If you like working with independent yarn companies, check out the Yarnie/Designer Connection Thread in the Designers group on Ravelry.

To maintain your relationship, remember to notify the company when your pattern is published. It doesn’t hurt to mention the company when you announce or share the pattern on social media, either.

I maintain a spreadsheet with contacts at the different yarn companies that I have worked with (or plan to work with in the future) for yarn support, and I include notes on whether they support independent designs, too, or only third-party publications.

Shop for discounts

If these formal methods for sourcing yarn inexpensively don’t work for you, another option is to shop for discounts. Perhaps your business isn’t formalized or your portfolio is small. Shopping for discounts on currently available yarns is another way to save money. Sign up for the email lists of big box stores and local yarn shops in your area, as well as for the major online yarn sellers, like WEBS, Jimmy Beans, and Loopy Ewe. Although you are still paying retail prices, you will be still be able to buy the yarn at a discount.

Use  discontinued yarns

Discontinued yarns are often available at a substantial discount. While some designers may find that pattern sales will suffer if their samples are made with discontinued yarns, makers may find that their customers aren’t concerned about using a yarn that is no longer in production. Another challenge of working with a discontinued yarn line or color is that you may only have access to a limited range of colors and it can be difficult to match dye lots. Smiley’s Yarns is a shop that specializes in selling discontinued yarns at a deep discount.

Do you have other ways of saving money on yarn costs for your business? Leave a comment below, Tweet me at @cyeshowadd me to your G+ circle and send me a note, or leave a message at 646-713-8973. (You can call me for free through the Contact page.)

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Comments 11

  • Great episode!
    In answer to your question, I also suggest keeping the yarn company who provides you with yarn support in the loop with the progress of the design. This is especially true if you run into any hick-ups during the process, but also for designs that are running smoothly & on-time. I included the latter as it gives the yarn co a chance to give a heads-up to their social media coordinator & yarn audience on your upcoming release featuring their yarn!

  • Hi Marie….Great show(s)…all of them! I am a spinner and raise a flock of sheep. Not sure that handspun yarn would be on the inexpensive end of the spectrum but there are places where you can find discounted fleeces or roving (clean, ready-to-spin wool). Many fiber festivals have wool (or fleece) competitions. After the judging is finished most of the fleeces go on sale. This is where many fiber artists get their wool if they don’t raise the sheep (or other fiber animals) themselves. From there they take it to a mill and have it processed into yarn or other items. Also at fiber festivals many vendors sell fleeces and roving. Various vendors will have ‘bargin bins’ or ‘show sales’ and one can get things at a discounted price.
    Spinning guilds occasionally have sales as well. The only way that I know of to produce yarn from raw fleece (other than hand spinning of course) is to obtain fleeces from fiber festivals, farms, or vendors and take it to a mill and have it processed into yarn. I do that for the yarn that I sell and use. Overall it ends up being less expensive compared to a retail price but the initial financial outlay could be hefty because you have to pay the mill, but that yarn could last a knitter/crocheter/weaver a long time. Some mills have a minimum amount of raw wool they will process, other mills don’t so a person could have one fleece processed into yarn and then go from there. I hope this helps.

  • Hi Marie. I know this is an old episode, but I just wanted to comment to say that if it weren’t for your podcast I would never have thought to apply to yarn companies for yarn support. I finally took the plunge and submitted a proposal (for an independent design) to the company who makes my absolute favourite yarn, and they accepted almost immediately! This will make growing my business so much more affordable. Thank you for giving me the information and confidence to take this step!

  • […] may also find this past episode, How to Source Yarn (Inexpensively) for Your Business, […]

  • […] Read (or listen to) my 4 suggestions for sourcing yarn inexpensively for your business. […]

  • Since many fiber art folk are also thrift store shoppers, keep an eye out for yarn, often sold in big bags. Yes, you may get odd colors and only one skein or less of really ‘nice’ yarn in the bag, but for samples samples and animaguri and small projects, its a good way to build a yarn stash.

  • Hello!

    I know this is an older episode, but I want to share one other thing: If you can’t get yarn support or a professional crafter’s account, see if your local knitting/crochet guild offers supports.

    For example, the Toronto Knitter’s Guild partners with some local yarn shops to offer discounts to its members, and that’s helped me in purchasing yarn.

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