Crochet Solutions Fingering- & Lace-Weight Yarns
Q: I attempted a beautiful laceweight sweater. The stitches were simple, and it called for my favorite hook, size H. I thought it would be a great first experience, but it was infuriating! I could not tell one stitch from another. Trying to find front loops and back loops was a joke. Everything was fiddly and floppy. Where did I go wrong?
A: For a beginner who is working with finer- weight yarns, a bigger hook isn't always better.
Before starting any project, get comfortable with the yarn size. Make a few swatches using small hooks, such as a size F/5/ 3.75mm or even size E/4/ 3.5mm. If you know yourself to be a loose stitcher, go smaller still. Practice. Create rows and rows of the project's stitch pattern in miniature. Once you feel confident using your fine yarn and small hook, grab the next hook size up. Continue to do this until you reach the hook required for your pattern. With each hook increase, you will be able to see how the stitch stability changes, and finding your front or back loops should become easier and more natural.
Q: The apparent daintiness is what keeps me from making a garment in a fine- weight yarn. My worry is the piece won't hold up to being worn.
A: Of course, the finer the yarn, the more delicate your final product will be. A little bit of planning will go a long way when there are concerns about wearability. There are a few options for adding sturdiness. Look for a blended yarn. Nylon and acrylic fibers will add strength to the piece as well as ease of care. Linen and silk are some natural fibers that not only add strength, but a touch of luxury too. Another factor to consider is the stitching itself. A loose and/or lacy stitch is more likely to snag on rough surfaces and catch on jewelry and buttons than something more solid. There are several reasons why I prefer working with fingering- and laceweight yarns.
As a designer and wearer of crochet garments and accessories, the one factor that can, without a doubt, make or break a piece is drape. To illustrate consider swatching the following exercises: With 100% natural wool, make a double crochet swatch that is 4 inches x 4 inches square using the recommended hook size for the yarn weight and then wet- block. Make another swatch with a smaller- gauge yarn and using a smaller hook, then a third swatch with an even smaller yarn and a smaller hook. As the yarn size decreases, the fluidity of the fabric increases. The more drape the fabric has, the more softly and flatteringly it will fall across the curves of the body. You will find fingering- and lace- weight yarns produce more flow while still maintaining a solid fabric.
As a non- skinny person, the added visual weight of a bulky sweater is never something I desire. The actual, physical weight of a worsted- weight or heavierweight sweater is an issue too, especially for those who wear larger sizes. As the
Learn to create beautiful drape and lacy fabrics with lightweight yarns.
day progresses, gravity causes necklines to sag and appear weary, and shoulder seams have a tendency to pull and become unshapely. Using a finer- weight yarn greatly reduces these trouble spots. Another advantage of using fingeringor lace- weight yarn for sweaters and cardigans is the ease in layering. Personally, I feel constricted in heavy garments. For me, wearing multiple light layers is much more comfortable.
Q: I absolutely love the look of all the beautiful lace shawls that are available, but the amount of time I imagine these must take keeps me from picking up my hook. What is the average stitch time for a typical shawl?
A: Here's the math: small hook + tiny yarn = more time. There is no getting around this.
Of course, every stitcher will have a different answer, as will every pattern. So, let us ask a different question: Is it worth it? In my experience, the answer is yes. Every time.
Just because you can crochet does not necessarily mean that you will be able to flawlessly execute a lace shawl. As with just about everything else, the more you do something, the faster and better you become. First things first: Familiarize yourself with this size of yarn and its quirks. Make several swatches in multiple stitch patterns. At the start, the whole process might be a bit unnerving, and your small- scale supplies will, most likely, make you feel like a clumsy giant. That's OK. These swatches are for your eyes only. Be deliberate in your movements; stitch with purpose. Do not expect perfection on your first attempt, or even your second or third. The goal is to build confidence and skill. Wait to tackle your first project until you feel comfortable. Be patient with yourself. Remember, you are adding an advanced skill set to your crochet resume.
Maybe you've been eyeing that pattern for quite some time. Maybe you've even purchased the yarn you will use. My advice: Dive in!