Importance of yarn weight

The importance of yarn weight is no light matter in knitting and crochet! The weight of the yarn, referring to the yarn thickness really, is critical to many elements of your knit or crochet project.

Thinner (lighter) weight yarn is ideal for delicate, lacy or intricate detail and will require smaller hook and needle sizes. However the cost to work thin and light for detail is time to complete. All things being equal, say the project is a baby blanket, lighter weight (thinner) yarn will require more time to finish than a heavier weight (thicker) yarn, which will work up quicker using larger hook and needle sizes.

All good patterns will have a specific yarn weight called out and a “gauge” specified for that weight (stitches per inch) you should be producing to achieve the size, look and feel of the project design. If you choose not to follow the yarn weight advice, or to ignore gauge requirements, your project will be a different size than designed. Not only that but it may look completely different from photos the design promises. For example, imagine a light and intricate baby afghan with a lacy border designed for a DK (#3) weight yarn, and you use a Super Chunky (#6) yarn instead. The blanket will turn out much larger and all the delicate detail will be lost, essentially a different blanket.

Let’s talk about the yarn weight names and classifications. The United States and the United Kingdom have different names for the same weights and you will see both as we import / export yarn between our two regions (not to mention the accessibility due to the Internet). Cali Chic Baby has a handy “yarn weight conversion guide” to help you compare the weight names against the classification #s to know what you are buying. The different names are not difficult, but remembering them (or having a handy guide) will make yarn shopping and substitution more delightful and low stress!

circular knitting needles

Circular knitting needles are not just for knitting in the round. They are also a miracle tool saving you pain in your wrists, arms, shoulders and back when knitting flat! That’s right… use circular knitting needles to “take a load off” larger projects like baby blankets (my favorite), throw blankets, shawls and so on.

Larger projects are also a real pain to try and fit on straight needles, which not only makes them heavy but all bunched up. Why not do yourself a favor and take the pain out of the project by choosing a circular needle of a size appropriate to your larger project. I use 32″ size primarily for my knit baby blanket designs but have also used 36″ and even 40″ for throws.

You also don’t want to go overboard and have a length that’s too long and impractical to load a small number of cast on stitches. But if you are using super bulky weight yarn and/or cast on north of 60 stitches, consider circular needles instead of straight. Your project weight can simply rest in your lap as you knit away, enjoying your project and joyfully noting your progress instead of the twinge in your wrists and the dull ache in your shoulders!

stitch markers

Stitch markers are a handy and even essential tool for marking where you are, where you want to get to, or where you want to remember in both crochet and knitting. They are small rings, plastic, metal or otherwise, that you insert in stitches you want to mark by location.

When and why to use stitch markers:

  • At the beginning of a round or row to mark pickup points, for counting rows, to note color change locations and many other reasons.
  • To mark pattern repeats, particularly in lacy edging (mark those corners!). Cali Chic Baby crochet patterns will usually have a chain in each corner of the starting round with each successive round corner building off this first corner chain. If you can’t see it your edging can get off track.
  • To mark where you will increase or decrease to aid in counting.
  • To note where to begin special stitches
  • To mark a reference point where you will count to or measure from, for example.

Stitch markers are invaluable and worth remembering to use liberally throughout your projects to make all counting or reference point locating easier and stress free. Let’s face it, those stitches get harder to see each year, so let stitch markers rescue your eyes, your brain (with math) and your overall project success!

what is gauge

Gauge is something you see on yarn skeins and in most patterns for both crochet and knitting. It is a measurement… essentially how many stitches will fit within a horizontal inch (or 2 or 4 inches) using the specified yarn weight and hook / needle size. Also, gauge typically specifies the number of rows that will fit within a vertical inch as well, but I find that if you get the horizontal stitches per inch right, the rows tend to themselves (this applies to baby blankets like those on Cali Chic Baby and projects with little shaping… for clothing row gauge matters.)

Why do I have to care about gauge? Very simply, if you don’t check gauge, you will be knitting and crocheting blind hoping the project turns out the correct size, without knowing if you are close or way off until you are done, or nearly done. If you don’t enjoy starting over or being disappointed with your results compared to the pattern design, then ignore gauge at your peril.

So what three things (mainly) affect gauge? The yarn weight, the crochet hook or knitting needle size and the “tension” you crochet or knit with. Some knit/crochet loosely and some more tightly. In either case, try to at least be consistent… compensations exist for either loose or tight to achieve gauge. If you are too loose and your gauge has too few stitches per inch, go down a hook / needle size or two until you achieve the target gauge. If you are too tight (most common) and your gauge has too many stitches per inch, go up a hook/needle size or two until you achieve gauge.

To check your gauge, follow the suggestion of the pattern for making a sample swatch (for example Stockinette stitch for knitting or sc block for crochet) and measuring. Then adjust your hook / needle as described above if necessary. In “extreme” tension cases only, you may need to try altering your tension style or even change yarn weights (if an option).

Which gauge should I follow – yarn or pattern? Short answer, the pattern! The gauge on the yarn label is only a suggestion as is the hook / needle size recommendation. The pattern designer will provide the gauge (and hook / needle size) that best suits the pattern they have created using these same parameters. To get the same results as the pattern promises, always follow the pattern gauge.

Before you learn how to crochet easy picot stitches you might first ask, “what are picot stitches?” Picots are cute, little round-shaped crochet stitches that add a decorative touch to any edging. Picots are a way to add a finishing touch all around a baby blanket, for example, without having to crochet a complex border. There is certainly more than one way to go about crocheting a picot stitch but I will offer what I believe to be the easiest way to create them.

Below are the simple instructions of how I prefer to make the picot stitch.

How to make a Picot stitch
Ch 3, insert at arrow, hook yarn and pull through. Follow the photo arrow movements.
crochet easy picot stitches

Another fun stitch that’s easy to do but creates a nice “X” pattern in your work is the crossed double crochet stitch (crossed dc). Below I show a crossed dc stitch with chain between the dc heads as this is an option to less gap in the “X” pattern. The crossed dc stitch will add visual interest and variety to your baby blanket, hat, scarf or any other crochet project needing a little visual pop.

Once you learn this stitch you will be looking for chances to incorporate it! Follow the tutorial steps in the photos to create the easy crossed dc stitch separated by a single chain.

crossed double crochet stitch

There certainly is a lot confusion online and in print regarding a Puff stitch vs Bobble stitch, and for good reason.  They are “mechanically” performed the same way and often erroneously defined exactly the same. Plus each designer has the freedom to describe how they choose to use the term within their patterns.  However, there are in fact some guidelines to type of stitch employed for each to look like a puff or bobble, as well some common convention in identifying a puff vs bobble stitch.

Let’s compare their similarities and differences

* A Puff Stitch (puff) is distinguished as stitches joined at a single base (location / stitch) and also joined at the top of the stitches.  The stitch employed is almost exclusively the Half Double Crochet (hdc) stitch to give it the slightly “puffy” look.

* A Bobble Stitch (bo) is distinguished as stitches joined at a single base (location / stitch) and also joined at the top of the stitches [the same as the Puff stitch] but employing only the long stitches, such as Double Crochet (dc) and Triple Crochet (tr).

Therefore, with Cali Chic Baby patterns, I denote a puff stitch as 2 hdc stitches or more and a bobble stitch as 2 or more dc or tr stitches. For both, 3 to 6 stitches are most common.  I include a 2 stitch bobble in my Honey Bunny Pattern #82, even though 2 dc don’t create a significant “bobble,” because it still adds interest to the design.

Tutorials

I show both the 2 and 3 stitch tutorials, as they appear in the pattern, below for comparison:

How to make a 2-dc Bobble stitch
Follow the steps below by making 2 “half finished” dc, resulting in 2 + 1 loops on hook.
Yarn over and pull through all 3 loops.

2-dc bobble

How to make a 3-dc Bobble stitch
Make 3 “half finished” dc, resulting in 3 + 1 loops on hook. YO, pull through all 4 loops.

3-dc bobble

Now let’s look a more developed 5-dc bobble tutorial taken from my Sugar Baby Pattern #12.  The bobble stitch is a great way to add eye popping “dots” or bumps to your crochet work.

How to make a 5-dc Bobble stitch
Follow the steps below by making 5 “half finished” dc, resulting in 5 +1 loops on your hook. Yarn over and pull through all 6 loops.

puff st vs bobble st tutorial

Bonus Information:  Popcorn & Cluster Stitch

The following two stitches often get lumped in to the puff stitch vs bobble stitch confusion so I include them here:

* A Popcorn Stitch (pc) is distinguished as stitches joined at a single base (location / stitch) and also joined at the top of the stitches (again like the puff and bobble) — however this stitch is completed by joining together the top of the first stitch with the top of the last stitch.  The stitches employed are the long stitches, such as dc and tr.

* A Cluster Stitch (CL) is defined as all stitches having a different base (spanning multiple stitches) but are all joined at the top of the stitches. This is also known as a “decreasing stitch” and can employ any stitch (sc, hdc, dc, tr, etc.).

For more on this topic, and a definitive source for all things crochet, visit the American Crochet Association.

Here I offer a short tutorial on changing yarn colors, using the Cali Chic Baby Teddy Bear pattern #58. The example shown applies to any pattern using a double crochet stitch where a new yarn color is being introduced.

Step 1
When row finishes with 2 dc, on second dc you will complete “HALF” the stitch and stop, saving the last yarn over for introducing the NEW white yarn.
changing yarn colors

Step 2
Don’t just drop your brown yarn! Take the brown yarn color and wrap over the crochet hook and hold.
changing yarn colors with dc stitch

Step 3
While holding brown yarn string as shown, bring in NEW white yarn color and pull through entire stitches on crochet hook, completing the row.
changing yarn colors tutorial

Step 4
Then, start your chain 3 for next row, and turn. Note by holding the brown yarn previously it is nicely secured close to the body for use again later with less “gap.”
how to change yarn colors without cutting

US vs UK Knitting Terms
Common US vs UK Knitting Terms & Abbreviations Chart (USA vs UK / AU)*:

Term & Abbreviation
(USA)
Term & Abbreviation
(UK / AU)
knit
k
knit
k
purl
p
purl
p
knit 2 together
k2tog
knit 2 together
k2tog
purl 2 together
p2tog
purl 2 together
p2tog
cable stitch: 3 front
c3f
c+ (2,3,4, etc.) +f
cable stitch: 3 back
c3b
c+ (2,3,4, etc.) +b
slip, knit, pass sl’d st over
skp
slip, knit, pass sl’d st over
skpo
slip 1 st knitwise
sl1k
slip 1 st knitwise
sl1k
slip 1 st purlwise
sl1p
slip 1 st purlwise
sl1p
knit front & back of st
kfb
purl front & back of st
pfb
right side
RS
right side
RS
wrong side
WS
wrong side
WS
yarn over
yo
yarn over needle
yon
bind off
BO
cast off
CO
gauge tension

*Reference only based on an aggregate of crochet terms and comparison sources.

US vs UK Crochet Terms
Common US vs UK Crochet Terms & Abbreviations Chart (USA vs UK / AU)*:

Term & Abbreviation
(USA)
Term & Abbreviation
(UK / AU)
chain
ch
chain
ch
slip stitch
sl st
slip stitch
sl st
single crochet
sc
double crochet
dc
half double crochet
hdc
half treble crochet
htr
double crochet
dc
treble crochet
tr
triple crochet
tr
double treble crochet
dtr
double triple crochet
dtr
triple treble crochet
trtr
single crochet 2 together
sc2tog
double crochet 2 together
dc2tog
double crochet 2 together
dc2tog
treble crochet 2 together
tr2tog
half double crochet 2 together
hdc2tog
half treble crochet 2 together
htr2tog
back post single crochet
BPsc
BP+ (sc, dc, hdc, tr, etc.)
back post double crochet
BPdc
BP+ (dc, hdc, tr, etc.)
front post single crochet
FPsc
FP+ (sc, dc, hdc, tr, etc.)
front post double crochet
FPdc
FP+ (dc, hdc, tr, etc.)
single crochet back loop only
scBLO
(sc, dc, hdc, tr, etc.) + BLO
double crochet back loop only
dcBL
(dc, hdc, tr, etc.) + BL
single crochet front loop only
scFLO
(sc, dc, hdc, tr, etc.) + FLO
double crochet front loop only
dcFL
(dc, hdc, tr, etc.) + FLO
half double crochet third loop only
hdcTLO
half treble crochet third loop only
htrTL
crossed double crochet
crdc
space (ch space)
sp (ch sp)
space
sp
yarn over
yo
yarn over hook
yoh
skip
sk
miss
gauge tension

*Reference only based on an aggregate of crochet terms and comparison sources.