A happy encounter in a yarn shop today with a couple of new crocheters has prompted this quick little article about the importance of yarn choice for beginners.
When I first learned to crochet and knit I was mesmerized by the absolutely luscious colors and textures of yarn (come to think of it, I still am!). I immediately succumbed to the temptation and spent ungodly amounts on the most beautiful varieties- luxurious chunky, homespun, textured and fuzzy, deep jewel tones and variegated (mixed colors)- I wanted them all. Like most fiber addicts, I now have a enough to fill several storage rooms at least.
While I don’t regret it, it didn’t necessarily make my life easier- the yarns, although beautiful, were harder to learn on than the simpler, more “boring” varieties… The complexities of texture, color and irregularities in thickness often made it harder to “read” (see) if I was doing the stitches correctly. For an eye new to the needling world, comparing what I saw on my hook to what was in the book was infuriatingly hard to do.
I since have adopted a new tactic. When first learning a new stitch or technique, I follow a simple set of guidelines for selecting my “learning yarns”. These yarns may not be the beauties of my collection, but they have a couple of important advantages:
1. Their clean lines and basic colors help make the process of learning more straightforward.
2. They’re cheap.
So, without further ado:
Top 3 factors: Yarn Choice for Beginning Crochet (& knit)
1. Yarn Weight: Not only is there a large variety of yarn colors, but also a wide array of thicknesses. This is referred to as yarn weight.When choosing your own “learning yarn” you should pay attention to the weight. You don’t want to go too thick or too thin:
Avoid Thinner yarns- such as lace, sock and sport weight- These are almost maddeningly thin- leading to a couple of problems for beginners… First, due to the smaller size of the yarn, it takes forever to get anything done. This can be very discouraging for a beginner. Second, the thinner yarn leads to smaller stitches, which can be much harder to see- and remember- when you are first learning, you want to see your mistakes!
Work with worsted weight yarns (10 ply in the UK)- These medium weight yarns are very versatile- you can use them for just about anything from scarves and baby afghans to fiber art. They are thick enough for you to clearly “read” your stitches, but not so thick that you have trouble wrapping your fingers and needle(s) around them. Overall, these are probably the best yarns to learn on.
Consider Thicker Yarns- such as Bulky and Chunky. But be aware: these yarns can be a mixed bag for beginners. True, it can be much easier to see your stitches and you’ll finish your project much quicker (always a plus!), but it can also be hard for a beginner to wrap their fingers around and manipulate the thicker yarns. In the end it’s a matter of personal preference.
Suite101.com has a nice page talking in detail about yarn weight to help give you an idea of what I mean.
2. Yarn Color: In choosing your yarn, you also have to contend with the color. Generally, lighter colors of untextured yarn tend to be more visible- but watch out for highly reflective and white yarns which can also be hard on the eyes. Pastels are generally the easiest to work with. (yuck. I know, I know!) Dark yarns can be difficult. The darker the yarn, the harder it will be to see your stitches and, repeat after me; ” “I WANT to see my mistakes!” -at least for now- later we’ll have a post on hiding them
3. Yarn Texture: Yarns with a heavy texture, variegated (mixed) colors or irregular thickness such as homespun can also be difficult to read for a beginner. These properties will make it hard to see any mistakes- of course this can be a true blessing later on, but for now try learning on something with an even, regular color, thickness and texture. It goes without saying that for the moment you should also avoid the furry, fuzzy and funky yarns as well.
Once you get to know what your stitch should look like, and get a couple of techniques under your belt feel free to run out and buy all the luscious textured, wild and variegated yarn your heart desires!
In fact, consider yourself free to break the “rules” I’ve outlined here- they’re only guidelines, really…. but if you ever find yourself having trouble with a technique, you can take out your stash of cheap, boring, reliable yarns that have been languishing neglected in the back cupboard and take them for a quick spin.