Sunday, October 25, 2015

How to substitute yarn

One of the most frequent questions we are asked in the yarn store is "What yarn do I need for this pattern?" and we don't always stock the specified yarn so we need to recommend a similar one.
Fortunately, the Craft Yarn Council publishes a set of yarn standards (see so first of all I refer to the top of their handy dandy chart of standard yarn weight system (see below) to figure out as much as I can about the recommended yarn.

Sometimes the pattern will specify the type of yarn e.g. DK weight. If this isn't given I look at the recommended needle/hook size and also the gauge for knitting patterns (i.e. a certain number of stitches per 4 inches / 10 cm) which often appears on yarn labels.

So armed with this information, I'll look on our shelves at similar weights of yarn and scrutinize the labels for something to suit. If the pattern doesn't give a weight, hook/needle size or gauge I'll look it up on the yarn page of the always helpful Ravelry site.

I'll also try to make sure the fiber content is similar e.g. cotton will not drape as well as wool. Finally I'll look at yardage so that they have a sufficient amount. And of course if you don't fancy going through all this palaver, just ask the yarn store staff for advice!

For further reading on matching yarn beyond gauge see this fantastic guidance on how to substitute from newish website Yarnsub. And you've guessed it, they provide a really useful tool to look for yarn substitutions on their site so if you're not in the yarn store but at home you could take a gander at this. I could spend quite a few hours typing in different yarns and looking at the substitutions "wow, how fascinating - I never knew those two were a 93% match". It's almost like dating for yarn, but perhaps that's just me!

Still on topic, I bought the magazine Love of Crochet for the first time and just love the fact that for every pattern they provide three additional yarn substitutions based on whether you want to save, spend or splurge. Marvelous!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Christmas gift-making frenzy

Oh yes, it's time to begin the gift-making frenzy in earnest with just 10 weeks until Christmas and considerably less if your family lives in a different country like us! I started out slowly last month with these amazing baubles by Kate on her Greedy for Colour blog. Check out her christmas crochet bauble tutorial. And I've been playing with the pattern, as you do, making variations for multi-color and school spirit color versions, reducing rows for thicker yarn, changing the decrease a little... Of course I am using materials from my yarn stash. The silver thread is hopelessly tangled as often happens with metallic types but this is part of the process untangling it when I need another bauble top. Craft is meant to be slow and meditative IMHO.

And my daughter has, as of this summer, found her craft and learnt to operate a sewing machine. Yay! So I have been scouring Pinterest looking for inspiration for her too. She has seven teachers in middle school so I'm thinking a gift from her will be far more meaningful to them and far less stressful for me. I think we have decided on customizing canvas tote bags along the lines of the Notepad Tote from Liz Stanley on her Say Yes blog. Everyone needs a reusable bag, surely!

I just discovered Ask Me Monday videos by creative entrepreneur Vickie Howell on Facebook. Video #10 is timed to perfection with tips on successful holiday gift-making. I particularly like the advice to "think small, go big" using larger gauge on-trend yarns. Genius! I'm off to search my stash for chunky yarn...

Sunday, October 11, 2015

My new volunteering role

This week I am feeling really excited about starting a new volunteering role at local charity The Community Cloth. This charity has been on my radar for quite some time after seeing a neighbor's daughter in the cutest crochet poncho imaginable made by these ladies. The catalyst to making contact was seeing press coverage of the plight of Syrian refugees in Europe in recent weeks. I asked myself "what can I do personally that will make a difference?" I spoke with their program manager this week about how I could help their Artisan Team and I'm giving my input on pattern ideas already.

About The Community Cloth

The Community Cloth is a microenterprise initiative empowering refugee women in Houston. It targets economic, educational and social goals through the provision of seed grants, training, and peer support, and by expanding market opportunities for refugee women artisans. It supports them in creating and selling handmade, indigenous arts and crafts such as woven bags, knitted scarves, household items and more. Through producing and selling their wares, the women have an opportunity to express their culture and heritage, learn new skills that will assist them in transitioning to life in the US, and obtain much-needed supplemental income. All of the proceeds go directly to the artisans and the program.  Most of the women involved to date are mothers; some are widows or are the only working member of their families. Purchases of The Community Cloth products help refugee women provide for the basic needs of their families as they work to establish new lives in Houston.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Yak & Yarn group growth

Last week we had our first daytime yak and yarn meet-up. Since we began in March it has been one Sunday evening a month (with the summer off) but we have members who live further afield and so to accommodate we have doubled our monthly meetings to two! Wow!

Rather remarkably lapghan #13 originates from Indiana (yes - Y&Y has gone national!). One of our daytime members taught her mom how to make our square while visiting and returned recently to find her mom had completed 63 squares, enough for our blanket. Love this story. It just warms my heart! And I am finishing up the joining of lapghan #14. It's a patchwork design this time since I have the final squares in many different colors.

We still have worsted weight yarn left over so we are making scarfs for the homeless using this rather nifty pattern I found online by Evelyn Mayfield on her blog Prayersncrafts. The half double crochet stitch is sturdy but hooking into the back of the loop gives the scarf a pleasing stretchiness. Simple but effective - my favorite kind of pattern.

And our next project (#3) will be baby blankets comprised of classic granny squares in a lighter sport weight yarn using a 4mm hook. I have written out the pattern since there isn't an original designer I can attribute the first granny square to. I am a big fan of the humble but versatile granny square.