Yarn. Easily the absolute best part of crochet, and also the most overwhelming part of crochet for beginners! With all of the different colors, sizes, textures, and prices, it’s super easy to get confused and even frustrated, but I promise that as you learn more about yarn, you will become just as addicted as I am!
How is Yarn Sold? Yarn Packaging
If you have already explored the yarn isles in any craft store then I’m sure you’ve noticed that yarn can be packaged in several different ways. There’s no “good” or “bad” packaging technique, but the way it’s packaged will tell you a lot about the yarn itself.
What is a Ball?
A ball of yarn is one of the most recognizable types of yarn packaging – this is the way that yarn is typically portrayed in cartoons. Most yarns that you will find in chain craft stores will be sold as a ball or a skein. A ball of yarn is literally that, yarn rolled up into a spherical ball. Balls of yarn can be easy to use as they do not tangle very easily and if you use something like a yarn bowl, then crocheting with a yarn ball will be even easier!
What is a Skein?
A skein is the majority of the yarn packaging at any major craft store. It is similar to a ball of yarn but is formed into an oblong, oval shape. Some skeins will unravel from the outside, and some can be pulled from one side and it will unravel from the inside. Once you find the end of the yarn, it will become apparent which type of skein it is. I’ve also noticed that while using skeins, as you near the end and the skein begins losing its shape, it is more likely to start tangling but by winding the remaining yarn into a ball, you can avoid the tangling.
What is a Hank?
A hank of yarn is typically what you will find in your local specialty yarn shops. Yarn that has been wound into a hank is more often than not, high-quality yarn. It is wound this way to allow the dye to reach all parts of the yarn without it tangling up. When you buy a hank of yarn you will have to untwist it and wind it into a ball or cake. If you try to crochet from the twisted hank, you will have SOOO many tangles and will quickly become frustrated. Below I show what a twisted and an untwisted hank looks like. I’ve also included a few photos showing what it looks like as you wind your hank into a ball.
What is a Cake?
A “cake” of yarn is named for the shape it’s wound into. A cake! They are wound up in a criss-cross pattern forming a uniform cylindrical shape. These are easy to store and crochet from as they unwind from the outside in a clockwise or counterclockwise fashion and BONUS – they won’t roll around on you as you crochet! Cake yarn is often variegated, which means it has more than one color in an ombre effect. The way it’s packaged allows you to see every color in the order it will unwind.
Is there a difference between knitting or crocheting yarn??
Nope! Any type of yarn can be used for crochet!
Which Type of Yarn Should I Use?? Fiber Content
Your choice of yarn will determine the overall look of your crochet project. There are certain types of yarn that might be perfect for one project, but not for another. There are three types: Natural, Synthetic, and Blended. You may even need to choose a type of yarn based on an allergy, for example, if you are making a scarf for a friend who is allergic to wool, you definitely want to stay away from wool yarns, including wool blends!
Natural fibers can come from plants or animals.
Here are some common natural animal fibers:
- Alpaca – very fine, soft fibers from alpacas
- Silk – lush fiber from silkworms
- Cashmere – silky and soft, expensive fibers from cashmere goats
- Mohair – hairy yarn from angora goats
- Wool – warm and durable, many types of wool yarn
Here are some common natural plant fibers:
- Linen – strong, stiff yarn, typically blended with other fibers
- Bamboo – soft, luxurious yarn made with bamboo grass
- Cotton – “cool” yarn, an inelastic yarn made from the cotton plant
Synthetic fibers are man-made and they are generally inexpensive and easy to care for.
Here are some common synthetic fibers:
Blended yarn is simply natural fibers mixed with synthetic fibers. In a lot of the major chain craft stores, you can find a lot of acrylic and wool blended yarn.
As I mentioned above, certain types of yarn will be better than others, depending on your project. Acrylic yarn is the most versatile of them all, it’s what you will find at any craft store. It’s easy to wash, it holds up well, and it’s inexpensive. You can use acrylic yarn for blankets, home decor, and more. Wool yarn and wool blends are great for winter items such as mittens, hats, and scarves. Cotton yarn is a “cooler” yarn that is great for summer projects, baby projects, and more!
How Do I Read a Yarn Label??
Just like any clothing label, yarn labels contain importa\ant information. Everything you need to know about your yarn will be listed on the label. Keep in mind that not all yarn labels will look the same, but they will all contain the same valuable information. Now we are going to break down this label piece by piece.
- Yarn’s Brand Name (1) – This is pretty self-explanatory. The label will tell you which brand name the yarn belongs to.
- Yarn’s Collection Name (2) – This is also pretty self-explanatory, a lot of brands have collections, this one above is the “Cupcake” collection.
- Length and Weight of Yarn (3) – This is where you will see how much yarn you have. You will see the length in meters and yards, and the weight in grams and ounces. **Please note that the thickness is also referred to as “weight” **
- Care Information (4) – Important care information specific to that yarn
- Fiber Content (5) – The type of fiber or yarn content is what the yarn is made of. As seen in the photo above, this yarn is 100% acrylic
- Yarn Weight Category (6) – The number given is on a scale from 0 (thinnest) to 7 (thickest) according to the Craft Yarn Council Standards. This will give you a rough idea of the yarn’s thickness.
- Gauge and Hook Information (7) – This part of the label shows the suggested hook size to use and the gauge that should go along with it. However, everyone’s gauge will be different, depending on how loose or tight you crochet. I personally, ignore the gauge. For the hook size, this is a suggestion NOT a rule.
- Yarn Preview (8) – Since I chose a variegated yarn (multiple colors), my yarn label is displaying what the yarn will look like when crocheted/knit. Not all variegated yarn labels will have this
- Color Name and Number (9) – Pretty handy when using yarn brands that have similar colors, as you can see, this yarn color is “tundra”
- Dye Lot (6) – Yarn is dyed in batches, called “dye lots”. If you are working on a project such as a blanket, you will want to ensure that all of your skeins are from the same dye lot. While this is not always the case, some dye lot color differences can be pretty drastic!
Yarn Weight?? Explained
The MOST important thing to understand about yarn is that they come in many different weight categories. If you want to read everything I know about yarn weight, check out my other post. For now, here is a summary of the Craft Yarn Council’s Yarn Weight Standards.
The thinnest yarn is considered to be “lace” (0) and the thickest is “jumbo” (7). For beginners, I would suggest starting with a “medium” weight yarn (4) as it is the most widely available and is the easiest to work with. Medium weight yarn is also referred to as “aran” or “worsted weight”.