Welcome to the world of crocheting! This wonderful hobby is easy to learn, and once you get started you can look forward to many hours of relaxing while creating beautiful projects out of yarn.
You know you need yarn in order to crochet, but a walk down the yarn aisles in your local craft store can be daunting. There is so much variety and so many beautiful colors and textures to choose from. How do you go about choosing the best yarn for crochet?
Which yarn is best depends on exactly what you plan to make with it. Each of those many yarns is the best choice for something, so before you head out shopping, you have some other decisions to make first.
Getting Started: Choose a Pattern
Crochet projects don’t generally start with the yarn, but rather with the pattern. Decide what you want to make and find a good pattern that tells you how to make it, step by step. Some common projects that are well-suited to beginners are scarves, baby blankets, and granny squares.
There are many free patterns available online, or you can choose to look for patterns in crochet books or magazines. It can often be helpful to have a physical pattern in front of you, so if you’re using an online pattern, consider printing it out first. Pattern books and magazines can be found at your local craft store, book store, or library. Some great websites to look for free patterns include We Crochet, The Crochet Crowd, and Yarnspirations.
Be sure to choose a pattern that is well-suited for your ability level. Most sites allow you to filter patterns by level of difficulty as you search. Books and magazines may have symbols or rating systems to show the difficulty level. This is typically explained in the early pages of the book.
Once you have chosen a pattern, find the place where it lists the materials you will need. This is usually near the top. Some patterns may give very detailed materials lists to tell you how to make exactly what is pictured, down to the color. Others may simply give you a broader category of yarn that works, perhaps by size or weight.
Size and Weight Matters
Yarn comes in different sizes or weights. The weight can be described according to a standard number system (ranging between 0 and 7) or using names for each category. Different types of yarn are classified within each of these categories. Your pattern may give you any one of these terms when guiding you in which yarn to choose for the project.
The smaller the number is, the finer or thinner the yarn is. Mid-weight yarns are typically best for beginner crocheters since working with very fine and very thick yarns can require a higher level of skill.
There are also different sizes of crochet hooks, classified either by a metric measurement (in millimeters) or by a letter-size (most common in the United States).
Different yarn sizes pair best with specific hook sizes, so be aware of this as you choose yarn. Most patterns will specify both a yarn size and a hook size, so if you follow the recommendations, you don’t need to know too much about this as a beginner.
This chart can help you understand more about yarn weights, so you can approach the yarn aisle with confidence.
|Size (Number)||Category Name||Types of Yarn||Recommended Hook Sizes|
|Steel hook sizes 6, 7, 8
Regular hook size B/1
(Metric 1.5 – 2.5 mm)
|1||Super Fine||Sock, Fingering, Baby||Sizes B/1, C/2, D/3, E/4
(Metric 2.5 – 3.5 mm)
|2||Fine||Sport, Baby||Sizes E/4, F/5, G/6, 7
(Metric 3.5 – 4.5 mm)
|3||Light||DK, Light Worsted||Sizes G/6, 7, H/8
(Metric 4.0 – 5.0 mm)
|4||Medium||Worsted, Afghan, Aran||Sizes I/9, J/10, K/10.5
(Metric 5.5 – 6.5 mm)
|5||Bulky||Chunky, Craft, Rug||Sizes K/10.5, L/11, M/13
(Metric 6.5 – 9.0 mm)
|6||Super Bulky||Roving, Super Bulky||Sizes M/13, N/15, P/Q
(Metric 9.0 – 15.0 mm)
|7||Jumbo||Jumbo, Roving||Sizes Q and larger
(Metric 15.0 + mm)
Choosing Yarn by Fiber Content
Yarn can be made from almost anything. Some types of yarn can be made from old t-shirts or plastic shopping bags as a way to recycle and create unique and interesting projects.
While using these unusual types of yarn can be something to aspire to when you’ve become an experienced crocheter, they are hardly the best place to start. Yet even if you limit yourself to the types of yarn available at your local craft store, there are still a variety of fiber types to choose from.
Some common yarns that you will likely encounter as you shop are acrylic, wool, cotton, polyester, nylon, and blends. Once again, the best choice for yarn fibers depends on the project you are making. Wool might be a great choice for a warm winter scarf, but it may not be soft enough for a baby blanket. Keep in mind that wool is a common allergen for many people, so it may not make an ideal gift.
Fiber content can affect the look and feel of the yarn, as well as the price. As a beginner, you may want to choose a less expensive yarn so that you feel freer to experiment and make mistakes without feeling that the stakes are high.
Acrylic and wool yarns are great for beginners because they are less prone to splitting strands and they hold up well if you need to pull out stitches and try again (often called “frogging” because you “rip-it, rip-it”).
Choosing Yarn by Appearance
There are many factors to consider about the appearance of the yarn you choose. Color is probably the most obvious factor. Choose a color that you like for the project you’re making, but beginners should consider choosing a light color since the stitches are easier to see with lighter-colored yarns.
If you want a multi-colored project without needing to learn how to change yarn in the middle of the project, consider a variegated yarn. These yarns gradually shift colors on the same skein to automatically create patterns as you work. Some projects, such as scarves, lend themselves very well to variegated yarn.
When it comes to color, yarn is also marked with dye lot numbers. Even if you buy the same brand and color name, variations can occur in the dying process that produces variations.
Be sure to buy enough yarn for your project at the same time and make sure it all comes from the same dye lot. If you need to go back later and purchase an extra skein, it may not be exactly the same shade as the rest of your project.
In addition to different colors, yarn also comes with a variety of different textures. You can buy yarn with a furry texture, for example, or those that add glittering metallic strands or a fluffy, feathered appearance.
These yarns can be a lot of fun to use for experienced crocheters, but beginners should avoid these added textures. They are often much more difficult to work with, make it difficult to see individual stitches, and can be easily damaged by frogging.
Once you have considered your pattern, the size and weight of the yarn you need, the fiber content that would work best, and the color and texture you prefer for your project, you have probably narrowed down your yarn choices to just a few.
Be practical as you consider these options. Will this yarn hold up well to frogging if you make mistakes? Do the strands split easily, making it difficult to work with?
Is there enough yarn available from the same dye lot to complete your project? Will 100% wool make your scarf uncomfortable? Is the yarn you’re considering for your baby blanket machine washable? (New parents might not welcome a gift that has to be hand-washed after their baby spits up.)
Once you’ve considered all the practicalities, you’re ready to buy your yarn.
How to Read the Labels
When you’re standing in the yarn aisle of your local yarn or craft store, it’s important to know how to read the information on the label to make sure you’re getting a yarn that meets all the criteria you’ve decided on.
Here is what you can expect to find on the labels:
Size and Weight Information
This will usually include the number and category name found on the chart above. You’ll most often find it in a symbol that looks like a ball of yarn with a number prominently in the center and the category name above or below it.
This tells you how many stitches and rows can be expected to fill a 4-inch (or 10 cm) square using different hook sizes. You will typically also find gauge and/or needle size information for knitting as well
Recommended Hook Size
This may be combined with the gauge information (often in the center of the gauge box) or it may be listed separately. Hook size will typically be listed in both American letter sizes and metric sizes.
These may be included in word form, symbol form, or both. If you’re not familiar with international standard washing instruction symbols, you can consult this guide.
The color will usually be given both a name and a number. Both of these are often present on the label.
Dye Lot Number
Dye lot information will usually be found with the color information. It may be a date with a letter code or a simple number code. Be sure to match the dye lot numbers on all skeins of yarn before purchasing.
Length and Weight Information
Yarn will usually be labeled with the length of the skein (in yards/meters) and the weight of the skein (in ounces/grams).
Your pattern should indicate how many ounces and/or yards of yarn are needed to complete the project. Both are helpful, but in my experience, the length information is the most useful and accurate. Use this information to figure out how much yarn you will need so you are sure that you’ve bought enough.
This lists the percentage of each type of fiber that the yarn is made of.
Before You Begin
Winding your Yarn
Yarn can come wound and package in a variety of ways. Some are ready to use, and you can simply find the end and pull out some yarn to get started. Others are not wound in a way that’s easy to use and you will need to rewind the yarn into a ball before beginning your project.
While wrapping yarn into a ball isn’t difficult, beginners may want to skip this extra step and plan to purchase yarn in a “ready-to-use” format. Here are some examples of common ways yarn is sold and how you should use them:
This is the most common form found in craft stores, and it comes in several different variations, including pull-skeins and bullet skeins. These are ready-to-use, but be sure to find the end and pull from the center, not the outside. Some skeins of yarn will have an arrow on the label directing you to the side where you’ll find the center-pull end.
Cakes are great because they have a flat top and bottom. In contrast with a yarn ball, they won’t roll around on you as you’re working. Usually these are center-pull yarns, so as long as you start working with the right end (the one in the center) you shouldn’t need to roll them.
Also called a twisted hank, these yarns need to be rewound in order to work with them. This style is more likely to be found at independent yarn shops, where they are often willing to use a yarn swift to wind it into a center-pull ball for you. You can also wind them into a ball yourself, of course.
When buying yarn in bulk, it may come on a cone since cones can hold a lot of yarn. They are often inconvenient to use, however, since they can be heavy. Most come ready to use.
This shape is often the traditional way we are used to picturing yarn. Just like in the cartoons, balls are prone to roll, and unless you are trying to entertain a kitten, this isn’t ideal. Placing your yarn ball in a bowl can allow it to roll freely as you use the yarn while keeping it contained in one place.
Check Your Gauge
Everyone crochets with slightly different tension, which can cause your project to turn out a different size than the pattern describes. This is less important for blankets than for clothing items, of course, but a good habit to learn from the start is to check your gauge so you can adjust if needed.
Each pattern should give you gauge information, describing the number of stitches in each row and the number of rows that will give you a sample swatch of a certain size. Very common gauge size is a 4-inch square (10 cm). Be sure to follow the gauge instructions as to which kind of stitch should be used.
If your sample is larger than the gauge size, you may want to make your stitches tighter or switch to a hook that is one size smaller. Likewise, if your gauge square is too small, try to loosen your crocheting tension or switch to a hook that is one size larger.
Checking your gauge may seem like an unnecessary waste of time, but it is the best way to make sure your project comes out well. No need to use up yarn on the gauge, however. If you don’t end or cut your work, you can pull the stitches out, rewind the yarn, and reuse it to start your project.
Best Yarns for Crochet (and What to Make with Them!)
Bernat Super Value
This yarn comes in large skeins for a great price and you can find just about any color. It’s a medium weight acrylic yarn that is absolutely perfect for beginners.
The strands don’t split easily, it holds up well to frogging, and your finished product can be machine washed and dried. It can be used for a wide variety of projects.
Granny squares are the iconic beginner’s project. Each square works up quickly and they can be made in many different styles. Use your favorite colors of Bernat Super Value yarn to make this Granny Afghan out of a collection of granny squares and a simple border. You’ll love the satisfaction of snuggling up in an afghan you made yourself.
Caron Simply Soft Tweeds
This acrylic yarn is a medium weight (4) and works well with an H hook, which are great sizes for beginners. This yarn doesn’t split easily and your finished project can be machine washed and dried.
The tweed accents give your project a great look and avoid a monochromatic appearance without making the yarn more difficult to work with. This yarn is very soft and comfortable to wear, but this does mean it can get a little fuzzy with repeated frogging.
Lily Sugar’n Cream, The Original Yarn
This inexpensive yarn comes in a wide variety of colors. It is a 100% cotton, medium-weight (4) yarn. It is naturally soft and can be used for a wide variety of projects. The cotton fibers can be more easily prone to splitting, so watch for this as you work.
This yarn is durable and can be machine washed and dried. Cotton yarn is popular for making a variety of projects, including items that need absorbent fibers such as dishcloths and kitchen towels.
Use Lily Sugar’n Cream to make this Speedy Texture Dish Cloth. This is a quick and easy pattern for beginners. You’ll love making something useful, and with so many colors available, you’re sure to find one that fits your décor.
Question: Which yarns are best for beginner crocheters?
Answer: Beginner crocheters can learn and practice on a variety of different yarns. Generally, you should look for an acrylic yarn that will hold up well to repeatedly pulling out stitches (or “frogging”) and redoing them. Also, choose a yarn that won’t easily split.
Lighter colors will help you see your stitches more clearly. Yarn that is very thin or very thick can require a little more skill to work with, so choose a light or medium weight yarn (number 3 or 4) until you have a little more experience.
Question: How do I choose the right yarn for my crochet project?
Answer: Check your pattern. Many patterns will suggest a specific brand and type of yarn and will even let you know which colors were used to make the project in the picture. Other patterns will simply tell you the weight and gauge of yarn that will work well. In this case, you can choose any brand and color that you prefer, as long as it is the right weight.
Question: Where can I buy good yarn?
Answer: Good yarn can be bought in a variety of places. You can buy yarn online, which gives you a nearly unlimited selection and great prices, but lacks the experience of feeling the yarn and seeing the color in person. You can also buy yarn from a local independent yarn shop or from a larger chain craft store, depending on what’s available in your area.
Question: What is the highest quality yarn?
Answer: High-quality yarns are available in nearly every fiber content, but for luxury feel and durability it’s hard to beat natural fibers such as wool. There are different types of wool that come from different breeds of sheep, and each is special in its own way. Alpaca, angora, cashmere, and merino are all very popular and high-quality types of wool yarn. These yarns are available from a variety of brands, and can often be purchased directly from farmers or dyers.