I feel like an apprentice stingy knitter, because I'm sure there are always more cheap ways to buy wool. Here however, are my tips on how to increase your stash the stingy way.
Lets start with some high class stingyness. Colinette (http://www.colinette.com
) (come back, come back, I'm serious) do a bargain pack. I know it's not terribly stingy, but if you're looking for something lovely to felt, or to make some VERY CLASSY hats, bags, purses and ipod covers, then this is the place for you. It's all odds and ends, but I've managed to make 5 hats, and 3 ipod covers, and still have lots of gorgeous wool left over from 2 purchases (ok, I am addicted, I like the surprise element). It is called Creative Threads, and it's 1 Kg of mixed colours and fibres, all sorts, in small hanks, cost £20.
Ok, now we have my guilty secret out of the way, let's talk really really stingy.
Charity shops. These do take persistance, and a certain nose for a bargain, but I have done very well out of charity shops. 400g of sea green Iceland Lopi later, for the amazing cost of £2, I say look in the windows, look in the bargain bins, and don't be afraid to have a rummage. I think certain types of charity shop are probably better than others, but I'm not sure how to classify yet. I work in Keighley, West Yorks, and the Skipton and Craven Disability Support shop has been a treasure trove. I think probably the less glamorous looking charity shops are better for this, so no Oxfam, unless you're in a wool mill area
Weekly Markets. I have had great and easy success at local markets. Fakenham Market in North Norfolk (on a thursday), has two wool stalls that are a joy to stingy knitters. You have to embrace the acrylic, and again, be willing to have a poke around. I have scored vintage knitting patterns and a 500g ball of bright red aran (with some actual wool in too) for 4 quid; and 5 absolutely gorgeous 100g skeins of purple/maroon acrylic that feels like wool, but is machine washable, claims to be DK, but knits up like aran (I don't go any thinner than that, ever, I am a fussy knitter too). I have heard great reports of Huddersfield market, but I bet that any weekly market, pretty much all over the UK will have good pickings. Do any of you have good finds to report?
Mill shops are a good way to use either the internet, or your initiative to get your hands on the real stuff at discount prices. Texere and King Cole both have websites, and actual shops, where you can go, get fondle the goods, and come home with loot. Texere also sell non-texere products, including Noro cheaper than I've found it anywhere apart from E-bay, and everyone I have spoken to at the company has been exceedingly friendly.
Because you're all savvy internet users, I assume that E-bay is already a spot for your stingy wool needs. NORO baby! Rowan! Much tastyness, in a limited and irritating mix of colours. I have to say that I rarely have the patience for E-bay, apart from when there's a buy it now button. Still, I am about to knit my mum a jumper, and I'm going to get some luxury yarn from E-bay if I can help it.
Finally, your local wool shop. I don't mean the chi-chi new posh wool shops. I mean the old fashioned, slightly intimidating ones run by lavender haired ladies. These shops never seem to have a wide selection, but they often have fabulous bargain bins. 600g of silvery grey mohair which will eventually become a lace wrap for my granny are thanks to my old-lady wool shop. It cost me all of £1.80. I don't know the exact fibre content, but there's a reasonable amount of mo in it. Also, these ladies have become my stingy knitting ally, because I go in and show off what I have made, and because I ask for help. Now, if they find anything particularly lush in the back room, or have a special on, they save things for me. This gives me much joy. Not only are they as cheap as me, they seem to egg me on to greater knitterly feats.
Good luck in your hunting, and much stingy knitting joy to you.
If anyone has any other good cheap sources of wool, let me know. We'll see whether we can put together some sort of comprehensive list.
How to buy wool the Stingyknits way.