THE RIGHT STUFF
Before you substitute one yarn for another, there are several important questions to ask when considering which yarn to use. How does the yarn feel to the hand and on the body? Do you want to crochet fabric for a garment that drapes well or a garment that is firm? Do you want the garment to keep you warm or cool? What is the true weight or thickness of yarn you want to use? Do you want the garment to be machine washable and dryable? How is the required yardage calculated for a substitute yarn?
The Yarn Chart gives you basic information about various yarn fibers and their natural characteristics.
Understanding the basic, natural characteristics of yarns will help you make more informed yarn choices. For example, if you intend to make a baby garment, silk or mohair yarns are not the most appropriate choices. If you are concerned about allergies to wool, you’ll be glad to know that most wool yarns are treated to avoid such problems. In addition, there are many “superwash” wools on the market that can be machine washed and dried.
If you’ve fallen in love with a pullover sweater pattern that calls for a soft microfiber yarn with good drape and if you decide to make it with a cotton yarn, you won’t get the same results in either completed look or feel. A quick glance at the chart shows you that cotton lacks natural elasticity and will not drape well. If you want the body and sleeves to have a soft, pliant feeling, you cannot achieve that look and feel using a firm cotton yarn.
TWO YARNS THAT CHANGE MOST
The natural yarn fibers that tend to change the most after a garment
If you’ve ever had questions about which yarns can be interchanged, or what fiber to choose, our helpful information will help ensure the best results in all your crochet projects.
is finished are mohair and silk. Garments of either fiber tend to grow significantly in length. For example, a mohair coat I crocheted years ago for myself grew eight inches in length over a period of six months. A Victorian-style silk sweater featured on the cover of a magazine underwent a similar change during the period of time between leaving my home and being received by the editor—the sleeves had grown two full inches in length in less than a week! No one looking at that cover had any idea the sleeves were held in place with clothespins for photography, hidden from sight. Unfortunately, it is impossible to calculate how much either silk or mohair will grow in length, but knowing about this tendency helps in making yarn choices. If the length of a jacket or coat is likely to change, it may or may not make a difference to you. If the sleeves lengthen over time and you don’t mind rolling them up, that’s fine too.
Natural fibers are often blended with synthetic fibers, resulting in yarn choices that give us the best of both worlds. For example, a cotton yarn that is blended with acrylic tends to keep its shape better than 100% cotton, while it still has the same feel of all cotton when worn. In addition, stains are more likely to dissolve during laundering. Always check the label for fiber content information.
Those little yarn labels are often tossed aside by those who are not in the know, but an educated crocheter reads all the pertinent information the manufacturer provides, including critical information about laundering. When you begin a project, make a habit of setting aside the first label or keep a crochet project notebook, noting laundering instructions or other pertinent information that can be referred to in the future. Also note the number of skeins used in the event you may want to duplicate a project at a later time. Short on time? Just staple the label next to a description of your project for future reference.
For many years acrylic yarns have been known as “memory” yarns. They are easy to care for and especially good for children’s garments because they can simply be tossed in the washer and dryer. These yarns expand when they become wet and/or laundered. They are not good choices for swim suits because of this factor. In order to restore a garment to its original shape and size, it must be machine dried after being washed because the exposure to the heat will return the yarn to its original condition. Many of the new microfiber yarns also include acrylic, but unlike true memory yarns, the labels for these new yarns are likely to state that they must be hand washed and laid flat to dry. Always follow label instructions for laundering! Never substitute laundering information because there are often distinct differences between knit/crochet yarns and the thin threads used in woven fabrics.
The finish and appearance of the yarn also should be a determining factor when comparing yarns, especially if you are hoping to crochet a garment similar to your pattern. Before making a yarn choice, consider the following questions. Does your substitute yarn have a flat or shiny appearance? Is the original yarn textured, twisted, thick and thin, fuzzy or fluffy, boucle or smooth? Is the yarn called for a solid color, tweed, variegated or striped? Does it have some other distinctive characteristic such as metallic thread? Is one color wrapped with a strand of another color or type of yarn?
CHECKING YARN WEIGHT & THICKNESS
One might think that when two yarns are similar in fiber content and weight (light, medium, bulky, etc.), they can be interchanged; however, that’s not always true. Some crocheters may have noticed that yarns of the same weight often appear to be different when comparing the diameter of one yarn to another. Perhaps you have enough yarn for the project in your stash but you’re not absolutely positive about the weight of a yarn. The solution to this problem is a simple and inexpensive (around $10 or so) little tool called the WPI (wraps per inch) Tool Kit. This spindle type tool measures the number of times a yarn or thread can be aligned in adjacent rows within a 1-inch length to determine actual yarn weight.
Note the differences in our swatches. All three swatches were crocheted in half double crochet with a size H hook. The resulting gauge is 3 stitches per inch for Figs. 1 and 2, but the Fig. 3 swatch has a gauge of 3.5 stitches per inch. The difference in gauge is attributable to the true weight or diameter of the yarn used. Each swatch is worked over 20 stitches and 12 rows. Despite the fact that the first 2 swatches have the same number of stitches per inch, the length is slightly different with Fig. 1 measuring 6 inches in length while Fig. 2 measures 61/4 inches in length. Fig. 3 measures only 51/4 inches in length. The number of stitches per inch is the single most important factor when it comes to the desired fit, as length can easily be adjusted by the number of rows worked. Regardless of which substitute yarn is used, your stitch-per-inch gauge must match that of the yarn required in your pattern.
Labels for all three yarns used in the swatches state that each yarn is worsted (#4) weight. However, when eyeballing yarns to compare appearance, one of the three yarns appeared to be smaller in diameter than the other two. Thus, each yarn was then tested on the WPI. Yarns used for Fig. 1 and Fig. 2 proved to be true worsted weight. Yet, when the yarn used in Fig. 3 was put to the WPI test, the number of wraps per inch proved that this yarn is actually a DK-weight yarn (#3).
The weight of the yarn can dramatically affect the gauge and the fit of a garment. For example, if the gauge required in your pattern is 4 stitches per inch, 80 stitches will measure 20 inches across the front of a pullover. Double this number for the finished bust measurement of 40 inches. However, if your true gauge is really 33/4 stitches per inch, your front will measure 211/3 inches across the front, for a 422/3-inch finished bust measurement, and if your true gauge is 31/2 stitches per inch, your front will measure 226/7 inches across the front, for a 455/7-inch finished bust measurement. Be sure to check wraps per inch and make a gauge swatch prior to beginning any garment.
When using a yarn other than the yarn called for in a pattern, be sure you have enough yardage to avoid disappointments along the way. Check your pattern for the number of yards per skein. For example, if you need 10 skeins of yarn with 98 yards per skein, you need 980 total yards. If you are using stash yarns and labels are missing, it’s fairly safe to plan on eight to 10 skeins, each of which has approximately 150 to 200 yards per skein, to crochet a pullover or jacket.
Last of all, put this article in your own crochet notebook for future reference and to ensure the best possible crochet results for your own crochet projects. C!
19 sts = 4 inches; 5 rows = 21/4 inches
Weave in loose ends as work progresses. Chain- 7 at beginning of row counts as first double crochet and chain- 4 unless otherwise stated. Chain- 3 at beginning of row counts as first double crochet unless otherwise stated. Join with slip stitch as indicated unless otherwise stated.