Sometimes is hard to find the right yarn for your project. Why? Because the yarn stores usually offer so much yarn. There are so many fibers, thicknesses, textures and colors of yarn. And the question is why there are so many types of yarn? And what is the right type of yarn for my project?
When I first started, I bought the yarn that I thought is in a nice color, soft and probably the right size for my taste. Red light! Wrong. Why? Because all of this and so much more is important. I’ve made a small research about yarn and simplify and combine all the information about it in one place.
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LET’S START FROM THE BEGINNING …
The yarn is packaged in three different shapes: in balls, skeins, and hanks. Balls are made up of yarn wound into a round shape, skeins are made up of yarn wound into an oblong shape and hanks are loose, twisted coils of yarn that you have to wound into balls before you start.
Yarn construction can be easily divided into two categories: traditional and novelty. Traditional yarn is spun by hand or today by machines and is often plied. Plying means spinning fibers together to form a single strand of yarn and twisting two or more strands together to create stronger and thicker yarn. Yarn with more twists is stronger and creates a denser, firmer fabric.
Novelty yarns include a variety of yarns made with unusual fiber composition such as inclusions, metallic or synthetic fibers. Novelty yarns can be used alone or combined with other yarns to create unique crocheted items.
WHAT IS YARN MADE OF?
The type of fiber that yarn is made of will impact on yarn behavior. The yarn can be made from natural or synthetic fibers. There are two types of natural fibers; plant and animal fibers.
The plant fibers are made from cellulose which is the main component of plant tissue. The garment made from the plant fibers are lightweight, breathable and absorb moisture very well. It’s also hypo-allergenic (that makes them a great choice for people who are allergic to animal fibers – wool). The only bad side of plant fibers is that garment made from plant fibers is not so warm as garments made from animal fibers because they do not provide so much insulation as yarn made from animal fibers. Plant fibers are made from plants such as cotton and hemp plant.
Animal fibers come from the coat of animals such as sheep, goats, and rabbits. They provide good insulation, which helps keep you warm in cold weather and cool in warm weather. Since the animal fibers are protein–based they are very vulnerable to moth larvae because larvae eat the protein base fiber. Animal fibers are soft, lightweight, absorbent and stretch resistant. Examples of animal fibers are wool (sheep, very popular, warm, elastic, resist wrinkling), alpaca (llama-like animal from South America, soft, silky, very warm, used for sweaters and scarves), angora (Angora rabbit, soft, delicate, warm, it tends to shed, expensive), cashmere (Cashmere goat, one of the softest, luxurious, resist stretching and wrinkling, very expensive), silk (silkworm cocoons, strong, not very resilient, special care required) and more.
On the other hand, we have a lot of man-made fibers produced from a chemical source and are usually quite inexpensive. Because they do not need special care they are a great choice for items that are frequently washed (blankets, sweaters). But be careful when ironing items made from man-made fiber, because they can easily lose their shape or even melt under too much heat. They are often not so warm, absorbent or elastic as natural fibers. Examples of man-made fibers are nylon (strong, often added to other fibers to prevent piling and provide durability), acrylic (lightweight and strong), metallic fibers (contain small amounts of metal to create yarn that sparkles and glitters, not very strong), novelty yarns (yarns with interesting textures and appearance, fun to use , but difficult to work with) and more.
The yarn is categorized by weight, simply the thickness of the yarn. Traditionally, yarn weight was named after the number of strands that were plied together to create the thickness of yarn, but with modern manufacturing technique, this isn’t the case anymore. All the good quality patterns would tell you which yarn weight you need because it affects the appearance of the item you crochet as well as how long the project will take to complete. Sometimes to determine the yarn weight could be a bit challenging because different manufacturers and different countries use their own names for each weight. Here are some of the most common weights. To complicate matters, yarn in the US and UK have a different weight labeling system.
Fingering Weight – also baby weight. Fine yarn, ideal for crocheting baby socks and slippers. But I do not use this type of yarn. It’s too thin for my taste. The final item is not so warm and cozy at the end. But great for socks if you ask me.
Sport yarn – a lightweight yarn, suitable for gloves, mittens and light sweaters. I love sport weight yarn. A lot of my patterns consider the sport yarn the right yarn for the final item. Baby booties made with sport yarn have a beautiful shape.
Double Knitting Weight (DK) – is a high to medium weight yarn that produces slightly heavier items than sport weight. I use it in my patterns too.
Knitting Worsted yarn – also called Worsted or Aran weight is the most common yarn weight. It’s medium to heavyweight and its super easy to use for beginners.
Bulky Weight – or Chunky Weight is a thick yarn. It’s very popular because you can finish the products very quickly. (My So Fluffy pattern)
Super Bulky Weight – or Extra Bulky, Very Bulky or Gigantic. It is the thickest yarn of all. Their bulkiness makes you easy to crochet/knit and very quickly finish the final item.
Like I have mentioned before. The yarn in the US and the yarn in the UK have different weight labels.
CHOOSING AND BUYING YARN
I won’t tell you that you should buy the most expensive yarn you can find in the store, but consider that more expensive is usually higher quality yarn. It is nicer to work with and the appearance and feel of the final item will be nicer. Very important is that yarn you will choose will be comfortable to wear, especially for babies. When I am choosing the right yarn for my baby items I always hold the yarn to the inner side of my wrist. The skin there is thin and very sensitive as baby skin. Always check the dye lot number on each package of yarn you buy for a project to make sure they are all the same color. Sometimes yarn color is different from the same yarn manufacturer because the yarn is dyed in different lots.
Check the pattern on how much yarn you will need if the pattern provides that. All of my patterns for baby booties do not need too much yarn. 50 grams, that is usually one skein of yarn of one color is more than enough.
Sometimes the pattern suggests the yarn you should use for your project. But you can change the yarn depending on the price, availability or simply your own preference. So if you decide to use another yarn you should be careful on the following: yarn weight, yarn length, recommended hook size and gauge! And if you are still in doubt ask the salesperson to help.
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Before you are purchasing the yarn you should carefully read what is written on a paper wrapped around the yarn. It will help you to decide if the yarn is actually suitable for your project or not.
What can the yarn label tell you (it’s different due to the country or manufacturers what is written on the yarn label, here are some options):
- Manufacturer’s name and address
- Brand name
- Fiber Content (the fiber the yarn is made of, I prefer 100% cotton yarn)
- Ply (the number of strands that have been twisted together to make yarn)
- Yarn Thickness (sport, DK, worsted …)
- Weight (actual yarn weight, 50 g , 1,76 oz)
- Yarn length (determine how long the yarn is; 105 meters, 115 yards )
- Suggested Hook size (more about crochet hooks here)
- Care instructions (sometimes in words, but most of the time with symbols, same as if you buy clothes)
- Color name and number
- Dye lot number
WHAT KIND OF YARN DO I USE?
When I first started crocheting, I was so confused about the yarn. I was choosing the yarn by appearance. And after hours and hours of work, when my item was finished, it was not the right size or stitches were too tight and the item was not so soft … Now I know that almost all the information about the yarn listed on the yarn label is important.
I prefer to use 100% cotton yarn. Why? It’s easy to use. Cotton is strong wet and dry there is no special care needed when washing it. It is perfect for baby clothes. Almost all of my patterns are made of cotton yarn. It shows the texture of stitches patterns clearly so it’s great for beginners too. You should try it if you didn’t yet. 🙂
Have a nice day and happy crocheting!