Crochet! - - Special Feature - BY D A R L A S I M S

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.


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?


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.

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