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Choosing the Right Yarn

Yarn shopping is an exciting adventure, but is there a logical way to choose yarn? Good news – Yes, there is! With these tips, you’ll always choose the best yarn or thread for your crochet project. The right yarn will elevate your design and highlight the beautiful crochet stitches that you create.

The yarn selection is where the creative process begins. So, let’s start with a basic definition of yarn and some yarn management techniques. Soon, you will be well-equipped choose yarn for your crochet project.

What is Yarn?

Yarn is a continuous, often plied strand used in crocheting, weaving, knitting, and similar textile techniques. Yarn is either natural fibers such as wool or cotton, or human-made fibers, like acrylic. 

The fibers become strands, also known as plies. These strands are twisted to create a stronger, thicker, string of the selected material. 

Yarn is sold as a skein or a hank. Skeins and hanks are the twisted yarn of a single long strand. The skein is then rolled into balls either by hand or by using a yarn swift and yarn ball winder.

Benefits of a Yarn Swift

A yarn swift eliminates many frustrating moments when working with an inside pull strand from a hank or a skein. The yarn swift separates the strands and allows you to inspect the quality of the yarn.

When transferring yarn onto the swift, look for any small knots from the manufacturer where strands were tied together. There may be weak points where the yarn strand thicknesses are inconsistent. Also, look for fiber knots while you pull the strands straight and onto the swift.

The yarn swift’s primary purpose is to prepare the yarn before using the yarn winder to create a yarn ball.

Benefits of a Yarn Winder

yarn winder is a mechanical tool for moving the untangled yarn from the swift into a neat ball. The investment you make in this preparation time will save hours of frustration and heartache during your crochet project. Imagine being a few dozen hours into a project only to discover a setback due to a flaw in the yarn. This preparation time with the yarn swift and yarn winder is critical to your success. And really, not that much of a time investment.

Choose the Best Yarn

Before you choose the yarn, crochet hook, and other tools, it is essential to read through the pattern. As you read, recognize that the pattern is specific to the yarn brand and yarn weight used by the designer or pattern author. Crochet patterns are recipes for the final creation and indicate the brand and weight recommendation for the yarn and the proper crochet hook size. These are the ingredients and appliances to produce your masterpiece. Color choices may be important as well, depending on the type of pattern and your personal preferences. 

While there may be some flexibility if you prefer a different yarn brand, use the same type of fiber and yarn weight as in the pattern. If you select acrylic yarn instead of wool, your valuable work may turn out different than what you intended!

It is crucial to make a swatch with the yarn and hook that you will use for the pattern. For years, I ignored this best practice, and wasted many hours with rework. Setting the correct gauge with a sample (before starting the actual product piece) verifies the correct overall sizing.

The gauge indicates the expected sizing, but everyone has a different tightness to crocheting, and while this differs for each person, it may also vary each day. To compensate for differences, simply adjust your crochet hook size. Move to a larger crochet hook if your swatch sample is smaller than the pattern recommendation. Move to a smaller hook if your swatch sample is larger than the pattern.  

Yarn Weight

Yarn weight is a number that appears (usually) on the paper band that wraps around the yarn. The numbers were established by the Craft Yarn Council of America. These weights range from 0 (lace weight) to the latest new category number 7, which is the super thick jumbo yarns.

Many patterns specify the recommended yarn by weight number, making it easy to select a weight of yarn that is consistent with the designer’s intentions.

How Much Yarn Do I Need?

As mentioned above, skeins of yarn are measured in weight, not yards. Why? Large manufacturing companies usually label the skeins with both ounces and grams. Smaller or more regional yarn production facilities may use the measurement that is typical for their geographic area. The yarn thickness (as shown on the weight chart) determines how much yarn is in each skein. For this reason, yardage is generally not on the packaged label.

The thickness will be listed on the label as either a number or description (superfine, fine, light, medium, bulky, etc.) along with a crochet hook size recommendation. Labels may mention a gauge or tension. It’s common to see a reference to a 4″ X 4″ swatch that will equal a certain number of rows and stitches at the recommended crochet hook size. The sample swatch guides you to a decision on whether this yarn is appropriate for your project and whether the recommended hook size works for your unique tension.

Types of Yarn

Crochet Thread

This thin thread is good for delicate projects such as lacework, doilies, or bed coverings. Filet crochet stitches highlight the elegant nature of this thread.

Acrylic Yarn

Acrylic yarn is mass-manufactured from petroleum products and replicates the look and of natural fibers. This is the most commonly available type of yarn and is offered at the lowest price point for yarn. Some crochet crafters prefer this yarn as it is hypoallergenic, a benefit for those with allergies triggered by natural fibers in cotton yarn and wool yarn.

Cotton Yarn

Cotton yarn is wonderfully versatile and readily available in craft stores or through online shops. It is a soft and breathable fiber and cotton yarn readily absorbs vibrant dye colors. Historians have discovered cotton fabric fragments back to 6000 BC in Peru, and in other locations in more recent centuries. The cotton gin machinery changed everything. Production costs were lowered and cotton fibers became more readily available for production into nature fiber cloth.

Although cultivated since antiquity, it was the invention of the cotton gin in the 1700s that lowered the cost of production that led to its widespread use, and it is the most widely used natural fiber cloth in clothing today.

Wool Yarn

Wool yarn is another natural fiber but sourced from animals instead of plants. This fiber is highly elastic and easy to work with, except for those with allergies or who find the scratchiness of the fiber to be irritating to the skin. The good news is that many wool products are wonderfully soft and easy to hold.


Dye Lot

As manufacturers create individual yarn skeins, they dye the yarn, usually in large volumes with a single color of dye. The “dye lot number” refers to the batch of dye that was used on the specific vat of yarn. The dye lot number is on the label and may be listed as the color number or just the lot number. This is not the same as the color name. Yarn with the same color name can differ visually if the dye lots are slightly different. Trust in the dye lot numbers, even if you do not see a difference when holding two similar skeins in your hands.

For yarn that uses dye lots, the lot number will be located on the label, near the description of the color. When shopping online, look for the dye lot number in the product description and confirm that the company will guarantee the same dye lots for your order. If you are purchasing from a local spinner, confirm with the seller that the yarn was in a single batch, particularly if the yarn was hand-dyed. This process requires specific communication about yardage that you need, yardage in the batch, and it there is a match.

Finally, there are situations where the yarn is sold with an indication of “No Dye Lot” on the label. This designation is used for colors that are typically well-known with little variation, like white or black, for example. The Red Heart Super Saver yarn is sold with no dye lot in several different colors. 

Check the pattern before stitching with inconsistent dye lot skeins and be aware of color variations as you work.

It’s Time to Choose the Yarn

These tips on yarn fibers, dye lots, and yarn preparation are essential for when you choose yarn. Whether you buy online, at a big box retailer, or from a local farmer’s market, you are now equipped with the knowledge you need.

Use these tips to ask the right questions, provide the correct information to the store clerk, and, in the end, select the ideal yarn for your next (or first) crochet project.  While shopping for yarn, consider these other essential tools for crochet success.



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