August 6, 2019

How to Navigate a Yarn Shop Hop

A yarn shop hop can be a LOT of fun! They can also be exhausting and rough on the finances if you’re not careful.

yarn shop hop with Mom at yarnology
shop hopping with Mom at yarnology – 2019

What is a shop hop?

A shop hop is when a group of shops in semi-close proximity get together and plan an event. The object is to have people visit each business, collecting stamps or punches on your shop-hop card. The event typically runs from a single day up to an extended weekend.

It’s a wonderful excuse to visit stores you may not frequent regularly. It’s also a great draw for the businesses. Although it can be exhausting for all parties :).


The hops my mother and I have participated in have had gifts for the first 50 people to walk through the door each day. The stores have random drawings for people who fill their card with stamps/punches from each place, and some stores have independent prize giveaways too. Our latest shop hop even decide to offer a few prizes for incomplete cards.

yarnventure 2016 - What in Yarnation, Cannon Falls MN. Yarn shop hop no longer in existence
yarnventure 2016 – What in Yarnation, Cannon Falls MN.
Sadly, neither this shop hop nor this store exist anymore 🙁

Tips on how to have the best hop

This year was the 5th time Mom and I have participated in a yarn shop hop, so I’ve listed some tips below based on what we’ve learned.

One thing to note: the shop hops we have gone on are only 5-7 shops but with sometimes an
hour between shops at the longest stretch. Things may be different if you live in a metro area
where there are more shop and less driving time, but these tips should still apply.

Find a friend.

See if you can find a friend to go with you or plan to meet up with others along the way. You can definitely do a shop hop alone, and that might be safer if your partner is an enabler (Hi Mom!). However, we have found this to be a great bonding time. We have lots of talking time in between stops to catch up!

driftless loop yarn shop hop 2018 - yarnology in Winona MN
driftless loop 2018 – yarnology in Winona MN

Plan your route

Don’t just plan for the shops but any other places you might need to / want to stop at, including gas stations (fuel, snacks), lunch options, etc. Our extra stops included a park for a picnic lunch (cheese, veggies, fruit, deli meat and chocolate), a creamery for fresh cheese curds. In the second day, we stopped at a roadside stand for fresh berries and a local farmers market as our last destination.

Plan your time

Determine how many stops you think you can make. Our route was 5 hours just driving time. We saved one hour of the trip for the following day, but with a minimum of 30 minutes shopping time at each place, plus eating, bathroom breaks, we easily put in a full 8 hours that first day! We were ready to go home at that point. That’s not to say you need to feel rushed (unless you do have a time deadline), but you may not be able to (or want to) hit all the shops in one day. I did have to push myself a little at each place because I could easily debate over the many choices for an hour!!

Save, save, save

Save as much as possible – and determine your budget ahead of time! Ok, I’ll admit that I completely fail at this. I had determined how much is spend if I limited it to $20 per shop and sort of planned on that, even taking out cash beforehand. But, I did spend more. How much more? I plead the fifth… 🙂 Then again, I also knew that I had some wiggle room. If your budget is tight, remember, it’s not a requirement to spend at each shop. If you DO feel the need to support the business, many of them have small items like fun buttons/pins, tools, mini skeins, etc. I love buttons as mementos of the trip!

yarnventure 2016 yarn shop hop - northfield yarn
yarnventure 2016 – Northfield Yarn, Northfield, MN

Make a wish list.

If you are familiar with some of the shops, look through your wish list of patterns to make to see what yarn is needed. I’m not very good at doing this either – partly because my wish list is so long. But if you plan a little, you’re more likely to buy something you can use right away instead of random single skeins. Buying sweater quantities might depend on your budget and may not be feasible for this spending spree. However, it’s good to be prepared as maybe you’ll find a great deal or sale. A least two of the shops we visited had 20% off all cotton-based yarns. Great for summer crafting!

Week before or day before:

I make sure to fill up the gas tank before we start out. We were able to make the full trip (both days) without filling up again, but you don’t want to run out and be stranded.
I would also check your oil levels and tire pressure sometime before the big day(s). You can always add a quart of oil if you’re a bit low and don’t have time to get your oil changed. But your tires will thank you if you have the proper pressure for all that driving.
The night before is when I make/pack our snacks and lunch so I save time in the morning.

Unwound Artisan shop 2017
Unwound Artisan shop 2017

On the day of the shop hop:

Tip 1: Bring water. Lots of water! We travel in the summer, but talking and traveling will also make you thirsty. We brought a large insulated beverage dispenser so we could refill our mugs at each stop.

Tip 2: Bring snacks. These are good to help tide you over until your next meal. Although some shop hops will offer snacks and water, I like to be prepared.

Tip 3: Wear comfortable clothes. You are going to be sitting a lot in the car along with moving in and out of shops. Perhaps there will be some walking involved. I like to wear a piece of my own knit or crochet, like a scarf / shawlette, but this year it was just too hot. (l did on Sat because I knew it was only for a couple hours). I wore comfortable sandals – to keep my feet cool, but I also knew could walk several blocks if needed.

Tip 4: If someone else is driving, pack a simple yarn project! There will be enough conversation that you won’t want a project that requires thinking and concentration. So no lace charts! But if you pack a small project, and bring it into the stores with you, I’m sure there will be many who will “oooh” and “aaah” over your current project. (Same with wearing your knit/crochet items!)

Tip 5: Unless you have an unlimited budget, pace your purchases! If you only have $100 to spend and $50 goes to the first shop, you will have a lot less for the other stores.

Tip 6: Watch that gas gauge! Just in case…

Tip 7: Remember to take pictures and enjoy the process! I totally failed at this! I would remind myself to take pictures at the next shop… And then promptly forget again! Too many fibery distractions LOL. We did finally get one picture at the last stop. Most stores are willing to take a photo for you if they aren’t too busy. We did take pictures of some shawl patterns we liked, presumably to buy and make later.

yarnventure 2016 yarn shop hop - Northfield Yarn
yarnventure 2016 – Northfield Yarn, Northfield, MN

My most important tip

Enjoy the process!! Yes, you may win prizes if you get stamps/punches on your card from each shop, but don’t push yourself to exhaustion or beyond your stamina for the day(s). Whether you win a prize or not, the best part about the yarn shop hops is creating memories while you buy all the yarn, fabric, etc. They’ll last you a lifetime!

Yarn shop hops in my area

p.s. If you live in Wisconsin or southeastern Minnesota, here are some yarn shop hops I’ve run across. The dates may vary from year to year.

  • Driftless Loop Shop Hop – covers Winona MN, La Crosse WI (two shops), West Salem WI, Viroqua WI, Decorah IA and Caledonia MN. Usually in mid-July. This is the only hop on the list I’ve participated in (so far 🙂 ) (2021 update: I’m not sure the status of this shop hop anymore; sadly, the shop that was organizing it had to close)
  • Madtown Yarn Shop Hop – mid October; Madison Wisconsin area.
  • Minnesota Yarn Shop Hop – Fourteen yarn stores in the Twin Cities. Early April.
  • Southwest Yarn Quest – early August! Includes one of my favorite shops: Northfield Yarn in Minnesota.
  • Wandering Ewe Yarn Crawl – late July; Milwaukee Wisconsin area.

Have you ever been on a yarn shop hop / yarn crawl before? I’d love to hear about your experiences or if you have any tips that I missed!