Monday, October 31, 2011

Yarn Basics: Labels and How to Read Them

Yarn label for new ribbed-entrelac hat
This is an example of a yarn label. A yarn label contains a lot of essential information about that particular yarn. In this example, you can see the name of the company that produces the yarn, the name of the yarn, and the weight of the yarn in the top section of the label.

This yarn is a worsted weight yarn called Cascade 220 Superwash. It is produced by Happy Knits, Inc. Their website is also listed.

Next you see the fiber content. This particular yarn is 100% superwash wool. Below the fiber, you see the quantity of wool in grams (100 g) and ounces (3.5 oz) as well as the length in both meters (200 m) and yards (220 yds).

Beneath the yarn fiber/length information, you find the gauge. In this example, gauge for both US size 7 and US size 6 knitting needles is given. Please see my article on gauge and how it works here!

Next is information on where the yarn is produced and who distributes it. Below this information you find the care instructions, which are extremely important. For example, if you wash a handwash wool in a washing machine, you may find a piece of felt waiting for you instead of your original creation. So please, check the washing instructions carefully!

Next you see the color and lot numbers. These are also essential to understand, especially when making something that uses more than one skein of yarn. If you are making something which uses multiple skeins, such as a sweater, it is important to make sure that you are using the same color and dye lot, or else there can be slight discrepancies in the color. So make sure to purchase enough yarn in the same lot to complete your project!

This is an overview of a yarn label and how to understand what is on it. Understanding your yarn will make each project more enjoyable!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Knitting Basics: To Gauge Or Not To Gauge

Gauge is a word that you will see in most knitting projects to describe the desired tension or stitches per inch. This is crucial in certain patterns that require exact sizing, such as clothing, but less important in patterns that are more flexible in sizing, such as scarves, blankets, dishcloths, etc. Each knitter has a different tension when knitting. This means that if you have several people working with the same needle and yarn, you will have several different sizes of finished project due to tension. Some knit more tightly, and some knit more loosely. This is why it is crucial to check your gauge on projects that are meant to fit a particular person or object. If your knitting is tighter than the pattern writer's knitting, your garment may be too small, or vise versa.

So how do you measure gauge? Patterns that are gauge-dependent will provide a “gauge” for you to follow. Here is an example: 24 stitches and 39 rows = 4 inches in stockinette stitch using #3 needles. Let's take a closer look at what this means. This gauge example says that if you cast on 24 stitches and knit for 39 rows using size 3 needles in stockinette stitch (Knit Row 1, Purl Row 2, repeat), you should get a 4 inch swatch. A swatch is the small piece of fabric, in this instance 4 inches, that you knit to determine if you have the correct tension. If your swatch is larger than 4 inches, your gauge/tension is looser than the designer's, and you need to use a smaller needle to obtain the correct gauge. If your swatch is smaller than 4 inches, your gauge/tension is tighter than the designer's, and you need to use a larger needle to obtain the correct gauge.

So before you start a project that is designed to fit, take the time to check your gauge with a swatch. It is worth the extra time to ensure the garment will fit properly!

Gauge Swatch

Survey - Favorite Fiber?

For those who are already avid yarn enthusiasts, what is your favorite fiber to work with and why? I would love to see some comments!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Yarn Basics - Yarn Fibers

There are many different yarn fibers available in all yarn weights. Each type of yarn fiber has its own attributes, and the fiber you will use will depend on the type of project you are doing. Below is a short summary of some basic yarn fibers, their qualities, and projects they are suited for.

Wool: Wool is a very popular fiber used in a variety of projects from scarves to socks. The fleece used to spin wool yarn comes from different breeds of sheep and different shearing. Wool is very warm, comes in a washable variety (superwash) and can also be used for felted projects. Some people are allergic to wool though, and others find pure wool itchy and harsh to work with.

Cavey Family Wools

Fleece: Fleece is a term used for the fleece of animals other than sheep. Common yarns are mohair, cashmere, and other angora blends. The fleece used to spin these yarns comes from goats and rabbits. These yarns are incredibly soft and work up quickly, making luxurious items. These yarns are generally more expensive.

pink, grey and red: for my latvian mittens

Synthetic: The most common synthetic yarn is acrylic, which can vary in quality from brand to brand. It is a very easy yarn to work with. Acrylic can be washed/dried in appliances and is also very inexpensive, making it a popular yarn choice for baby projects, pet projects, afghans, and other well-loved items. Acrylic yarns come in a dazzling array of colors and all yarn weights. The downside is since acrylic is plastic, the yarn can lack the softness and definition of other fibers. It also will melt if heated, so using acrylic for a project such as a potholder would not be appropriate.

Caron Simply Soft

Cotton: Cotton yarn is also referred to as kitchen yarn. Most items you would find use for in a kitchen or bathroom (such as washcloths, towels, etc) are made from kitchen cotton yarn. This yarn is machine washable, absorbs water well, and holds up to wear. Cotton is a wonderful yarn to use for garments as well, due to its softness. But keep in mind that cotton does shrink when machine washed/dried.

Yarn 086

Novelty: Novelty yarns are fun yarns to use for various projects. They are extremely different from traditional yarns. Some examples of novelty yarns are ribbon, boucle, chenille, fake fur, and thick-thin yarn. These are fun yarns to play with for projects such as a “fur” scarf, boucle blankets, and textured thick-thin hat.

Thick-thin: handspun thick and thin orange merino
Boucle: Lion Brand Boucle "Snow Cone"
Fake fur: Lion Brand Fun Fur

Blends: There are many variations of blended yarns. These yarns blend two or more yarn fibers together to maximize positive attributes and minimize the negative attributes of each yarn. Common blends are cotton/acrylic, wool/acrylic, cotton/bamboo, wool/nylon/spandex, etc. There are countless ways to blend yarns, so you will find many varieties!

Bamboo blend: Maple Creek Yarn: Bamboo-Silk blend

There are other yarns that have not been mentioned here, but these are some of the basic fibers that are frequently used. Familiarize yourself with the large variety of fibers available and, if you are able, go to a local yarn shop so you can see and feel the different yarn fibers. This will help you to develop your yarn eye.

Happy yarn shopping!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Here are a couple of toys that I have made and given away as gifts. They are quick, easy, and fun projects that children love!

For patterns for toys and similar projects, I would suggest Knitting Pattern Central and Ravelry.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Yarn Basics: Weights

Whether you are working from a pattern or designing your own project, the yarn weight and fiber will affect your finished product. When purchasing yarn, the label will give you information pertaining to both weight and fiber. Weight varies from thread to lace to super bulky, while fiber can be anything from wool to cotton to blends. Following is a quick overview of weight and fibers so you can be sure to choose the correct yarn for your project!

Yarn Weight

Yarn comes in a variety of weights and these weights are standardized. Below is a list of yarn weights with accompanying information such as yarn types in the category, recommended needle sizes, and the average number of stitches per 4 inches.

Super fine is the thinnest and lightest weight of yarn. This is also referred to as Lace yarn. The types of yarn which are defined as super fine include sock yarns, baby yarns, and fingering yarns. The recommended needle sizes for this weight of yarn are US 1-3. The average number of stitches per 4 inches is between 27 and 32.

Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock

Fine is the next lightest weight of yarn. It is composed of certain types of baby yarns and sport yarns. This weight of yarn is generally used on needles 3-5 size. The average number of stitches per 4 inches is between 23 and 26.

Mountain Meadow Cody - Cobalt

Light is a slightly heavier, but still light weight of yarn. DK and light yarns are the most common yarn types within this weight group. Common needle sizes for this yarn weight are size 5-7. The average number of stitches per 4 inches is between 21 and 24.

 Yarn: Caprice Dk Blue

Medium weight yarn is also commonly known as worsted weight. It is a moderate weight yarn, and it is used in a great variety of projects. Yarn types within this weight are aran, worsted, and afghan. Common needle sizes for medium/worsted weight yarn are size 7-9. The average number of stitches per 4 inches is between 16 and 20.

Malabrigo Yarn Merino Worsted

Bulky weight yarn is heavy yarn, many times used for larger projects that work up quickly. Scarves, hats, mittens, and some afghans are all projects worked in bulky weight yarn. Yarn types within this weight include chunky, craft, and rug yarns. Common needle sizes for bulky yarn are size 9-11. The average number of stitches per 4 inches is between 12 and 15.


Super bulky is one of the bulkiest yarn weights, used for extremely thick projects such as rugs, thick afghans, scarves, etc. Bulky and roving yarns are included within this yarn weight. Needle sizes for bulky yarns are 11 and up. Some needles used to make things such as bath mats and welcome mats are size 50! They are as large as broom handles. The average number of stitches per 4 inches is between 6 and 11.

Hand Spun Yarn - Super Bulky

This is just an overview of different yarn weights. Your pattern will give you some direction as to the weight of yarn and needle size that would generally be appropriate. Do not forget to check your gauge!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Beginner Information - Needles

For those who are new to knitting, there are few things more important than the basics - knitting needles and yarn. We will discuss knitting needles first. There are many different kinds of needles, and they are used for different things. Once you have chosen your project (a good beginner project is a simple scarf), you will see information for the size of the needle to use and the type of yarn (weight and fiber content.) Needle sizes will range from size 0 to size 50. Size 0 is the thinnest needle and size 50 needles are large as broom handles!

Knitting needle sizes

As you can imagine, choosing the right size needle for your project, especially for size sensitive projects such as garments, is of utmost importance. A pattern will indicate the size needle that you should use, but you should always double check by checking the gauge. I will post another blog post on gauge and how to determine if you are using the correct size needles, because it is so important!

So once you have the correct size needles, you will have to determine what material you prefer for your knitting needles. There are three basic materials used for knitting needles: wood, acrylic/plastic, and metal. It is personal preference which you prefer, and I would suggest trying each type. Generally, wood is the least slippery of all the needle types and has the most amount of drag. This is useful if you are working with slippery yarns. Wood needles are often made of bamboo and are flexible and very lightweight.

Knitting needles 2

Acrylic needles are made of plastic, and they are considered a good all-around needle with a slight drag.

Knitting in Bed

Metal needles are quite slippery, which makes them a good needle to use with yarns that are heavier and drag such as cotton. The disadvantage to metal needles is the larger needles tend to be rather heavy, even the metal plated aluminum needles.


One last, yet important, feature you will need to consider when selecting a knitting needle is the type of needle you need for your project. There are single-pointed needles (straight), circular needles, and DPNs (double pointed needles.) Straight needles are very straightforward. They are simply needles which have a single point on one end and a cap on the other end. They can vary in length, but generally are around 9 inches long. They work well when knitting something that is one dimensional, such as a scarf.

Knitting needles sizes straight

Circular needles are the most varied, and most used, knitting needle type. They are created by connecting knitting needle tips with a flexible cord. Circular needles allow you to knit circular items, such as hats. They also provide advantages for knitting large projects, as the bulk of the project will rest in your lap on the flexible cord.

There are fixed circular needles and interchangeable circular needles. Fixed circular needles are needle tips connected permanently to a flexible cable. These tips come in all material types and sizes. The cable on the fixed circular needles can range in size from 9" long to 60" or longer. Interchangeable needles come in sets, and have separate needle tips and cables. The advantage is you purchase one set of needle tips and you can use them on several different cable lengths, depending on your project. The disadvantage is the tips connect to the cable via a "join" and are tightened with a cable key. Occasionally there have been complaints of the tips slipping free from the cable, which can result in loss of your knitting work. This rarely occurs if you tighten the join according to the manufacturer instructions.

Knitting needle sizes circular

The last type of knitting needles are the double-pointed needles. These are straight like the single-pointed needles, but both ends are pointed. These also come in various lengths and needle sizes, and they are frequently used when knitting socks. You can also use them to knit things that are circular.

Knitting needles double pointed

A last needle type, though not used in the same way the other knitting needles are, is the cable needle. A cable needle is a specialized needle used when making the cable stitch. Cable needles come in various shapes and sizes, as well as different materials and thicknesses.

Knitting cable needles


Hello and welcome to my knitting blog! On this blog I intend to discuss current projects, knitting techniques, patterns, and anything/everything related to knitting. Knitting is both a simple and complex world, one in which you can knit your whole life and learn new things all the time. So welcome again, and I hope that you enjoy this journey with me!
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