I think I’m addicted to yarn clubs. Mostly sock yarn clubs. I first joined a yarn club two or three years ago. Last year I belonged to 4 or 5, some monthly, some bimonthly, some occasional. Most are time-limited, but others are ongoing subscriptions. I now seem to belong to no fewer than 8 different yarn clubs! I know that Clara Parkes recently reviewed some yarn clubs in her Knitter’s Review, and in fact this entry pointed me at Sweet Georgia, which I then joined (oops!). I belonged to the Rockin’ Sock Club last year, but haven’t renewed (although I’m tempted) due to hemorrhaging of my yarn budget. I have even been tempted to join a club from across the pond, but the cost holds me back from that as well.
What is it about yarn clubs? Well, for me, it’s the fun of the surprise. Yarn clubs push my color envelope as well. I tend, like many of us, to gravitate toward the same colorways over and over. I have a basket of purple sock yarn, and one of green. I’m a sucker for “rose garden” colorways. I love cobalt blue. So, left to my own devices, certain yarns follow me home, and certain ones never do: I. Hate. Yellow. Despise it. It actually makes my eyes smart. But, on occasion, some clever dyer works it cunningly into a colorway, and it makes the other colors pop. And I’d probably never consider it if it didn’t just show up at my door, winningly saying, “Aren’t I pretty, though?” I am always amazed at this, because I feel like my own color sense is vestigial.
I once met Kaffe Fassett (cue the angelic choir) when he visited a yarn shop in Philadelphia, and he was asked to help a shopper choose colors for one of his designs. The lady had a pile of yarn on the table already, and asked Kaffe, “What does it need?” He squinted at the pile of yarn, and then announced, “an awful ochre.” He proceeded to pull such an odious yellow yarn off the shelf and add it to the pile, which suddenly brightened up and pulled together. The man is a genius. But even he called that yellow “awful.”
What else appeals about yarn clubs? Well, for the ones which charge the whole fee up front, after that painful reckoning (sometimes made slightly less painful by involving a discount over installment payments), you can forget about that and just know that, for the rest of the year (or whatever term you paid for), lovely packages will show up at your door, more or less on schedule (Stuff Happens in the lives of dyers too, of course). So even if you’re tapped out and are stuck throwing everything in you wish list at The Loopy Ewe instead of in the cart, like I am right now, you still have Yarny Goodness winging its way to you through the post. (As an aside, how could I possibly NOT want a skein of Bugga! in a colorway called Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz??)
And then there’s swag! Many clubs include fun extras, usually including patterns. Some don’t, and part of their sales pitch is that they are less expensive because they’re only sending you the yarn (see Yarn Love). This actually becomes more attractive the longer you are in yarn clubs, as how many journals, tote bags, and cute tape measures does one knitter need, really? Other common extras include needle gauges, hand lotions, pens, and stitch markers. Some clubs are built on themes, which are reflected in the colorway, the patterns, and the swag. Wool Girl is a prime example of this type of club, and I must say that she ferrets out high-quality swag. It makes the packages expensive though: about $65 per shipment (with most clubs being about $30/month for the yarn alone or the yarn and one little extra like a pen or a tape measure). Besides a yearly club, she offers one-time themed packages, so you can order what sounds like fun to you. And of course, the swag comes credited with the maker on it (often an Etsy seller), which sends you off shopping again.
Remember how I said that yarn clubs help expose you to colors you might not have considered? There are some clubs which give you previews and choices. Yarn Love, linked above, and Three Irish Girls (where there are a few different club choices, with and without swag, and with more or less choice about yarn base) send you a preview email with a link to photos of two or more choices of colorway (usually a variegated and a semisolid) from which to choose, and of course you can add on additional skeins, just in case you can’t choose (or want more than one of one color for a project larger than socks). I must say that I love Three Irish Girls so much that, not only have I belonged to one club or another there for well over a year, but I often buy both color choices. I have a lot of Three Irish Girls yarn, in fact more than any other single yarn in my relatively vast collection (according to my Ravelry stash, I have 282 different yarn entries for light fingering, fingering, and sport weight yarns).
Another draw of the clubs is exclusivity: in general, club colorways (and patterns, if included) are not available to the general knitting public for a specified length of time (usually 6 or 12 months), and members are asked to refrain from selling or trading the yarns to nonmembers for that length of time as well, rendering them unavailable except through the club. I’m sure that some of these yarns are once-and-done, and can never be reordered, even by club members. So if you want to knit a Clapotis, buy two now! There is a trend toward this type of exclusivity with dyers creating custom colors for specific shops (The Loopy Ewe and Jimmy Beans Wool come to mind), so if you want to get your feet wet without a huge commitment, check them out. For instance, Lorna’s Laces dyes a colorway each month, sold only at JBW. This month is Royal Wedding, and yes, that’s my personal, private skein of Shepherd Sock. Maybe I should have bought two…but then I wouldn’t have been able to afford Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz.