How to write a yarn review

I have a problem with first finding out the “right” way to do something before I jump in. So, instead of writing a yarn review as intended, I’ve written HOW to write a yarn review. OK so, I’m no expert on this. I’m a total beginner knitter, but I do know that one good way to learn something is to try and teach it.

Reviews of anything are really helpful, right? I don’t do anything or make any purchase without reading reviews.  I love Clara Parke’s reviews, when she describes a yarn (chickadee) as having “the well-rounded liveliness of a fresh bowl of cappellini”, somehow you just know what she means.

I think the more I learn “yarn appreciation” I get more enjoyment out of this. When I was only crocheting, I picked whatever cheap yarn I could get my hands on, since it gobbles up so much yarn. (I’m inordinately excited about the workshop with Deb Robson at Fibre East in July. So hoping that gives me more insight.)

I want to write yarn reviews, especially for small producer yarns and breed-specific yarns. I’m inspired by the idea to Knit British (though I’d rather say “knit local” as on on the island of Ireland and hey Scotland might leave GB!?) I was frustrated as I started learning about yarns more that many of the yarns regional/local to me have few reviews or comments on Ravelry.

So – I was taking some time to compare yarn reviews and thought I’d write it up for anyone else who wants to write them. I’d recommend putting them in a blog, but also putting them in your Ravelry stash notes, along with a photo of the yarn and your comments. Or maybe even as a comment on the yarn page itself? I’d do all three just to be sure people can find it.

A Review of Yarn Reviews (how meta!)

I thought it would be good to look at how the experts do it. There seem to be some standards. Of course you start with the essential details of make and yardage; but there are also specific aspects of the yarn to look at such as how it feels in the skein or how it works up. 

  • Knitter’s Review is the site by Clara Parkes who wrote Knitter’s Book of Yarn and Knitter’s Book of Wool. After getting these out of the library as e-books, I have added them to my books wishlist. Great to read! There are many yarn reviews on the site, but of course focused on yarns from the US/Canada. Example: Baa Ram Ewe Titus.
  • Knitty.com used to have a Knitty round table to review yarns together.I sort of imagine a wine tasting club. HOW MUCH FUN would that be? Or how about combining yarn reviewing and wine tasting.. ooo.
  • Knitting Scholar is a bona-fide writer, and while there aren’t any recent reviews, the ones that are there are very good. 
  • Of course, About.com has yarn reviews too.  Here’s an example of Black Water Abbey Farm.

Ravelry itself is a database of yarn information, but the comments don’t have a consistent format of course. 

    Yarn details & Specifications

     In terms of yarn details, they all have the similar details. Knitter’s review doesn’t include the “type” of yarn, but they include the country of origin, purchase price, location, and washing instructions. I do think wash method is important, since it affects how the yarn works, and it’s worth linking to where you got it from. This is a sort of combo of all the yarn details, which I would include.

    • Company:
    • Type: (sock, fingering, etc)
    • Fiber: 
    • Gauge: 
    • Yardage: 
    • Weight: 
    • Wash method:
    • Where purchased:

    The actual review

    Knitting scholar just writes up the review with no subsections in “In-depth look.” It seems to be written before the writer has worked it up, so there’s no details about that.

    Knitter’s review writes up in 5 main sections

    • First impressions
    • Knitting Up – how to work with it, how it deals with tension.
    • Blocking / Washing
    • Wearing- For wearing, it means the writer has made a swatch and does abrasion tests. I don’t know what that entails just yet.
    • Conclusion

    Knitters review also includes an estimate of how much it would cost to make a typical project, which gives a good sense of cost, more than just the per-item cost.

    Knitting.About.com reviews include…

    • Knitting (working with)
    • Uses for X yarn
    • Caring for X yarn
    • Buying the yarn (also called Bottom line)- goes into the costs and value byeond the per-item price.

    Knitty Round Table has more of a survey format…
    Knitting Round Table has more of a survey format…

    • overall impression
    • describe it in one word- I love this as it’s like tasting notes.
    • what’s the one thing you couldn’t know about this yarn until you knit with it?

    There is a sort of rating system but it’s hard to understand.

    would you buy it? how does it feel
    in the ball? how does it feel knit up?
    is it fairly priced? how’s the stitch definition?
    drapey [1] or stiff [5] ?

    A yarn review outline

    I do intend to write actual yarn reviews!! This is the outline I think I’ll use. After the essential yarn details I like this format:

    1. Knitting with it – What it feels like to work with it.
    2. In the skein – What it looks like, or feels like.
    3. In the swatch – Include needle details and final tension stitches/rows per 4″.
    4. Washing/blocking notes – Include care tips, but also how it blocked up, Maybe before/after pics?
    5. Tasting notes – Non-fibre associations that come to mind when working with the yarn.
    6. Ideas for things to make with it – This might spark a reader’s ideas, and encourage them to reconsider some more “challenging” textures.

    I’ll give this a try!