|Wibra yarn (acrylic)|
I will try to keep this as simple as possible since the amount of types, brands, thickness and colours of yarns is overwhelming!
In the world of yarn most used materials for yarn are wool, cotton and acrylic. Wool comes from sheep (but there are different types of wool such as alpaca from llama’s, angora from rabbits etc), cotton from plants and acrylic is made from plastic. There are ribbon yarns, textile yarns, metallic yarns etc etc. Each material has its own pro’s and cons. And there are lots of discussions on the net on “what you should use”or not Well, not over here!. I am a yarn addict and like all kinds of yarns (and hate some yarns) but I choose them with my project in mind.
In my opinion, wool is more for the small items, the luxury kind, and as a gift only for persons who know how to take care of wool. I absolutely adore sock yarn for different types of projects (lace shawls, socks), I think it is the type of yarn I use the most. It is warm, it is stretchy and has a lovely soft feel. I absolutely adore working with wool.
|My Rowan Handknit Cotton stash|
I use cotton for more sturdy or summery projects such as toys, amigurumi, bags etc. I like that it comes in so many thicknesses and so many colours, but I cannot do long hooky sessions with cotton because of the tennis elbow. But I do like the finish of cotton items. I really do! I just grit my teeth and do small hooky sessions.
|Color wheel fun!|
Acrylic is the type of yarn I would use for baby items (for giving away), toys, blankets, everything that will used frequently and around kids. Acrylic yarn is a bit of a buitenbeentje as it is not natural or not as breathing as wool. But it really has its purpose. I love to use it in blankets. Easy to wash, easy to care for, and will last forever! And it is cheap. I made two blankets thus far and I think I would be more careful with these blankets if they were wool. Now I can lay them on the couch and not worry about kids or pets putting dirty hands or nails on them.
There are various types and thickness of yarns. Most yarns come in superthin thread or superbulky thread. They are either sold in balls or in skeins. Skeins are yarns stored in “figure-eight” form and balls, well, are balls. Balls can be used immediately, skeins have to be wound in balls (either by hand or with a yarn winder).
|Two different strands of cotton yarn|
Yarns differ so much in appearance. There are yarns made from the same material that look totally different from eachother if you would compare their strands togethers. Some types of yarn are highly twisted, some yarns are made of a single ply (or more), and with some yarn the strand itself consists of tiny strands. For example, cotton can look twisted like a rope, very splitty with tiny threads or very glossy when it is mercerized. Together with the material it has been made of, how the strands of yarn are made have a huge impact on how your finished hooky project will look.
And then there is thickness of the yarn.The most commonly used terms for thickness are (from thin to thick): thread, lace, sock, sport, dk, worsted, aran, bulky and superbulky. Each thickness corresponds with a crochet hook size. For example worsted weight yarn can be crocheted best with a hooksize 4 mm or 4.5 mm. The easiest thing to do is take a pattern, look at the recommended yarn and the recommended hook size.
Yarns come in a variety of colours and shades. Uni colours, self-striping, heathered, handdyed etc. A huge array of methods of dying can be done with yarn and ofcourse will have effect on the outcome of your crochet project.
A tiny bit on gauge
Now comes the fun part: how to find the right yarn?
For example: A pattern states as recommended yarn Lorna Laces Shepherd Sock yarn. It also says gauge is not important. The yarn is sold in skeins of 55 grams and 197 meters. Let’s say the pattern says you need two skeins. This is a total of 394 meters. The recommended needle size is 2.25 mm to 2.5 mm. A standard sock yarn. This means for this pattern you can use any kind of sock yarn you want. Substituting is easy when you are making “any gauge any yarn” patterns.
|A ball band with on the left gauge information|
On the other hand, there are lots of patterns that do want a certain kind of gauge. Here comes two important things together. You need to check both yarn type and the hook size. Most ball bands (if you want to substitute yarn or hook) say what kind of needle goes best with the yarn. The ball band also tells you what kind of gauge (how many rows and how many stitches in a 4” by 4” swatch) you get with the recommend hook size for the yarn you are holding. You really have to match!
Another example: Let’s say you found a pattern for a kids sweater. It tells you to use a dk weight yarn and recommends hook size 4 mm. I would immediately use Wibra Saskia yarn (a lot like Red Heart Super Saver, cheapo and very sturdy yarn) since it is a dk weight yarn and recommended hook size on the ball band is 3.5 mm to 4 mm. Now the last thing I need to do is actually get gauge. The recommended hook size of the pattern is a guideline. I need to make a swatch (yes, an evil swatch) to see if I get the same gauge as the pattern author with both the yarn I chose and the 4 mm.
For beginners I really recommend choosing patters where gauge is not important. I leave the whole gauge discussion for now and will talk about it a bit later. I will try to write a pattern with gauge to let you practice.
How to hold yarn
For crocheting, the most common way to hold the yarn is in your left hand. The crochet hook you hold in your right hand. For lefties, here is a link with a tutorial for left hand hooky fun.
How to hold the yarn is to each his own. The thing is, you need to twist the yarn around something to get some tension. It can be either one, two or three fingers. My preferred method is around my index finger. In this way I can pick up the yarn easily, but I also know in this way may tension is very loose. So that is why I always go down a couple of hook sizes to get gauge.
This was a fun post to write. For the upcoming parts I will please ask you to be patient. I am in the process of making and writing the patterns/projects to accompany the following parts of the course. I will post as soon as possible.