How to Choose Your Yarn
Let me tell you a good yarn
You have found a shop that sells gorgeous yarns. You go in to have a rummage and a squidge of some goodies.
Your first reaction is excitement – if this were a cartoon, you’d have hearts in your eyes!
As you look around, you feel more and more confused.
You can see the beautiful yarns but there are so many and they are all different thicknesses, materials, brands, etc.
Your head pounds with the volume of choice.
You take advantage of the shopkeeper’s distraction and run from the shop, never to return!
Trust me when I say that I have been there. Several times. And I have lots of yarn in my stash that I bought in shops because I had spent so long wandering around, picking things up, squishing yarn, putting them back, that I felt that I couldn’t leave the shop without buying something!
Hopefully, I can help you learn from my experiences (not mistakes because I still got yarn!).
This refers to the thickness of the yarn and is shown on its label. This system has been developed and standardised with the Craft Yarn Council (please have a look at their website – they have lots of useful information about all things yarn craft related).
This does vary from country to country though. In general, try and stick to the yarn that is recommended for the pattern you’re following and if you are having trouble finding the yarn, go to Yarn Sub, type in the name of the yarn you are looking for and this site will give you substitutions starting with the closest match. They are brilliant and I use them a lot.
And don’t forget that the thicker the yarn, the less meterage or yardage you will get for the weight and the larger the hook you will need.
And the most important thing you need to do with your yarn when you’re working to a pattern is SWATCH! Have a look at my previous post to understand why doing a swatch is so crucial.
Yarn is made of wool, isn’t it? Well, yes and so much more. What yarns can be made of has changed rapidly, due to technology but also due to the public’s demands for wool alternatives (often due to allergies) and for more sustainable materials when considering synthetic yarns. It feels like there is something new every week!
- Wool: comes primarily from sheep, but can also come from rabbits, goats, alpaca and llamas. It can be used for making anything, it’s hard-wearing but, generally, it cannot be machine-washed.
- Other Natural fibres: Cotton is probably the most common fibre used. It is plant-based and can be used for a wide range of items, such as lightweight clothing. Other plant-based yarns include hemp, linen, nettle and bamboo.
- Synthetic: Acrylic yarns are the most popular man-made fibre as they are longer-lasting and more affordable than wool. You will also see polyester, rayon and nylon yarns, which are not very environmentally friendly, although rayon is part plant-based.
- Blends: Often, yarns will be a mix of different fibres. This is done for many reasons but often it is done to balance out the weaknesses of different fibres.
- Novelty: Just take one look in a yarn shop and you will see all sorts of different fibres – ribbon, recycled t-shirts, recycled saris, wire, etc.
For more information on this, please have a look at this fantastic article by Knitting Knowledge.
When you are new to crochet (or knitting) the more you make the more you learn. Make more items and you will learn about the different yarns as you go – how they look when they’re worked up, how they wash, and how they hang or drape when worn. But a key part is also the practicalities of using a type of yarn.
Some cotton yarns are lovely but they have a habit of splitting when you’re working, for example.
If you use a faux-fur yarn, it looks lovely, but it is practically impossible to see your stitches! Not such an issue for knitting but definitely a hurdle in crochet.
So, go into yarn shops, take your time and feel the yarns (the squish!).
A lot of yarn shop owners are also crafters themselves and I am yet to meet one who doesn’t enjoy talking about what they sell, so ask their advice. They will often also have small samples or even completed items available in specific yarns so that you can see how they look. This is especially useful when you are looking at yarns that have different colours in them.
And if you go into a local yarn shop between the 17th and 24th of September, they’re probably taking part in the first Yarnstravaganza, organised by the fantastic UKHandknitting in support of all yarny crafts. Have a look at the website, find your local yarn shop and find out what they are going to be doing, then go along and enjoy!