I am going to start the Spin-a-Yarn Knit and Crochet School, and YOU can be enrolled!All you have to do is check my blog every week on Wednesdays to learn something cool and new about working with yarn. I would love it so much if you were vocal and let me know specific things you're interested in learning. For example, go "Hey, I saw this cool sweater- how do they do this pattern?" or "Holy cow, how do I know if I want to knit a project or crochet it?" Speak your minds, friends!
To start off our school on the right foot, I'm going to do a little variation on a "Tools of the Trade" post about yarn, needles, and hooks.
There are so, so many options available anymore. Synthetic or natural. Wild, fringe-y, poofy, or plain. Thick or thin. Most patterns will only specify the needle/hook sizes for the project, but if you're in-the-know, this also tells you what size of yarn to use. If you check the handy little label on the back of your skein of yarn ("skein" is the official word for a ball of yarn), it gives you all sorts of important information. Here are the main things to check:
1 | DYE LOT: Imagine that every time yarn is made, a huge colorless batch is dumped in this big vat and all dyed together. The next batch is meant to be the exact same color, but perhaps that second batch has one extra drop of dye added. Imagine how devastated you would be to complete a project with two skeins of yarn that end up being the slightest shade different from each other because they were dyed in different batches. Bum-freakin-tastic. to prevent you from having this problem, yarn labels will show a number know as the "dye lot". As long as all of the skeins you pick share a dye lot, you should be worry-free.
2 | NEEDLE/HOOK SIZE: Don't worry, in just a moment I'll share with you a few details about how to pick a needle or hook for your project. For right now, just know that the label on a skein of yarn shows the appropriate needle or hook size for your project. The recommended size isn't a rule; in fact, you probably have 2 sizes of wiggle room either direction. Say the label suggests a size 7 needle; you should be able to get away with needle sizes from 5 to 9 and be in good shape.
3 | GAUGE: I've never really had the opportunity or reason to use a gauge guide on a skein of yarn. It is probably the most helpful if you want to create your own pattern and you need to figure out how many stitches will give you 10" by 14", for instance. (When I create my own patterns I usually just start going and measure as I go.)
4 | CARE INSTRUCTIONS: Let's be honest, I don't think I've ever had occasion to wash one of my projects. (Does that make me a gross bum? Perhaps.) But if you feel like washing or generally "caring" for your projects, keep these labels in a little box in your laundry room so you can do so appropriately.
First off, do you know which tool goes with which yarn technique? Knitting uses two needles and works back and forth (typically). Crocheting uses a single hook and always goes a single direction (the piece may be rotated or flipped backwards, but you'll keep working in the same direction the entire time). Picking a needle or hook is really pretty simple, with two primary factors to keep in mind.
1 | SIZE: Like I said before, the size of needle you will need is always shown in the pattern, so it should be a no-brainer. I also said before, that you usually have 2 sizes of wiggle-room (in case you want to add some flair to your project). Just beware that substituting a different needle size WILL effect the dimensions of your finished product.
2 | MATERIAL: Your basic options are metal, plastic, and wood. Material choice is 100% based on your preference. Wood is a good eco-friendly choice. Metal is smooth, which makes it quick to move yarn back and forth from needle to needle (which makes a project go quickly). Plastic will stick to yarn a tiny bit, which is nice for beginners so you don't accidentally drop stitches.
There are also some specialized tools, like circular knitting needles, double-ended knitting needles, or crochet hooks with a flat bottom to hold stitches. Don't worry- I'm only going to show you basics of knitting and crocheting for now that don't require those special tools.
I'm a hard-core yarn-user, but of these extras I only use a stitch guide book and yarn needle. However, if you want to stock up, more power to you.
1 | STITCH GUIDE BOOK: If your local yarn store has a small booklet on knitting or crochet stitches (which should really only cost about $5) then get it! These books have pictures and written instructions, and make a great informational accessory for your yarn bag. I refer to my crochet guide for every single project I do.
2 | STITCH COUNTER: This is a little clicker that literally allows you to count your stitches. If you're working a piece with a lot of stitches (like a blanket or large clothing piece) it can be helpful to count your stitches to create different patterns. (I usually just count manually, though.)
3 | STITCH MARKERS: These little rings can loosely loop around a knitting needle and mark where you started or ended a pattern. Again, I just count manually, but perhaps these markers would make life easier.
4 | YARN NEEDLE: A lot of projects require you to make multiple separate pieces and then join them together, a job which requires a very large needle. Don't loose these suckers.
I sure hope I didn't overwhelm you with all this information, but it's what you need to know to get this crazy adventure started! I'm so excited to teach you all a few fun things about knitting and crocheting. Let me know what you're particularly hoping to see!