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.
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.
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.
I’m afraid I’ve fallen a bit behind with my website lately. I’m not quite sure where February went, but we are now into the second week of March!
During February I had several projects on the go which I have now finished. Unfortunately I forgot to take photos of any of them and they have now been given to the people I was making them for. The wool I referred to in “Working With Hanks Of Yarn” was knitted into a lovely hooded jacket for a little girl who will be turning two in a couple of weeks. Her Mum wanted it as a birthday present for her.
The second project I have just finished was slippers for my son and his partner who live in Melbourne. Obviously they were not needed in a hurry as it is still very warm over there, but I wanted to include them in a parcel I was sending which was already a bit late. I had fun “playing around” with several patterns (see “Using Patterns As A Guide”) and came up with two unique pairs of slippers which have now been sent on their way.
My main priority now is to catch up with posts for this site. I have been fortunate enough to get hold of copies of several crochet pattern books from Leisure Arts to review. I have really enjoyed looking at some different ideas, and will be posting reviews on them very soon.
There are numerous reasons for taking up the beguiling, blue-collar craft of cross stitch, ten of which are shown below. So continue reading then pay a visit to your local craft shop and start your cross stitching career today.
1. Why “blue-collar” you might ask? Well! When compared to most other pastimes, cross stitch is truly inexpensive; there’s no fancy or expensive machinery. When you have bought a kit or the thread and fabric for your own design that’s about it for outlay (well, until you buy the next one anyway). Simple kits start from a couple of dollars and you’re guaranteed something at the end of it to show for your efforts.
2. Whatever you produce, be it a tiny picture of a mere few inches in diameter, or a sampler that stretches the length of your wall, you will always have it to keep. You can even hand it down to your children, thereby creating an heirloom.
3. Even beginners can make cross stitch works that look both beautiful and professional. Starter kits don’t need any previous experience and as you develop your skills you can progress to evermore complex patterns. You will never have to scour the shops for that special gift again.
4. Everything you make will be unique and very personal; the perfect gift for every occasion.
5. Cross stitch is great for stress relief and relaxation. Just sit down with your favorite radio program or CD on and stitch away to your heart’s content.
6. Cross stitch is a truly “portable” hobby. You can stitch while sitting in your armchair watching the TV or alternatively you can take it with you on holiday or on long train journeys. Boredom will surely be a thing of the past.
7. The huge number of cross stitch designs available today means that there will always be something you like, regardless of your ability. Simple designs for beginners incorporate a small number of colour threads and very basic stitches so that you don’t need to go and read a manual before you make a start. However, as you progress and learn a few more stitches and techniques you can attempt more complex patterns until you really are the professional cross stitcher.
8. There are literally hundreds of websites that offer free patterns to cross stitch. You will have to buy your own threads and fabric but that is half of the challenge! There is absolutely no way on this earth that you will ever run out of things to cross stitch; it really is a hobby for life.
9. As you become more confident and proficient, you may be able to sell some of your creations thus making a bit of pocket money while doing something that you love to do. You can even advertise your talents and design patterns for individual customers. Given a few years you could have a nice little business venture as well as a great hobby.
10. Outdoor hobbies such as hill walking and bird watching aren’t much fun in the rain or in the middle of winter, but cross stitch can be done at any time of the year regardless of the weather. In fact it’s a great feeling to sit in a nice warm, cozy house on a dull winter evening and happily stitch the hours away.
Overall, cross stitch really is a universal hobby anyone can master and if your curiosity does get the better of you, you will undoubtedly become hooked in no time. Historically, cross stitching has a rather vague stigma attached to it as being thought of by many as just a “pensioner” activity. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. People of all ages cross stitch, even teenagers and children… and yes men too! And hey! if you don’t believe me, have a go yourself. You’ll soon find out why cross stitch really is universally popular.
John Wigham has been a professional author and editor for 20 years and is a co-founder of Patternspatch.com, an online cross stitch club dedicated to counted cross stitch. The website has a small team of writers who are devoted to our cross stitch club and enjoy writing about their hobby.