Skip to content

Dear Ann,

I have had a Brainwave. My idea is not original. I’m sure others have thought of it, practice it, and are happier for it. But I’d never thought of it, and I think it’s going to change my life, so I have to share it in case it’s helpful to someone else.

The Problem

With Rhinebeck coming up this weekend, I had a sad moment thinking about how I rarely buy much yarn at fiber festivals or other yarny events.

Whether it’s Rhinebeck,  Indie Untangled, or Jill Draper’s Open Studio, I completely blank out when standing in front of all the wonderful yarn. My heart rate goes up and I feel a little panicky.  In this state, I can’t remember a single sweater that I want to knit, let alone what weight of yarn or yardage it requires. (A similar thing used to happen to me in Blockbuster, where I’d wander the aisles, unable to think of a single movie I wanted to see.)

The Solution

I made a down-and-dirty cheat sheet: a short list of patterns that I have been longing to cast on, with information that would help me buy appropriate yarn for those projects.  (A good source of great sweaters: the 2018 March Mayhem bracket.)

I made a little table of info for each pattern. Of course, you can tailor your cheat sheet any way that is helpful to you.

Here are the blanks I’m filling in:

Pattern name
Yarn specified in the pattern
Yardage for my size
Needle size
Grist aka yards per ounce of the yarn specified in the pattern (see Jillian Moreno’s explanation of grist) (yes I’m showing off)
Weight designation on the label
Construction (woolen or worsted? single or plied?)

I put my cheat sheet on a spread in my trusty Bullet Journal, but this information could also be on a set of index cards in your bag, or on the back of an envelope. The essential thing is that you have it with you when you are facing into the yarn, feeling a little woozy.

With a cheat sheet to guide me this weekend, I hope to make better choices. I won’t come home empty-handed due to Yarn Overload, and I also won’t come home with random single skeins of yarns that have no plan for where they’d like to see themselves in five years.

I’ll let you know how it works out, and if you do your own cheat sheet, you let me know, too.




  • I did exactly what you’ve suggested before I visited the Walnut Kyoto yarn store (home of Amirisu magazine) whilst on a family holiday to Japan last month. That shop has been on my yarn bucket list for a LONG time so I went prepared, with two pattern details in my handbag (yardage, gauge etc).

    Worked a treat – didn’t get too overwhelmed by all the yarny goodness on offer. I came home with Daruma yarn for an Inkwell pullover that will remind me of my visit every time I wear it.

    • Totally agree with you …. great idea !

  • My friend Julie does this every year. I, on the other hand, have the ability to buy yarn willy-nilly with complete abandon. The result is a beautiful stash but a challenge to match yarn and project. I may actually try having a plan this year. . . .

    • I think I might have the twin to your stash!

    • You and me, sister! I could not relate (though I wish I could have) to Kay’s dilemma! The spreadsheet (I would of course keep it on my phone, however) sounds like the perfect answer.

      • I did keep such a list on my phone for Maryland Sheep and Wool. Then became so overwhelmed and excited that I forgot to reference it even once!

  • Great idea! I have exactly the same reaction to shelves of fabulous yarn. A sort of queasy feeling akin to sea sickness. Yarn sickness? I think this will work for normal life too, not just for Rhinebeck where I will not be (this year). I always have my credit card with me; why not my pattern crib sheet too!!

    • Ha ha ha! I always seem to have my credit card, too!!

  • Great idea! I started my list yesterday based on the vendor list and the barn location. I know this list will work unless my phone dies before I get to the small barns. Thanks and I’ll see you there!

    • Add an emergency backup battery pack to your supply list!

  • I do this for Yarndale. It’s very effective and helps me focus. I hate it post- yarn festival when I realise I forgot to look at a certain stall/indie dyer I had intended to see.The odd ‘oooh aaah’ skein of lushness gets purchased, along with quirky stitch markers (my personal weakness) but generally I stick to plan and budget.

  • Used to do that in my head. Never worked. Would always forget something. AND didn’t know about grist ! 2 months ago, inspired by my reading layout in my BuJo, I started a knitting log in a separate way smaller journal (will fit in any purse, my BuJo is kinda heavy you know?) and that is the perfect place, for such a spread. Gotta go get right on it.

    • Bullet Journal is new to me. I looked it up and found there’s a 300 page book explaining it. Is it necessary to read before using the journal?

      • I read the original article online, set up my first BuJo according to that and over a few months refined it to my needs. Two years later, mine is a monthly calendar list with habit-tracker grids on the opposite page and a “books read” list below, followed by daily to-do lists and an end of the day wrap up. I started a 2018 Xmas idea list spread last month… let’s see… oh yeah, and I use washi tape tabs so I can find the beginning of each month. You can make it as simple or as ornate as you’d like. There are lots of YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest places to look for ideas that might appeal to you.

      • Not at all! Just read the main article online and you’re good to go. It’s a super intuitive and individualized system. My journal is no frills, just a lot of lists that are organized on a running basis in a way that helps me find stuff easily. I can’t stand organizational systems that are a chore to maintain, when the whole point is to help me get my real chores done!

      • Just find some online articles. They will get you started.

  • I spend time before Rhinebeck going through my favorites on Ravelry. Print out the patterns that I want to knit. Write all relevant data on the front page if the pattern. And off I go for happy fondling and purchasing. Enjoy Rhinebeck!!!!!

  • I, too, get overwhelmed, and come home with things I never really use once I get home… looms seem to be a weakness- Just little ones, but I don’t seem to weave at home. Alas, I won’t be at Rhinebeck this year, but will be going to SAFF, and have my list on my phone- But SAFF is in the mountains, so I’d better print it off in case there’s no service…

    • What is SAFF? Can u give me the details?

      • It’s the Southeastern Animal Fiber Festival in Fletcher, NC (Asheville area). Held annually the last full weekend of October. It’s great!

  • Where was this cheat sheet when I was at my annual knitting retreat last month?!? I completely forgot to buy yarn for a Humulus sweater, plus another sweater kit that had been on my wish list for months. I was too dazzled by all the yarn to think straight. I’ll definitely use this for when I’m at EYF in March, though!

  • Brilliant, nothing short of brilliant!

  • While not as satisfying as a BuJo log, I screenshot the pattern Ravelry page so that all the info is available, service or not.

    • Genius!

    • I’m also a screenshotter – for sewing patterns (yardage charts) and knitting patterns. I have a dedicated “album” in my phone for those screenshots!

      • Me too! Or, I take a pic of sewing patterns with my phone. Of course all those screen shots & pics are not exactly organized…

        • I used to do this…and then got frustrated looking for the screen shots. Or frustrated having to look something up in Ravelry when the Internet connection is spotty. Now I make a chart (this year it’s in my Strickplaner) of patterns I want to knit/sew and what yardage/yarn is required. It’s super simple. It’s a one-stop shop. If I didn’t want to schlepp my Strickpaner, I could just copy the page and tuck it in my pocket.

  • Yes, definitely need the cheat sheet! Last year was my first Rhinebeck and I did exactly this – I made a list of patterns, yarn weight, yardage, etc., and I listed a few vendors that I thought might be good options for each project. I think what’s important is to print it out (or write it out initially). Maybe it’s my age or somewhat lack of dexterity, but pulling my phone out in a crowded booth and bringing up a file – not my strong suit. Last year I found it much easier to pull out a piece of folded paper. This year my planning is a bit more vague – just a few patterns, specific yarn I want to focus on. I know what booths I want to hit first and I know what yarn I definitely want to get. And then I am going to try not to get in a frenzy seeing new things, seeing people. I am also going to drink a lot more water this year.

  • I’ve had that same feeling of being overwhelmed… this year I made a list(!) when I went to Stitches Midwest. It worked! I visited the booths I wanted, purchased off of my list, and brought home a couple of surprises. It made for a fun, relaxing day, and kept my budget under control. I’ve already knit two of the projects from that trip, which is amazing.

  • Before Stitches Midwest or when I visit Austin and I’m able to go to Hill Country Weavers, I’ll tag projects in my Ravelry Favorites. When I’m shopping I can just bring up up those projects tagged Stitches or HCW.

  • Great reminder! I’ve done similar in the past Have VKL coming up and should do this. The market wasn’t that large last time but i’ve only got small chunks of time open.

    For Rhinebeck and Maryland, I’ve found it helpful to have a list of vendors that I want to see by barn. Prioritize that. The year I was at Maryland was so hot, I planned things to get the large barns done first.

  • This is genius! Thank you for the suggestion

  • If I may suggest something I saw at a festival a couple of years ago–a vendor actually supplied a sheet showing item, vendor name and location, price. So if I passed up something but wanted to compare or see how much money I had left at the end of the day, I remembered exactly where I had seen it. I now make up my own sheet to take with me.

  • The Edinburgh Yarn Festival launched a pretty awesome Yarn Festival planner this year as part of their merchandise. It contains the above planning sheet but also planning sheet for travel, accomodation, food etc. Who to meet, travel project, vendors not to be missed, show highlights, empty pages, grid pages for several yarn shows and a hook and needle inventory. The only thing I miss is a course planner. But everything else… fantastic!

    • We did! So glad you liked it. No entry for grist, though

    • We did! Glad you like it. It was exactly what we were missing – just like Kay says!

      • Although – we don’t have grist asca category

  • Because it is usually sweater quantities I am searching for I print out the Ravelry project page and keep it in my purse. I like that I have the photo also to remind me and I go through project pages and note any interesting or inspiring color combinations.

  • Simply idea but absolutely brilliant!!

  • Brilliant idea and now I’m wondering why I didn’t think of doing that! I too freeze when given a large choice of yarns and can never remember what’s on my project list. I have the perfect little notebook for this idea and will put a list together with your suggested headings. Many thanks for helping me get organized for my next yarn encounter.

  • I work at a yarn shop in Central Florida and something like this would be an excellent idea to have along with one while on vacation. We get a lot of tourist shoppers from all over the world and only a few come prepared knowing what they are on the hunt for. Also, you’d be surprised how many people don’t know what their Ravelry username is (we can buy patterns and put them directly in a Ravelry library). Memorize your Ravelry username before heading to a yarn shop.

    • I live in Winter Springs; where are you located ?

  • This is almost the exact method I use to keep from buying too much at Rhinebeck, or not the right amount, or too many “oh, I’ll figure out a project later” skeins. The one thing I would add, which makes it easier for me to envision yarn+pattern=project, is photos of the patterns themselves. What I usually do is type everything up and add photos before printing it out, but pasting images in to the bullet journal, or I guess just keeping the photos in a file on your phone, would work just as well.

  • Oh man, this will definitely help prevent the familiar scenario of coming home with a bunch of random single skeins of brightly handpainted sock yarn (or worse, nothing–I have been a victim of the yarn shop brain fart too). Being a new sewer, I make a list like this every time I go to the fabric store, but man, can I make some impractical purchases at a yarn store! Especially if there is the element of being at some special, out-of-town place. Looking forward to seeing everyone at Rhinebeck, and hopefully coming home with some more useful yarn purchases!

    • I am a fan of randomly-selected-brightly-painted-hand-dyed sock yarn, actually.

      • Me, too. Happy feet, heads, and necks come from inability to resist the pull of fun sock yarn.

  • I have printed out or made copies of patterns I like prior to going to a yarn festival so I can see a picture of the pattern and the yarn amounts. Before the copyright police come after me, I only do this for patterns I can access free on the internet or I’m making a personal photocopy of a book I already own.

    I’ve noticed more vendors at shows are making kits which makes it easier for everyone.

  • I do a cheat sheet too. I sometimes create a table in a Word document and include pattern name, yarn weight, yardage, fiber blend, and a photo. The photo is key for me. Otherwise I’m standing there saying to myself “ok, which one was this again?” Having the cheat sheet is a tremendous help. For the last festival I attended, I just pulled together some info into the Note app on my phone last minute. When in doubt, I just buy three skeins of fingering for a shawl. LOL

  • Great idea in the beginning of my preoccupation with knitting, I was so organized doing one project at a time. Now I have so much yarn I don’t know what to do with all of it. I started keeping journals with gauges, yarn bands etc but your system would be perfect

  • I do this for Rhinebeck and MDSW using the “Notes” app on my phone. That way I can include a photo of the sweater or shawl. That helps me a lot since I have trouble visualizing patterns and remembering how they look. Also, you always have your phone with you. No extra notebook to carry

  • Yep, I do the same thing for DFW Fiber Fest and shopping at my LYS.

    So done with trying to keep the information in my head and buying too little, way too much, the wrong yarn altogether, etc.

  • I used to keep this sort of info with me all the time, in case I had a chance to drop into some LYS. Now I’m a bit more relaxed, and bring such a list only when attending Stitches West or other festival venue, or on a planned shopping trip to my LYS. It’s definitely a helpful practice.

    PS: the list should also include books and notions that you want to buy, or at least examine in person.

  • That’s a great idea, but it does take out the fun of coming home & finding a willy-nilly assortment of yarn that you purchased under the influence of yarn-fumes & now don’t know what to do with! That said, I like your method better.

    • “Yarn fumes”!!

  • Genius idea! I am one of those single skein buyers. It’s never enough for what I want to knit. Thanks for the tip!

  • I’ve done this with great success in the past. Last year was wonderful, and a disaster, forgetting simple things like: eat! (And feed the 5 week old before leaving in the crazy traffic.) This years list will be food, water, picking up the newest Field Guide 😉 and maybe 1 project. Let the insanity begin!

  • This should work, as long as you remember to look at it. Then again, you might be so overcome by wool fumes that you think those critters baa-ing around are fluffy poodles!

  • Great, fabulous, wonderful idea! Thanks. Going to write down patterns, amount of wool , yardage, etc,etc, etc.
    Can’t tell you how much festival wool is sitting, waiting…….

  • Rather genius, my friend.

  • I did just that last year, suffering from pneumonia, I just had to go and new exactly what and how much I wanted and the pattern was with me. Due to my illness, I couldn’t stay long or walk around much so homeward bound we went. I was so excited that I actually got what I wanted after being pushed around by crowds, sweating like a beast then waiting on a long long line to pay. Afterwards my hubby said, we gotta go look like s–t. I went to bed after napping in the car and stayed there till about the end of November, I couldn’t do a thing. When I felt better I looked at my yarn and said, was it worth it. My answer of course was oh yes, but I had lost the pattern and to this date still can’t remember the pattern and the yarn sits in front of me everyday……sooo sad

  • Putting it in your bullet journal is fecking BRILLIANT.

  • This is a great idea! Does your notebook fits in your pocket? For me, that has turned out to be a critical factor.

    • I’m going to snap a photo of it for reference at the festival but I like having it in my notebook so that I can find it again when I want to add/subtract etc. This aspect of the Bullet Journal is the key benefit for me, as I need a central repository for info. If it’s in the journal I can find it again. If it’s in a pocket sized notebook I can keep hold of it for one day but it will likely walk off before too long.

  • I’ve made less detailed lists that I carry around but find festival vendors rarely have sweater amounts of yarn. This is true of most yarn shops I’ve visited in the Western half of the US. They all make up for their lack of quality by usually offering to ship for free.

  • I am feeling this year that my vague notions of the kind of thing I might make with the kind of stuff I picked up is no longer cutting the mustard. It’s certainly not up to snuff. Can’t cry over the spilled milk, and my weird singleton apples are not yet spoiling the barrel – and why IS there also a barrell of 4-skein sets, anyway? I mean, REALLY, that was not an escape from the singleton situation – but spending too much time on Ravelry trying to match the chickens and eggs, not enough time casting on.

  • What I’ve learned from previous Rhinebecks is that a list with project details is a life-changer. Not losing the list is critical. The list has to be a fairly short list or it becomes Work: finding the perfect yarn for a couple big projects and a couple small projects can take me both days. Writing down the vendor’s name, building and booth number and something like ‘sage alpaca DK for cowl’ when I find an appealing yarn keeps my head from exploding later, because after a bazillion booths of fabulous yarn, it’s hard to remember who had that perfect alpaca DK.

  • Good job TEE BLANK, your blank card works perfectly i withdraw-ed $5000 at once just as you said am so happy i could sort my financial needs, i do not know what you guys think but this is good you could give it a try here is the EMAIL: INFO.TEEBLANKATMCARD@GMAIL.COM

  • Now that’s just crazy pants! I just did the same thing before travelling to Lisbon two weeks ago! I didn’t make it to the yarn shop I was actually hoping to, but felt safe to know that if opportunity arose, I would be prepared to make a purchase with a plan 🙂

  • I am always just fine in my local yarn stores. But went to Webs this year, as well as the yarn (and jewelry) sale at Squam Lake a few weeks ago and was absolutely quaking for ‘what to do, what to buy??!’ So, I’m off to my first ever pilgrimage to Rhinebeck this weekend. I am DEFINITELY bringing a list!!!

  • Cheat sheet + _calculator_. I’d definitely need to bring along a calculator, arithmetically challenged as I am!

  • I made a cheat sheet and successfully employed it yesterday at Indie Untangled. Two patterns now matched with yarn, and two additional skeins now await the pattern of their dreams!

  • I did this for Knit City this year and bought . . . books. Sigh.

  • I did the same thing when I went to Stitches West in Feb. I’ve been to that show many times and would come home with single skeins and have no idea what to do with them. This year I went with a list. While I didn’t get exactly what was on my list I did come home with yarn for 6 projects!!

  • I put all the patterns I’d like to make in the Ravelry cart. Then I can pull it up and see a picture!

  • You do hit it right! Good to see that I’m not the only one that has that stunned feeling when looking at the many choices of pure delight! I think it’s a form of “fight or flight”…..or buy anther skein 🙂 Your chart idea is great! I’m in the process of organizing my stash (sigh) and am going to label some projects in your chart form. Thank you for sharing!

  • It is nice to know that other people experience that feeling of being lost and losing your purpose when facing a wall of gorgeous yarn. The cheat sheet is a great idea.

  • Five year old, random single skeins….I feel like you have visited me.

  • I have also started to do this to a limited extent because I was having the same problem and often came home with something I had no idea what I would do with it or if I had enough etc. So thank you for this I know I will use it a lot..
    Lol I also did the same thing back in the day at Blockbuster. I still do it at the grocery store. I know exactly what I need and when i go through the door my mind goes blank. Talk about overload!

Come Shop With Us

My Cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping