November 8, 2018

Adventures in Crochet: My Favorite Yarn Brands

Hello, my friends! Just wanted to give you another hobby update with my crochet adventures! I've actually put myself on a "yarn freeze" even though I hate it. LOL. But I refuse to buy more yarn, until I USE UP some of the beautiful skeins of yarn I have already. I'll be sharing some photos of what things I'm making to do this in a later post.

Now I have been getting asked quite often what yarn brands I would recommend to people wanting to explore crocheting. There are a dizzying amount of brands out there and yes, some are MUCH better than others--but it can be hard to know this if you aren't experienced or know what to look for. So, I will take time today to share my thoughts on some of the popular yarn brands you will find in most craft stores around the United States...and you will learn how I rate them and what makes the list as being the favorites in my basket!

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Now some may ask how I sort through all the brands out there. It boils down to a few things.

1. How does it feel in my hands and against my skin?
I cannot STAND coarse rough yarn. This is the #1 reason I don't use a few of the more readily available yarn brands. It just feels cheap to me. When it's washed it looks even "cheaper". It's one of the least expensive yarns for good reason...the age old "you get what you pay for". This is why I'm loathe to buy online yarn brands unless I've actually had it in my hands.

2. How tight is the ply?
What is the ply? It is the thickness of the ply. If you see 2 ply, 3 ply, or 4 ply--that is how many plys are twisted together. Most yarn is at least 2 ply. So I want a TIGHT ply, so it doesn't split. Splitting is bad when crocheting. Very bad. Less expensive yarns tend to have a looser ply in my experience. So, a tight ply is a yarn I can work with. Especially when working with a bulky yarn.

3. How does it wash?
This is very important, especially if you are making BABY items or things that will be heavily used. What does it look like when it comes out of the wash? Has the color stayed? Has it shrunk? Has the yarn gotten fuzzy? Unfortunately, this is something you just learn as you go. It's also a VERY good reason to READ THE LABELS to know how your yarn can be washed. It's important for things like working with cotton yarn--a fiber notorious for SHRINKAGE when washed. And let's face it--if you are going to be making washcloths, those are going to be needing to be washed in hot water at some time, right? So you need to know what kind of shrinkage you will be facing.

4. What kind of color options are there?
Admit it. Color is a HUGE part of how you decide on yarn, right? So favorite brands of mine have LARGE varieties in their color options. While not a top reason for picking a yarn brand, it does play into it.

5. How does it stitch?
All of these other things are great, but really it boils down to how the yarn flows over my hook. Is it smooth? Does it catch? Does it feel stiff or like it has a coating? How tight does it stitch up? Is it fluffy? Bulky? It's it a more skimpy yarn? I have gotten some amazing yarns before, but I HATED how they felt when I was actually using them. In fact, some brands like Red Heart Yarns, actually have a starchy coating on them...yuck! Another part of the stitching, some of them have knots tied in them and too many knots ruins a project. Some brands tend to be more "knotty" than others. I try to avoid them.

6. How versatile is it?
I love specialty yarns...but honestly, I don't have the space to keep tons of it on hand. So I need yarn that will work for a multitude of projects, from baby products to washcloths and afghans! Some yarn can be used for just about any project, and those are the ones I like to stash!
So what makes the list? I've split this up into three categories: Yarns I Love, Yarns I Like, and Yarns I Avoid. My list won't necessarily match someone else, but I feel fairly confident that this is a good list for you to use as you explore the yarns out there!

The Yarns I Love:

The Yarns I Like:
Premier Yarns (Especially the Downton Abbey!)

The Yarns I Avoid:
Red Heart Yarns (all)
Caron (Most)
Bernat (Most)

Now some of you will notice that the same brand is in different places. This is because many brand produce multiple lines within their brand. Because of this, I don't necessarily love an entire brand--but there are lines in the brand name I enjoy. Lion Brand is a classic example. I do not like their classic line. It reminds me too much of Red Heart Yarns. BUT, I am in love with several of their cotton lines, and extremely in love with their new Jeans line. The pricing on it also runs the gamut from inexpensive to middle of the road to more expensive AND they can be found in nearly any craft store, from Walmart to Michaels.

On my list, you will notice there is only ONE store brand that is mentioned. Amazingly, it's also in the list of yarns I love. I don't know what it is about the I Love This Yarn brand from Hobby Lobby, but it is a fantastic line. ESPECIALLY their I Love This Cotton Yarn. That is my FAVORITE cotton to work with. Hands down. They also carry an amazing line called Yarn Bee, which is a step up from the I Love This Yarn and comes in so many different varieties of fibers and weights. If you don't have a Hobby Lobby, you can buy all their yarn from their online store too! I frequently do this when I can't get to the store. (It's about an hour away to the closet one.) This is probably the only store brand where it ISN'T the least expensive in the store...but it is worth it and goes on sale every other week.

Some would ask--but what is your FAVORITE of the FAVORITES?

That would be yarn that is available online. Through a delightful company called Knit Picks. My #1 recommended yarn--especially for worsted weight (#4), is always going to be the Knit Picks Brava yarn. I made the boys afghans from it and it washed so beautifully and got softer from the wash! It also stitches up lovely and is soft and squishy! Did I mention it's also cheaper than nearly any other yarn I've found? And when you take in the inexpensive shipping to have it delivered right to my door--it's no wonder it's my favorite! You will frequently find me using it. In fact, I'm getting ready to start on a new afghan using it!

One thing I have I have crocheted more and more and explored more and more yarns, I have become a yarn snob. LOL. Once you start working with different yarn, you start to see that not all yarn is equal and the great quickly separates itself from the good. To the point where you can't hardly stand to touch the other. I've had the pleasure of using indie dyer yarn (ie. small business, hand dyed) and boy, that could spoil me for good! Thankfully, the price keeps it out of my home right now. LOL. But you will find that the more you explore, the more fine tuning your taste becomes.

But you also start being more adventurous in what you try! So, jump in there! See a yarn on my list you haven't tried yet? Give it a go! Start with a skein and see where it leads!

Before you go, leave me a comment about what your yarn favorites are! Did you see any on my list you want to try? 

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