You’ve done it. It sang it’s siren song, and it was far too much for you to handle. You bought the yarn. You don’t even know what you’re going to make with it, but you have to have it. Now.
*Side Note: Let’s be perfectly clear. This act is called “stash enhancement” and is a perfectly acceptable behavior, and in no way should be frowned upon. Every yarn crafter should have at least a small reserve of yarn to play with in between projects, or something nice to keep you motivated, whatever works for you. Some of us just have stashes that rival the stock of our local yarn stores, and our families have learned to live with that. Moving along.*
So, how do you decide what are you going to make with it? You can’t just pet it forever. I mean, you can, but wouldn’t you rather see it put to good use and made into something with beautiful stitches?
How do you choose what to make with your yarn after you’ve brought it home? There are a few things to consider when pairing a yarn with a pattern.
Quantity and Yardage – How much do you have?
This one’s pretty obvious, so we’ll start here. You can’t make yourself a sweater if you’ve only brought home one 50 gram ball with 187 yards. There’s just not enough. Unless you’re Barbie, and you like your sweaters made from rope – then go for it. I still think a nice sock yarn would look better, but what do I know? Teenagers.
If you bought the yarn recently, you may be able to call the shop where you purchased the yarn to see if they have any more, but make sure you can match the dye lot! Otherwise, your ball may not match. If they don’t have any more, maybe they will let you trade in your one ball to match the rest. All shops are different, but you won’t know unless you ask. If not, try to find a project that matches the yardage you have. Check your label to see how many yards your ball should have, and always round down for good measure. Nothing is worse than being just a few feet short!
Weight- How thick is the yarn?
Let’s talk about weight first, and I mean the yarn’s, not yours. What’s the weight of your yarn? Is it thick and chunky or super skinny? You probably don’t want to make an heirloom lace shawl out of something chunky, just like you probably don’t want to make a baby blanket out of cobweb lace. There are exceptions to every rule, but generally, the weight of the yarn is a pretty good guideline for what you can make with it. Got a hank of super chunky yarn? Think warm outerwear like a hat, mittens, scarf, or blanket. Have some beautiful silky fingering? Think closer to your body, like a fitted top or a shrug. Fingerless mitts are also great, because at a finer gauge you can get fancy with beautiful colorwork.
Ply – How many threads?
Now, ply is also really important. So important, that I’m giving it it’s own category. It’s also commonly misunderstood and misused, and it Drives. Me. Bonkers!!! Ply is the number is threads that make up a yarn. Go get a piece of yarn. Go ahead, I’ll wait. … Got it? Okay. Untwist that piece until you can see the separate threads. Count the number of threads you see. Did you get 2, 4, 6? That’s the ply. If you cross stitch you should already know this, because floss comes in 6 strands. It’s 6 ply and you split it into 2 or 3. Sometimes, yarn comes in odd ply too, like 3. So it’s not just even numbers. Even is just a little more common.
The hard part is so many people refer to ply as the weight, including yarn companies, and that just isn’t the case. A fingering weight yarn and a worsted weight yarn can both be 6 ply. If a pattern tells you you need a particular ply, read over the pattern. If they mean the actual ply and not the weight, they’ll probably make a note about it and explain why. I saw a pattern once that recommended a certain ply yarn to show off the stitch pattern better than than other ply would do, but at least the designer took the time to make the notation about it, so I didn’t just blow past it.
Texture and Fiber – What’s it made of?
The texture of the yarn and the fiber of the yarn are really important to what you make, especially if you are making something to wear! I hear so many people complain that “Wool is so scratchy!” (It’s not, by the way, you just haven’t found the good stuff) but the principle applies. You want something comfortable near your skin. Cottons are usually a great choice for things that will be worn right next to the skin, like delicate tank tops, and bamboo is super silky. Linen can sometimes be a little stiff at first, but usually softens after washing and ends up being beautiful. Sock yarn is great for socks, but it’s also great for thin sweaters, cardigans, or vests. Funky textured yarns are great for pops of texture and color, like the brim of a hat or stripes in a fun blanket, but may not be top choice for an entire sweater. Unless you’re going for the whole Muppet look. We don’t judge.
If you’re not sure how you’ll react to a yarn, you can rub it on the side of your neck or the inside of your elbow. Within a few minutes, you’ll know if you can tolerate the yarn or not. Just be prepared to be a little itchy if you’re not!
Color – Varigated, tonal, or single?
Lastly, the color. This is probably why you bought the yarn in the first place, because you fell in love with the color. Matching the color to the pattern is probably the one of the harder things to do. Is your yarn varigated, or multi-colored? Is it tonal, or shades of the same color? Or is it all just one color? Some patterns look better with varigated yarns, and some look better with plainer yarns. Sometimes it’s helpful to look at other people’s finished projects, and that’s when Ravelry becomes really helpful. You can look up the pattern and see other people’s finished projects and get an idea what it looks like with other yarns.
When all else fails, just start knitting. You may be surprised where the yarn will take you!