When starting a new crochet project, what yarn should you use? Well, my first answer tends to be “any darn yarn I want to use!”, but then I step back and think about why the pattern designer is suggesting the yarn included in the instructions. Is the yarn I really want to use going to make a good substitute? Answering that question will depend in large part on what it is you want to make.
Once you’ve picked out a pattern, it is important to look at the yarn that the designer used to make the item. One of the first things you’ll want to look at is the fiber content of the suggested yarn. Is it a natural fiber or a synthetic? Is it a brand you’ve worked with before?
There are a lot of reasons you might want to use a different yarn than the one suggested in a pattern, but before jumping in, here are a couple of considerations to take into account:
1) Am I making a garment? If so, then the “drape” and “elasticity” of the yarn are going to be really important. Drape refers to how much the finished yarn fabric falls and hangs loosely. If the fabric is stiff, then it doesn’t have a lot of drape to it. Elasticity is about how much give or spring-iness the yarn has. Does the yarn move a little bit when you gently tug on it, or is it pretty solid? When worked up, the yarn fabric will stretch to a certain extent in each direction, which can be a desirable element of certain garments, but not others. Often these two elements are dependent on the fiber content of the yarn. Wools tend to have good elasticity, but an acrylic/nylon blend can be substituted because the nylon adds comparable elasticity. Cottons on the other hand tend to have better flow and drape but might not have the give that a close-fitting sweater needs.
2) How do I want the item to look? Smooth yarns result in good stitch definition, while fluffy or nubbly yarns tend to obscure the stitch work. This is one reason why it’s so important not only to create a gauge swatch in the stitch(es) of the pattern but to wash and dry the swatch as well so that you can see how the yarn and the yarn fabric react to laundering.
3) How do I want the item to feel? Again, another pitch for swatching and washing! Some yarns and yarn fabrics get softer and drape more after a few washings, while others stiffen up or shrink. It’s worth doing a little research into how animal, vegetable and synthetic fibers react when used in different types of crochet projects and how different blends might best suit your objectives.
Since I tend to design children’s clothes and items, I usually look for soft and washable fibers that make life easier on mom and baby. There are some great superwash wools out there that give the fabric elasticity and warmth, and when blended with other fibers like acrylic, make it even softer and more durable. If allergies are an issue, though, then I look for cotton and synthetic blends or fully synthetic yarns to achieve good results.
I hope you’ll visit my blog for more posts on another important aspect of yarn selection for a project – the yarn weight.