Meet the Yarn: For Better or Worsted, part 2

Hi. I’m Penny. I’ve crocheted for over 30 years. My knitting experience is different—the technique only made sense to me in 2005, and I began to spin two years later. I’ve improved both skills at the same time—how yarn is made and how yarn becomes knit. Crochet wasn’t forgotten and I continued to choose yarns that echoed the characteristics of those I’d always used—smooth thread or fine weights. If I did venture into different yarns, my results didn’t meet my expectations based on my experiences with them knit. I wasn’t able to find an accessible resource explaining how yarns work in crochet.

When Jill began her “Meet the Yarn” series in Anzula yarns, I realized that here was an opportunity to answer my crochet questions. I am delighted to explore how each of Anzula’s yarns work from a crochet perspective.

In this new series, I’ll explore how the different construction of each yarn—the fiber composition, the structure (how it is spun and plied), and the weight—create specific results in crochet. While I am not diving deeply into specific gauges, I plan to answer how the yarn behaves as it is worked-up. Does it split? Is it easy to rip out and rework? Does it shine as one stitch and underwhelm in others or is it one that works with a variety of textures and motifs? Are there projects where I think it works best? I plan to explore the stitches in general, not focusing on gauge, though I may return to explore how extremes may influence a yarn. I believe that rules can be broken, I urge you to explore these yarns on your own and make your own discoveries.

We’ll begin with a powerhouse yarn for knitting—For Better or Worsted. This 4-ply yarn features super-wash merino, cashmere, and nylon. It’s a knitter’s dream, as Jill mentioned, this yarn is yummy, cushy, and soft. So, how is it for crochet?

Traditional crochet projects are often worked in thin, smooth thread. In knitting, the loops form the face of the fabric, so a yarn of this weight is appealing to modern knitters. It will work up quickly and the fabric isn’t burdensome in its bulk. However, by contrast, crochet stitches are stacked, the sides of each loop form the front and back of the fabric, creating a thicker denser fabric when worked in the same yarn.

A swatch of For Better or Worsted in stockinette with a garter stitch border (left), next to a single crochet swatch (right).

A swatch of For Better or Worsted in stockinette with a garter stitch border (left), next to a single crochet swatch (right).

We can see this when we contrast a stockinette swatch with a garter stitch border next to a single crochet swatch. This thickness and density is not necessarily a negative against For Better or Worsted, it is something we need to keep in mind when we choose a project. I think it is also why I personally lean toward lighter weight yarns for many of my crochet projects, though there are circumstances where this is a desired characteristic.

I found For Better or Worsted lovely to work-up, due to the worsted spinning of the yarn (not to be confused with the worsted weight). The four plies combine to add both strength and loft to the yarn and the ten percent cashmere adds a touch of luxury that made it a delight to both knit or crochet. There was no splitting or difficulty working any of my chosen stitches, even if I hard to rip them out more than once.

A swatch of For Better or Worsted beginning with single crochet and progressing through half-double and double crochet.

A swatch of For Better or Worsted beginning with single crochet and progressing through half-double and double crochet.

First is the swatch progressing from single crochet to half-double and ending with double crochet. While it’s worked at 16 stitches over 4in (10cm) I found that even the dense single crochet stitches have a beautiful drape after a light steam blocking.

I find it works in any of these basic stitches and looks great next to knitting too.

A swatch of For Better or Worsted in stockinette and garter stitch border (left), next to a crochet swatch of single crochet, half-double crochet, and double crochet (right, bottom-to-top).

A swatch of For Better or Worsted in stockinette and garter stitch border (left), next to a crochet swatch of single crochet, half-double crochet, and double crochet (right, bottom-to-top).

Next is what I think of as my default crochet motif, a granny square. It was very difficult to stop this one and break the yarn! It is super soft and squishy and begs to be used in accessories. I’d love to explore it in other motifs too.

A granny square in For Better or Worsted.

A granny square in For Better or Worsted.

The same is true for this texture. I was concerned that it might be extremely dense but, like the granny square, it shines.

Textured crochet stitch pattern in For Better or Worsted.

Textured crochet stitch pattern in For Better or Worsted.

Personally I am not a fan of even a mildly bulky net fabric, but this has grown on me. This swatch has only received a light steam block; I’m sure if I pinned it out the fabric would drape and create an accessory that would work during transitional seasons or an overactive air conditioner.

Net crochet stitch pattern in For Better or Worsted.

Net crochet stitch pattern in For Better or Worsted.

Now about that machine-washable characteristic: I am going to get over my fear and toss in all of these swatches the next time I do laundry. They’ll experience my normal choice, a warm wash and cold rinse. They’ll then be laid flat to dry. I’ll report in soon to let you know how they fair!

Crochet swatches in For Better or Worsted.

Crochet swatches in For Better or Worsted.

I could see a beautiful warm jacket with a textured stitch crocheted with this yarn. It is my opinion that it works best for accessories; warm mittens and hats come to mind. Shawls and wraps would be great too. I would love a cozy blanket to curl up with a book and my cats. As an example, Miriam Felton's Granny Log Cabin Blanket highlights the beauty of both knitting garter stitch and crochet; while she’s suggested Squishy or Dreamy I would love to work this up in For Better or Worsted!

This yarn is one that crocheters shouldn’t ignore.

All For Better or Worsted swatches were worked in Keola colorway.


Penny Shima Glanz spends her days spinning yarn and code into memorable projects. Small businesses rely on her for smart technology decisions. Designers rely on her to sample, test, and edit their hand-knit and crochet patterns. She loves muddy trail runs, fosters kittens, and lives in Westchester, NY with her husband and two resident cats. www.pennyshima.com

Meet the Yarn: For Better or Worsted

For Better or Worsted is so yummy to knit!  Again, we find that 10% cashmere, blended with 80% superwash Merino and 10% nylon.  This yarn is cushy and so soft a couple times I had to actually look at my hand to make sure I had the yarn tensioned in my fingers!

exploration.jpg

As I look at the yarns on my yarn shelf, there isn’t much in the way of worsted yarn.  I love DK, sport, fingering, lace.  I think of worsted as being best for hats, mittens, and other accessories. Because I like stitch patterns, worsted is sometimes just a touch too large for what I want to accomplish, but really, I have nothing against worsted; one of my favorite projects is done in a worsted weight!  When I make something out of worsted I wonder why I don’t use it more, but for me it is primarily best in accessories.  

For Better or Worsted is a 4-ply yarn, with a WPI of 11.  If you look at the other other yarns I’ve introduced here, the WPI is between 13 and 23, and this is the first 4-ply yarn.  It isn’t the first round yarn, but I don't believe it would be as round and cushy without that fourth ply. 

FBorW-WPI-card.jpg

This got me really curious about plies.  It isn’t easy to find information on more than 3-ply yarn, so I appreciated the concise information I found here on Yarnsub.com:

Four-ply plus
The more plies in a yarn, the stronger, more durable and more rounded it becomes, giving good structure to textured stitches and cables. The more plies you add, the more dense the yarn becomes, as all available space within the column of yarn is used up.

I was also  curious about twist per inch.  I count 14 or 15 TPI in For Better or Worsted. Comparably, Cricket has 11 TPI and Lucero (washed) has 10 TPI.  Here’s some information on twist which is useful, even if it is related to thread/yarn for textiles:

Twist may be defined as the spiral disposition of the components of a thread which is usually the result of relative rotation of the two ends. Twist is generally expressed as the number of turns per unit length of yarn, e.g. turns per inch (tpi), turns per metre (tpm), etc. 

What exactly does twist do a yarn?

  1. The twist in a yarn binds the fibres together and helps to keep them in the respective positions. It thus gives coherence to yarn.
  2. Twist gives sufficient strength to the yarn.
  3. Twist is also used to bring about novel effects that are prominently visible when the yarn is converted to fabric. This is achieved primarily by having a combination of yarns with different twist levels and twist directions in the fabric.

As I finished my first swatch I grabbed my yarn tail and attempted to break the yarn as I always do (unless fiber content tells me it won’t).  That was not possible and I had to reach into my knitting box for scissors.  This is a strong yarn!

Here are the results from my exploration swatches and my project swatches.  I got curious about the garter stitch because there was so little row change.  I put my swatch up with a small amount of weight on the blocking wire and left it to hang for the weekend.  The Garter/Dressed numbers in the Blocked and Difference columns tell the result.  The difference is from Unblocked.

JillWolcottFBOWStitchTable.png
Garter Stitch Blocked vs. Unblocked

Garter Stitch Blocked vs. Unblocked

Garter Stitch Dressed

Garter Stitch Dressed

Stockinette Stitch Blocked vs. Unblocked

Stockinette Stitch Blocked vs. Unblocked

Seed Stitch Blocked vs. Unblocked

Seed Stitch Blocked vs. Unblocked

Double Seed Stitch with 1x1 Rib, Unblocked

Double Seed Stitch with 1x1 Rib, Unblocked

Cross Stitch

Cross Stitch

I made my long-time favorite shawlette, Taos, in For Better or Worsted.  Taos in its original design is easy to wear as a flat small rectangular shawl or with the drawstring at the neckline pulled up.  I always wear it with it drawn up just enough to bring the ends to the front of my shoulders so I don’t have to worry about Taos staying in place.  While working on another design in worsted weight yarn I became enamored of making large buttonholes by increasing, so I did a version of Taos with that option, which will be added to the pattern soon.

Taos by Jill Wolcott

Taos by Jill Wolcott

The problem with buttonholes in knits is 1) finding the perfect button, and 2) getting the buttonhole to the right size and having it do its job without gaping, pulling, or coming undone. The buttonhole can be used with a shawl pin too!  The buttonhole closure option gives a little different feel to how Taos is worn. 

Taos with buttonhole by Jill Wolcott

Taos with buttonhole by Jill Wolcott

Notice how the roundness of the yarn works with the tonal coloration and what high relief there is in the garter, the eyelets, and the cross-stitch pattern.  Whatever you make in For Better or Worsted, these are things you can easily take advantage of in your knitting.

Meet the Yarn: Lucero

Getting a new yarn in the mail is always fun.  I didn’t mind a bit that it was coming “au natural”, or what is called griege goods in the textile/fashion industry.  

This is the latest yarn in the Anzula Luxury Fibers yarn catalog, Lucero.  You may have seen it making appearances on social media.  Always beautiful in dyed yarn, the Stellina adds such depth to the soft natural color that this yarn is just beautiful au natural.  You can imagine it in your favorite Anzula Luxury Fibers color.

I took a photo of the skein when it arrived:

Yarn-Arrives.jpg

then threw it on the swift and made cakes:

Lucero-on-the-Swift.jpg

I knew what I wanted to do with it, so I went directly to a swatch of my project concept.  You can read about me blocking it here.  I didn’t like the gauge I got with a US size 6[4mm], so I started over on a US size 5[3.75mm].  If this makes you sigh, you haven’t knit with this yarn!  I am always happy to be knitting with lovely, soft, enjoyable yarn, so I really didn’t mind redoing my swatch at all.  I was actually disappointed that I couldn’t redo it right away, but I had other knitting to do.

Since I was enjoying this yarn, I decided to undo my swatch and wet block the yarn so I could reuse it.  I love it when it is all crimped up, and it looks kind of disappointing when it nearly smooth again.

swatch-undone.jpg

Ever wonder why we do that wet blocking to yarn after we rip it?  It is so the crimps don’t inhibit the yarn when you are re-knitting it.  If I hadn’t wet and steam blocked it I wouldn’t have bothered to wet block the yarn before reusing it.  I hung it with a tiny bit of weight hanging from it, and I could steam it if I wanted to smooth it more.

blocked-lucero.jpg
unblocked-swatch-lucero.jpg

In the meantime, I worked on my usual flat gauge swatches, just to get a feel for Lucero in a variety of stitch patterns.  I used a US size 3[3.25mm] needle.  There were really no surprises in this DK weight, 3-ply yarn, except maybe how much texture there was!  I decided to work my main project stitch pattern flat on US size 5[3.75mm] needles.  This eyelet pattern [you can get the instructions and chart to swatch here] works up nicely; I think I favor seed over stockinette on the larger needles though.  We’ll see when it is blocked.

So the numbers are in.

blocked-exploration-lucero.jpg

There isn’t a lot of change from unblocked to blocked.  When I picked up my blocked swatches, I nearly swooned with how soft my knitting felt!  I noted how the garter didn’t stretch out as it often does.  I also noted how smooth and lovely my Stockinette now looked on the swatch using larger needles.

blocked-eyelet-lucero.jpg
JillWolcottLuceroStitchTable.png

I pulled out the in-the-round swatch I am working on.  There is the tiniest bit of difference in the unblocked and blocked feel of the swatches.  Cashmere does love a good bath!  I took my gauge on that unblocked swatch just out of curiosity.  At this point I only have Stockinette.  I used the same needles as I did for the flat swatches, using the magic loop.  

These are the numbers:  25 sts and 30.5 rows to 4” OR 6.25 sts and 7.625 rows to 1”.  If I get the same sort of shift as I did on the flat swatch, I think my blocked numbers would be 6 sts and 7.5 rows to 1”.  So if you have ever wondered why your gauge taken flat did not foretell your in-the-round gauge, there it is.

Have you been following my Meet the Yarn posts?  Do you ever look at the WPI and ply information?  Lucero is 16 WPI and a 3-ply yarn.  Remember, I am working with Au Natural, which means the yarn hasn’t been dyed.  I decided to do a WPI card for the yarn I blocked, which might be similar to after dyeing.  That yarn is 13 WPI.

WPI-Cards-Lucero.jpg

I think we should be paying a little more attention to the yarn ply when we are looking at yarns and what we think they will do.  I am noticing a distinct difference between 2-ply and 3-ply yarns.  Look for more on that on my blog on January 31.

Look at my blog on January 24 (it always posts just after 5 pm PST) for a sneak peak at my Lucero project.