Category: Tricks of the Trade

Weaving in Ends

Weaving in Ends

Taming the squiggles

We’ve all been there. You finish a project and you just can’t WAIT to wear it! But…… before you do, you need to weave in all those yarn ends. If your project just so happens to be made in multiple colors, you may have A LOT of those little squiggles hanging off every which way. How many of us sometimes just say, “I’ll do it later” and toss the project somewhere, where it sits…. and sits…. and sits? 
Sometimes weaving in ends seems like such an insurmountable task. Today I’m going to show you how I do it, in hopes that maybe I can offer some help.

Joining a New Strand

I always try to use the 1-2-3 method of weaving in ends.  This means having the yarn end go underneath the stitches first forward, then backward, then finally forward again before cutting. When joining a new strand of yarn, I can actually work the 1 in when the joining happens, so I only have to do the 2-3 when the project is done! Let me explain.

This picture is taken from the back side, and shows you the blue strand of yarn, which is the new strand just joined. After I joined it in the last stitch, I crocheted OVER TOP of it for about 6 stitches, holding the strand against the back. This secured the end for about 2 inches.

Once I have finished the project and am ready to weave in the ends, I got back to where my ends are. I thread the end through a tapestry needle, skip one “strand” or “leg” of the last stitch that secured it, and run back the other way, under all stitches for about an inch.

Don’t pull too tightly here! Just pull enough so that you don’t have a big loop hanging out. We’re going to snug everything up in our very final step, so if you pull too tightly during this step, you may have puckering in your fabric at the end.

Step 2 of weaving in ends

Finally, we finish up with step 3 and a tug.

Going forward once again, I skip one “strand” or “leg” just like in step 2, and slide the needle underneath four or five strands, giving a slight tug (but again, not too much!) Time to cut!

Cut the yarn close to the fabric, being careful not to cut the fabric itself! Now take it in your hands and, with one hand on either side of the area you’ve woven into, pull. Just give the whole a good tug. This will simultaneously pull ALL of the back-and-forths at the same time, securing everything very well.

step 3

Bulky

bulky

Bulky yarn, however, is usually a whole ‘nother story. Whether single ply or multi-plies, it is a rare occurrence that a great big strand of bulky-weight yarn can be woven in one whole piece without making a lump in the fabric.

When weaving in bulky weight yarns, I will split the plies (assuming it’s a multi-ply) and weave them in opposite directions. This alleviates the risk of lumping up the fabric. I like to use a needle threader to make it easy.

If your bulky yarn is a single ply….. well, we’re giving it to God. Just do the best you can, making sure to go in each direction even farther than you would normally go. If you only weave under two or three stitches, you will most assuredly have a lump, but if you weave under 10 stitches, then it’s much less noticeable.

Extra Help

I hope this post has been helpful to you. If so, I have other posts in the “Tricks of the Trade” category that may also help you when it comes to blocking your finished items, choosing the right hook, how to get started spinning yarn, and so much more. Furthermore, if you’ve found value in this post, please consider sharing, giving it a like, or leaving a comment. Everything you do for Rows and Roses is so appreciated ♥

Get Hooked

Get Hooked

A crochet hook overview

scattered hooks

If I’ve learned anything about crochet hooks after 10 years of crocheting, it’s that they are deeply personal. I don’t know a single hooker who can use just any ol’ hook. We all have our “perfect hooks” and that tends to be what we stick with.

But what type of hooks are there? What makes hooks so different from each other? In today’s Get Hooked post, we’ll learn a little about hook anatomy, types, brands, and we’ll even talk to other crafters about what hooks they prefer, and why.

Tapered or inline

Before you can Get Hooked, you have to FIND a hook. Right? Also, the hook you find needs to work for you. So what if it doesn’t? What if you’re dropping your yarn off the hook with each stitch, or splitting the yarn each time you grab it?

There are two main types of hooks: tapered (such as Boye,) and inline (such as Susan Bates.) The tapered hooks have much narrower throats and rounder heads. The biggest concern with tapered hooks seems to be having the yarn slipping off the side of the head, meaning you’re having to re-grab the yarn, essentially making the stitch twice (or more.) This slows you down, as I’m sure you can see.

Tapered Hooks
Tapered Hooks

Inline hooks are straight all the way down from the head to the end of the shaft. The head is “in line” with the rest of the hook. They also tend to have a deeper throat, which I love because I feel it securely grabs the yarn the first time, and leaves nowhere for the yarn to slip off. The thing that most tapered fans have against inline hooks is they say it splits the yarn too often, due to the sharper edge.

I personally am an inline hook user all the way. I’ve never had any issues with splitting yarn (beyond what’s reasonable in the craft of crochet in general.) In fact, I can’t use a tapered hook at all anymore! Every stitch I make slips right off and I have to do it again. Inline hooks have greatly increased my speed and accuracy.

Inline Hooks
Inline Hooks

Let's hear what some other crafters have to say...

I have realized for me that I love lightweight, tapered hooks and I do not like big handles. For regular crochet, Furls streamlines are perfect for me bc of their shape, they are extremely lightweight and yarn glides over them wonderfully. For Amigurumi I love clovers crochet hooks. They are lightweight and I feel more comfortable using them to make cute Amigurumi with small, tight stitches. I also love their Tunisian interchangeable set because they are wooden, lightweight, easy to use and the interchangeable cords are awesome to have.

~ Alexandra Halsey from With Alex

When I first started crocheting, I tried both tapered and in-line to see what worked best for me, with a Bates vs Boye comparison. I found that I preferred the tapered Boye hook over the in-line Bates, but wished the tip of the Boye hook had a similar point to the Bates hook. I started using Clover Amour hooks, which I absolutely loved and are still my go to, though I have recently discovered Furls Odyssey, which to me is a blend of both styles, making me fly through my stitches, with their slightly tapered, slightly in-line, still smooth head with more point than Boye but maybe not as much as Bates. It’s the Goldilocks hook!
~ Kristen Caldwell, from Hooks Books and Wanderlust

My current favorite is the Clover soft touch. I like that its handle is shorter so it doesn’t start to hurt the right side of my hand (by my pinky) if I crochet for too long, which happens pretty often hah! I’m dying to try a furls, too, but I haven’t yet.

~ Mary from Kickin’ Crochet

After years of sore hands from crocheting to much, if there is such a thing, I tried Clover Soft Touch Hooks and fell in love with them. The thicker (and softer) handles relieved my sore and achy hands immediately. I love all the pretty handles and hooks on the market today, but I am too loyal to my Clovers to give them a try. Happy Crocheting! 
~ Christine from Sweet Potato 3

I learned to crochet using Boye hooks, and used them for over a decade until I was forced to use a Bates hook for a contract project. It was then that I discovered not only that the sizing is actually different between Boye and Bates, but the neck and hook are completely different as well. It took a little while to get used to the Bates hook, but once I did, I found it very difficult to go back to using my Boye hooks. I now have 3 sets of Bates hooks, and my poor Boyes are collecting dust.
~ Malena from Straight Hooked 

My personal favorites are inline hooks. There is a slightly different movement when crocheting with inline hooks compared to tapered hooks that doesn’t bother my wrists as much. I love the deeper throat as well since it grabs the yarn better–I can actually crochet faster! My favorite hooks are the classic Susan Bates hooks, and Furls hooks when my wrists and hands need a little more TLC.

~ Kirsten from Kirsten Holloway Designs

I’ve always preferred tapered hooks for most projects. With inline hooks, I find I split the yarn more often. My current favorite “everyday” hooks are Clover Amour. The soft, ergonomic grip is very comfortable, the weight feels just right to me, and of course they’ve got tapered ends. I also like that they list the size in mm on the hook.
~ Pia Thadani of Stitches n Scraps

I love Furls hooks. I recently switched (around November of last year) and can’t use anything else now. I switch between their streamline swirls, odysseys, and alphas depending on the project.
~ Pamela Stark of Sincerely Pam

Let's talk brands!

So now that you know all about different types, are you ready to get hooked? Which would you like to try and where can you find them? Here are a few different brands, along with my personal thoughts, as well as links for purchasing.

Radiant Hooks by WeCrochet

These are my very favorite wooden hooks ever, and that’s my real professional opinion, not my Ambassador’s opinion 😀 These hooks are inline, with a rounded head, and a satin-like finish. I’ve never had issues with splitting yarn with these, and I especially love the slight grip the wood offers to slippery yarns, like the Upcycle I used in SUNday.

Susan Bates at Hobby Lobby

These are my favorite aluminum hooks, as well as my first set of inlines. Since finding these, I’ll never again use a tapered hook. Susan Bates Silvalume hooks are light-weight aluminum and beautifully colored, with a deep throat and pointy tip. For me, they are the most perfect hooks I’ve ever used for any and all types of wool.

Clover Amour at WeCrochet

These Clover hooks are so pretty! Ergonomic handles make for comfortable stitching for those whole hold their hook like a knife (as opposed to the pencil hold,) and the bright colors are so lovely. These are tapered aluminum hooks in plastic handles.

Go hook yourself

There you have it, friends and neighbors. Tapered or inline, straight or ergonomic shafts, wood or metal or plastic, there are so many different types of hooks! Why not try out a few and see what you like? After talking with these other amazing crochet artists, I’m really excited to try some Furls hooks now, although I just don’t know if anything can take the place of my WeCrochet wooden or Susan Bates aluminum inline hooks.

If you have found value in this post, please share it, pin it, tweet it, or leave a comment. Thanks so much for all that you do to help Rows and Roses offer great content and get it out to the masses. You are loved and appreciated ♥

Blocking Finished Items

Blocking Finished Items

The whys and the hows

I’m sure that we’ve all seen some handmade items that, well… left much to be desired. It’s not the yarn. The yarn is gorgeous! And it’s not the pattern. We can see pictures of other items made by different people using the same pattern, and they are remarkable. However,  perhaps the one in front of us just doesn’t seem right. Sloppy? Is that the right word? Could it be that the gauge is off? Or maybe it looks more like what you would consider a “rough draft” would look like.

I bet I know why this beautiful item, knitted or crocheted by a talented fiberartist who knows what they’re doing, in the most scrumptious yarn, fails to impress. I bet it’s due to a shoddy blocking job, or perhaps it hasn’t been blocked at all! So we’re going to talk about blocking today. See that picture above, with the colorful top next to the black top? That is the exact same top. Same yarn, same size. The colorful one has been blocked, and the black one has not (yet.)

A Big Difference

Take a look at the picture on the left. This gorgeous doily was crocheted by a very talented fiber artist on Ravelry (click the pic to see her project.) She did an amazing job crocheting it, and then lovingly and painstakingly blocked it, pinning all the little points and scallops. Isn’t it amazing?!

But look at the difference between the top slice and the bottom slice. See how the top slice looks bunched up? That’s before blocking. And the lacy and open bottom slice is after.

Just imagine if they had left this gorgeous doily unblocked. Would it ever have laid flat? Could you even see all the special stitches and lacy spaces there toward the center? The points and loops on the outer edge wouldn’t even be noticeable! The stitches for them are, but you can’t see them. THIS is why we block. Maybe not so much for things like dish cloths or mittens, but for anything with a stitch pattern, yes, you really should block it.

Getting your Block On

Just so that you are aware, blocking is not a difficult thing to do. It does, however, take some supplies, and usually a good bit of time if you’re going to do it right. See these three pictures on the right? They show the transition from a bunched up swatch of yarn, to the blocking mat, and finally to the absolutely stunning shawl that this artist knew they were making all along. I’m sure it took a lot of faith in the magic of blocking to continue on knitting this lace shawl when the whole time it was looking like the top picture!

So let’s get ready to do some blocking!

Then first thing you’ll need is something to block your item on. Some people, like me, have special blocking mats we like to use. They are made of dense foam, and they interlock to form a surface as big as you need. The middle picture here shows interlocking blocking mats. The ones I have are smaller, and I have two sets so that I can put together a mat for unusual designs, such as crescent or asymmetrical shawls

You’ll also need some rust-resistant pins, and if you’re blocking lace, some blocking wires. I just use guitar strings.

You’re going to soak your item in a warm bath for a little while, then squeeze or spin as much of the water out of it as you can. Block damp, not saturated! Lay your item out on the blocking mat in the form it should be when it dries. Pin it liberally, taking care to get all the little points. There are never too many pins when you’re blocking a piece! Once you’ve pulled it out into the correct shape and pinned it, let it dry and you’re good to go!

It's Not Just for Lace!

While blocking is, of course, necessary for lace projects in order to open them up, I am a firm believer that a good blocking equals a better finished, more polished piece of knitting or crochet. This before/after of a sweater shows how even cables can benefit from a good blocking.

Blocking helps any item go from “homemade” to “handmade” and is the final touch that I would encourage you to add to all of your projects.

Are you first time blocker, looking to give it a try? Show us! I’m dying to see how it goes for you. I bet you’ll love it, and will block from now on. Share your before/after pics on social media and hashtag them #RowsAndRosesBlocking so we can all see your masterpiece! And as always, if you have found value in anything set forth in this blog post, please consider sharing, pinning, tweeting, or otherwise helping to get it out there for others to use ♥

Spinning Yarn

Spinning Yarn

Taking a Braid for a Spin

Spinning

Spinning yarn is one of those things that so many people find to be amazing. Myself included! Lots of people who are into other fiber arts, such as knitting and crocheting, seem to believe that spinning yarn is beyond the realm of reasonable activities to take up. Spinning is something from the olden days, right? Why would I spend time spinning yarn when I can order thousands of different types of yarn, and get whatever I want already made?

Well, let me tell you, spinning is a glorious adventure if you’re looking for a new way to enjoy your fiber arts! While there is certainly a learning curve, it isn’t actually “hard” to do. You can find prepared fiber in all kinds of braids or batts, you can purchase different types of fibers and blend your own mix, or you can even take the wool right off a sheep or alpaca and spin it in the grease!

Different put-ups for different spins

My favorite way to spin is from a braid of fiber already prepared for me. Sometimes I purchase a bare braid and dye it myself, and sometimes I get it already dyed by a favorite dyer, such as Kim Russo of Kim Dyes Yarn. When you’re spinning yarn from a braid, you will undo part of the braid and pull off a section, usually splitting the section into two or three narrow strands.

You can find prepared braids in all different types of fibers! My favorite is merino/silk, with pure Polwarth being a close second. I also enjoy alpaca blends (such as alpaca/silk, or alpaca/bamboo.) While I have certainly spun pure Merino before, I don’t enjoy it as much as when it is blended with another fiber, due to Merino’s short staple length. Getting to play with different types of fibers is so much fun!

Braid of Merino

Batts are another fun option for spinning yarn. Batts are made by carding different fibers together into a fluffy blend, kinda like a “cloud” of fiber. You can then take chunks off the batt and spin them however you wish. I’ve had batts before that were alpaca, mulberry silk, mohair locks, Angora, and stellina (sparkle strands) all mixed together to make an absolutely stunning blend of color and texture. While I have more trouble getting a uniform yarn from batts, I do so enjoy the fun of them! They always make for an interesting spin. As do rolags and p-rolags, but perhaps those are a post for another day…

Braid of Merino/Bamboo/Silk

Wheel vs. Spindle

spinning wheel
My sweet little baby wheel <3

Honestly, I kinda feel like the wheel vs. spindle is a whole other post by itself, too, so I’m only going to touch on a couple of things here.

First, a spindle (also called a drop-spindle) is basically a dowel threaded through a center hole in a round weight. Like a pencil through a donut, only tightly anchored. The round weight can be wood, stone, Fimo clay, or just about anything else you can think of. You hook your fiber around a hook in the top of the dowel, and you spin the whole thing either between your fingers or by running it down the side of your leg. When you get a long length of yarn spun, you wind it around the shaft. This is my prefered method of spinning, as spindles are inexpensive and easily portable.

I am not quite familiar enough with spinning wheels to talk much about them. I have a small one that doesn’t work, and intend to get a larger one that does sometime in the future. The reason I haven’t made the plunge yet is because A) they’re expensive (the cheapest being at least a few hundred bucks, and I’ve seen some go for upwards of $5,000) and B) they take up a good bit of space. For years, my spindles have served me well, so I’m in no rush. Eventually it’ll happen, when I have the money to spend and can make room in our small home.

Try it, you'll love it!

current spin
My current spin, dyed by me!

In summary, if you haven’t yet tried to spin your own yarn, you really should give it a go! There are lots of places online where you can find high-quality hand-dyed spinning fibers, as well as handmade spindles. There are books on spinning, videos to get you started, and I’m always just an email away.

Spinning is relaxing (once you get the hang of it) and it really is so much fun to be able to play with all different types and blends of fibers.

If this post inspires you to try your hand at spinning, I’d love to see your pics! Post in the facebook group, or on instagram, and hashtag them RowsAndRosesSpin so I can see what you’ve got going on!

Learning to Ice Dye Yarn

Learning to Ice Dye Yarn

Learning to Ice Dye Yarn: Another adventure in fiber crafts

Today I’m learning to ice dye yarn. This is something I had heard about a while back, but never had the time to try to figure out. I’ve dyed yarn in the past, both hand-painted and kettle dyed, but ice dying is something new to me. Seeing as how I’m on day 2 of a five day streak of staying at home, it looks like today will be the perfect day! No time like the present, am I right?

Follow along with me here today if you’re interested in learning to ice dye yarn yourself. Not that my newbie self can probably teach you anything other than what NOT to do… but hey, it’ll be fun I bet. Let’s get started trying to figure this thing out.

Yarn prepped for dying

What is ice dying?

From what I understand, dying yarn using the ice dye method is supposed to be super simple. Ice dying fabric is also a thing, and I’ve seen some gorgeous ice dyed bamboo velour, but since I’m into yarn and not fabric, let’s just stick with the yarn for now, mkay?

Apparently, the gist of it is that you mix up your dye and pour it into ice cube trays. You then freeze it, bust up the cubes (or leave them whole, but not us!) and sprinkle them onto your prepped yarn. Once you have the ice the way you want it, simply bake the yarn in the oven to set it. I’m excited to see if it’s really THAT easy!

The Process

(otherwise known as the adventure)

This is it! The start of our epic adventure. Picking out the dyes is always fun. Since I wanted to do a speckly green, so I went with Jacquard acid dyes in Emerald, Chartreuse, Turquoise, a diluted Sky Blue/Yellow Sun mix, and then as an afterthought, I added Jet Black. I used a 1/8 teaspoon to measure out some dyes into each jar, then added a splash of vinegar, along with some water. Craft sticks make perfect stirrers for something like this. Do you think I made a mess? I mean….. of course.

My yarn has been soaking in a tub of hot water with vinegar all morning, so it should be ready to go. After pouring dye into my one and only ice cube tray, I put it in the freezer to set up. Waiting is going to be the hardest part, for sure!

Patience: not my virtue

Ice takes a long time to freeze. Like, I was kinda aware of that, but not as aware as I am now. I waited all damn day for this dye to set up and let me tell you, it was the longest day of my life! Knitting happened while waiting. Hanging out with the kids. A friend came by and brought Isaiah his old drum kit, which was awesome. Lots of fun was had while waiting, but still……. waiting sucks.

Considering I was going to have to wait for as long as it decided to take for the dye to freeze anyway, I decided to go ahead and get ready for the pounding. Oh yeah. Demolition’s my THANG! Even if it’s just ice cubes.

73186829_2508892869231490_4604495779317415936_n

And now, we dye

From here on, we’re really getting into our project. After squeezing out a good bit of the water, I spread out my skein of yarn into a roasting pan with parchment laid in it. I want to be able to continue to use this pan with food at some point, and I don’t want to take a chance that the metal may react with the dye. I preheated the oven to 250 degrees. You know I’m flying by the seat of my pants here, right? The ice cubes were dumped into thick freezer bags, after which I smashed them with a hammer. Lots of big pieces, small pieces, and tiny pieces seem just about perfect for what we’re doing, don’t you think?

Smashing is my favorite, so I savored that little task. Then, after making sure all the yarn was spread as thinly as possible without causing a tangled mess, I scattered the ice, one color at a time, in a random fashion over the yarn. Isn’t it so pretty??

Yarn spread out
Ice cubes scattered

Wakey Wakey, yarn gets bakey!

Into the oven it went, much like the witch from Hansel and Gretel. But not as roughly. I was careful. Baking at 250 for about 30 minutes seems right (remember I have no idea what I’m doing, k?) Back to waiting…

Ding!

Oh my very goodness. Looks like all that patience really paid off. This yarn is gorgeous! The greens and blues speckled with the black is exactly what I was thinking when I started on this today. This is my dream yarn, y’all! I can’t believe how amazing it looks. But… what is that? Is that ORANGE? Where did THAT come from?! I wonder if perhaps some of that Sun Yellow didn’t dissolve well. It’s actually quite nice. An unexpected surprise, yes, but I dig it!

Ice dyed yarn
Orange speckles

Learning to ice dye yarn has been such a fun adventure! I’m so glad we decided to do this, aren’t you? This gorgeous yarn will be listed in my shop soon (if I don’t decide to use it first.) It’s a fingering weight, single-ply wool and will be absolutely perfect for a crocheted shawl. Wanna learn about fingering weight, and all the other weights of yarn? Check out my post here.

Thank you all so much for joining me today. Gorgeous yarn never gets old, does it? If you like what you see, or found value in this post, please share it! There’s lots more to come ♥

ice dyed yarn graphic
Is Gauge Important?

Is Gauge Important?

Have you had trouble getting gauge with knit and crochet? Is getting gauge with knit and crochet even important? Read on and let me help!

An adventure in swatching- Getting Gauge with knit and crochet

The short answer: Yes. Getting gauge in knit and crochet *IS* important. This is true especially if you are unsure about sizing, or the pattern uses a technique that is new to you. Doubly so if your math skills are not up to snuff, or you have a specific amount of yarn with which to work. Basically, there are many good reasons why you’ll want to pay attention to gauge. Read on and see how you can make gauge work for you.

These swatches are all the exact same yarn, worked with different sized hooks.

Gauge? Huh?

So what is gauge, exactly? Well, to put it simply, gauge is how many stitches and/or rows you have per unit of measurement, usually 1″ or 4″ squared. If you’re looking at a pattern and it tells you that gauge is 20 sts x 24 rows = 4″ then you know two things. First, that 20 stitches needs to be 4″ across. Which also mean you’ll need 24 rows to be 4″ tall. Here’s where you need to swatch.

A gauge swatch is simply knitting or crocheting a small, square piece of fabric using the yarn and hook or needles specified in the pattern. Work your swatch before you do anything else so that you can see how close (or far off) you are from the intended gauge. If you’re getting less stitches per inch than the pattern calls for (for example you only get 12 stitches in 4″,) then you’ll need to go down a hook or needle size and try again. Same goes the other direction: if you’re getting too many stitches in your measured section, then your hook or needles are too small and you’ll need to go up a size.

Tell me why!

What happens if your gauge is close but not quite? What happens if you decide not to swatch and just hope for the best? Well…. maybe everything will be okay, but more than likely, you’re going to deal a with a good bit of frogging (rip-it, rip-it) and a whole lot of wasted time. Here’s why:

Say your gauge is too small, but not by much. Maybe you’re supposed to get 10 stitches per inch, but you’re  getting 11. Seems like not a huge deal, so you just go with it. Close enough is close enough, right? Well, maybe. If you’re just making a washcloth, or a scarf, then you may not mind one bit if it’s just slightly wider or longer that the pattern says it will be. In fact, you may never even notice!

But what if it’s a sweater? Or mittens? You must remember that you’re not going to be just one stitch too many in the finished item, but rather one stitch PER INCH too many. If your item is supposed to be 10 inches long, then at 11 stitches per inch, it’s going to be 11 inches long. For a mitten, that’s a good bit more than you bargained for. What if your finished item is supposed to be 30 inches long? Now it’s going to be 33.

Think about that. That’s a BIG difference, especially in something like sleeve length, or bust circumference! This is how being just slightly off in gauge can result in a hat or sweater that is completely unwearable. Look what happened when I tried to knit an adult hat and didn’t swatch:

Great, but is it ALWAYS necessary?

It is absolutely possible to turn this whole idea on its head though, if you’re good at math and know what you’re doing. One of my preferred methods of creating “my own” item out of someone else’s pattern is to swatch for fabric, rather than for gauge. Especially if the yarn contains any silk (swoooooon.) I will look at the recommended hook or needle size and start there, just to have a jumping-off point. Then I will make 3-4 swatches with hook/needle sizes close to the stated size .

For example, if a pattern calls for a 4mm hook, I may make swatches using 3.5, 4, 5, and maybe even 6. This is so that I can see how the fabric feels and drapes. I’ll pick the swatch that looks and feels the best to me, and then rework the math in the pattern to make it match my gauge.

This is fairly time consuming, and math isn’t something I’m great at, only passable. Therefore, I tend not to do this for a customer’s order as it takes an ample amount of extra time and effort, and I have to charge extra for that. As I progress in my journey, I hope to one day be good enough at it to start making most of my items this way.

Show us your gauge!

I’d love to see your pictures of gauges gone wrong! Send them to Sati@rowsandroses.com or post them on the facebook page with hashtag #GaugeGoneWrong and share your horror story with the world. Show everyone why getting gauge with knit and crochet is so important!

If you have any questions about what you’ve read, you can always contact me. And please, if you found value in this post, take just a second or two to hit some buttons for me. Like, tweet, pin, comment, and mostly SHARE SHARE SHARE!

Yarn Selection

Yarn Selection

Part II: Weight

Gorgeous swatch in Lindy Chain, a fingering weight yarn by Knit Picks

Remember our little chat about yarn selection last week where we discussed why certain fibers were good for certain things (like cotton is absorbent and great for kitchen towels, while wool is light and springy and warm so excellent for sweaters,) and how some yarns may not work for certain items based on the fibers from which they’re made? Well there’s another thing we have to take into consideration when dealing with yarn selection, and that’s the yarn weight. Just to be clear, yarn weight doesn’t mean how much a ball of the yarn weighs, but rather the “gauge” of a single strand of the yarn. In other words, thickness. Let’s elaborate a bit.

Why yarn weight matters

Say we want to make a fluttery springtime shawl. A transition piece for those warm yet breezy late spring days (we don’t have those days here in SC very often: we tend to go from winter to pollen to full-on Hades. But I digress…) We pick out a pattern with an airy feel, like butterfly wings, perfect for mid-April. Now we need to find a yarn. We discover that our local yarn shop, or perhaps our favorite online retailer, offers a drop-dead-gorgeous yarn of merino and silk, which we know will be equal parts bouncy and drapey, in a colorway that just screams BUY ME!! This is it, this is the yarn. We check the yardage to make sure we order enough and now, finally, we are at home with our yarn and ready to start. Guess what? It’s a #6 bulky-weight yarn. Oh…… no. This shawl is going to wear like a carpet.

Or how about this: we want to crochet a rug for our living room. Brown and green to match our decor (assuming you all have decor. I do not, unless “third-hand cast offs” is a decor.) We find a brown yarn with green speckles in the perfect shades. We grab a bunch and head home. Now we’re ready to start hooking. We need to swatch (swatching will be a whole ‘nother post) to figure out which hook will give us the thick and unyielding fabric we want for this rug that’s going to be walked on for years to come. Oh wait, this gorgeous yarn is fingering weight. Oh man, that’s not going to work. It’ll take 10 years to make this rug, and then it’ll be thin like a cotton tshirt. Gotta take the yarn back and try again.

Or how about we just skip all this insanity and disappointment and jump right to the part in our yarn selection where we learn how to pick the right weight of yarn the first time around? Yeah? Awesome.

First, let’s get familiar with some weight terms here, and what they look like.

Getting smart

Weight Number

#0

#1

#2

#3

#4

#5

#6

Weight Name

Lace (think angel hair pasta, or even smaller)

Fingering

Sport

DK (great middle of the road weight)

Worsted

Aran

Bulky (think rug)

L to R: lace, fingering, sport, dk, worsted, aran, bulky

To find the yarn weight on a ball or skein of yarn, just look at the label. It will tell you! Thankfully, most patterns you’ll find already tell you which yarn weight the pattern is written for. However, if you’re writing your own pattern, tweaking a pattern for a lighter or heavier weight yarn, or just trying to make something up from scratch with nothing but a hook, some yarn, and your imagination, then you’ll need to have an idea of what these different weights can do, and what they probably can’t.

It’s usually okay to substitute a yarn within 1 of the original weight. For example, I’ve substituted fingering for sport, and aran for worsted, more times than I can count. The trick is to make a gauge swatch with two or three different hook sizes to either A) meet the correct gauge for the pattern, or B) get the fabric feel and drape that you want and then do the math according to the gauge of the pattern vs. the gauge of your swatch. If this is Greek to you, don’t worry, we’ll cover swatching in another post a little later on. Suffice it to say, substitutions can usually be made as long as they’re not too drastic.

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Yarn Selection: How it works

Yarn Selection: How it works

Part I: Fiber

Have you ever fallen so deeply in love with a yarn or pattern that you had to have it RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW!! so you send me what you have and tell me what you want, and…. I dash your dreams by telling you that there’s no way this yarn and this pattern will work together? If you have, then I’m so sorry to have to be the person who ruins everything! But you know what? The ruination (new word, enjoy) would have been much more devastating if we had gone ahead and messed up your yarn with the wrong pattern, or messed up your finished item by using the wrong yarn.

What makes a yarn perfect for an item, or all wrong? There are two factors here: fiber content and yarn weight. We’ll discuss fiber today, and leave weight for a Part 2 post. For now, enjoy these gorgeous yarn pics while I babble.

There are two different kinds of fibers we will discuss here because the third type (man-made aka acrylic, polyester, nylon, etc.) are all plastics and I tend to stay far away from those if I can help it. For today, we have plant fibers and animal fibers. A few types include:

Plant:

  • cotton
  • hemp
  • bamboo
  • linen (flax)
  • jute

Animal

  • wool (all different breeds!)
  • alpaca
  • cashmere
  • angora
  • silk (it comes from worms)
  • mohair
  • yak

So how do we know what gets used where? Well, there are no hard and fast rules that apply across the board (that I’m aware of, anyway) but there are some basic ideas that can help us decide.

For example, plant fibers, like cotton and bamboo, tend to be very strong and absorbent (especially linen!) so they are great choices for kitchen textiles such as dishcloths, hand towels, and placemats. They do not, however, hold their shape very well, especially when wet, and can become heavy and stretched out. Because of this, you wouldn’t normally use cotton for a heavy sweater, or something that needs to spring back and “hug” you, like a hat, or socks.

On the other hand, animal fibers such as wool and alpaca, tend to be very warm, and very springy. They are excellent for things like sweaters and hats because they’re lighter than plant fibers and don’t usually pull out of shape. They are insulating and will help you retain body heat in the winter, but they’re also very breathable and will actually keep you from sweating. This is why cloth diapering parents LOVE woolies! They’ll absorb moisture while allowing the air to circulate and dry the skin off. No diaper rashes here!

Now don’t get me wrong, lots of items “could” be made with all different types of fibers and turn out just fine. I’ve made hats from cotton before, I just make sure to let the recipient know that it may require more frequent trips through the dryer to spring back into shape. I don’t normally make “kitchen stuff” with animal fibers, but I LOVE making coffee cozies and trivets out of wool since wool will hug my cup better AND keep things warmer, for longer.

It is my mission as a semi-professional yarny to make sure that you are aware of these things when deciding on an item you want, and while picking a yarn for it. I am always happy to make suggestions and will be sure to steer you in the right direction. I won’t let us run off the rails and make something that ends up being completely ridiculous and useless by choosing a yarn that couldn’t possibly work. Forever and always, I am committed to bringing you items that are wonderfully astounding and will be loved and cherished- and USED!- year after year after year.

Join me here again later on for more chatter on yarn in Part II: Yarn Weight. Until then, why not cruise the site and see what you can see? Every single like, comment, pin, tweet, and share, is so appreciated as it helps Rows and Roses to grow and thrive. Thank you so much for being here ♥