So it’s the New Year, 2020. Hard to believe. And the topic of the moment is “What resolutions have you made?” I’m not a resolution person myself, so that question inspires nothing in me but rebellion. I resolve to not make resolutions!

But, not making resolutions doesn’t mean I’m not constantly making goals for myself. I just don’t like to associate them with the start of a new year because I’m constantly reevaluating my goals to keep them current and in line with my progress.

One goal I’ve got laid out right now is to blog twice a week. Over the holidays, I slacked off a a little but, but the holidays are over and I’m back on track.

I also plan to release at least one new pattern per month which I started in December. That one is a little scary to me, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? So far I’ve been a lot of talk and a little action. I need to make that more action and less talk. 🙂

Also this…
You can almost hear them purring, can’t you?

So, what’s on your list of goals these days? Anything yarn related?

Until fairly recently, if you wanted a variety of colors in a project, a basic crocheter was limited to two varieties of color changes variegated yarn or manual changes.

Variegated yarn has short color changes which generally repeat regularly and produces irregular color changes, sometimes pooling in one patch of your finished fabric. Pooling is a term used for the way variegated yarn can line up and with careful planning can be used to create beautiful plaid fabrics. This technique is called “planned pooling, and we will explore this in a later post.

This photo below shows a short color changing yarn in a ball and in the finished cabled fabric.

You can see the short stretches of light color in the ball and they show up as just lighter areas in the fabric. And the darker stretches do the same thing. You end up with a lightly mottled effect which is beautiful, especially when contrasted with solids or very similarly colored variegated yarns.

A longer color change produces a very different result. This yarn has long, almost striping length color changes. The changes are blended well, unlike some other striping yarns (which change abruptly, sometimes in the middle of a stitch!) but you get a fun contrast of many colors with just one ball.

This yarn is also presented in a really fun way so you see the clusters of color as they will stripe! It worked really well in this sweater below. This is not the identical colorway, but it’s the same yarn. The stripes are probably about 30 yards or maybe a little bit more. Enough that you can definitely make a pair of socks that stripe nicely, and probably some nice stripes on a sweather, but stripes would be very thin and may not extend the full width of larger projects, like a shawl or afghan.

Notice how the petals are striped and the ribbed area has a more ombre effect. Long, gradual color changes produce both of these variations with the stitchwork accenting them in different ways.

Recently, the hottest trend is extremely long, gradual color changes. These color changes happen over a 100 yard length or even more. These are generally four ply yarns (in several different weights) and the colors are changed very gradually, one ply at a time so it can be very hard to determine where the change happens once a project is finished.

This example has some pretty dramatic changes so you can get an idea of what that really looks like. Look at where the blue and lavender meet. There are some strands that almost appear candy striped. It does not look that dramatic in a finished project though.

This is an example of an ombre version of that yarn. It goes from black to white and then I bordered it with more black. You don’t really see where the change happens, but the overall effect is fabulous!

This is not the finished version of this shawl. I hope to have it released soon in it’s final version though!

So you can see, there are a number of variations on color changing yarn. I am not fond of the cakes of yarn that are sold with abrupt color changes. The aesthetic just doesn’t work for me. I find myself constantly staring at the one stitch where the change happened and it bugs me immensely. But, the colors and availability of that yarn are hard to resist! If you’re like me and that stitch will bother you, you can always cut the yarn at the end of a row when you think there isn’t enough of the same color to finish another row and start the new color early. It’s much easier on the eyes to have stripes start with a new row than interrupt another row.

Hope that’s helpful! Happy Hooking!

Omg, what has taken me so long to try this yarn??? It has instantly become my new favorite. Maybe it’s the cold weather, but it has totally renewed my love for wool.

First, it has amazing stitch definition. I’m remaking a scarf in a pattern I developed last year using a locally made hand spun and dyed yarn. The scarf has cables framing the center and they just pop right off the background.

Popping cables!

Next it comes in a rainbow of colors. It’s rare to find a high quality yarn with such a wide range of shades. LoveCrafts stocks 51 colors and has it on sale right now for $5.85. It’s typically $6.50 and doesn’t go on sale often.

But, the reason I adore this yarn is because it’s so soft and squishy. Like wrap yourself in wool and feel the lovely texture against your skin soft. It’s amazing on my hook, sliding smoothly and evenly. It is a tiny bit splitty but the stitches are so crisp I’ve caught any splits quickly.

I’m so excited to work with it I’ve already ordered more and have a turtle themed shawl planned to make with it. I can’t wait!

If you order from LoveCrafts, mention my name in the referral and you’ll get 15% off, as will I, so it’s a win/win!

Happy Hooking!

Yarn comes in so many varieties. We’ve talked about size of yarn and matching yarn to your pattern, but just because yarn is the same size as a pattern calls for it isn’t always the best choice for every pattern.

So, what are the qualities or characteristics of yarn? How can you really hone in on what makes a yarn work in a certain pattern?

Fiber content, ply, twist, feel, drape, sheen, elasticity, memory, resiliency, non pill – these are all words we use to describe yarn. And there are many MANY more!

Fiber Content generally breaks down into three categories

  • animal based fibers
  • plant based
  • synthetics

Animal based fibers are wools of all types: sheeps wool (merino, highland, natural, cashmere, mohair, among others. They are essentially the hair or fur of an animal that is harvested while the animal is still alive, cleaned and spun into the product we call yarn. Silk is also an animal fiber, although considerably less allergenic than most other animal fibers.

Plant based fiber is exactly what it sounds like, fibers derived from plants like cotton, hemp or linen. These yarns are exclusively plant grown fibers that are spun into yarn in a variety of methods and blends.

Synthetic fibers are just about everything else. They are not found in nature, but that’s not entirely a bad thing. They are chemically processed and blended to create yarn. You can also find semi-synthetics like bamboo, which fall in this category.

No matter what the fiber content, yarn is spun out and several things happen next. It can be spun into very fine threads which are then grouped together and turned into a larger strand called plied yarn. These plies can be either twisted or not twisted forming different styles of plied yarn. Twisted yarns are easier to work with in general, as it’s (mostly) easy to grab all the plies at once with your hook. If the loosely twisted, yarn is sometimes called splitty which means you might grab only two or three out of four plies, leaving uncaught loops in your finished product. If yarn is tightly twisted it might be kind of stiff and harder to work with. This can affect drape which describes how a finished product hugs the curves and edges of your body.

Yarn can also come in one large strand, and this is called roving. This is not to be confused with roving that spinners use, so be sure that you are actually buying yarn, and not a fiber which will become yarn later.

You can also find core spun yarn. This is yarn where the enter core might be different than what’s on the outside. These usually, but not always, involve a synthetic fiber of some sort with a mesh or other strands containing or entwined in the core fiber. Chenille is a common example, and you can actually see the core fibers holding the softer, velvet fibers in place.

So, when would you choose each of those qualities? And why? What is the different effect?

These are HUGE questions and I’ll be going into more details, updating links in this post, as I expand upon these answers.

For now, Happy Hooking!

Up until about 5 years ago, I was exclusively a big box yarn user. I had my favorites, but I never really understood why anyone would pay more than $5 for yarn.

And then I got my first hank of ArtYarns Milano, a yarn distributed by the former Craftsy (now BluPrint, they no longer sell yarn). It was 100% merino wool and a sport weight. Two things I’d never worked with. I’d always thought of wool as scratchy and unpleasant. And sport weight seemed so tiny compared to the yarns I’d worked with before!

I fell in love. The shawl I made is still one of my favorites. It’s a basic pineapple lace shawl and I finally understood why my projects were so bulky and cumbersome before.

Yarn Matters. And, when you limit yourself to big box stores (like I did), you’re missing out on a world of fabulous yarn.

Don’t get me wrong, I still spend way too much money at Michael’s, JoAnns, AC Moore and occasionally Hobby Lobby. There is some great yarn available at these stores. Durable, colorful, easy to acquire… it definitely fills a need. But sometimes you want something special and unique. That’s where small yarn shops really come in handy.

Your local yarn store is a great resource for finding new yarns, new friends, new patterns, fun buttons, notions, all things yarn related. A lot of yarn shops have crochet and knitting groups that meet regularly too! My area has between 5 and 9 small shops (depends on how far you’re willing to consider “my area”). Every spring, all 9 participate in a “yarn crawl” event and I go around and visit them all. I normally set a small budget for each store to buy something little and do my part to support small businesses.

Does your area have a yarn crawl? Check it out if so! It’s a lot of fun!

Understanding what yarn a pattern uses

So you have a pattern you want to make but how do you decide what yarn to use?

The simplest, most reliable method is to stick to the yarn the pattern recommends. The designer made this pattern with a certain yarn in mind so if you use what they recommend, your results will be the closest to the finish product.

Let’s take a look at my Sea Turtle Baby Tank published in the April 2018 issue of I Like Crochet Magazine. Isn’t she precious? Don’t you love that little turtle on her shoulder?

I had summer babies in Florida. My kids rarely wore anything that wasn’t lightweight and breathable. So, I chose this yarn with that in mind. It’s soft for babies, and has an airy design. It drapes nicely, has good stitch definition but doesn’t stretch out and become misshapen with wash or wear.

In this image, you can see what the pattern says to use for the yarn. Now, you’re always free to use a different yarn, but when you use the yarn that a designer used, a lot of the work is already done for you.

Materials for Sea Turtle Baby Tank

In this pattern, I used Loops & Threads Woolike yarn. It’s an inexpensive yarn easily available at all Michael’s stores or online.

You can see that this is a Super Fine yarn, by the yarn symbol with a 1, as well as the words undernath Super Fine. This yarn only comes in 100gram balls, and you will need less than one ball for each colorway you use. It uses one each of Navy, Ice Blue, Tan, and Sage.

In the parenthesis after each color name, you see the abbreviations MC, CC1, CC2, CC3 used. Those tell you how the colors are referred to in the pattern. And, after the abbreviations, you see numbers like this 1(1,1,1)ball. This means that you use 1 ball to achieve each size.

And, that’s really it! If you want to substitute yarns, it gets more complicated, but we’ll discuss that when we go over gauge and sizing. That’s when things really get fun!

Keep on Hooking!

Reading Yarn Labels

Yarn labels come in many varieties. Some have tons of information and you just don’t know what to make of it, some has just the basics, and then most are somewhere in between.

Red Heart Soft label

Let’s start with this label by Red Heart. It’s their Soft line. We’ll talk about the quality and texture of this line in another post, so let’s just focus on the label here.

This is the main part of the label, the part that’s on display in stores. I’ve diagrammed the label below.

Red Heart Soft Label diagrammed

You can see the logo, the weight of the ball in both ounces and grams, the dye lot (there is none), the length of the ball in yards and meters, what size knitting needles are recommended in US terms and metric, and the name of the color.

But wait! There’s more!

Detailed Red Heart Soft Label with Symbols

This is the important part when it comes to care instructions. At the top we we see the yarn weight which we discussed here. And next to that we find the knitting and crochet information.

Yarn Gauge Symbol

There’s a lot of information in that little square! You know this is the one for crochet people because of the hook in the center of the square. I’ll go into more detail in another post, but for now let’s just discuss the information as it’s presented.

Across the top and on the left side you see the size of a square that you should make to determine gauge. On the right side is the number of rows you will need to make to achieve that size square, and on the bottom is how many and why type of stitches you make.

The center of the square is the recommended hook size in US terms and metrics. This is just a guideline though. You can use whatever size you need to achieve gauge, or if you want a different effect, you can also change the size. Crochet is art! You do what makes you happy.

Below that is the care and use information.

Care information

From the left, you see a wash symbol with a number and two lines under it. 80 represents a cool wash or sometimes you will see this as a single dot, 90-104 (or 2 dots) represent a warm wash, and anything over 130 (or 3 dots) represents a hot wash. The two lines under the wash symbol indicate a gentle cycle. If there are no lines underneath, you can use a regular cycle. When in doubt, always use cold water and a gentle cyclewith your handmade items! Or better, wash by hand.

Next to that is the dryer symbol, which follows a similar system – 1 dot is tumble dry on low heat, 2 dots is medium heat, and 3 is high heat. If you see an X over this symbol it means dry flat and do not put in the dryer. You might also see two lines under this symbol, which means a gentle cycle in the dryer. When in doubt, dry flat!

The next symbol is ironing. For this yarn, there is an X over the symbol which means do not iron. This symbol can also have the dots inside, which indicate low, medium, or high heat, as with the dryer.

The triangle represents bleach. It’s rare to find a yarn that can be bleached, so you will typically see that big X over the triangle. But, sometimes it will be an empty triangle which means bleach is safe, or it will have two black stripes inside which means non chlorine bleach, like oxy clean, only.

And the final symbol is for dry cleaning. A means any solvent, P means any solvent execept trichlorethylene, and F means petroleum solvent only. Again, this symbol might have an X which indicates it cannot be dry cleaned.

Fiber content

The final bit of information on this label is fiber content. This one is 100% Acrylic. This is important for a number of reasons. We’ll talk about different types of fiber, how they behave, and why you would choose them later in this series.

Okay! Here’s a couple other labels just to see other ways you might see yarn represented.

Loops & Threads Label

This is more compact. You see the logo, with the yardage and weight right below, followed by information for a pattern that is included on the label presumably. There is a crochet hook with the recommended size and that’s about it. The yarn content was listed on the back, with the care instructions.

This is also 100% acrylic. It’s a light weight yarn, size 3, and it’s recommended that you use a 4mm or USG hook. This can be washed in warm water on a gentle cycle, dried on low heat in a gentle dryer. It should not be ironed, bleached, or dry cleaned.

Here’s another one from a small yarn maker that I love. Frequently smaller companies have less information on their labels, but the important stuff is sill there!

This is from Fairy Tale Knits. It’s a blended yarn, with 80% Superwash Merino, 10% Cashmere, and 10% Nylon. It is 435 yards, and weighs 3.5 oz. The weight is Fingering, which we know from our chart is a SuperFine yarn, or will have a yarn symbol of 1 in some patterns. It should be washed by hand and laid flat to dry.

Whew! That was a lot of information. Hope it cleared things up and we will continue this series soon!

Craft Yarn Council Yarn Chart

So let’s talk about the thing that is overwhelming our houses, our thoughts, our hands…. Yarn! It comes in all colors, sizes, textures, shapes, even temperatures! So, what does it all mean?

First let’s look at the official chart from the Craft Yarn Council.

Source: Craft Yarn Council’s

There’s a lot of information in that chart and it can be hard to understand when we don’t all use the same language. Craft Yarn Council has helped us out a lot by standardizing these terms as much as possible, but it’s not foolproof. Some manufacturers use different terms, most stick to these guidelines as much as possible.

Looking at the top of the chart, you see these symbols:

These symbols are generally on every yarn label you will purchase. Small manufacturers may not always use them, but any large manufacturer will have one of these symbols somewhere. The number in the center of the image should be consistent with the word in the top of the image. Jumbo yarn is 7, Fine yarn is 2, for examples. Unfortunately, these terms are not always consistent in all patterns. I follow the Craft Yarn Council’s guidelines, but not everyone does, especially when you’re dealing with international manufacturers. So, you will sometimes see the following terms in patterns:

So you can see that Lace weight yarn can also be called fingering yarn, or even crochet thread! But, then – even more confusing – Super Fine yarn is also sometimes called fingering yarn. These terms are not consistent, but we do our best to explain them as well as we can as designers. And there are people working to make this more consistent.

So, how do you know if the yarn you chose will give you the desired results from a project? Gauge! That’s a whole lengthy post in itself, but we’ll discuss it briefly.

What this means is that to create a 4 inch strip of single crochet stitches with , for example, Worsted Weight yarn, you will need between 11 and 14. To measure this accurately, I would recommend you chain 20 stitches, turn, and start single crocheting across starting with the second chain until you have 4 inches. This will undoubtedly curl, but do your best to lay it flat and measure. Note that with Fingering Weight yarn, it’s recommended to use double crochets.

Okay, so you want to do that, but how do you know what size hook to use?

Thank goodness, hook sizes are pretty consistent. And, most of them have a letter AND a metric size to help make sure you’re using the right size. The most reliable sizing is metric, but check both. Note that Fingering Weight is a little wonky here again – you might use one size in a steel hook (a special hook designed for using thread, mainly to make lace or filet) and another size in a regular hook.

So, hopefully that clears up any confusion about that chart. In future posts, we’ll break down yarn labels, what kind of fiber is good for what kind of project, why you choose one weight over another, and tons more!