Sunday, November 11, 2012

How to Organize a Yarn Tasting Party

This past week, my knitting group held a yarn tasting at my house. I had the fun task of organizing, ordering and winding the yarn for the party. We had a terrific time fondling the little yarn truffles (as one knitter called them), swatching and sharing opinions about the different fiber combinations.

I have never had the good fortune to attend a yarn tasting before this event. I signed up for one a month ago at a LYS but the event was cancelled due to low interest. I have to say that if I owned a yarn shop (boy, how many times have we knitters said that?) this would be just the activity to get knitters and crocheters interested in new yarns at a low cost to the shop and the participants. For two hours and $15-25, a crafter could get to really experience different kinds of yarns by simply swatching and absorbing the many characteristics that individual yarn portrays now as a knitted fabric. Think of the time and money saved by doing this little step! It's all done without the financial and time-consuming investment of riskily buying a large quantity of pretty yarn, making a garment and then discovering too late that the pretty yarn was the wrong kind of yarn for your sweater.

Interested in hosting a yarn tasting of your own? Not sure where to start? Read on, my friend. Below is a step-by-step list of how to organize your very own yarn tasting.

How to Organize a Yarn Tasting:

1. Take an initial informal survey of which yarns your friends are interested in trying (ask at knit-night, email, post the inquiry on Facebook or in your Ravelry group). Try to collect a list of about a dozen or so yarns.

2. From those dozen (or so) yarns, compile a formal list. Ask your friends/participants) to select their top 6 yarns-of-interest. You can change that number, but I'd recommend selecting between 4 and 6. Any less, and it wouldn't feel like much of an event, any more and it wouldn't be a tasting... it'd be deluge of fiber!

3. Tally the votes. Inform your friends which yarns you plan to order and double check that the cost per person is agreeable to them before making the purchases.

At my event, the cost came to a little under $24 per participant (there were 8 knitters at this party).  

4. In regards to quantity of yarn per person, each knitter should have enough yarn to make a 4 in x 4 in swatch. Weigh old swatches in different weight yarns to determine an estimated quantity to order per person.

For example, when I rummaged through my swatch stash, I found that one swatch of Knit Picks Swish (worsted) weighed 10 grams and one swatch of Brooklyn Tweed Shelter (worsted) weighed 8 grams. So I knew I needed at least 10 grams of worsted weight yarn/person. With that in mind (and knowing that most skeins were either 50 or 100 grams), I tried to order 100 grams of each yarn to be divided evenly between 8 people, which equals roughly 12 grams each.  So at this party, each person had about 10-15 grams of yarn (worsted, dk and sport), with the exception of the cashmere yarn ordered. Due to the high cost of yarn, we agreed we'd sacrifice quantity for quality (about 7 grams of dk weight).

5. Shop around before making your final purchase. Look through the de-stash pages on Ravelry for great deals, research which websites offer volume discounts or shipping deals.

In the end, I chose to order from Mr. Yarn and Jimmy Beans Wool. Both offered free shipping and Mr. Yarn offered a volume discount too. Between the two, I plan to order from Mr. Yarn again. The order arrived in a sealed clear bag with the free additions of a mini skein and a pin! The order from Jimmy Beans Wool, although it arrived faster, felt sloppy. All of the yarn from that order was not protected by any bag or tissue paper. It was clearly tossed in the shipping bag and mailed. This did not impress me since some skeins shed like crazy onto the other skeins.

6. Once your yarn arrives take pictures of these beauties to taunt your friends who chose not to play in the yarn fun! Ha! Then weigh them individually, write this accurate information down and wind them.  You wouldn't believe how some skeins vary in weight.

I'll be reviewing the yarn from the yarn tasting in tomorrow's post, but just to give you an idea of what I mean, one skein claimed to weigh 100 grams and actually weigh 106 grams (bonus!) which game me an extra 17 yards! On the other hand, one skein claimed to be 100 grams and actually weight 90 grams (minus 20 yarns). It's worth taking the time to complete this step.

7. Divide the new weight of each yarn by the number of participants to determine what each little yarn truffle should weigh and begin winding. This is a time-consuming step. Sorry, folks. If you know of a faster way to do this, let me know! Set your scale on the table next to your ball winder. Leave the recently wound yarn cake on the scale and attach the working yarn to the ball winder. Stop winding when the weight of your original yarn cake is reduced by the expected yarn truffle weight.

For example, 100 grams divided by 8 equals 12.5 grams. So 100 grams minus 12.5 equals 87.5. Stop and cut your yarn. Set the little truffle aside and reattach the working yarn from the cake to make the second truffle. So now you have 87.5 minus 12.5 equals 75 grams. Stop... so on and so forth.

8. Label each yarn truffle neatly so that the participants know what they are working with clearly and how much yarn they have. Mine looked like this...

These cute little tags would be quite easy to make at home, but I cheated and bought mine from the Martha Stewart section at my local chain craft store.
 Also, include a list of the specs of each yarn (yarn company, yarn name, gauge weight, weight claim, yardage, recommended gauge, fiber content and care instructions).

Each bag has six yarn truffles with labels and a sheet of information about the yarn.
 9. Get knitting! Make an even better time of it by adding an extra skein of yarn to your order as a prize for one lucky knitter. If you put the different yarns in a bag for each person, then write a "Y" on the bottom of one bag. Whoever has the "Y" wins the yarn! Want your night to be even sillier than that? Make it a Wine &Yarn Tasting event! Get creative!


  1. Your post was very interesting and informative... I was told local shops don't charge or charge very little . I'm a new business and I want to introduce new and up coming yarns .... Any other advise?

    1. Hi Karen! My experience with local yarn shops is that they may charge anywhere from $10-$25/person for a yarn tasting party. The yarns I purchased for this event were full retail cost. If you are a yarn shop owner, then you obviously would get a better deal for your yarns and could reduce the cost. Sometimes yarn companies will send yarn tasting kits to yarn stores. I think Kelbourne Woolens (for the Fibre Company) had this offer recently. If there was a particular company you were trying to feature, then I'd suggest contacting them first. The idea is for customers to get a little taste or feel for what a new yarn is like. They do not need much yarn for this. Alternatively, instead of hosting a yarn tasting (although I think these are so much fun!) you could always have a yarn company trunk show. Yarn companies are very happy to organize this with you. Good luck!

  2. Nice post!! Glad lad to know about this yarn tasting party. Have never organized such a party but thinking of arranging it this time at one of San Francisco venues. Will be using your informative tips to arrange it. Hope it will be a fun!