Yarn buying guide
With so many beautiful yarns to choose from, selecting the right one can be overwhelming. If you're looking for advice from our LoveCrochet experts and some top designers to get you started, you're in the right place.
First things first: choosing the right yarn
Crochet is an incredibly accessible craft. All you need to get started is a hook, a ball of yarn, and a few simple instructions. Once you’ve gained some experience, you’ll be able to create beautiful homeware, gorgeous garments and accessories. As the huge range of yarns available provide the crocheter with almost limitless choices, it’s easy to see why this has become such a popular craft.
Falling in love with a beautiful yarn is easy, but there are a few things to consider before buying lots of expensive yarn, especially if you don't have a pattern to follow. You’ll need to select the right material depending on the demands of the project. For example, a mohair yarn isn’t a good choice for patterns designed to showcase textural stitches or cables because the fluffy quality of the mohair, or “halo” as it is known, will disguise all the carefully crafted detail.
Most crocheters work from commercial patterns which specify branded yarns. The patterns are designed to showcase and make the most of the qualities of the specific yarn. As you gain experience, you will be able to experiment with different yarns. But when starting out, it’s wise to follow the yarn recommendation.
A brief note on yarn substitution
Sometimes you might have to choose an alternative yarn. Particular yarn lines may be discontinued, or you may not like the available colors. A professional yarn stockist can advise you on substitutes, but if you don’t have access to professional advice a simple rule is to select a yarn that is similar in fiber, weight, and feel.
Fibers, natural and synthetic
Yarn is produced from all kinds of materials. Wool from sheep is the most familiar and versatile fiber, and different types of sheep produce wools with different characteristics.
Many natural fibers are also sourced from plants: cotton and linen are the most common, but there’s also bamboo, and viscose, which is made from wood pulp. There are several synthetic fibers too, such as acrylic, polyester, and elastane. New and exciting yarns are being developed all the time, even from the most unlikely of sources, such as seaweed extract.
Mixed-fiber yarns allow yarn manufacturers to combine several characteristics into one product. For instance, sock yarn uses wool for warmth and breathability but is often combined with nylon to increase the durability and elasticity of the yarn.
Sheep's wool is the most well-known fiber. It’s a commonly available and versatile animal fiber used for producing yarn. It is warm yet breathable, with thermo-regulating properties. It also has moisture-wicking and moisture-absorbing properties that help to keep skin dry, and it’s naturally fire-retardant. Wool comes in an extraordinarily wide range of varieties and textures, and the right type of wool can be found for just about any knitting project you could think of. Here are just a few examples:
Merino: Originally the merino sheep came from Spain, but merino wool is now mainly produced in Australia and New Zealand. It has an exceptionally soft, smooth feel against the skin, making it ideal for affordable but luxurious garments. It is not quite as hard-wearing as other wools, and has a slight tendency to 'pill'.
Blue-Faced Leicester: This unique British wool is fine, dense, and lustrous. It is an exceptionally smooth wool, and produces a fabric with wonderful drape and a satiny finish.
Peruvian Highland: Valued primarily for durability, and for the way it takes dye, Peruvian Highland wool is not quite as soft as merino. It is fabulous for producing items that won't be worn directly against the skin, outer garments or accessories such as bags and it is brilliant for felting projects.
Other animal fibers
Related to the llama and the camel, the alpaca gives us some of the smoothest and softest animal fibers. Unlike sheep’s wool, alpaca wool does not contain lanolin, and is therefore hypoallergenic, making it ideal for those with sensitive or delicate skin.
Produced from the coat of Angora goats, luxurious mohair has a unique halo characteristic. The fine, glossy fibers take dye well, resulting in both vivid solid colors and subtly blended ombré shades.
Though less well known, yak is as soft and warm as cashmere. Soft, velvety and wonderfully warm to wear, yak is often mixed with other fibers to create sought-after and highly wearable garments and accessories.
Unrivalled for its sheen, drape, and quality, silk is the ultimate luxury fiber, producing one of the most desirable of yarn and textiles. Alongside excellent aesthetic qualities, silk is warm in winter and cool in summer. It is also surprisingly hard-wearing.
Made from the fluff inside the seed heads of the cotton plant, this soft fiber is produced all over the world. Light, strong, and non-stretch, it is often mercerized to give it a smooth, lustrous surface. Cotton is ideal for making cool-feeling summer garments and accessories.
Made from the flax plant, linen has a naturally cool and crisp feel. It is strong and durable and, though it can feel stiff at first, repeated washing will soften the fibers. It is often found mixed with cotton or man-made fibers to create a light, versatile, and resilient yarn.
Bamboo fiber is surprisingly soft, making it ideal for babywear, as well as for allergy-prone, sensitive, or delicate skin. It is easy to care for, light, and has natural antibacterial properties.
Very similar to linen in texture and performance, hemp is growing in popularity as a craft fiber. It takes dye exceptionally well, and is very versatile, suitable for a large number of craft and crochet purposes.
This unusual source of fiber is rolled, twisted, and folded, to produce different types of yarn. It is ideal for making robust home accessories such as storage baskets, floor rugs or table mats.
First manufactured in the 1940s, acrylic yarn has become one of the most widely used synthetic fibers. Processed into filaments, it is then cut into short lengths and spun to create strong, resilient yarns. It is often created to mimic wool or other natural fibers. Acrylic is hard-wearing, economical, and very easy to care for.
Mainly used to add elasticity and resilience, nylon is often blended with other fibers. It is especially useful in the production of everyday items that will be subject to repeated stretching, such as hats, socks, and gloves.
Known for its wrinkle- and stain-resistant properties, polyester adds stability and structure when blended with animal and plant fibers. It is often used in fashion and novelty yarns.
The term “fashion yarn” covers a whole host of innovative yarns that don’t fall into the more common categories. Materials such as sari silk, metallic threads, and faux fur have all been adapted to create inspiring and creative materials. These yarns are ideal for adding an extra flourish of texture, sparkle or color to garments. They can also be used to make fun accessories such as home textiles.