We’ve all been there: raring to go after seeing a super-cute free pattern, we pick up the prettiest crochet yarn and get to work. Soon though, it’s clear that the pretty yarn was too chunky for the, say, delicate baby socks we wanted to make. Lesson learned. When choosing a crochet yarn for your next project, look beyond the color and take a close look at the weight symbol. Ranging from 0 to 6, where 0 is the finest (thinnest) size and 6 is the thickest, these standardized symbols are recommended on all packaging by the Craft Yarn Council. If you’re a beginner, a chunkier yarn (around a 4) will be easier to work with than a delicate choice (like a 0).
Next, you’ll want to take a look at the material. Even if a yarn has the same weight, it’ll differ in workability if made from 100% cotton than one made from acrylic, for example. Here’s a handy little primer to guide you through the most common choices.
This is one of the most common materials for crochet yarns, because it tends to be amongst the most affordable options. Acrylic yarns are very elastic, which is great for keeping the shape of the finished crochet project, but the stretchiness can lead to uneven stitches. (Hint: A blend of acrylic and a natural fiber will sidestep the stretchiness factor.)
Sturdy with a lovely sheen, nylon threads are great for heavy-duty items like totes. However, it can be incredibly challenging to work with because nylon tends to fray very easily. Save it for when you’re a little more confident with your crochet hooks.
Yarn made from this fiber is silky (especially if you steam the finished project afterwards) but very slippery. You’ll see rayon yarn more in the finer end of the weight spectrum, so it’s more suitable for those who are more experienced with crochet.
Natural (Originating from Plants)
This popular thread material takes color fabulously well and is the easiest to care for but has little elasticity, which means that finished projects may lose shape. (Think of how cotton clothing can shrink when washed or bag when worn.) When crocheted together, the cotton threads will have gaps in between each stitch, making it better for light and airy projects geared towards the spring and summer.
Yarn spun from this fiber is ultra-soft, but will need to be hand washed later. It can be a little on the slippery slide, but bamboo yarn is otherwise very easy to crochet.
Still considered a specialty fiber, hemp is easier to find online than in most craft stores. The yarn has a bit of “tooth” to it (especially if unpolished) which can be hard on your hands as you crochet. Finished projects, however, are sturdy and resemble linen.
Natural (Originating from Animals)
Ideal for beginners or anyone prone to making mistakes (*raises hand*), this resilient fiber can be unraveled easily without losing its shape.
No other yarn has the luxury factor of cashmere, which makes it intimidating to use. But, as it turns out, cashmere is soft and smooth, making it a breeze to stitch. However, you’ll have to block the finished project afterwards to preserve its shape.
Another gorgeous fiber, this yarn has a distinctly fuzzy appearance. Because of this, though, it’s hard to see your stitches as you work.