Yarn Thoughts: Crochet vs Knit. Acrylic vs Wool.

Since I am a skilled knitter and crocheter, I follow both types of accounts on Instagram. I also look at both types of patterns on Ravelry. And watch videos from both types of crafters on YouTube. One thing I’ve noticed is that knitters favor wool, while crocheters favor acrylic, across the board. I’ve often wondered why, and when you do a Google search, nothing turns up. As I was typing up last week’s post (Yarn Thoughts: Hobby Lobby’s I Love This Yarn!), I think I came up with a few reasons this might be the case, and I want to get my thoughts out in case anyone else has every wondered this too.

Crocheting is faster

For most people (I know because I’ve seen it stated on many forums by others who know both crafts), crocheting is faster. This is why a lot of people crochet blankets, but not that many knit them. A blanket is a big enough project as it is, and you want to be able to actually have a chance at finishing it.

With that said, because as a crocheter you’re able to make your projects so much quicker than a knitter (and therefore one could argue that you’re making more projects), you’ll go through more yarn. Since you’re using more yarn, you need your yarn to be less expensive.

Crocheting uses about 30% more yarn than knitting

This is a very similar argument to the previous one, and something I’m not sure a lot of people know. But it’s true: crocheting eats up more yarn than knitting. This is likely due to the fact that crochet stitches have varying heights, and even the smallest one (single crochet) is quite a bit taller than a knit stitch. So again, you’re using more yarn, and therefore likely want a cheaper yarn since you’re going through it faster.

Knitting has more opportunity for beauty

This is probably a controversial statement, but I stand by it. And I’m not even saying that crocheting isn’t beautiful. It definitely can be (in fact, I’m working on a crochet blanket right now that I absolutely adore – I’ll be sharing a link to the pattern and photos of my project next week). But there’s very little that can compare to a cabled knit sweater. It’s the envy of everyone. It’s the reason I wanted to learn to knit.

Knitting is beautiful.

Crochet is (usually) more utilitarian.

And if you’re working on a more beautiful project – the whole point of which is to be stunning – you want a nicer yarn to show off all those hard worked stitches.

Sweaters are more personal (and showy) than blankets

Sweaters and blankets take a similar amount of time (in my experience), but a sweater is likely to get more “face time.” What I mean by that is that you’ll wear a sweater out and about, but a blanket is relegated to your own home. There’s nothing wrong with this; it’s just the nature of the two different items. But because you’re going to be showing off a sweater more than you will a blanket, it’s another reason you want a “better” yarn.

Wool yarn is blockable

To understand the point behind this point, you have to know what blocking is. Put simply, blocking is the wetting of your finished item, which you then pin out into place (at the proper measurements) and let air dry. By doing this, it helps to even out your stitches, which is especially beneficial if you’re working cables or color work (fair isle). You see, when you’re making those types of projects, the combinations of stitches – either knit and purl, or multiple colors of yarn – can kind of bunch up together a bit. This isn’t a problem, and it’s not your fault. It’s just the nature of those stitches. By blocking your project afterward, you get everything to lay out a lot nicer and look more professional.

When you block a project made with wool yarn, those natural fibers will “remember” their new, post-blocking position and keep that shape until the next time you wash it. Acrylic fibers don’t do that as well. I’m not saying that an acrylic project doesn’t benefit from blocking, but it’s not near the difference as you get with wool.

So there you go. A few reasons that might explain why crocheters are more likely to use acrylic and knitters are more likely to use wool. Do you have any other ideas as to why this might be? Do you have a yarn fiber preference? Let me know in the comments!


A Basic Sweater for Ballet Boy

Ballet Boy has very specific taste, in clothing especially. He’s developing a similar taste as Will (which makes sense) for the finer things in life. This is why the first sweater I made for him was a fancy one – lots of cables, seed stitch in between for texture, a gorgeous shawl collar. And as much as I love seeing that sweater, I did not like making it. It doesn’t even make sense that I didn’t like the process; it’s the kind of sweater most knitters live for – lots of interest, no boring “miles of stockinette.” To this day, I don’t know why I didn’t enjoy the process. I love the idea of making another one, but remembering how much I struggled with it, I just can’t bring myself to do it.

The sweater in progress. Obviously I have a ways to go still, but I’m struggling a bit with motivation right now. Probably because it’s so hot here in the Pacific Northwest. The last thing I want is a winter sweater in my lap all day.

So when he outgrew that one (don’t worry; we’ve kept it and Grasshopper will wear it one day), he and I brainstormed ideas for another sweater for him. He wasn’t super particular. He had just two criteria: it needed to be dark gray, and it needed to be a pullover. My kids are too nice to say it so bluntly, but they all have let me know in their own ways that I suck at plotting buttonholes! They all prefer pullovers because the buttons never quite fasten tidily when I make them a sweater.

So after looking over tons of patterns, we fell back on an old favorite: the Flax sweater. This pattern is one of the most popular on Ravelry, and for good reason. It’s free, it’s easy, and it comes in a huge variety of sizes (newborn – 3XL). You can literally make this sweater for anyone you know and it will fit them. The sweater is constructed top down, which means you’re working upside-down for most of it. The sleeves have just the tiniest bit of interest: a stripe of garter stitch along the top, from shoulder to wrist.

I’m using Hobby Lobby “I Love This Yarn!” in the color Dark Gray for the sweater. It’s a lovely heathered black-gray color, and it’s making the sweater turn out really prettily. The yarn is a bit heavy when it’s knit up, but that will assure that the sweater is quite warm for him this fall and winter. And we definitely picked the right pattern for this yarn. The heathering gives interest where the pattern leaves simplicity. But that plush garter stitch on the sleeves is just a very pleasant touch.

If you want to knit a sweater but you’ve never done it before, I can’t recommend the Flax sweater enough. Find it free on Ravelry (from Tin Can Knits’s “The Simple Collection”). There are tons of tutorials available to walk you through the process because it was designed to be a learner sweater. And if you’re new to knitting but aren’t quite sure you want to tackle a sweater yet, The Simple Collection has you covered anyway. It includes patterns for a scarf, a blanket, mittens that can be made regular or fingerless, a shawl, a hat, socks, a pullover, a cardigan, and a cowl. The pieces all “match” in that they have a bit of garter paneling somewhere on the item. This allows you to practice both your knits and your purls, whether you’re working on an “in the round” project or a flat one.

What do you want to knit first?


Another Strange Brew sweater

When I made the “A-Maze-ing” sweater for Grasshopper last spring, he absolutely adored it. I really loved the way it looked on him, too. But a couple of months later, disaster struck. The sweater, which I’d made from non-superwash wool yarn, got tossed in the laundry, unbeknownst to me. I was horrified when I picked it up out of the basket of clothes from the dryer as I was folding them. It was much too small for him to wear any longer.

Silver lining is that the stitch definition is still pretty good, and the sweater now fits Dragonfly. It’s the tiniest bit stiffer than it used to be, but at least it still gets to be worn.

A close up of the motifs he chose. It started with arrows at the bottom, followed by waves, then the letter E (for his name). We topped the Es with a crown, and finished the sweater off with bold red triangles, or “Godzilla spikes” as he calls them.

But that left Dragonfly (5) with 3 sweaters and Grasshopper (8) with just one. Now that I’m out of my blanket and toy rut, it was time to make him a new sweater for this coming year! I decided to let him design his own design, since that’s the whole point of the Strange Brew recipe pattern. We looked at different motifs together, and he picked out the ones he liked best (that would fit into the number of rows for a sweater his size). I took him to Hobby Lobby to choose the yarn, too. I knew after making the Mickey Mouse sweater for Bumblebee that I didn’t want to use Big Twist yarn for another sweater, and that meant shopping somewhere besides JoAnn. While we were at the store, we looked at quite a few different yarns. Grasshopper knew that he wanted his sweater to be blue with red designs. He was willing to compromise a bit on that so as not to have it turn out too garish, but not too much. We examined at least 3-4 different blues before we found one he liked. Then we looked at the reds. Then we found a better blue (I Love This Yarn! in the color Chambray), which led us to other reds. He landed on a nice dark, supple red (I Love This Yarn! in Red Tweed), which compliments the blue marbled yarn very nicely – it’s not hard on the eyes at all.

And this one’s made from acrylic yarn, so we won’t have any shrinkage problems this time.



Tools of the Trade: My Favorite Knitting Needles

I learned to knit almost 5 years ago. (I can’t believe it’s been that long!) My husband gave me the gift of sending me to a class at a LYS (local yarn store) for Valentine’s Day in 2016. I shopped at that same store fairly regularly until they closed last year when the owner moved out of state. Whenever I went in there, the employee who had taught my class always raved over how I’d taken to knitting “like a duck to water.” The cost of the class was small: one pair of knitting needles and one skein of yarn from their shelves. With those purchases, the class was free (there was a $20 fee if you brought your own needles and yarn). So with the help of the employees, I chose a nice pair of size 8 (5.0 mm) knitting needles and a robin’s-egg-blue skein of yarn.


interchangeableI still have those very same needles today. And all of my needle purchases since then have been the same brand and line. What are they? Knitter’s Pride Dreamz, a polished wood needle with unmatched smoothness and pointy tips. Each size of the Dreamz needles is a different, beautiful color for easy identification. (Ironically, the two sizes I use most often – size 8 and size 10 – are almost the same color and I have to differentiate them by feel.) I was so enamored by my very first pair of needles that I’ve never bothered trying any others. I’ve expanded my collection over the past 5 years – I now have a set of interchangeable circular needles, many sets of single pointed, and many sets of double pointed needles, as well as two pairs of fixed circulars – but I’ve always purchased Dreamz.



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Adjusting a Sweater Pattern

I’ve been knitting long enough now to have some confidence in what I’m doing. It’s rather a nice place to be! Today I’m going to talk about how I took a standard pullover sweater pattern (the Flax sweater, a free pattern of which I’ve made numerous iterations) and turned it into a cardigan for Dragonfly. Let’s start with a picture of the sweater I made:


The sweater pattern in its original form is knit in the round from the top down. This means that starting at the collar and working the neckline, then shoulders, then body, you knit a large tube of fabric that fits around a person. You then come back up to the armpits and knit the sleeves from pit to cuff.

The Flax sweater starts with ribbing at the collar. I changed this to garter stitch, which does two things. First, it matches the texture on the top of the sleeves. Second, because I was working flat instead of in the round (I wanted my sweater to be open in the front, so making a tube didn’t make sense), garter stitch is easier than rib because it’s knit every round (no purl stitches anywhere in sight). I did this for 1.5 inches.

For my sleeves to line up with the front of the sweater, I couldn’t put the markers (indicating where I needed to place my increases for the shoulders) in the same spots as the original pattern. To accommodate the change, I looked at the original pattern and determined which numbers were for the front and back, and which were for the sleeves. I took the front/back number and divided it in half. This gave me the number of stitches I needed for the left half of the front and the right half of the front. I then knit the first half, placed a marker, knit the first sleeve, placed a marker, knit the entire back (no need to divide this one in half), placed a marker, knit the other sleeve, placed a marker, and finally knit the second half of the front. From here on out I was able to follow the pattern as written, with the exception of working in rows instead of rounds.

The yarn I used on this sweater was partially freshly dyed wool for this specific project, partially leftovers from other recent sweaters. I incorporated all of the other colors as stripes in the sweater, and I chose to divide the stripes using a thin stripe of brown. I used that same brown for the collar, waist, wrist cuffs, and button bands.

When knitting the button band that would have the buttonholes (rather than the solid one where I would sew buttons on later), I chose to make a buttonhole at the approximate middle of each color stripe as opposed to placing them evenly all the way down the sweater. Then I found buttons in my stash that matched the colors of the stripes and placed a matching button on each stripe.

That’s it for this sweater! I’ll be starting another “Flax Hack” sweater tonight, so there’ll be another post in a few weeks explaining that one (it’s an adult size sweater for Scorpion, so it’s going to take a while to make).


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Ruby: my entry to the Great Caron Cake Off

I read about the Great Caron Cake Off first on Repeat Crafter Me, and I was immediately excited. Let me give you a quick run down, and then I’ll show you what I made for the contest. 

Caron Cakes were introduced five years ago. The original yarn is a wool-acrylic blend wound into a cake shape instead of a skein (hence the name) and was popular with crocheters and knitters right away. Since then, they have created many more varieties of Caron Cakes, all of which are available exclusively at Michael’s craft stores. Since this year is the fifth anniversary of the Caron Cake, Michael’s is hosting a contest using the yarn. The task was to create something – anything – using any one of the Caron Cake yarns. It could be knit, crocheted, or crafted. 

I have been wanting to design my own knit and crochet patterns for a while (I did the pig a few months ago and that was enough to make me want to do more and more!), so this contest was the perfect opportunity to try something. I went to Michael’s to look at the Caron Cake selection (I don’t go there often because it’s about an hour away), and I absolutely adored the Latte Cakes I found. It’s an acrylic-nylon blend (which as I’ve mentioned before are super soft) and has a beautiful, fluffy texture thanks to the loose strands, or “eyelashes,” all over it. As a mom of boys, it would have made the most sense to get a brown or blue cake and turn it into a sweater or blanket. But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I wanted to use the “Strawberry Flambé” color (gray and pink) to make a toddler dress. So I bought two of the pink cakes (they were buy one, get one half off that day) and brought them home. 

I thought I wanted to crochet the dress, but after two or three attempts that didn’t work out, I realized why: I don’t have any experience crocheting garments. I’ve knit countless sweaters and diaper covers, but I tend to use crochet for toys and blankets – not clothes. So I went back to knitting instead, and this is the dress I came up with:


In the interest of full disclosure, I used the Flax sweater pattern for my measurements. While I’ve knit loads of sweaters, I’ve never designed one, so it made sense to start mostly from scratch instead of fully. I made a lot of modifications to the pattern (literally all I used from that one was the cast on number and the depth of the yoke measurement), so I’m still comfortable calling it my own creation.

I started by casting on the designated number (68) using the tubular cast on method. This gives a super stretchy neck hole. I worked the top ribbing in rows, and only joined in the round after the neck edge was done.

When it came time to start making the top larger rapidly to accommodate the shoulders, I used the yarn over method for my increases to give a lacy, open, girly feel for the dress. When I did the body-sleeve split, I knit for about 2 inches and then moved in to the waistband and skirt of the dress (rather than knitting all the way to the hips as I would have done for a sweater). I chose to go with short sleeves for this dress, so using my double pointed needles I added one row of plain knit and 6 rows of ribbing to the arm holes left when I did the sleeve separation. I was conscientious about the yarn color here, making sure the edges of the sleeves would match the shoulder portion.

I wanted a clear separation between bodice and skirt, so I did a narrow band of garter stitch (about an inch), and even though I was using self-striping yarn, I cut it here so I could get a clean line for that belt. I cut the yarn again after the belt as I headed into the skirt. The first row after the belt, I doubled my stitches by doing a KFB (knit front and back) increase into every stitch to give a good start to the skirt. 


A close up of the cables on the skirt

A close up of the cables on the skirt

I literally had a restless night the night before I started this project because I was thinking up ideas for my dress, and one of those ideas was to include cables on the skirt. I’ve knit plenty of cables before, but never really studied how they work, so I went with a simple 3 over 3 twist pattern. I wanted a super flowy, twirly skirt, so I knew I needed to slowly increase the stitch count to get the shape I wanted. In order to mimic the lacy quality of the bodice, I opted for yarn over increases again. This method leaves you with “on purpose” holes in the fabric. Instead of increasing every other row like I did on the top, I increased every third row; this is when I did the cable twists, so it was easier to keep track of where I was: increase and cable in the same row, then work two rows plain. 

I initially considered adding a crocheted border to the sleeves and bottom, but when I bound off, I didn’t think it needed it after all. I did, however, crochet a little flower and attach it to the waistband with a pearl button. The dress also closes with a matching pearl button at the back of the neck. (I didn’t add in a specific buttonhole; the pearls are small enough to slip through the stitches as they sit.)

I hope to have the official pattern written up (and maybe tested by other knitters) in the coming weeks. When that’s done, I’ll post it here. 


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Two Sweaters for Bumblebee

Because Bumblebee is so small, making sweaters for him is super fun – and super quick! I started this whole “sweater making in the summertime” kick with a sweater for him that matches the feel of one I made for myself a couple of years ago. He doesn’t particularly like this one (yet), so I don’t have pictures of him wearing it, but he has worn it a couple of times (namely once when we were at the beach and it was chilly so we made him!).


64006710-C79F-4D1D-804C-1E354B399720I used the pattern “Caribou,” but when I was making mine, I realized that I didn’t like the way the cable pattern was forming. It left too many large holes. Instead, I found a different cable pattern that was a similar width that I really liked, so I used that as the basis for the one I made myself. Armed with this information, I skipped the pattern’s cable right from the start when I started making this sweater for Bumblebee. The cable I used on mine was 30 stitches wide, which was too many for a baby sweater, so I found something else for his, which was this six-stranded plait. Then I was able to get a set of buttons that were exactly the same as the ones I have on my sweater (wood elephants).



Love the costume glasses almost as much as the beautiful sweater!

When I’d finished making the other two kids their Strange Brew (colored yoke) sweaters, I went back and made one for Bumblebee too. I started, like the others, with 100% wool yarn (I was out of my Knit Picks order by then, so this one is Lion Brand Fishermen’s Wool that I picked up at JoAnn using a 50% off coupon). I dyed the yarn blue using the same recipe as the blue for Grasshopper’s sweater, minus the McCormick’s drops. By the time I got the first skein of yarn in, all of the black had absorbed so there was none left for the second skein. This means that even though both were dyed in the same pot, one is stripe-y and the other just a straight pale blue. Odd, huh? Because of this discrepancy, I opted to use the stripey yarn for the sleeves, and the plain for the body of the sweater. The variation of the mottled yarn combined with the stitch count of the baby sleeves made almost perfect stripes, so it worked out really well. In order to get a good contrast for the yoke, I made the background in undyed yarn and then added the design using the stripey yarn. Then I finished off the top with the plain blue again.

Both of these are just so beautiful, and I’m super excited for the fall when he can start wearing them regularly!


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A Sweater for Grasshopper

Here is the sweater I made for Grasshopper:


FA2ADCAE-7A27-438C-8ABD-04506066C37EIt’s the same pattern as what I used for Dragonfly’s sweater (there’s one for Bumblebee that will be posted in a few days, too, and one for myself that I’m in the early stages of knitting). The pattern is really more of a “recipe,” meaning that it tells you the basics and gives lots of freedom in the decorative portion at the top rather than a specific set of pictures to knit. I’ve really been enjoying making these “Strange Brew” sweaters.

Grasshopper’s sweater was made with Knit Picks Wool of the Andes yarn that I dyed myself, just like Dragonfly’s. He was adamant that he wanted a pullover, and he wanted it to be dark blue. I also incorporated some orange that I had left over from making a sweater for Bumblebee (not the same one I mentioned earlier, but one that I will talk about soon). Because dark blue and orange are Grasshopper’s favorite colors, it was too perfect to not use both of those in one sweater for him. To dye the blue, I used 35 drops of McCormick’s blue food coloring (the liquids from the baking aisle) per skein. When that had dried, we looked at the yarn and decided it wasn’t dark enough, so I over-dyed it using Wilton’s Sky Blue icing color mixed with a bit of Black icing color. The black, because it’s made up of different dyes, splits beautifully, and that’s what gave this yarn that gorgeous marbled effect.

31BE549E-5FB9-411A-8E9A-653F0DBB96C1I knit this sweater from the bottom up, and I was anxious to see how the colors would play together, so I incorporated a design into the bottom of each sleeve and then used that same design on the bottom of the sweater, just above the hem. I was a bit concerned about having enough blue yarn, so I also added orange stripes to each sleeve.

When it was time to knit the yoke, I chose to incorporate the same pattern from the bottom as one of the motifs. Upon looking at it more closely I thought it looked like a maze, so I tried to find other motifs that fit that same feel. This was actually the first Strange Brew sweater I knit, and I was so in love with how it turned out that I immediately started Dragonfly’s green sweater – and when that one was done, I started one for Bumblebee! And these three sweaters are some of my favorite that I’ve ever knitted.


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Knitted Sweater for Seahawk

My little kids get all sorts of sweaters knit for them (by me). Because they’re so small, they go really quickly and are a good way to try out new patterns – small commitment of both yarn and time. The older two get sweaters very occasionally. In fact, they’ve each only gotten one from me versus the 3-4 that each of the little kids has. Being nearly adult sized (Munchkin) and actually adult sized (Seahawk), both the money and time needed are quite a bit bigger.

sweater 2

A while ago, I decided that it was time for me to make a sweater for Seahawk. He was the only kid who hadn’t gotten one yet, and I was feeling a little bad about that. So he and I sat down at the computer together and surfed Ravelry for patterns. I guided him toward patterns from Tin Can Knits because I knew that any pattern I bought from them would be a good value (because all their patterns come in a huge variety of sizes from “baby to big”). Before too long, he picked the Jones cardigan. It was an ambitious project because it’s made from a stitch pattern called “moss stitch,” rather than the traditional stockinette. Add to that the large number of braided cables and I knew I was in for a long project. But I tackled it for him.

sweater 1The pattern was a lot more complex than I expected. Don’t mistake complex for difficult, though. It wasn’t hard; it was just complicated. And for reasons I can’t place my finger on, I didn’t really like making it. I don’t know if it was the pattern itself or if I just chose an unpleasant yarn (it’s 50% lamb’s wool, 50% cotton). But whatever it was, I would almost always choose a different project to work on instead. Finally, I made the decision that I had to a certain amount of work on this sweater before I’d allow myself to work on any other projects. Then, about a month ago, I told myself no other projects at all until this one was done. You’d think that would have motivated me to just power through it, but no. I still took days off from knitting altogether sometimes just to avoid this project. But finally, about a week ago, I bound it off. What a happy day that was! Not only do I not have to work on it anymore, but it was such a big project that it just felt good to have finished it.

The sweater took me almost exactly a year to finish – by far my longest knitting project ever. Fortunately Seahawk doesn’t seem to have gone through too much of a growth spurt during that time, so it still fits him. And he gets lots of compliments when he wears it out (which has been basically every single time he’s left the house since I finished).

As glad as I am that the sweater is done, I’m even more glad that he likes and appreciates the work that went into it. Knowing that he loves it makes all the “blood, sweat, and tears” totally worthwhile.


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Pictures of the Week: Christmas Sweaters

I was so excited to give my parents the sweaters that I’d hand knit for them for them for Christmas. I was not disappointed in their reactions! It was so rewarding to hear them gush about how much they  loved them and had been thinking about getting new outerwear anyway since theirs was wearing out. And when they both put them on immediately, and both sweaters fit, my heart swelled.

Here are my mom and Dragonfly in their matching sweaters. (The pattern is the same, but the colors are different, obviously.)


And here’s my stepdad in his.


He was happier about the sweater than he looks in this picture, I promise 🙂


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