A GUIDE TO PICKING OUT YARN FOR BEGINNER KNITTERS
Many times, when I go buy yarn, I find some confused beginner knitter, or someone who hasn’t done any knitting in years, who needs help with either buying needles or yarn. And I voluntarily help them, because I understand how confusing it can be for a first-time knitter to figure out what to buy: there are so many types of yarn, different in colour, size, material, etc. And knowing how much and what to get is something I guess that comes with experience. And even I buy too much. But it’s better to have too much than not enough, I guess!
I’m only going to talk about yarn here, because that in itself is quite complicated.
(NOTE: I really want to stress the last point, about the dye lot. It’s really important!! You might not want to read everything, because, well, long, but read that!)
Under the break because it’s a long post!
Disclaimer: I’m not trying to say that I know it all, or that my way is the best way. In fact, I would encourage you to seek knowledge elsewhere, as well as experiment and make mistakes. Also, I’ve sourced every photo I’ve taken from tertiary sources, but I’d like to point out that any brand that ends up on these photos is not affiliated with me.
I don’t know what you might want to make, but most likely, you’ll be doing a scarf. It’s the basic thing to start with—it’s definitely a good place to start. It’s easy, and most people do only a garter stitch to begin with, which is, if you don’t know, just knitting. It’s a lot easier this way. But that doesn’t mean you can’t pick out a more complex pattern. After all, why not? I’m not going to talk about the execution of this pattern though, that’s something else.
Here’s the thing about knitting patterns/stitches though. They don’t take the same amount of yarn, or have the same dimension. A garter stitch will condense vertically your work (it’s stretchable along the vertical axis), while a rib, for instance, is condensed horizontally (being stretchable along the horizontal axis). That’s why when you measure your gauge, it’s made for stockinette stitch.
Top to bottom: Garter and stockinette stitches
I experimented with this many times, and I guess it all comes down to experience.
BUT I’m just going to assume that all this doesn’t matter because you’re making a scarf.
Yarn weight is basically the thickness of the yarn. If you’re a beginner, stay away from the thin stuff. It’s harder to knit with. Many people have told me that beginner knitters should knit with larger yarn and larger needles. But in the end, it all comes down to you!
If you’re following a pattern though (a scarf doesn’t matter so much, but if you happen to be making clothing that has to fit a certain body, like sweaters, hats, etc.), you have to pay attention to the weight required. (I actually don’t, so I often have to change the pattern in consequence, and I also waste time undoing and redoing. I don’t recommend.) I find that most patterns will reference a specific brand of yarn, which I hardly pay attention to. It doesn’t matter, as long as you get the same weight! Gauge can be very practical to use as reference in that case: that’s why it’s written on the tag.
On the left: yarn weight. Next on the right: gauge with specific needle size.
I think I mostly buy medium size yarn, which I think happens to be the most common.
I’m not going to pretend I know anything about the actual size of yarn. I think there are names for each of those different ball sizes, but I hardly pay attention to any of that. I just adjust my purchase according to what I’m making.
I usually see three typical sizes.
There might be more, like in-between sizes, or way bigger sizes. But these are the more common. (To note on the last, I’ve often found that these are a lot more expensive, so I never buy them.)
I usually buy the big bulky ones—it also makes it so that I don’t have to change yarn so often. This is especially practical for larger pieces of clothing. But the thing with these is that I always end up having huge amount of leftovers, and I don’t know what to do with them.
Material is important for different reasons. It’ll give a texture to your work, and will permit you to do some things versus others. Wool is often fuzzier, and a lot itchier. (It also starts smelling when it’s wet).
Also, it might shrink in the wash. My aunt tells me acrylic doesn’t shrink, but wool and cotton do. I would honestly just be careful in general. But being lazy, I just dry it naturally, and still machine-wash. I would definitely pay attention to the tag though and what they suggest.
Material will also greatly influence price. Acrylic is definitely the cheapest (and the most common in the big stores like Micheals). But you can get nicer, higher quality stuff in specialized stores. It’ll also depend on where you are. I bought a bunch of wool in Iceland, because Iceland! And it’s cheaper there than elsewhere, at least for Icelandic wool.
Then there’s if you do blocking, which is a technique to make your knitting lay flat with an iron. It’s a lot harder with acrylic, it being plastic, and, well, will melt under your iron. There are techniques though, but I would definitely keep that in mind, depending on what you’re making. But if you’re doing a simple garter stitch (which, yeah, most likely) or a rib stitch, you don’t need to worry about this.
You can really get plenty of nice and fancier yarns made from all sorts of materials! The best thing to do is to feel around and touch everything.
This is where I get more questions from people in the store. If you shop in a small independent or yarn-specialized store, probably asking a sales-attendant might be good, they certainly have expertise. That might not be possible, they may not have knitting knowledge. That’s where I usually come in.
The thing about quantity is that you usually know how much you need by experience. Or you always get too much, if you’re like me.
Obviously, it’ll depend on what you’re making (refer to pattern in that case). Let’s just say you’re making a garter stitch scarf without a knitting pattern. It’ll also depend on the width and the length of your scarf. I tend to make mine longer and wider than most people. But I also remake the first few rows many times until I can figure out the actual width I want.
I’m assuming you make your scarf about ten inches wide (about twenty-five centimeters for non-North Americans) and long enough to wrap once around your neck and fall down low enough. And that you’re using medium weight yarn. What you need is therefore two of the larger sizes of yarn (1st img in the size section) or three of the medium size (2nd img). I don’t know about the smallest, the third image I posted. I never use that. I’m gonna assume around five of the smaller ones (3rd img). But if anyone has another figure, don’t hesitate!
If you’re making an infinity scarf, you usually need less, but I don’t want to give a quantity. I don’t often do infinity scarves, so I really have no idea…
If you make your scarf bigger, you’ll obviously need more. And that just depends. This will also depend on the weight of your yarn. The thicker the yarn, the less you need. Check the gauge on your tag to give you an idea. But pay attention to the needle size.
About needle sizes: the bigger your needles, the less stitches you need. You can tell with these two tags, which base themselves on US sizes 7 & 8, but are supposed to be the same weight. One says 17, the other 18. It may not make a different with 4 inches, but when you make larger pieces, yeah, it does make a difference.
Remember: It’s better to have more yarn than not enough. You can’t go buy more yarn, because of what I’m going to explain next which is really important. And because your colour may not be sold anymore, for whatever reason. I know, I’ve lost scarves before and tried to find the yarn once more to remake one, but I was never able to find it again.
This is the most important point of this post!
If you pay attention to the labels, some of them will have a sentence such as:
Top: Suggestion: Please purchase a sufficient quantity of one dye lot to ensure uniformity of color.
Bottom: Please purchase sufficient yarn of same dye lot to complete project.
It doesn’t matter if it says it or not, to do this is really important. Why? Well, like when you cook, if you remake a recipe, it’ll never taste the same way twice. It doesn’t matter that it’s a precise recipe—the dye probably does have a precise recipe—but there might be small differences every time.
And I can testify for colouring. I study in graphic design, and once, I made a flip book. I’d printed all sixty pages on the printer I had at home, and began trimming my pages. Well, I messed up one page. So I went to reprint it. It didn’t matter that the printer was the same, or that I hadn’t touched the image on my computer. It just came out different. Because of different things: temperature, time of the day, whatever.
Yes, the differences might be very slight, and you might not see it if you put two strands of yarn one next to the other of two different dye lots, but when you make a big piece, with the colour in a concentrated block, the difference, however small, will be visible. If it’s what you want, fine, but if you want a uniform colour, you have to pick yarn from the same dye lot.
So how do you do that? Well, no matter the yarn, the label will have a set of printed on numbers. Sometimes it will be written “lot”, which definitely greatly helps, but sometimes it won’t.
The dye lot is the printed number, not the name of the colour.
(The last one was a tag that didn’t indicate it was a lot number. That doesn’t mean it isn’t. It probably is. It might be only one of the two numbers, I don’t know. But I take the whole number as being the dye lot.)
What you have to do is make sure the numbers are the same. You’ll see. You’ll most likely find dye lots with the same number in the area. All you have to do is find the appropriate number. And it has to be exactly the same number. Even if it’s “1406” and “1407”, it doesn’t count as the same. There is as much difference between those two as there are between “1406” and “5489” (which are random numbers I came up with).
IN THE END
In the end, everyone makes mistakes. I’ve made so many. I just learn from them, and gained experience from them, understanding why what I did wasn’t right. Just last week, I began a dress with yarn way too thick for it. It doesn’t matter, I just adjust the pattern in consequence. I could’ve went out to buy more, but I’m too lazy. And I always buy too much yarn, no matter what project I make.
And in the end, you’ll just gain experience.
Hope this helped!
I’ve recently started to experiment with some yarn dyeing. It’s something I’ve wanted to try out for quite some time but I never really had the courage to do. I guess I’ve always been afraid of burning the yarn or something. I keep having this waking nightmare that my yarn would turn into a giant fire ball and burn down my house.
I may be a tad bit overly paranoid. Anyway, I finally decided to give it a try. Video tutorials on YouTube have been a huge help, in particular the videos from ChemKnits (though really, there are so many wonderful tutorials out there, video and written, there’s something for everyone).
Of course for first time experiments I wanted to stick with kitchen-safe dyeing, and the two main techniques you’ll see floating around the internet is with Kool-Aid or with food coloring. Where I live, I don’t often find Kool-Aid (or maybe it is readily available but I’ve never seen it. Truth is I never think of looking for it), so I decided on using some generic food coloring found at any local grocery store. I used some of the small skeins I made when I was learning to spin, so they’re hardly very nice looking, making them perfect for experimentation.
My first attempt was the most simple technique I could find. I filled a pot with water, mixed in some sort of red food coloring and threw in my pre-soaked yarn. Brought the water to a light simmer and kept it there until the dye in the water was completely soaked up by the yarn. During my second experiment I stepped it up a notch with a more variegated look to the color. I threw the yarn into my pot just as the water reached a simmer and then dripped in blue and green coloring into the water. I turned off the heat, covered and let it cool slowly (ever so slowly…). In this experiment, the colors took longer to get soaked up into the yarn which caused some parts of the yarn to be a more prominent blue or green. Best of all, the areas in the pot where the two colors met left the yarn with some nice tonal shifts.
The downside with food coloring is that the colors are a little glaringly bright to an almost obnoxious degree for my current tastes. I attempted to overdye my first dyed skein with some tea to mute the garish pink, but it unfortunately didn’t work. I definitely hope to try some natural dyeing next, in particular with indigo (just look at those incredible blues!). My ultimate goal is to work with acid dyes, but for those I will need to take some extra precautions, like tools that will not be used for food prep, gloves and maybe even a mask. The day will come, but for now I’m sticking to safer dyes. Next technique I plan to try is handpainting.
I’ve recently started to experiment with some yarn dyeing. It’s something I’ve wanted to try out for quite some time but I never really had the courage to do.
So. I don’t know that I’ve mentioned it here, but I’ve been trying to knit through my stash and I’m trying not to buy more yarn. Mostly because I’ve reached maximum yarn storage capacity. Like. The plastic drawer unit I put my yarn in basically doesn’t close anymore. And the futon and footlocker are also full of yarn. And then there are the paper bags full of yarn. Yeah. I have too much yarn for a somewhat tiny flat, basically.
I’ve actually been doing really well at this (fibre festival purchasing aside) and since I decided to try to knit from stash sometime back in March I’ve managed to use up three (almost 4) yarns. Granted the fourth one will be one I bought at the fibre festival in May and the first one isn’t technically used up because no matter which way I swing it, I just CANNOT get a pair of mittens out of a not-quite-full skein of Malabrigo Rios, but let’s try to put a positive spin on things, yes?
That said, I recently took a holiday combined with a work trip to the Monterey Peninsula of California. Where they have THREE yarn stores. THREE. So of course I had to visit all of them. The only rules I set for myself were that anything I bought had to be something I couldn’t get at home (which, when your LYS is Steven Be, is actually hard to do) and I had to have a pattern in mind so that I bought only the amount of yarn I needed.
Here is what came of it.
Anzula Yarns “For Better or Worsted” in Teal from Monarch Knitting and Quilts in Pacific Grove, CA. It’s 80/10/10 MCN (the first ever MCN I’ve owned!) in worsted weight. The current plan is mittens (since the Rios WILL NOT make mittens), though I haven’t exactly decided which pattern yet.
Koigu Kersti Merino Crepe in K3000. It’s 100% Merino in DK weight. I got two skeins so I have about 208 m (228 yds). Also from Monarch Knitting and Quilts in Pacific Grove, CA. Because it’s Koigu and this is the first time I have seen Koigu outside of Canada. Ever. I don’t necessarily have a plan for this, but it’s Koigu so I wasn’t going to not get it.
Island Yarn Pagoda in the “Grapes of Wrath” colourway from The Twisted Stitch in Monterey, CA. Okay. I was in Monterey (where Steinbeck lived and wrote much of Grapes of Wrath) and I LOVE Steinbeck and I LOOOOVVVVE Grapes of Wrath and I couldn’t NOT buy this. It also sort of doesn’t have a plan because I feel like I need to get it the perfect pattern that it deserves. The yarn is 65% merino and 35% bamboo in fingering weight (which is basically the same yarn I’m currently wrapping up knitting a sweater out of) and I have two skeins, so I have ~914m or 1000 yds.
Studio Donegal Soft Donegal in F639 from Knitting by the Sea in Carmel, CA. This is definitely the roughspun tweedy yarn the Donegal is famous for, but it’s 100% merino (instead of shetland) so it’s SUUUPER soft! I’m pretty sure I bought this with the intention of making The Shire by Erica Jakofsky, so I have apparently gone from a person who doesn’t understand the cowl craze to a person who has now bought yarn to knit ALL THE COWLS.
Okay so…nothing about this yarn is AT ALL my style (it’s bright oranges and yellows, it’s fingering weight, it’s just…not me), but it was an exclusive colourway specifically dyed for the yarn shop so I felt like I really should get it. The yarn is Hand Painted Knitting Yarns Sock Superwash Corriedale in the “Knitting by the Sea” colourway, and I purchased it from Knitting by the Sea in Carmel, CA. I *think* I intend to make the Hobbit Cowl by Suzy Vitale with it, but that could change once I see how the colours stripe up.
And there you have it. It’s not a TERRIBLE amount of yarn and I certainly don’t regret purchasing any of it (if anything, I regret that I couldn’t buy MORE things). All three stores were charming and adorable and I loved them. Monarch Knitting and Quilts in particular was beautifully organised and I found my shopping experience there very easy and rewarding. If you ever find yourself in the vicinity of the Monterey Peninsula, I highly recommend checking these stores out.
I love October! I love wearing warm sweaters and scarves, and a cute little jack-o’-lantern is just what I need to get me (more) into the Halloween spirit!
– 4.00mm hook
– Orange and green yarn (I used Impecaables Loops and Threads)
– black felt
1) ch 8. Starting from the 2nd ch from the hook, 1sc in each ch (7sc) ch 1 to turn
Rows 2-21) In the back loops only, 1sc in each stitch (7) ch 1 to turn. Fasten off and leave a long tail for sewing.
1) ch 2. 5 sc in the first ch
2) In the back loops only, 1 sc in each stitch. Sl st in the next stitch to finish. Fasten off and leave a tail for sewing.
This is what the ribbed pumpkin looks like
Take the 2 ends and overlap them, then sew them together. Do not cut off your yarn end. You will get a cylinder shape.
With the same yarn, put the needle through the top stitches of the pumpkin cylinder, and pull tightly while you sew. This will close the hole of the pumpkin, fasten off when the hole is tightly closed.
Stuff your pumpkin. I usually tend to stuff my amiguruimi quite tightly, so the shape holds.
Now use the same hole closing technique to the other side of the pumpkin. Remember to pull tightly to close the hole.
Sew the stock on top of the pumpkin. I really wanted to add a face to my pumpkin to give him more character!
Using black felt, cut out a jack-o’-lantern face. I had 2 triangle eyes, a small triangle nose, and an odd shaped mouth! It was quite fun to “free hand” cut the mouth! I used my hot glue gun to secure the felt pieces on my pumpkin. The pieces were so small and finicky, I don’t think I could have sewn them (or had enough patience to!).
And my little jack-o’-lantern is complete!
He stands only 4cm tall! He is so cute! I might need to crochet some more so this little guy doesn’t get too lonely!
Remember you can always change the size of your pumpkin by using different hook sizes
We are so excited to welcome our newest addition to the Ashland Bay yarn line, Jillian! This yarn is a super bulky, super soft (20.5 micron) merino wool roving yarn. It is available in 250 gm, 140yd skeins.
Jillian knits up quickly, perfect for a one day project. This yarn is ideal for cowls, scarves, hats and mittens. The dyeing process will full the yarn increasing the durability of the knit garment.
Even in the middle of the summer, it is not too soon to start dyeing this beauty! You will want to have this yarn available come fall.
Let’s not forget the winter of 2013-2014!
A quick dip in the dye pot and voila!
Stay tuned, we have several other new yarns and products due to arrive soon!
I’ve been working on a hat that I’ll post when I’m done that has horns on it. I remember a long time ago, when I was working on my crochet’d Viking Hat that there was a pattern I had trouble reading because of the terms it used. Now that I’ve been crocheting for a tiny bit over a year, I went back to it and made wonderful horns for my hat. I decided to write it down in a way I could understand it better and share it with you all 🙂
Perfect Horn Pattern
Round 1: start with a magic circle and sc 5 sts into it
Round 2: inc, 4 sc
Round 3: sc, inc, 4 sc
Round 4: sc, inc, inc,2 sc, sc2tog
Round 5: 2 sc, inc, 5 sc
Round 6: 3 sc, inc, inc, 3 sc, sc2tog
(It’s best to not bother with a marker since the next rows will always overlap, so just make sure you count correctly!)
Round 7: 3 sc, inc, 6 sc sts
Round 8: 4 sc, inc, inc, 4 sc, sc2tog
Round 9: 4 sc, inc, 7 sc
Round 10: 5 sc, inc, inc, 5 sc, sc2tog
Round 11: 5 sc, inc, 8 sc
Round 12: 6sc, inc, inc, sc 6, sc2tog
Round 13: 6 sc, inc, 9 sc
Round 14: 7 sc, inc, inc, 7 sc, sc2tog
Round 15: 7sc, inc, 10 sc
Round 16: 8 sc, inc, inc, 8 sc, sc2tog
Round 17: 8 sc, inc, 11 sc
After the 8th round, there is an easy pattern you can pick up on in case you wanted to add more rows for a bigger horn!
So there it is! All credit for this pattern goes to mygurumi 🙂
If you follow my Fashionably Crocheted board on Pinterest (or if you legitimately follow men’s fashion, I suppose), then you already know. But in case you missed it, Sibling — the British design team who literally and liberally always incorporate crochet into their collections — went absolutely wild with it in their Fall 2015 menswear collection.
This time, though, there’s a twist. While there still was a lot of knitwear (the deconstructed multi sweater above those amazing abs, above, was my fave), 90% of the crochet were in the form of amigurumi. Of those amis, I’d say 80% were little skinny bears worn as boutonnieres, on ties, or pinned to sleeves. The other 20% (besides a backpack that I spied in the background of one pic) were GIANT BEARS that the models hauled down the runway. The guy at the very top, carrying all the bears, was their final look — a nice take IMO on the usual women’s runway finale, where the last look is a bride. Two of the big bears are knit, but two are crochet. I am also really digging the faux-fur-as-stripes.
I’m totally fixated on this and so yes, made a collage of EVERY AMI IN THE SHOW, as seen above. But it also got me thinking — wearable amigurumi, is this a thing? I’m not promising you could get your average guy to do it, but like, could we make this happen?
P.S. You can check out full-size photos of all the looks over at Style dot com.
Ive recently had a lot of people asking what type of light box, I believe thats what its called, do I use. and if I have any tips for taking pics to show their items.
I honestly just use 2, SOMETIMES 3, white boards I bought from joanns at a really cheap price. And a desk light I had for the longest time, which I got at Hobby Lobby.
(Sorry for the messy room. haha)
Once I’m done taking as many pics of the item(s), I then upload the pics to Photoshop to make it a bit brighter. Which can be done by going to IMAGE> ADJUSTMENTS>CURVES…
I then move the cursor up and make it as bright as I want the pic to be. Once I like the way it looks, I select OK.
And thats really all I do. 🙂
I also like to crop my pics into a perfect square, but that’s just me. 🙂
Okay, so I’ve been talking a lot about how I want to install crochet braids for my next look. I looked up a couple of tutorials for dyeing synthetic hair, and the main ways of accomplishing this involved
I was hoping to get a really deep, rich teal color. Something within this spectrum:
Unfortunately, I tried both methods and neither really gave the desired effect. I’ll have to do more research and keep trying.
Instead, I got a spectrum of pastel colors:
It’s pretty clear that these do range in saturation. I was a little apprehension at first, but I think I’m going to be bold and go pastel! To achieve this, I used two packs of platinum white hair, and one pack of blond (to see if there was any difference—and there was! The blond mixed with green to give me that stark yellow, and with blue, it gave me a sort of chlorine-washed out look, which I actually like. With the white, I got these cute blue and the soft pinks.)
I’m actually in the process of dying another pack and a half, that I’m leaving to soak in the color solution overnight:
That makes for three packs of hair total, which will hopefully be enough for my whole head (it should!)
I’m a little nervous. When I tried the burgundy look, I at least knew it would be complementary to my skin tone. Pastel is a little out there, but I’ll be cute, fingers crossed.
What do you guys think?