Friday, September 25, 2015

Learn to Crochet Lesson Five: How to Read a Yarn Label

Welcome to the latest in a series of blog posts dedicated to teaching you to crochet! Crochet has changed my life and I know it can change yours as well, from the calmness it brings to the pride of creation. If you're just now joining us on our journey, keep in mind that you should be comfortable with Lesson One: How to Tie a Slipknot, Lesson Two: How to Work a Chain Stitch and Base Chain, Lesson Three: How to Single Crochet, and Lesson Four: How to Half Double Crochet before beginning today's lesson.

Everyone needs to start somewhere, and one of my goals for these lessons is to bring you information that I wish I had had when I was starting out. You're almost ready to begin your first complete project. Wahoo! Before you do, let's talk about yarn labels.

Yarn labels are full of information that will help you select the right yarn for each project. Some yarns are thicker or thinner than others. Some skeins have more yards of yarn and some have less. Different yarns work best with different sizes of crochet hook. Yikes, it can all be a little overwhelming can't it? Not to worry! Today I will address each part of a common yarn label and tell you why that information is useful to you. Let's get started!

Our first example is Lion Brand's Martha Stewart Crafts Extra Soft Wool blend. This is the yarn I am going to be using for the project in Lesson Six, a potholder. Let's take a look at the symbols and text on the label and decode them one by one.

First we have the brand and the yarn line. The major brand here is Lion Brand and the sub-brand is Martha Stewart Crafts. Other examples of yarn brands are Berroco, Cascade, or Bernat. At the bottom we see the yarn line, in this case Extra Soft Wool Blend. Each brand makes many different lines of yarn that are different thicknesses and are made of different things. Other yarn lines by Lion Brand include Vanna's Choice, Wool-Ease, and Fisherman's Wool. Yarn lines by Berroco include Comfort, Captiva, and Marmot. The brand is the major yarn company and the yarn line is one type of yarn among many that the company produces.

Here we have the fiber content. The fiber content tells you how much of each different kind of fiber is in the yarn. This yarn is made of acrylic and wool. It's important to know what your yarn is made of because it helps you decide how to use it and how to launder it. For example, nylon gives yarn strength and gloss, so you may choose to use a yarn with nylon for a hat that will be worn all of the time. Alpaca is very soft but also a bit fragile, so you may want to use it to make a special scarf for your sister for her birthday. A 100% wool yarn shouldn't be washed in the washing machine in warm or hot water or it will change shape and size, making it a bad choice for a dog blanket that will need to be washed often. The yarn store employees can help you select a good yarn for your project as you start out, though most patterns suggest a yarn for you to use. I chose this yarn for our Lesson Six potholder because acrylic is very washable and wool is self-extinguishing in case of fire. Plus, I love the crisp finished product it creates.

The "4" symbol on this yarn is telling us the weight of the yarn. The weight refers to a yarn's thickness. This yarn is medium weight, also called worsted weight. Not all yarns fall perfectly into a weight category, but for now just know that yarn generally comes in 0/Lace weight, 1/fingering weight, 2/sport weight, 3/DK weight, 4/worsted weight, 5/bulky weight, and 6/super bulky weight. If you are following a pattern they will tell you what yarn weight to use.

Here we see the needle and hook size recommendations as well as the suggested gauge. The hook size that is recommended for this yarn is 6mm, but that doesn't mean you have to use that size. Staying close to that size is a good idea. If you are following a pattern they will tell you what hook size to use. The gauge tells us how many stitches and rows we can expect in a given area. In this case, a 4"x 4" square should be 14 stitches across and 18 rows tall when using a 6mm hook. We will talk about gauge in depth in another lesson.

Okay, so you've figured out what weight you need (4). Now you need to figure out how many skeins, balls, or hanks of yarn to buy. Pretend your pattern calls for 250 yards of medium weight yarn. Well, since this label tells us that one skein of Extra Soft Wool Blend has 164 yards, we know that we will need to buy two and that we will end up with a little extra. Some patterns list yarn requirements in ounces or grams rather than yardage, so that information is available as well. Weighing yarn on a scale by the ounce or gram is also useful if you've got some yarn leftover from an old project but you aren't sure if you have enough left to use on your new project. It would certainly be inconvenient to unwind all of the yarn, measure it by yard, and then wind it back up again! Thank you mathematical conversions <3

Here we see the color name, color number, and lot number. The color name for this yarn is gray pearl. The number assigned to that color is 550. This will make it easier to find if you need to buy more skeins online, etc. So what's a lot number? Yarn is dyed in lots, aka batches, in big vats. Some lots/batches are large and some are small. Even though the company tries to make the color look as similar as possible every time they dye a new batch, the very nature of dye means that it isn't always possible. Some lots end up just a touch different in color, maybe a bit lighter or a bit darker. It's important to buy each of your yarn skeins from the same lot whenever possible so that your project will turn out uniform and not have weird stripes of off-color. The lot number of this skein is 032.

Finally, we have the laundry recommendations for your finished project made with the yarn. Here's a reminder of laundry symbol meanings.

Wow, that was a lot of information on one piece of paper, wasn't it? Never to fear. You will be practicing your yarn label reading skills when you select your yarns for upcoming projects in this series. Before we go, let's look at a boutique yarn label and compare it to our Lion Brand example.

Our above yarn, Lion Brand Martha Stewart Crafts Extra Soft Wool Blend, would likely be found in a craft store like Joann's or Michael's. It is what is known as a craft store yarn or widely available yarn. This next type of yarn would be found in a local yarn store that caters to somewhat higher quality yarns. These types of yarns are called specialty yarns, boutique yarns, or even indie yarns. Both craft yarn and boutique yarn can be bought online and both are useful for crochet. However, their labels will often be different, with boutique yarns providing less information. Let's look at this label for Madelinetosh (that's the brand) Tosh Merino Light (that's the yarn line).

Some of the info is the same. We can see that the color is Chamomile, handwritten on the side. It is 100% wool. It is a fingering weight yarn (1), and each hank has 420 yards. It also tells you how to wash it. However, the weight in ounces isn't listed. There isn't a dye lot, which means you will have to look at each hank carefully to make sure it matches the others you are buying. The gauge and needle recommendations given are only for knitting, not crochet. What are we to do? One way to discover answers is to use the internet, particularly Ravelry. You could also ask the yarn store employee for help. Finally, you can do the math yourself.

Yay! You have learned so much today! Get ready to use everything we have learned together for Lesson Six. I can't wait! If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! You are so articulate! Clearly an awesome teacher too- thank you!!!


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