Crochet Along :: Yarn Selection Tips with Sarah of Sarahndipities
Good morning, my fellow crocheters and soon-to-be-crocheters! Before we can get stitchin', you have a little shopping to do--you need to choose your yarn! (And if you haven't signed up yet for the crochet along, do so here!)
If you're unfamiliar with the yarn aisle at your favorite craft store or aren't sure of what you need, it can be a little scary . . . there are so many options, and the yarn labels can be very confusing. If you don't head in with a game plan and know what you want and need for your project, it's easy to get frustrated and sidetracked--many times in my early knit/crochet days, I headed home with a yarn that was completely wrong for the project I had in mind, or even left empty-handed because I couldn't figure out what anything meant or what I needed.
(Obviously, this is not an issue anymore--exhibit A: Forrest playing in my yarn stash.)
I thought I'd bring in reinforcements to help make sense of yarn selection--I'm a big fan of Sarah of the blog and etsy shop, Sarahndipities--she does beautiful crochet work, and one thing I'm always impressed with in particular is her yarn selection . . . she has a great eye for color and uses it so well. So I thought you'd like to meet one of my crocheting buddies and learn from her how to choose the right yarn for your project!
Well, the first thing you need to do after picking a pattern is to choose what type of yarn you're going to use!
(Unless you've chosen a type of yarn before you've picked your pattern...which happens to me all the time. I don't recommend it...it's much harder to find a pattern to match your yarn, than it is to find a yarn to match your pattern! Anywho...)
This can be an understandably daunting task...I mean have you ever walked down a yarn aisle at a craft or fabric store? Yikes!
First off...You need to decide if your project is for you...or someone else. This decision plays a big part in determining which type of yarn you're going to use.
Know who you're creating for? Good. You can move onto Step 2.
The next thing I'm going to recommend has nothing to do with the type of yarn you want to use. The first thing you want to do is choose the color. Yarn comes in soooo many colors that it can be a little un-nerving to try and pick just one...but that's my first piece of advice. The color of the yarn is called a Colorway.
If you're making this for yourself you need to do some soul-searching:
What color is your favorite shirt? Pair of shoes? Pair of Earrings?
Chances are you wear your favorite color a lot...and it looks good on you...that's why it's your favorite. Right?
If you're making an item for someone else you need to consider the same things for them...Make sense? Basically you want to make something that you love...that looks good and that you'll actually use. For me color plays a huge role in that.
That's a good place to start when choosing which colorway you want to use!
You also need to make sure that you have enough yarn in the same dye-lot. The dye-lot is all the yarn dyed at the same time during the manufacturing process. Dye-lot differences may not be noticeable at the store...but they can make a huge difference in the finished look of a piece, so be sure you have all you need for a project before you begin.
Know which color you'd like to use? Good! Now you need to determine which kind of yarn you want, Step 3!
The first thing I do when choosing which type of yarn is to reference the pattern I'm using. Usually there is a guideline or suggestion of some sort about which yarn they used in the first place. Often-times it's a name brand yarn. But what if your local store doesn't carry that kind of yarn? Or what if it's waaaaay out of your price range?
That's when you have to get into your yarn-sleuthing mojo.
Yarn is typically categorized into different "weights." One of the best things about this is that the weights are becoming more universal, and so you can usually find the same or similar info on each label. This isn't a hard and fast rule...but most yarn companies in the US are using this labeling system right now.
Here are the basics:
Yarn weights are divided into SIX categories (each has a little icon associated with it and a recommended hook size, and most yarn packaging displays the icon prominently). Here's a little diagram that has the definition of each type...along with some common yarns that are typically found in those categories, and recommended hook sizes (I've used US terminology)
Know which weight you're gonna be using? Great! Now onto step 4!
(This is Rachel popping in for a moment--for our project, the Time Out Cowl, you'll want chunky or bulky yarn [a 5 or 6 on the chart up there] . . . bear that in mind as you read!)
You can use yarn that's a different weight than what is recommended for a pattern, but this usually means you'll need to adjust the number of rows, stitches or hook size. I'd say stick to what the pattern recommends until you're fairly experienced...You don't want to end up with a hat that's big enough for an elephant or a sweater for your kid's Barbie doll. Unless that's what you were going for...just sayin'.
Once you determine which color and weight you'd like to use you can choose which type of yarn you'd like...this is where the fiber contents come into play.
What do you pick? Wool? Cotton? Acrylic? Recycled Bamboo Soy Silk Blend?
It's fun to try out different fibers...they all have unique properties and style.
Personally, when I'm making items to give to others, I like to use yarns that are washable, colorfast (meaning they don't typically bleed when washed), don't itch or cause allergies, and are inexpensive but sturdy.
Shop for yarn when it's on sale. JoAnn's has a pretty good selection, and if you're on their mailing list they send you discount coupons frequently.
Once you have a handle on which types of yarn you like the feel and look of, you can also start buying yarn online. I try to shop online when stores are advertising a sale...and then try to combine the sale price with a coupon if possible. Sometimes you can get coupons for different types of yarn through the manufacturer's site. Sign up for newsletters and join their Facebook fanpages to get up-to-date deals. There are also sites, like Craftsy, that offer deals on yarn frequently. Check them out!
You can also save on yarn if you purchase yarn that is being discontinued or clearanced-out...be warned however that you'll need to make sure you have enough to finish your project, because you may not be able to get your hands on the same yarn again if it's being discontinued! I know from sad, sad experience.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
I hope you're not too overwhelmed now! :)
What yarn am I going to be using for the Crochet Along?
I'll be using Hobby Lobby's I Love This Yarn! in Hyacinth. It's so soft and is such a pretty color. In order to make it chunky enough for the pattern we're using I'll be using two strands of this yarn held together to make it double thick. Make sense? And see? I got it on clearance. Don't worry. I got four skeins, so I wouldn't run out! Woot.
Good luck with your yarn purchasing!!
Thank you, Sarah!
So do you have a better idea now of what you need for your project? You're going to walk into that yarn aisle with confidence, friend! Shoulders back, chin up!
Here's your shopping list for the weekend:
- yarn: for our project, you'll need to pick up chunky or bulky yarn, which should be labeled with a 5 or 6 as shown on the chart Sarah shared earlier. The pattern suggests we use Wool-Ease Thick & Quick Yarn, and says we'll need 3 balls (edited: sorry if I'm confusing you by calling them balls rather than skeins! Truth be told, I've never bought an actual ball of yarn, but it feels more natural to say that than "skein." So, for this project, 3 skeins it is!). Don't feel like you have to use that exact type of yarn--just find a bulky or chunky yarn that you love, and buy about 3 balls. I would also suggest, if you can, that you buy a worsted weight yarn to practice your stitches on so you don't use up any of your project yarn while you're learning the stitches! (Another option is to use worsted weight yarn, like Sarah, and simply hold 2 strands together while you work to make it as thick as needed for your cowl . . . this is a great option if you can't find a chunky yarn you're crazy about, but I would recommend only doing this if you already feel comfortable crocheting, as it has the potential to confuse you if this is your first time!)
- crochet hook: or, as Chelsea so elegantly put it in a recent comment, "a crotch-it stick". You're going to need one of these. The pattern suggests an N hook, which is pretty honkin' big, to handle the big thick yarn we'll be using. (Mini-crochet lesson: hooks are made in a huge variety of sizes and are classified by numbers and/or letters . . . the littler the number or letter, the smaller the hook [so a D hook is a dwarf compared to a behemoth Q hook]). If you're making an item that requires a good fit--a hat, a sweater, a sock--you need to pay close attention to hook size, as it will affect the size of your finished project. But on an item like a cowl, where fit/sizing isn't terribly important, you have some leeway. What I'm trying to say is if you already have a hook hanging around the house that's close to a size N (I would say one or two letters in either direction), there's no need to buy a new one! (edited: I'm leaving info out all over the place! Sorry. I would also suggest buying a second, smaller hook for practicing with, if you'll also be buying worsted weight yarn for practice. Something like a G, H, or I hook would work great just for practicing stitches on your worsted weight yarn.)
- big ol' needle: you won't be needing this until the very end of the crochet along when you're finishing up your cowl, but a tapestry needle/large eye blunt needle has an opening big enough to thread your fatty yarn through, and is used to weave in and hide the yarn ends when you finish your project.
All righty! Have fun shopping, thanks again to Sarah for sharing her yarny wisdom, and I'll see you on Monday for our first stitch lesson.