7 secrets to choosing the right yarn for your knitting project

Spring is in the air! Bees are buzzing among the crocuses and daffodils, and the forest has come alive with birdsongs. It’s time to knit the perfect light cardigan for the kiddo in your life. The Cute as a Button Cardi is a free pattern you can download, cast-on, and knit up easy-peasy. The yarn I’m using for my wee cardigan is Uptown Worsted Hues in the colorway Pink Sand (#3305) by Universal Yarns. It’s 100% anti-pilling acrylic which is perfect for this project. I’ll go into yarn fiber content more in-depth in today’s post and share with you how I choose the best yarn for my projects to make perfectly crafted hand knits.

Knit the Cute as Button Cardi with Uptown Worsted Hues yarn and a free pattern from Universal Yarns.

As a professional knitter and teacher, I’ve discovered tricks and techniques to take my knits from nice to WOW! Over the next few days, I’ll reveal to you some of my secrets for making this sweet little spring cardigan – how to make an easy to measure swatch, lace knitting, keep tension perfectly even, and add a special little bind-off (not in the original pattern) to make this sweater something truly special!

The Cute as a Button Cardi knit with Universal Yarn Uptown Worsted Hues in color Pink Sand

How to choose the best yarn for the job

My first secret to exceptional knitting is making sure I have the right yarn. It sounds basic, but I’m telling you the wrong yarn can ruin a project before you even cast on the first stitch. I work and teach at a local yarn store, and I’ve seen what happens to knits if the wrong yarn is used. From adult sweaters shrunk to child-size because untreated wool was thrown in a washing machine, to a child’s sweater stretched to near teen size because it was knit loosely with bamboo yarn. Through experience, often painful, I’ve learned the secrets to choosing the yarn that matches the needs of my project instead of just choosing yarn because of the way it looks, feels, or costs.

Understanding yarn labels like this can help you choose the right yarn for your Cute as a Button Cardi.

Read the label.

It’s not rocket science, but understanding the information on the label helps you ensure you have the right yarn for the job. There are 4 main bits of information to look at:

  1. Yarn Weight
  2. Gauge/Recommended Needle Size
  3. Fiber Content
  4. Washing Instructions

  1. Weight

Yarn weight describes the thickness of the yarn strand from laceweight, which is almost like thread, to jumbo which is knit on 35mm needles (see chart below).

  1. Gauge/Recommended Needle Size

This tells you how many stitches are needed to get a 4” swatch, and recommended needle size.

  1. Fiber Content

This information tells you what fiber or fiber blends are in the yarn.

  1. Washing Instructions

This tells you if a yarn is machine washable or hand wash only, dryer safe or needs to lay flat to dry.

For more detailed instructions on how to read a yarn label, check out this photo tutorial: How to Read a Yarn Label.

The Craft Yarn Council’s yarn weight standard’s size chart helps you choose the right weight of yarn for your project. The Cute as a Button Cardi is a #4 Medium yarn.

Craft Yarn Council’s yarn weight standards size chart

7 Secrets to choosing the perfect yarn

Now, based on the information on the label, I have a few rules I follow to make sure I have the right yarn for my Cute as a Button Cardi.

  1. Very simply, if you can, buy the exact yarn recommended in the pattern. This is the surest way to ensure what you knit looks like the photos that made you fall in love with the pattern in the first place. It’s what I did by choosing Uptown Worsted Hues. Although the pattern called for Uptown Worsted, Uptown Worsted Hues is exactly the same weight and has exactly the same fiber content. It’s essentially the same yarn with a different color palette.
  2. Match fiber content exactly or very closely to the recommended yarn. If your project calls for 100% acrylic, choose a substitute yarn that’s acrylic or an acrylic blend. If you want to have natural fibers, you can use a superwash wool as a substitute. To get good results, make sure the fibers you choose have similar properties to the yarn the pattern designer recommends.
  3. Get yarn with the right fiber memory. What is fiber memory? It’s the ability of the yarn to bounce back into shape after getting wet or being stretched out. Does the yarn bounce back into shape or does it just grow and grow? Wool and most acrylics have good fiber memory and will retain their shape, so they’re perfect for fitted projects like sweaters, hats, and socks. Silk and alpaca have very poor fiber memory, but have wonderful drape, so they’re good for shawls. Make sure your substitute yarn has a similar fiber memory to the original.
  4. Choose a fiber to match the season of the project. Does it need to be warm and cozy, or cool and breezy? Wool, alpaca, and silk are excellent warm fibers. Cotton and linen are great for cooler knits. Try to substitute a yarn with a similar level of warmth.
  5. Choose yarn to match the needs of the person for whom you are knitting. I almost always knit baby stuff in acrylic, so parents can just throw them in the washing machine. Some people prefer natural fibers, so superwash wool makes a good substitute.
  6. Make sure you’re able to get gauge with your yarn. Try to choose a yarn in the same weight category. Go just one size up or down in yarn weight, and you’ll struggle to adjust.
  7. If you’re not sure about your yarn choice, pop into your Local Yarn Store, or bring your choices to a knitting group or experienced knitter. It’s always wise to get an informed second opinion.

Universal Yarn’s Uptown Worsted Hues in color Pink Sand was my perfect choice for the Cute as a Button Cardi.

The perfect yarn for the Cute as a Button Cardi

Uptown Worsted Hues yarn is the perfect choice for my Cute as a Button Cardi. I’m knitting for a baby, so it needs to be easy to care for. Machine washable – CHECK! It’s an anti-pilling acrylic, so it won’t pill up and look messy. Acrylic is a strong fiber – that should mean it won’t rip or tear as the little one scoots around. It’s cozy, but not super warm for a lighter spring sweater. Finally, I can be confident my project has the best chance of success because this cardigan pattern was designed using this exact yarn.

Now you know the first secret to creating the perfect knits: choosing the right yarn. Tomorrow, I’ll share the pattern I created to make sure my gauge swatches are easy to measure. I use it every time with great results. To make up the Cute as a Button Cardi with Uptown Worsted Hues by Universal Yarn, drop in on Wednesday when I offer my tips for making the lace yoke, hem, and sleeves of this cardigan easy to knit. Thursday I’ll share my secret to keeping an even tension throughout this sweater. And I saved the best for last. Friday I’ll reveal my favorite finishing detail. It’s not in the pattern. I added it myself. You’re gonna love it!

See you tomorrow when I reveal more of my knitting secrets.

This is part 1 of 5 in this series

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