In February, I made a quick trip to Portland to join some friends at the Rose City Yarn Crawl. Despite some weather-related challenges, we had a real blast together.
It had been several years since I’d been able to attend a yarn crawl, and I had forgotten how joyfully chaotic they can be. It meant that, if I had to do it over again, I’d do a few things differently.
In hopes of helping you avoid some of my mistakes and learn from the things that went well, I’ve collected my top six tips from last weekend’s yarn crawl experience. If you’re planning to attend the yarn crawl in Los Angeles County this month, let me know! I’d love to meet up.
But first: what is a yarn crawl, anyway?
A yarn crawl is very similar to the classic pub crawl, but instead of roaming from pub to pub and having a beer at each stop, stitchers will go from yarn shop to yarn shop, picking up a bit of yarn at each place.
Most yarn shops also have special events happening during the yarn crawl. You’ll be more likely to cross paths with your favorite indie dyer or designer in the shops during a yarn crawl, you might have the opportunity to join stitchalongs, and you could even win some prizes.
Because it’s less common to have several yarn shops near each other than it is to have several pubs near each other, you’ll be more likely to see yarn crawls happening in and around large cities.
Tip #1: Plan your day ahead of time
Many yarn crawls run for three or four days, but that doesn’t mean everybody has three or four days to devote to it. Most people usually have just one, maybe two days.
Yarn crawls also tend to be spread out around a metropolitan area, which means you need to be somewhat strategic about where you want to go if you want to see everything.
Thankfully, we live in the internet era, where yarn crawls all have handy websites you can use to see who’s participating, what events they’re hosting each day, and where any other officially sponsored activities might be happening. Use that website to plan out your yarn crawl day(s) so you don’t have to zigzag across the city, losing precious yarn time to traffic.
My friends and I got together via Zoom a couple weeks before the yarn crawl, looked at which trunk shows we wanted to see and which yarn shops we wanted to visit, and mapped out a plan for ourselves. While it wasn’t set in stone and we did end up making some changes, it was helpful to have at least some direction instead of wandering aimlessly from shop to shop.
Most important: supporting Emily’s trunk show and making sure her gorgeous dye work gets seen (stay tuned here for more soon!).
Tip #2: Take an inventory of what you already have
I’m one of those people who is driven by impulse, and few things spur my impulsivity quite like seeing a yarn in a color I like. The problem? I usually have a few skeins just like it already, also bought on impulse.
So before I left for Portland, I took a look at what was in my stash and where I had gaps in my sock collection. I realized I needed some green and some warm neutrals.
Did I want pinks and pale blues and creams? Absolutely. But I already had those. Knowing what I had in my stash back home helped keep me from buying more of the same and got me to explore other things.
So instead, I came home with a lush cocoa brown, a creamy skein speckled with goldenrod and lavender, two minis in mint and coral, and a lovely soft green with gray undertones. You’ll see some new sock designs here soon.
Tip #3: Set a budget for yourself
Yarn crawls are extraordinarily tempting. Each shop has trunk shows of precious hand-dyed yarn and charming notions that you rarely see otherwise. It can be hard to resist buying everything you see and want.
Unfortunately, most of us need to stick to some sort of budget. There are lots of different ways to do that, but I used a special approach for this particular crawl.
For me, I had two constraints: a financial budget and a space budget. I knew I couldn’t fit multiple sweater-quantities of yarn in my carryon suitcase, nor could I really afford to spend that much on yarn.
So before I set out for my first shop, I set a monetary and space budget for myself: a maximum price limit and one sock project per shop. Mostly that meant one skein of sock yarn per shop (though at one shop, I did end up buying two cheerful minis instead).
This helped me make sure I could bring home a few treasures but also made sure I didn’t overload myself or overextend my financial resources.
Tip #4: Make sure to eat and drink regularly
This is a mistake we made, and I strongly encourage you to avoid it if you can. Yarn crawling isn’t as physically demanding as, say, a hike in the mountains, but you are doing a lot of standing and walking and chatting and observing and exploring.
That takes its toll on the body eventually.
So when you’re planning out your route, keep an eye on what food resources are available near your stops. Consider options near a couple different stops, because you might hit traffic or spend longer at a stop than you had expected to do.
If you’re really serious about keeping yourself comfortably fueled, keep a couple snacks in your bag, too. You don’t want to eat inside the yarn shops, of course, but it’s nice to be able to step outside and have a quick protein bar or apple if you’re famished. I brought a Larabar and some water with me.
Tip #5: Bring a friend or two
I’m a pretty solitary knitter most of the time, between the time constraints of work and family, plus the fact that I live in a Southern California beach town (so, uh, there aren’t exactly a ton of us here). I do, however, have a crew of online knitter friends, and I love getting together with them for events like this.
For RCYC, I met up with my friends Beth, Britt, and Emily. We noticed that groups of friends adventuring together during the yarn crawl seemed to be having a real blast, and that was true for us, too.
If you can make it happen, yarn crawling with friends is a great way to share ideas, bond over beautiful yarn, and combine yarns into pretty color combos and fades. In my case, it was also super helpful to have Beth there reminding me that no, I really do not need another dusky pink yarn in my collection.
Tip #6: Feel free to chat if you’d like to
Making friends as an adult is hard for many of us, and it can feel extra awkward introducing ourselves to total strangers. At a yarn crawl, though, everyone has something in common already. What’s more, we’re pretty excited and primed for conversation.
Of course, if you’re not in the mood to chat, that’s fine, too. Nobody needs to do anything that they’re not comfortable with or interested in doing, especially on the weekend when pursuing a hobby.
But if you do? A yarn crawl is a great place to do it. I had so much fun talking to other stitchers, comparing our yarn selections, feeling each other’s knits, and generally bursting with happiness.