7 things every crocheter needs to know about yarn

With so many options in color, texture and weight, how can you know which yarn is right for your project? Can you make any blanket with any yarn, or are there pitfalls to avoid?
In this article, we'll take you through the best ways to choose the most suitable yarns for whatever you have in mind. We'll also look at pitfalls to look out for to improve all your crochet projects.
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1. Start small
If you're a crochet beginner, be kind to yourself, and don't choose an enormous blanket as your first project. A simple scarf in a medium to chunky weight yarn is ideal. Crocheting can take a long time, and if you're a newbie it's easy to get discouraged and abandon your work halfway through. Try choosing a fluffy or fuzzy-textured yarn for pleasing results, as that will cover any little slipups or missed stitches that might occur.
2. Washable or not?
Household items like blankets, afghans, pillow covers and throws are liable to fall victim to occasional spills and mishaps. Unless you want a hefty dry cleaning bill, it makes good sense to ensure you're using an easy care, washable yarn. This goes double for things like baby blankets and kids' clothes. Items which rarely need washing can be saved to crochet, in your most beautiful silks and luxurious angoras.
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3. Yardage
To many beginners, the yardage information on the manufacturer's band around your yarn might as well be in a foreign language. But there are huge differences in how much area two apparently similar balls of yarn will cover. If you pick wrongly and you're trying to make a long scarf, you'll be popping down to the sewing store every other day for another skein. Don't forget to check that yardage, and choose your yarn accordingly.
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4. Dye lots
When you select your yarn, you'll often see a number overprinted on the yarn band in the space for the shade. This number is the dye lot your ball or skein came from. If you're making a large, solid-colored afghan, say for a double bed, this could make an enormous difference. Though you might not notice when you buy the yarn, there could be subtle differences in the color which might well become glaringly obvious once you've worked hard and crocheted up the yarn. If you have a big project on hand, check the dye lot numbers, and make sure they all match before you start.
5. Sales to buy or not to buy
If you're a crochet addict, the sale bin in the store's yarn section can have a magnetic pull. But be wary if you find a stack of tempting offers. Unless you have a project already lined up that requires "this" weight of yarn and "that" number of balls, you could be doomed to trying to make the yarn fit the project, which is much more difficult than finding a pattern and then selecting the right yarn.
6. Natural vs. man made
Some crocheters won't touch acrylic fibers, while others assiduously avoid wool. Man-made fibers are generally less expensive than wool, and much less pricey than silks or more exotic fibers. The truth is that a mixture of natural and man-made can often work wonders, creating a soft and easy-care mixture which fits most projects, won't break the bank and can be tossed in a washing machine as well. If you're going for a 100% acrylic fiber, choose one that feels nice and soft, or wash it before starting. To wash yarn, be sure to check the manufacturer's band care instructions first, and then either hand wash gently or place in a bag for delicates on a short machine wash if recommended.
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7. Follow that pattern
Patterns almost always suggest a yarn, sometimes because they've been sponsored or produced by the manufacturers, but sometimes also because the designer has made the item using that yarn and knows it works. If you go off piste and use a yarn of your own choice, make sure it's the same weight as the one suggested. Otherwise you may find things start well, and then begin to look a little odd down the line. The pattern was designed with a certain tension in mind that may not be achievable with a yarn that's much lighter or heavier than the one recommended.
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