Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Economics of Knitting - How the Yarn is Chosen

A designers motivation in choosing a  specific yarn for a knitting project isn't always as simple as most knitters would assume. 

Sometimes the creative idea comes first and that drives the yarn choice. At other times the yarn itself suggests the project. 

However this is a business, so here are a few more motivations that may play a role in yarn choice.

If the design is for a yarn company who also sells patterns they only want patterns that will sell their specific yarn. That may mean a fabulous pattern is executed in a less than optimal yarn or that a very expensive yarn is showcased and it may not be possible to find a substitution. When I worked in my LYS the latter situation came up frequently when customers brought in patterns.

If the design is for a yarn shop they want patterns to sell standard yarn weights like DK, worsted or whatever type yarn they have invested capital in. That means a pattern that can be worked in many potential yarns and that can easily work with different budgets. Shops often buy patterns that support the yarn they order at the same time from the distributor.

If the design is for a designer's own pattern line they want to sell the pattern and have less interest in the yarn itself as long as it shows off the design features to their best advantage. After being burned several times by yarn companies discontinuing yarn immediately after I received it, I'm personally much more interested in working with yarns that have easy substitutes so I can sell my patterns.

Are there any other reasons that I've missed? Please feel free to comment.


  1. I think you've covered this well. I designed a scarf with a yarn that was subsequently discontinued, and then resurrected! Hallelujah? But I was glad there were several suitable substitutes.

  2. When I knit finished items for my shop, I look for yarns that will help the garment hold up well with wearing and washing. When creating a design for pattern sales, my focus is like yours--aiming for yarns with easy substitutions.

  3. I think color can play a role as well with some designs. I'm currently working on an intarsia design and I wanted a particular color combination for the sample (that I thought would be striking and appealing) so while the yarn is high substitutable, I chose the yarn I did because of the available color range.