New to crochet? Learn how to choose yarn for crochet here and pick the perfect yarn every time!
The yarn you use can have a major impact on your finished project. Once you have the hang of crochet there is really no limit to the yarn you can use, from the finest crochet thread to the bulkiest yarn you can find. If they make it, you can crochet it!
However, when you are first starting out you will want to stick with simple, tried and true yarn varieties that have been proven to work well for beginners. There are lots of brands, colors, and textures on the market, but what works the best for a true beginner?
First, let’s discuss yarn weight. The Craft Yarn Council has created a standard yarn weight system that is extremely helpful in finding the right yarn for your project. They even have great icons on all ball bands so you can quickly and easily see if this yarn is the proper weight for your project.
The yarns are assigned a number from 0 to 7. The thinner the yarn, the lower the number. The newest category 7 is for Jumbo yarns that are usually used for arm knitting.
Most people recommend a worsted weight yarn, which is very easy to find and affordable. It works up quickly but isn’t too bulky. It is assigned a number 4 on the standard yarn weight system.
I also like a bulky yarn (weight number 5), as you really get excited when you see how quickly your project is working up. You can try this as a beginner, but I would save the Super Bulky (number 6) for a little while until you get the hang of the basic stitches. Then, using that yarn will make your projects work up amazingly quickly!
Try to save the fingering weight yarn (weight #1) or sport weight yarn (weight #2) for later after you are more comfortable crocheting.
Whatever weight yarn you choose, you can find the recommended crochet hook size on the yarn label. This will give you a good idea of what size hook works best with your chosen yarn.
Yarn Fiber Content
A lot of people start out with the cheapest acrylic they can buy. I know I did! However I was soon disappointed by how it rubbed my fingers raw and how the stitches had a tendency to split.
Once I discovered the many fiber options out there it was amazing how it changed my crocheting. I really like to crochet with cotton yarn, but many people find those difficult for beginners because there is not a lot of stretch to the yarn. I have never had a problem crocheting it and love the way it looks.
If you want to use synthetic yarn, and I certainly use my fair share of it, avoid the bargain-basement brands and go with a nicer acrylic yarn like Red Heart Soft or Berroco Comfort. These nicer yarns will be labeled Premium Acrylic and there are a lot of good options out there.
Another good synthetic yarn option is polyester yarn. My favorite yarn made with Polyester is Lion Brand Yarn’s Feels Like Butta. Polyester is super easy to care for and a joy to work with.
Wool yarn is another good option for beginner crocheters. It can be a bit rough on the skin when you are not used to it, but it stretches well and the texture is nice so you can see your stitches. Keep in mind that some people are allergic to wool, so make sure the person you are making for doesn’t have any sensitivities.
If you want to try a wool yarn, I’d recommend a superwash merino wool, as it can be machine washed and dried. Then, you get the benefits of wool with the easy care of acrylic!
If you’d prefer another natural fiber besides wool, there are an amazing array of other types of fibers out there on the market. You can get bamboo yarn, alpaca yarn and even silk yarn and blends that are seriously amazing.
If you’re in doubt about the fiber content of your yarn, be sure to check the yarn label. It will always have the fiber content listed, so you’re sure to know what type of yarn you are crocheting with.
It’s much easier to see your stitches if you use a solid, light color. It may be tempting to buy color-changing yarns or darker colors, but save those for once you’ve gotten the hang of the basic stitches.
The hardest part for me when learning to crochet was seeing the stitches, and I finally learned on a white yarn! In fact, color is so important that the CGOA Master of Crochet Stitches and Techniques program requires that the 48 swatches you create for them are in a solid, light color so they can see stitch definition. It matters!
Save textured yarn and novelty yarn for later. For a beginner, you will want to stick to smooth yarns. It’s easier to see the stitches with a smooth yarn. I have used an eyelash yarn before and had to guess where my stitches were – I did okay because I had been crocheting for a while but definitely would not recommend that for a beginner.
Price is also a consideration when choosing yarn for beginners. The cheapest acrylic I could find would rub my fingers raw and there were problems with the stitches splitting. At the beginning that’s all I used just because I didn’t know any better (and, I must admit, that bargain-basement acrylic feels much better now than it used to!).
You probably don’t want to jump in and spend $20+ dollars a skein on hand dyed yarn when you are starting out, so go for something in the $5-8 a skein range. You can find literally hundreds of yarn brands/fibers/colors/weights of yarn in this price range. There are also some decent cheaper yarns out there, you just have to know what to look for.
Ease of Care
I also used to pay no attention to the care instructions on the yarn label. I guess it didn’t really occur to me that I might actually want to clean my projects after they were made!
If you don’t mind hand washing your project then you can use any yarn out there. However, I don’t often take the time to hand wash anything, so I vastly prefer things that can be thrown in the machine. If it can also be tossed in the dryer that’s even a bigger plus in my book.
If you’re making something for babies ease of care is something that is even more important. Babies are messy! There is no doubt that if a baby item gets any use, it will need to be washed at some point. If I’m making for a baby, machine washable yarn is a must.
Go With Center Pull Skeins
Some yarns come in balls or hanks that you have to unwind and wind back into balls. Trust me, you don’t want to try to work straight from a hank! I’ve done it and it ended up in a giant mess!
A center-pull skein is easiest for beginners. Sometimes it can still be tricky to find the yarn end hidden in the middle of the skein, but just reach in with your index finger and thumb and pull a bit out. Sometimes quite a bunch comes out (this is called yarn barf), but I just wind that on the outside of the skein and when I use it up I am working from the middle. Using the yarn end found on the outside will cause the yarn to twist and turn as you work with it, but it doesn’t usually get tangled. Try to find the inside end.
Using the Yarn Label to Help Guide Your Choice
Everything you need to know to choose your yarn is listed right there for you on the yarn label. Unless you are buying fancy yarn (which often tend to have very little information on their labels), you can find a wealth of information on the label, and they are all very similar.
Here is what you can expect to find on a yarn label (also called a ball band):
- Yarn Manufacturer/Brand Name
- Yarn Weight Symbol
- Fiber Content
- Color Name & Number
- Dye Lot
- Care Instructions
- Length in Meters & Yards
- Weight in Grams & Ounces
- Suggested Needle/Hook Size Gauge
Yarn Manufacturer/Brand Name
This will tell you what company made the yarn and the name of the specific yarn. For example, Lion Brand Scarfie yarn is one of my favorites so let’s take a look at that yarn.
The manufacturer or brand is Lion Brand, a company based here in the USA that makes an amazing variety of great yarns. Scarfie is the name of the yarn line.
Yarn Weight Symbol
Remember the Craft Yarn Council’s Standard Yarn Weight System we looked at above? The yarn should have a symbol or at least a number that tells you which weight the yarn is.
Look for these symbols:
There will always be the fiber content on the yarn label, given with percentages. In this example you can see that the Scarfie yarn is 78% acrylic and 22% wool.
Color Name and Number
For larger yarn manufacturers, the colors are given a number as well as a name, and you can find both on the yarn label.
This is extremely important if you are buying more than one skein of yarn for the same project! The dye lot is a batch of yarns that are dyed at the same time, so they will be the same shade. Yarns that are the same color but of a different dye lot can be slightly different in shade. I tend to stay away from yarns that say “no dye lot” as I have had the experience of the yarns not being exactly the same and it was noticeable.
There will also be a section with instructions for how to care for the yarn. Some will even have the universal laundry symbols. I’ve come across a couple of higher end yarns that only had the universal symbols and I had to look up the care instructions, but most yarns will have the instructions written out.
Length in Meters and Yards
A yarn label will also tell you how many yards and meters are in the skein or hank. This is important for helping you figure out how much yardage you need for a project and it can also be helpful when substituting yarns, as you want to look for about the same yardage per weight as the yarn called for in the pattern.
Weight in Grams and Ounces
This is another way you can figure out how much yarn you need for a project – by weight. This is the way I prefer to do it, and having the weight of the skein given in ounces and grams helps me figure out how many skeins I’m going to need for my project.
Suggested Knitting Needle/Crochet Hook Size
Finally, look for the suggested size. Obviously if you don’t knit you can look right past the knitting needle suggestion, and go straight for the crochet hook size. This will give you a great idea of what size hook is good for this yarn.
If you are crocheting without a pattern and making up your own, remember that the hook size is just a suggestion. I will go with a size or two larger for blankets to make the fabric looser and drape better, and I will go a size or two smaller for projects like dolls or toys. It’s up to you. If you’re unsure, go with the recommended size.
This section will also give you the expected gauge if you use the recommended hook size.
Common Questions for Choosing Yarn for Crochet
There are many different factors to consider when choosing yarn for crochet. You have to decide on the best yarn weight (usually worsted or bulky weight yarn is best), fiber content such as premium acrylic, wool or blends, color, texture (smooth yarns are best!) and price.
I would recommend a worsted yarn or bulky weight yarn (also called chunky yarn) that is smooth and light in color. Choose a wool, premium acrylic or blend. The price is up to you, just spend what you are comfortable with as there are great yarns at all price ranges.
Nope! Any yarn can be used for both crochet or knitting – even weaving or other yarn crafts if you like! Even though sometimes yarns can be marketed as “crochet yarn” because they have a different twist, I’ve found no noticeable difference.
Crochet thread is a very, very lightweight yarn that is used for intricate things like doilies and filet crochet. It also makes great snowflakes and you can use starch to stiffen them. It would be categorized as a yarn weight #0 (lace weight yarn).
It is usually always a mercerized cotton and will be labeled as “crochet thread”. All other types of yarn will just be called “yarn” not thread.
So, there you have it, a comprehensive guide for how to choose yarn for crochet. Now, I know it’s tempting to go out and buy all the beautiful yarns and create a stash, but please don’t! Once you buy those yarns a lot of them will go unused and will sit around, so just choose the yarn you need for the crochet pattern you are making.