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Hello and welcome to Learn to Crochet! Today we will learn all about yarn!
I will confess, that on the rare occasion when I have time in the city (I live in a rural community) by myself, the first place I go is to the yarn shop.
For me there is something almost therapeutic about wandering the yarn aisle. I don’t even have to buy anything. I just love to go and check out the latest trends, fibres and colours. I like watching other crafters as they mull over their decisions.
There is so much colour! So many Textures! And for the crochet beginner it can be overwhelming. Even for the seasoned crocheter it can be overwhelming (I also don’t usually go into a yarn shop without having done some research first or without a project in mind). There are just so many choices.
Today we are going to look at some of those choices more in depth. We are going to learn about the various fibres commonly found (and see some pictures of some not so common ones!). We will explore yarn weights and talk a little bit about how you might substitute one yarn for another in your project.
Types of Yarn:
There are many, many (did I say many?) different types of yarn: acrylic, wool, Alpaca, polyester…. and then to make things more complicated there are yarn blends. These are Yarns that are made up of two or more different fibres. For example, a “wool blend” may mean that the fibre make up of that yarn is a 20% wool/80% acrylic. This means that fibre artists and yarn companies have been able to be very creative in developing their yarn. Which means for the crocheter there is all the more opportunity to create a unique, beautiful piece of work.
The yarn content can be found on your yarn label and can be seen in the picture below:
Let me share with you some of the more common types of fibre and a little bit about the types of projects they are typically used in:
Acrylic is probably one of the most common Yarns used in crochet. It is popular because of its fairly inexpensive cost, the variety and depth of colour and its wide range of uses, from blankets to clothing and accessories, to children’s toys. You can machine wash and dry it, but beware of using it alongside high temperatures (do not iron it) as the plastic fibres found in it will fuse together and melt.
(Caron Chunky Cake – %100 acrylic)
Alpaca has gained a lot of attention in recent months. It is spun from the fleece of an Alpaca and boasts of being hypoallergenic. It’s a very soft, natural fibre that is often mixed with other types of fibre such as wool (see the photo below). It is a more delicate fibre so to care for it your going to want to dry clean or hand wash. It is used in a variety of items for baby/children but also in accessories and clothing.
(Alpaca/wool blend by Woolies in the Attic)
Next to acrylic, cotton is also widely used in crochet. It is a natural plant fibre that can be quite soft. You can find it in a variety of colours. It is commonly used to make things like dishcloths and potholders because of its high tolerance for heat. It can also be used however in clothing, accessories and blankets. It is machine wash and dry.
(Bernat Handicrafter Cotton)
Nylon:Nylon is a synthetic fibre, often blended with others. It is very smooth, has great stitch definition and cool to the touch. It is quite durable and used often in home decor projects. It can be machine washed.
(Bernat Maker Home Dec – 72% cotton/28% Nylon)
Polyester is sometimes blended with other Yarns to make a durable, breathable fibre that you can machine wash and dry. On its own, it is not a very soft fibre. It is shown here in Red Heart Scrubby Yarn which is promoted and fun to use in dish and wash cloths. It dries very quickly.
wool is another popular fibre for crocheting. Used in garments to blankets, it is popular because of its ability to repel water, it’s ability to retain heat but also breathe making it great to wear in the winter, but also in the summer months. It is spun from the fleece of sheep, is affordable and easy to handle. It has “bounce.” Sometimes it is mixed with other fibres to strengthen it or to make it softer. It’s care requires that it is hand washed in cool water and laid flat to dry.
(%100 wool by Belfast Minimills)
While I won’t talk about them here, there are many other animal fibres out there that make beautiful Yarns – mohair, silk, cashmere and angora – don’t be afraid to explore!
(Above: a variety of different fibres)
There are several different categories when it come to yarn weight. They are categorized accordingly to number. When looking for the yarn weight it will be found on the label of your yarn ball.
In the picture above you will see a small picture of a ball of yarn which has a “6” inside it. This is the yarn weight symbol. Above and below you are told this is a “Super Bulky” weight yarn meaning that it is quite thick.
Yarn weights range from 0-7 which I will describe below.
“0” or Lace weight:
This is a light weight yarn used in finer projects such as lace work. It is used with a small crochet hook.
“1” or Super Fine weight:
Often used for items such as socks or baby accessories. Sometimes it’s called a sport weight.
“2” or Fine Weight:
Again, similar to the size 1 it’s used in items such as baby items, socks, lacy shawls.
“3” or Light Weight:
Sometimes called a light worsted weight – this yarn is suitable for the above projects and home accessories.
“4” or Medium Weight:
Also called “worsted” this weight it commonly used in crochet. It works up relatively quickly and is versatile as far as the projects that can work with it.
“5” and “6” or bulky and super bulky:
This is weight yarn works up very quickly. It is used in everything from clothing to blankets. It is worked with a larger crochet hook so it is a good one to start with if you find holding the narrower crochet hook difficult.
“7” or Jumbo:
This category was added relatively recently with the emergence of super thick specialty Yarns and rovings. The yarn works up very quickly and is best suited to blankets and throws. Because the yarn is so thick it does not always have good stitch definition, nor is it suitable for more intricate stitches. But it is fun!
Understanding Yarn Labels:
Most often when you pick up a ball or skein of yarn from the store it will be dressed in a label. The label contains all kinds of helpful information, sometimes even a free crochet or knitting pattern.
What will you find on a yarn label?
Material: what fibre the yarn is made up such as wool or acrylic. See the discussion above.
Weight: This is the thickness of the yarn. Again, please refer to the discussion above.
Amount: This is the total length of yarn, measured in meters/yards and grams/ounces (weight).
Care instructions: This gives you important information about how to care for your yarn, and ultimately, your finished product.
Suggested hook size and gauge: There are many different crochet hook sizes. There will be a tutorial on crochet hooks and gauge (how many stitches by how many rows per inch) coming soon!
(An example of a yarn label showing colour, weight, hook, gauge, care instructions, content and size of ball).
Dye-lot number: This refers to the color of yarn. Occasionally it is important to make note of the dye lot number when working on a larger project. You will want to make sure you have selected yarn all from the same dye lot as sometimes there can be variances in the shade/depth of colour.
Note About yarn Substitutions:
There are many reasons why you may want to substitute one yarn for another. You may want to substitute Yarns because you are unable to get a hold of the one called for in the pattern, you may want to change colours, or you may not like the feel of a particular fibre or brand. Maybe you have a sensitivity to a particular fibre – what ever the reason, there are times when you want to stitch one yarn for another.
And it is quite easy and fun to do,
Whenever I want to switch yarns, the first thing I do is look at the yarn weight. For example, when I see a “4” or worsted weight yarn in the pattern, a good place to start is by searching for Yarns that fall into that same weight category. Other things to consider when substituting yarn is the way that the yarn hangs or drapes when it is worked into the finished piece. Some fibres/yarns hang differently than others, some, even though they are the same weight, may be more stiff than others, so ask yourself if you want a yarn that will work similarly to the original called for.
When you head into the shop don’t be afraid to feel the yarn, take a close look at any sample swatches available. Look online (Facebook crochet groups are great) to see if you can find yarn comparisons.
After you have selected your yarn, experiment with it. Do a test swatch (work up a small portion of the pattern) to see if you are happy with the results, play around with your crochet hook size if you need the stitches tighter (smaller hook) or looser (larger hook). Have fun!
Thank you so much for joining me for this tutorial all about yarn! Questions? Feel free to contact me! Be sure to follow me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/richtextures/) and Instagram @RichTexturesCrochet.
Be sure to check out the other tutorials in this Learn to Crochet Series!