The sizes of the hooks or needles listed in a pattern indicate the size used by the designer to achieve the listed gauge and to complete the item shown. Gauge is the number of stitches and rows worked in a piece fabric of a certain size. The hook or needle size helps determine the gauge and the gauge determines the size and drape of the fabric. Different knitters and crocheters, even when they use the exact same size hook, yarn, and pattern stitch, will often create fabric of different gauge. Accordingly, you may need to use different size hooks or needles to achieve the same results as the designer. Begin with the listed size, but check your results and be willing and prepared to change to a different size (see Gauge section below for more details).
Hooks and needles of different types may also be indicated. Knitting needles come in straights of different lengths, circulars of different lengths, and double-pointed. Crochet hooks can be standard, Tunisian, or double-ended. Be sure that you have (or are willing to acquire) the skill needed to use specific hooks and needles, especially double pointed knitting needles or Tunisian or double-ended crochet hooks.
The hook and needle sizes listed may or may not be the same as the recommended size listed on the yarn ball band. The recommended size listed on a ball band is a size needed for a fabric of average drape (or firmness) made from the most basic of pattern stitches (single crochet or Stockinette st). A specific project is likely to warrant a different drape and the use of pattern stitches other than the basics, thus needing a different size hook or needles.
Crochet and knit patterns list a specific yarn and the number of balls of yarn needed. Using the specified yarn is the best way to achieve the intended results. If you would like slightly different results (e.g., different fiber content due to a sensitivity) or the specified yarn is not available, you may wish to substitute a different yarn. There are at least three things to consider when selecting a substitute yarn: 1) Weight, 2) Quantity, and 3) Drape. Yarns can be grouped into different weight categories, as described on the Craft Yarn Council web-site.
For best results, when a substitution must be made, select a yarn of the same weight and with similar fiber content. Yarn comes in balls of different weights and lengths. When determining how many balls of a substitute yarn will be needed, compare the total yardage. For example, if there are 120 yards in each ball of the specified yarn and 4 balls are needed, 4 x 120 yards = 480 total yards are needed.
If you wish to substitute a yarn that comes in balls of 110 yards each, you will need 480 / 110 = 4.63 balls, or 5 balls, of the substitute yarn. Different yarns look and behave a bit differently when knit or crocheted even when the exact same pattern stitch is used. A substitute yarn may yield firmer or looser fabric than the specified yarn. Make a swatch in the project pattern stitch, study the drape of the resulting fabric, and decide if the drape is acceptable.
It is important to know whether a throw will barely cover your lap or could easily cover a compact car. It is even more important to know whether a sweater will actually fit you. Most patterns include Size and/or Finished Measurement sections to indicate the expected dimensions of the finished piece.
Sizes are specified in very general terms, such as S (small), 1X (extra large), and 0-6 months. Finished measurements are more specific and should be carefully considered. A garment could have an oversized, relaxed, standard, tight, or very tight fit. An oversized garment has a finished chest measurement 6 or more inches larger than the actual chest measurement of the wearer. For a relaxed fit, the finished chest measurement is 4 to 6 inches larger. For a standard fit, the finished chest measurement is 2 to 4 inches larger, for a tight fit the finished chest measurement is 0-2 inches larger, and for a very tight fit the finished chest measurement can be the same or less than the actual chest measurement.
The designer of a garment intends a certain fit and indicates this through the combination of size and finished measurements. The actual chest measurement for a S (small) woman is 32-34 in. and for a M (medium) woman is 36-38 in. If a designer specifies size S (small) and the finished chest measurement is 40 in., because the finished measurement is 6 in. or more larger than the actual chest measurement, the intended fit is oversized. On the other hand, if a designer specifies size M (medium) and the finished chest measurement is 40 in., the intended fit is standard.
Technical editor and yarncrafting expert Kj Hay joins us for a series on understanding the different elements of patterns.
Knit and crochet patterns provide a wealth of information. At first, understanding written instructions can be as intimidating as learning a foreign language or deciphering a secret code. Over the next several weeks, we’ll discuss different elements of written patterns. Hopefully, the following explanations and tips will help you overcome any pattern reading fears you have.
Patterns typically specify a skill level needed to comfortably complete the project. Because of the wide variety of stitches, techniques, and constructions used in knit and crochet patterns, an appropriate skill level is very difficult to determine. Accordingly, it is best not to rely to heavily on the indicated skill level. Instead, scan through the instructions to help determine if you have the skills needed or are willing to acquire them while working on the project.
Expert tip: When scanning the pattern to determine if the skill level is appropriate for you, pay attention to any special stitches or techniques used, the quality of the yarn used (novelty yarns can be a little trickier to work with than smooth yarns), the tools used (smaller hooks and needles, and double pointed needles can be trickier to work with than larger hooks and needles, and straight needles), and the language used (e.g., AT THE SAME TIME, reverse shaping, and as established).
Not sure what the terms mean? On LionBrand.com, the abbreviations at the bottom of the pattern are live links that take you to an explanation of the term in the Learning Center.
For more articles by Kj, click here.
Techniques for binding off are as numerous as techniques for casting on. There are bind-offs that produce firm edges, looser edges, stretchy edges, edges that look like the pattern stitch used, gathered edges, decorative edges, and bind-offs that join two edges together. It is wise to begin by learning a basic bind-off technique to use with your first few projects. After you have completed some projects, you may be in the mood to learn some new bind-off methods.
It can be a bit nerve-wracking to try a new bind-off for the first time on a valuable piece of knitting. Instead, knit a swatch or two and practice the bind-off technique on the swatch(es). Using a swatch to practice provides several advantages; you don’t risk messing up an important piece of knitting, you can unravel and practice again and again until you are sure you have mastered the technique, and you can see and handle the bind-off edge, checking that it has the desired properties, before committing to using the technique.
Before making a swatch, study the variety of bind-off techniques available. Select a technique that is designed to produce the type of edge desired (e.g. firm, loose, “in pattern”, stretchy), and matches your personal style (e.g. Do you prefer two-needle bind-offs? Are you comfortable attempting a sewn bind-off?). Then knit a small swatch in the appropriate pattern stitch and bind off following the steps for the technique selected.
The swatch can be a simple rectangle, or if you would like to practice and compare multiple different bind-off techniques, try our octagonal or square bind-off samplers. The samplers are a great way to practice and to study the differences between bind-offs. Some of the differences are very subtle, others are quite noticeable. Detailed instructions for each bind-off technique appear following the sampler photos. See the previous blog post for details on the different bind-off methods mentioned below.