When shopping locally for yarn, needles, and pattern books, the first place that comes to mind is your neighborhood yarn shop. Perhaps the large craft stores place second, followed by the huge discount outlets. But several knitters on the Daily Knitter Forums sing the praises of flea markets.
They describe an amazing selection and unbelievable prices, so the Daily Knitter editors decided to organize a group outing. We explored three flea markets in Northern Illinois and can now report the good, the bad, and the ugly. Extremely ugly yarn, that is.
Each flea market we visited had a large selection of used books. Romance paperbacks were the most numerous, yet we were amazed at the variety of knitting pattern books available. One seller offered an entire section of vintage craft books, with a full shelf dedicated to knitting.
Our favorite find was a 1968 Fiesta Hand Knits pattern book from Fleisher Bear Brand Botany Yarns. We now have a wonderful book of retro knitting patterns, all of which are fashionable today…and it only cost us 99 cents!
While we did not find a stall that focused exclusively on knitting supplies, we discovered mugs of knitting needles throughout the flea market. There was often only one of the pair, but we picked up a set of 3 double-pointed needles for just 50 cents. We also found a shoe box full of circular needles in a stall selling mostly fabric remnants. After some serious bargaining, one of the Daily Knitter editors took home the entire box.
Boy did we see some ugly yarn. One particular booth had the mother lode, and seeing it all in one place was a bit scary. The proprietor informed us that she finds the yarn at garage sales, estate auctions, and even yarn company’s discards.
She explained that she sells a lot to teachers and summer camps, who love the yarn for kid’s projects. We did find a high-quality wool yarn in electric orange with green accents. Now where is that book on dyeing yarn?
With over 200 miles on the minivan at the end of the day, and what felt like just as many miles on our feet, we concluded that buttons were our best find. The variety at all of the different stalls was astounding.
If you are looking for an antique button to finish off a purse or a set of glass buttons for a cardigan, we can highly recommend flea markets. What a great way to make your knitting projects one of a kind.