Let’s talk about yarn: Learning

tut yarn talk main

I have taught knitting or crochet lessons several times each month over past two years and feel I now have a really good understanding of the type of yarn you need when you are trying to learn a new skill. I thought it would be really helpful to share it with you to make your learning as successful as possible.

You want a yarn in which you can clearly see each stitch and that moves easily and freely as you work. Here are my top things to consider when choosing one.


The texture of the yarn is really important as it will affect not only the clarity with which you can see the stitches but how the yarn moves over the hook or needle and against itself. You are looking for a yarn that is smooth and is not fluffy, that is the fibres should all lay flat. Try taking the end of the yarn and tying a slip knot, does the knot move freely and can you see every detail of the knot. This will give you an idea if it is the right texture.


Colour can really affect how visible the stitches are. Choose a solid colour rather than variegated, it should not be too dark or too light. Black or white are not great choices, neither are neons. Look at how clear the different strands are in the ball for some idea of how easy it will be to work with.


You want a yarn that has enough twist in it to be really easy to work with and to clearly see the stitches. You should be able to press the yarn between your fingers and it give a little bit, if you pull a length of the yarn it should stretch a little bit.


Yarns that split are bad enough at the best of times but really make learning a new skill harder. To find out how much a yarn will split in use then take a short section of it between both  thumb and forefinger and roll in opposite directions as if to untwist the yarn. The further you have to roll it before you can see the individual strands the less it will split in use.

Yarns to avoid:

  • Anything in pure cotton – They have no bounce, they split like nobody’s business and they don’t flow easily against themselves.
  • Most pure acrylics – they are quite sticky in nature and don’t glide freely against each other, they are also a little bit fluffy making stitches harder to see.
  • Anything free on the front of a magazine – yes even if it was on a magazine promising to teach you to knit/crochet! I can’t tell you the number of times I see these yarns at classes and it almost always makes it harder to learn than necessary. Yarns given away with magazines are nearly always really cheap acrylic, see above.
  • Chunky yarns – its tempting because you think it will grow more quickly but these are generally harder to work than their slightly slimmer friends. Aran and DK are a good choice for learning with. See this post for more information about weights.

I fully understand that when you are learning a new skill you don’t want to spend a lot of money. Here are two great low cost options that are great to learn with:

James C Brett Cotton On

This acrylic/cotton blend is about £2 for 50g and is the yarn we use for beginner kits at The Sheep Shop. It is lovely and smooth, washes well, rarely splits and comes in a wide range of pastel colours perfect for learning with.

Rico Design Baby Classic

This acrylic/polyamide blend feels almost exactly like a merino wool and is a joy to work with. Comes in a lovely selection of solid colours (avoid the multi-colours for learning) and costs around £2.70 for 50g

I’d love to hear what your favourite yarns are for learning with and why. (I would especially love international recommendations from the US and Oz – I didn’t want to exclude you but can’t recommend something I haven’t tried)




  1. says

    Great post. I agree totally with what you say. I have used drops merino aran for my classes. It has a great texture and bounce but can become a bit splitty if you have to keep undoing and reusing the same section of yarn. I will check out your suggestions

  2. says

    Ooh, good question. I haven’t taught any classes but I do know that some yarns are definitely better for swatching than others. Hmmm … I’ve been getting pretty good results lately with Plymouth Encore Worsted – an acrylic/wool blend with decent bounce and just enough “grab”.

    I do recommend z-twist or cable twist yarns, which work better for crochet than s-twist yarns. (Unfortunately most yarns are s-twist.)

    P.S. The tute is up for the new joining method: http://mrsmicawber.blogspot.com/2014/04/mrs-ms-mock-invisible-join-new-crochet.html