Yarn is an essential to any crochet project. Today we’ll be covering the types of yarn available for purchase so that you can move forward with learning how to crochet. Yarn is my vice. It’s so soft and pretty that I find myself buying way more of it than I actually need, or have projects planned for. In fact, I’m historically bad about buying yarn before I have a project in mind, and then staring at Pinterest for way too long to determine what I can make with it. (By the way, are we connected on Pinterest yet? Follow me here!)
The type of yarn that you use can be crucial to a crochet project. Let me explain. . .
Say that you’re creating a hot pad intended to be used to hold pots and pans that have just been removed from the stove. You would never remove the pan and set it on a material such as a plastic bag, right? (Please don’t ever do that.)
My point is that knowing what your yarn is made out of is important. Both in creating projects for yourself, and gifting them to others.
In our use case above, acrylic yarn wouldn’t be the fiber of choice because it’s a synthetic yarn and doesn’t withstand heat well. You wouldn’t want your brand new potholder melting and sticking to your pans! Always read your yarn labels when choosing yarn, and definitely do a bit of research.
When in doubt, I always recommend to make a swatch and wash and dry exactly how you would the finished product that you will be creating. This will give you a better idea of how the yarn will hold up, and if there are any “gotchas” you need to know regarding your project shrinking, expanding, or the dye bleeding when you wash it.
Types of Yarn
When it comes to types of yarn, there are really three main sources: plant based, animal based, and man made (synthetic). I’ve touched on what I consider to be the most popular types of yarn within each category.
Plant Based Yarns
Cotton is a plant based yarn that is grown in many different countries. This fiber is often spun into yarn and able to be used for a wide variety of crochet projects. I love to use cotton on home-related crochet projects because it’s a very soft, breathable fiber. When washed, this textile become softer, however doesn’t tend to hold shape well and could sag and stretch. I typically air dry any cotton materials after washing in cold water.
Cotton will absorb water, which is why it’s the perfect material for kitchen and bath items. Just ensure you dry the items well before storing–because it absorbs well, it could also end up with mold or mildew if not completely dried prior to putting away.
There are several types of cotton that you can find when you are looking at this type of yarn. I find that 100% cotton is good for kitchen and bath items, however a cotton blend is better for clothing items, because of the inability to hold shape well. As always, read your yarn labels and your patterns before you determine which yarn is the best for your project.
If you’ve ever felt bamboo yarn, you’ll understand the deep love that I have for this fiber. Another plant based yarn, bamboo is eco-friendly and naturally antibacterial. Though this yarn is so soft and gorgeous, it’s also one that I find myself having a hard time making things with. When purchasing a bamboo yarn, you’ll want to check your labels, as many times it comes as a blend (with cotton or another fiber) to make it a bit more sturdy. Bamboo is a great yarn for clothing, but again, be sure to check your yarn label to see if you can machine wash on gentle, or need to hand wash any items made with it.
Linen is a yarn that is a bit stiffer, however after washing can become soft. Linen is a very light yarn, making it appropriate for clothing garments, bags, table runners, and more! I don’t have a lot of experience crocheting with this fiber yet, however I know it is very popular among knitters. Next time I’m at the store I hope to pick up a skein and create something with it so that I can report back. Linen is a plant based yarn, coming from the flax plant.
Animal Based Yarns
A very common yarn for crocheters to use is wool. Wool is an animal based yarn, coming from sheep. There are a few different types of wool, which are normally identified by the type of sheep it comes from.
If you are using 100% wool, you’ll want to read the washing and care instructions on the label really well, because if you heat and agitate 100% wool, it can stick together and felt. There are wool blends on the market that can be machine washed and dried though. These yarns are typically either blended with another fiber, or pre-treated to allow for safe wash and drying. Be sure to read your yarn labels when working with wool. The last thing that you want is to crochet a beautiful sweater for someone and have it shrink after the first wash!
Alpaca is an animal based yarn, coming from (you guessed it) the alpaca. This wool is extremely soft and pretty, and has a great resistance to water. Alpaca yarn has grown in popularity, and is a great option for people wanting to use animal based yarn, but not wanting the scratchiness that wool can sometimes have, or if they have a lanolin allergy. Alpacas do not produce lanolin oil like sheep.
Like wool, alpaca yarn will felt if it is 100%. However, unlike wool, this yarn tends to stretch rather than shrink.
It seems that many of the patterns I see using alpaca yarn are geared toward children, probably due to the warmth, breathability, and gentleness of the yarn on the skin.
Cashmere is known to be one of the most luxurious yarns to crochet with and comes from certain types of goats. Since the cashmere goats are located in only a few parts of the world, and production of the fiber can be a difficult process, this yarn is often more expensive.
Cashmere is known to offer warmth, yet be light. Since cashmere is a hair, rather than a wool, I recommend following the washing instructions closely. This is not a fiber that will withstand machine washings well unless it is blended with another.
Acrylic yarn is one of the most affordable yarns, as it is very easy to manufacture. It’s made with a polymer, yet has a wool-feel, and comes in a wide variety of colors. This yarn is very resilient, and is often blended with other fibers to allow them to hold more of a shape. Acrylic yarn is great for clothing and blankets, or anything that you’d want to wash quite a bit. You may wash acrylic, however avoid ironing it, which is why I also recommend not making an item such as a potholder with it.
Nylon is another synthetic yarn that is fairly inexpensive. It’s know for its elasticity, and when blended with another yarn, makes it a perfect yarn for knitting or crocheting socks, or virtually anything you’d like to keep the shape in. Nylon is also a fiber that won’t pill when washed, which makes it perfect for socks.
There are so many more types of yarn sold today. In each type you can typically get a 100%, or a yarn blend (example 50% cotton, 50% nylon), so be sure to check your brands and yarn labels for the amount and the recommended laundering so that you get the maximum life out of your crochet projects.
Do you have any questions about types of yarn? If so, please comment below.