Crochet, Karen's Korner, Knitting

What Is The Best Yarn To Use?

What Is The Best Yarn To Use?
Image courtesy of Flickr

How many times have you been stuck wondering what is the best yarn to use for your next project? There is such a wide variety of yarns available now that it can be a bit overwhelming trying to make a choice. My personal preference tends to be for wool, especially for babies, because it is a natural fibre that “breathes” and is very warm. The modern range of yarns, however, contains an ever expanding number of different fibre types, and also blends of different fibres.

What Is The Best Yarn To Use?
Image courtesy of Flickr

One of the first things to look at on your pattern is whether or not it is written for a particular unique yarn, or is suitable for one of the more general types of yarn like 4ply, 8 ply, 12 ply etc. If the pattern is very yarn specific then you are best to stick with that yarn for your project.

A lot of patterns are still designed for more standard yarn types. Obviously it is safest to use the yarn(s) recommended in the pattern, but if you want to use something different there are several really important things to consider.

Yarn Ply and Needle Size

Always make sure that you get the same ply/weight yarn as that used in the pattern. It is also essential to do a test square to check that your gauge is correct, and alter your needle size accordingly if it is a bit off.

Yarn Length

The composition of yarn can make a huge difference to how far it goes. A ball of acrylic yarn can be up to 30% longer than a ball of wool of the same weight. Cotton can be similar to, or slightly shorter than wool, and blends of acrylic and natural fibres will be different again. Always check the band on a ball or hank of yarn for the length and for the batch number. Make sure you know what the length of a ball is for the yarn used in your pattern and work out from that what you will need in the yarn you are choosing. If you are in any doubt err on the side of caution and get extra.


Learn Why Knitting Patterns Depend On Gauge

Learn Why Knitting Patterns Depend On GaugeEven though you may want to jump right in there and start using knitting patterns it is definitely a good idea to make a knitting gauge swatch. You don’t want skip this step, it’s not worth it. (See “I Should Know Better By Now!“) A single stitch in one inch can end up really making a big difference to the eventual size of an item from all knitting patterns. It seems like a chore but you need to just learn that you will be thankful in the end. Always knit the swatch in the stitch that you will use.

Obviously different knitting patterns end up with different sizes so this matters. I always try to make my swatch big enough to make it a good test. I usually go for at least 4″ x 4”. Surround the swatch with a few rows of seed stitch knitting (knit or purl the opposite stitch of what you see facing you on odd number rows). Begin and end each row with four seed stitches as well. This stitch lies very flat and will help you measure accurately.

Feel The Tension!

It may surprise you to know that the needle size is much less important than your particular tension with knitting patterns. Some people are loose with their knitting while others are tight. This can also vary from day to day with some people. You can deliberately adapt your tension to create different looks from the same knitting patterns. Loose knitting for a light open feel and tighter knitting for a warmer feel. Remember also that you will get a softer feel from a loose knit and a stiffer feel from a tight knit.

When you have finished the swatch let it sit for awhile. The yarn needs to relax and even out any tight spots. Now count the stitches and measure the rows per inch of knitting. Remember to try a measurement in a few different places. Another way is to just calculate how big the total knitting pattern swatch should be. If 16 stitches were cast on and the gauge in the knitting pattern is 4st=1″ then the swatch should measure 4″ The part you measure should not include the seed stitches. Think about the size and adjust the needle size. For instance, if you are too small, try larger needles and vice versa. Now you have finished you can start using your knitting patterns with confidence knowing that the product of your labors will actually fit you!

Louise Nova loves knitting and teaching people how to knit. She also loves to blog. Knitting for 30 years, she has taught many young family members how knitting is fun and easy.

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