Buying Yarn “Just Because”


If you like knitting or crocheting, but you don’t think in a pattern-first mentality, you might be a “yarn stasher.” This is the kind of person who goes into the yarn (or craft) shop with nothing in mind.

They might be out of yarn, but not have a new project in mind yet.

They might be having a down day and decide on a little retail therapy.

They might have come into some extra money and decided to spend it on yarn.  

Maybe they’re on vacation and found a local yarn shop with fibers and/or colors specific to the area that they can’t get back home.

Or maybe they were surfing the internet and found a great deal on some yarn, too good to pass up, and decided to indulge. 

In all of these cases, the person didn’t “need” yarn. (Although if you ask a knitter or crocheter, they’ll tell you that they always need more yarn!) They had some other reason for buying it, and they’ll just “stash” it until the right project comes along. 

There’s nothing wrong with either method of yarn buying; it all comes down to your own personal preference and budget. And storage space, but that’s a topic for another day (tomorrow, actually). When you go shopping for yarn, do it the way you prefer. Whichever way that is, it’s the right one!


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Buying Yarn for a Specific Project


There are two schools of thought when it comes to buying yarn, and over the next two days I want to write about each of them. Today is my usual method of yarn buying: only when you have a specific project in mind.

So… you’ve chosen a pattern. Maybe you found a free one (there are thousands), or maybe you paid for it (even more options here). It doesn’t matter which route you go; all that matters is that you’ve found a pattern you want to knit. You have needles. Now all you need is yarn.  You go to the store and buy the yarn specified in the pattern for the size you want to knit. Nothing more, nothing less. Well, maybe less, depending on your budget. You can always come back for the rest of the yarn when you run out (although you do risk getting a different dye lot). That’s really all it means to “buy yarn for a specific project.” 

There is one more situation in which you may find yourself if you are a project-yarn-buyer. You go into the yarn store (or craft store or yarn section of a regular store), but you didn’t look at patterns first. You stand there for eons, looking at the different yarn trying to imagine what each could turn into. You fail to come up with anything and end up leaving with no yarn at all. If this happens to you, you know you’re a project purchaser and you should find a pattern before going shopping again.

I have been in both situations, which is why I (usually) only buy yarn when I already know what I want to knit.

Tomorrow I will write about the other kind of yarn addict: the stash buyer.


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What is an “Interchangeable Needle Set”?

Yesterday, I talked about the basic types of knitting needles: straight, circular, and double pointed. Today I have a “secret ninja” fourth type to mention – although to be fair, it’s really just a variation on circular needles. 

If you recall, circular needles are shorter needles connected to each other by a thin, flexible cord. Interchangeable needles are basically the same, but with one twist… they come apart. When you buy an interchangeable needle set, you get a wide variety of needle sizes (diameters), but instead of having a stopper on the end, they have a screw. The set also comes with a selection of cords, and each cord has the inverse screw to the needles on its ends. In this way, you can combine whichever needle size you need (in an interchangeable set, they’re called “tips”) with the length of cord you need. This system allows you to have a huge variety of circular needles without having an unlimited supply that you have to store and keep track of. It’s a very efficient way of having the needles you need for practically any project. 


Types of Knitting Needles


Yesterday I wrote about my favorite knitting needles and pictured some of my Knitter’s Pride Dreamz straight needles. Today I’m going to explain the difference between straights, circulars, and double pointed.

Straight Needles


These were my very first knitting needles, and they’re great for learning. Straight needles are defined by their long size, point at one end, and a stopper of some kind at the other end. This stopper prevents your stitches from sliding off the back of the needle while you’re knitting; this is why they’re good for beginners.

Straight needles aren’t just for beginners, though. They’re also good for anyone making a flat project. I’ve even knit sweaters on them before (by knitting the pieces individually and sewing them together at the end).

Circular Needles

Fixed circulars

Most knitters I’ve come in contact with over the past couple of years prefer circular knitting needles. They’re great for any kind of project, either flat or round (tubular). With circular needles, you can join your stitches to knit around and around in a tube, or you can turn the work over at the end of the row and knit back and forth to create a flat piece. You can also use the “magic loop” method to knit small diameter things, but I don’t particularly like that, so I won’t focus much on it.

Double Pointed Needles


Double pointed needles (DPNs) are use for knitting small diameter projects in the round. They’re mostly used for the tops of hats and sweater sleeves. DPNs come in a set of 5, and each one has points at both ends (rather than one point and a stopper). They’re also quite a bit shorter than straight needles. When you use DPNs, you put 1/3 of the stitches on each of three needles and then use a fourth to knit with, one needle at a time (just like straight needles). When you get to the end of one needle, you rotate your work, move the now-empty needle from your left hand to your right, and keep going. 

The main downside with DPNs is that they don’t have that stopper on the end, so it’s very possible for your stitches to fall off. It’s not a huge risk so long as you don’t fill them up too full; typically there’s plenty of room on a given needle to keep the stitches in the middle and avoid them being dropped.


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Book Club: Keep Moving

Book Club with Lori

You know who Dick van Dyke is, right? He’s one of Hollywood’s most loved actors, starring in such films as Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He was also the star of the TV shows The Dick van Dyke Show and Diagnosis: Murder for a number of years. I didn’t grow up watching him much, but my husband did, and I was introduced to his work as an adult. Since then, I’ve become a big fan.

When I found the audiobook Keep Moving on my Overdrive app, written and read by Dick van Dyke himself, I knew that was one I wanted to read (listen to) for Book Club. Luckily, Lori happily agreed, so here we are.

We weren’t able to find questions about the book (it’s fairly new – less than a year old, I think), so we’ve decided to just write a few words about our thoughts on it.

Keep Moving is a memoir of van Dyke’s life, but it’s also more than that. Besides the anecdotes and stories from his lie in Hollywood, the author reminds us of the importance in moving every single day. As he approaches his 90th birthday, I think he’s a pretty good source on what might help us to live longer, and he says that moving – exercising – especially something you love doing – is a vital part of that. That’s where the title of the book comes in. Keep Moving. Sing and dance and walk and run every day. If you don’t like any of those things, find something you do like to do, and move every day. This is good for your body and your spirit.

Besides having lived a long and full life himself, Dick van Dyke has one other piece of personal history that gives him credibility to the “Keep Moving movement.” When he was a young man (mid-30s) and acting in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, he had an accident on set. He visited the doctor, where he was told that he had severe arthritis and would be basically lame within the decade. He rejected this notion. Not all of it, obviously – arthritis isn’t something you just decide that you no longer have. But the part about being unable to walk within just a few years… he rejected that. He continued to sing, dance, run, jump… move. And by fighting his arthritis, he has been able to live a full and happy life, continuing to do all the things he loves. What an inspiration!

I have really enjoyed listening to Dick van Dyke read his own book. It’s one that Will and I have been listening to together in the evenings while he works and I knit. It’s a fun book, and hearing his voice has made me want to find some old Diagnosis: Murder episodes to watch 🙂

Make sure to head over to Lori’s blog and find out what she thought about this book.

Next month, we’re reading An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff. It’s “the true story of an 11-year-old panhandler, a busy sales executive, and an unlikely meeting with destiny.” The based-on-a-true story genre is my favorite kind of movie (not documentaries, but films with actors telling a true story), so I’m looking forward to this book. We haven’t been able to find questions on that one, either, so the post will be much like this one was.


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My Favorite Knitting Needles


There about as many different types of knitting needles as there are knitters who use them. Plastic, metal, hardwood, bamboo, even bone. And that’s just the materials the needles themselves are actually made from. You also have straight needles, circular needles, and double pointed needles (more on those differences tomorrow). And the size of the needles is another thing to consider. 

Big box stores are going to have a much smaller selection to choose from. If you go there, you’re likely to only find plastic or aluminum needles. At a “local yarn store” (LYS) you’ll have many more options. 


My focus is on my favorite needles, though. Not all the different varieties on the market. My taste in knitting needles is quite small; in fact, I’ve really only used two kinds. I have a couple of sets of bamboo double pointed needles that I bought cheap from Amazon, and they do a fine job. But my very favorite are my Knitter’s Pride Dreamz needles. These are the basic needle available at my LYS, and therefore the kind I bought for my knitting class. They are made from a strong, polished wood, and each size (diameter) is a different color so you can tell the apart quickly and easily. The points are sharp enough to allow you to go through stitches easily, but not so pointy that you split stitches. Because they’re wood, they give your yarn a little grip, making the dreaded dropped stitch less of an issue (not a nonissue, though). I can not recommend these needles enough, especially for a beginner.


This post is not sponsored in any way. Every pair of needles I own, I’ve purchased. Knitter’s Pride has no idea who I am, and I was not compensated for this post. I just really love their product and wanted to write about it today.


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Yarn Fibers


We’re still talking about yarn today. Yesterday was all about the different thicknesses available; today is about the different fibers you’re likely to come across as you shop for yarn.

If you purchase your yarn from a craft store or supercenter type store, you will likely be limited to acrylic yarns. Acrylic is a byproduct of oil, so acrylic yarn is basically plastic. Don’t let that deter you though; not all acrylics are created equal. Some are really terrible and some are softer and cozier than wool. Acrylic is very easy to care for (almost  all are machine washable and dryable) and easy on the budget, so it’s a great choice for knitting or crocheting items for babies and children.

The next most popular fiber for yarn is probably wool. There are as many different types and feels of wool yarn as there are species of sheep (and llamas and alpacas, and…). That is, quite a lot. Most of the pure wool yarns I’ve worked with tend to be pretty scratchy, but with some TLC and wool wash, they soften up.

Cotton is a popular yarn for making things like washcloths and summer garments. It’s cool and breezy, but also tough. It can tend to be pretty heavy, so it’s not ideal for heavier clothing like winter sweaters.

These are the main types of yarn I’ve seen as “pure.” There are also a nearly infinite number of blends on the market. Some of the lower-cost companies have wool-acrylic blends available, for example. I’ve used a cotton-bamboo yarn for a shawl I made, and that yarn has a nice drapy quality that was perfect for the shawl. I’ve tried that same yarn for other projects (a sweater and a pair of mittens), and it was no good for either of those. If you’re making socks, the best yarn to find is a wool-nylon blend. They nylon gives you the strength you need for the heels and toes, while the wool keeps it from being a nylon sock.

This list barely scratches the surface on yarn fibers, but it covers the kinds I use most, so I’m going to leave it here. Come back tomorrow for the next most important thing you need to knit: needles.


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Yarn Weights


Welcome back! Today I want to talk about yarn weights, by which I mean thicknesses (as opposed to pounds). You might remember from yesterday’s post that your label will tell you what weight your yarn is. But what do those terms and numbers mean? I’m going to enlighten you right now.

Size 0 is also called lace, fingering, or thread weight. As you might guess from its first name, it is often used for creating airy, lacy knits. I have never personally used yarn this small; I tend to mostly knit sweaters, which require thicker yarn for warmth.

Size 1 also has a few different names. You might hear it called “sock,” “fingering,” or “baby.” This is the yarn you use for knitting socks if you want them to fit inside your shoes. It’s also a really nice feeling yarn for shawls and baby blankets.

Size 2 is called Sport or Baby yarn. It’s a little thicker than sock yarn, but used for a lot of the same types of projects.

Size 3 is called DK, which is short for “double knitting.” I’m not entirely sure why it’s called that, because double knitting is a technique also; perhaps double knitting works best with this weight of yarn. I’m not sure, though. DK weight yarn is suitable for just about any project. I’ve used it for numerous sweaters and shawls.


These are the yarn sizes I work with the most. This picture shows the differences between sizes 2, 3, and 4.

Size 4 is called worsted in the United States and Aran in much of the rest of the world. This is the yarn you’ll get if you buy it anywhere that’s not a yarn-specific store (JoAnn, Michael’s, the craft section at Walmart, etc). It’s the “standard” yarn and is great for warm sweaters, Afghans, and more.

Size 5 is the beginning of the really thick yarns. Commonly called chunky or bulky, it’s good for a quick blanket (thicker yarn means bigger stitches, which means your project goes faster). 

6 and 7 are very similar to 5, just a bit bigger.

For a nice printable on yarn thicknesses, visit this post at Moogly.

Now that we’ve discussed thicknesses and ideas for projects in different yarn weights, I want to briefly mention how yarns get to be different thicknesses. This is done by twisting strands of spun yarn together. The fewer the strands, the thinner the yarn. Size 0 yarn uses 1-3 strands, while size 7 can use in excess of 16 strands. Understanding those numbers, it’s easy to see how and why the thicknesses are so different!

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Reading a Yarn Label


For my first post on the joy of knitting, I wanted to start super basic, with the most important thing you’ll need: yarn. Of course, you need knitting needles, too, but yarn is even more important than the needles because a) it creates the fabric that will be your finished product and b) there are tutorials out there for knitting without needles (finger knitting, for example).

So… yarn. How do you know what you’re getting when you buy yarn? While it can be pretty confusing as first, the yarn companies do what they can to make it easy – or at least understandable – for you. They put all the information you need right on the label, or ball band, of the yarn. Today I’m going to go over the information on a skein of yarn I have on hand.



On the front of the label, you’ll see the name of the company that made the yarn (Berroco), as well as the name of the product line (Comfort DK). Below this is the name of the yarn weight and a description of the fiber content.


When you rotate the ball of yarn, you come to a new panel on the label. This one has a series of tiny pictures. The three main ones tell you approximately what gauge (a fancy term for “stitches per inch”) you should get using this yarn and the specified needle sizes. The gauge you need will be listed on your pattern, but using the guide on the yarn label can give you an idea of whether your yarn and pattern are compatible. There are these gauge pictures for both knitting and crochet. Below that is another little picture; this one looks like a skein of yarn with a number on it. This gives you another clue as to the weight of the yarn (besides the name on the front, because not all yarns will list the weight there). I’ll talk about yarn weight in more detail tomorrow. Also on this panel is the size of your skein. This is usually listed in ounces and grams (for weight) and meters and yards (for length).


Rotate the ball one more time and you get to the final third of the ball band. On this section are the washing instructions for your finished garment, the color number and dye lot number, and the store’s pricing sticker. The dye lot is probably the most important piece of information on the label, especially if you’re making a project that will require more than one skein of yarn. By matching the color and dye lot, you can be assured that your yarn is all exactly the same color. (Matching dye lot numbers means they were colored in the same dye bath.) Even if two balls of yarn have the same color number, if their dye lots are different, it’s very possible that they won’t quite match. They’ll be close of course, but subtle variations are possible. 

And that’s the information you’ll find on a yarn label. I hope you’ll come back tomorrow, when I’ll be discussing the different weights of yarn.


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31 Days of Writing

There’s a challenge going around the “blogosphere” this month, and that is to write something each day all month long. That’s 31 blog posts (though I’ll have a few more since I have some reviews this month that will be sprinkled in). There are a few different bloggers hosting different versions of the challenge, and the one I chose to participate in is to write a little bit each day about a single topic. I’ve chosen to focus on my favorite hobby: knitting.


I’ll cover all sorts of topics related to the subject. Here’s my basic road map for the series:

10/2: Reading a yarn label

10/3: Different weights of yarn

10/4: Different fibers of yarn

10/5: My favorite knitting needles

10/6: The difference between straight needles, circular needles, and double pointed needles

10/7: What is an “interchangeable needle set”?

10/8: Buying yarn for a single project

10/9: Buying yarn “just because”

10/10: The “yarn stash” and how to store it

10/11: Where to buy yarn

10/12: Where to learn to knit

10/13: Teaching children to knit

10/14: My favorite resources (YouTube channels, books, websites, etc)

10/15: Knit vs Crochet

10/16: Basics of Knitting: casting on

10/17: Basics of Knitting: the knit stitch

10/18: Basics of Knitting: the purl stitch

10/19: Basics of Knitting: binding off

10/20: Attaching a new ball of yarn to a project

10/21: Choosing a pattern

10/22: Reading a knitting pattern

10/23: Knitting a gauge swatch

10/24: Knitting flat vs in the round

10/25: Knitting a seamless garment vs knitting pieces and sewing them together

10/26: Knitting things that aren’t clothes: wash cloths

10/27: Knitting things that aren’t clothes: dish scrubbies

10/28: Knitting things that aren’t clothes: bookmarks

10/29: How to dye yarn with food safe “ingredients” in your kitchen

10/30: My experience with food-coloring dyeing

10/31: Conclusion

Some of these will be longer than others, but I’m committing to writing about all of them this month. I’m excited about it, and I hope it’s as fun for you as it will be for me.


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