Crochet Advice and Tips

Wool versus Cotton in warmer climates?

Dear SweaterBabe,

I live in southern California, so I've knitted with primarily cotton blends. There are gorgeous yarns containing alpaca and wool.

What are the pros and cons of these fibers especially for someone that lives in an area that stays warm throughout the year?

-- Minerva, from the Knitting Club

Dear Minerva,

I think that yarns can be such a personal choice... what feels good to knit with, what feels good against your skin when wearing, how much time you have to care for your knitwear, etc.

I live in Los Angeles, as you may already know, and the weather has been so warm this year! I do wear my non-cotton items, but not as much as I'd like because I work from home (vs. the offices I used to work in that would be so heavily air-conditioned that I could wear scarves and wool sweaters almost year-round!).

I choose to knit mostly with alpaca blends, merino wool blends, etc. because I personally don't find many cottons that feel good to knit with. Cotton does not have as much elasticity as wool and it makes my hands ache after a little bit of knitting, whereas I never have that issue with wool!

I also like the look of alpaca and wool blends. They look more expensive to me and therefore make my finished knitwear more luxurious. . . but that is my own perception.

What do you think?

The other thing about cotton is that it is often a bit heavy compared to the lightness of alpaca and merino. Totally depends on the blend, of course, but I like lighter sweaters.

I'm sure there are opinions across the board on this topic!  Please chime in! 

-- SweaterBabe

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Using a Steamer for Blocking

Minerva S., a Member of the Knitting Club, asked me this:

Dear SweaterBabe,

What is your opinion on using a steamer to block knitted or crocheted items?

-- Minerva S.

And here is what I suggested:

I use a steam iron to do all of my blocking these days, unless I feel that more blocking is necessary.

If I want more blocking, I use wet handtowels (mostly wrung out) and lay them on top of the pinned down items and let it all air dry.

Are you asking about a steam iron or one of those fancy steamers that has a big water tank that you use for hanging items?

If you mean a steamer that is intended for use while an item is hung, I would definitely NOT recommend that. Most knitwear is too heavy and will stretch out if hung, especially if moisture is added.

-- SweaterBabe

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Right versus Left in a knitting (or crochet) pattern?

Dear SweaterBabe,

Hi I have a question about a knitting pattern for a baby hooded jacket.

The patteren gives instructions for a boy's left front and a girl's right front ect. but does that mean the actual front of the item as when it's worn or is it the front left that would be facing you if it were lying flat in front of you?

Thanks for any help.

Dear Knitter,

The standard convention (at least here in the U.S., and in the patterns I've done for Vogue and seen in magazines like Rowan and Rebecca) is to refer to the Right and Left AS WORN.  So, the Right Front is the Right Front of the sweater-wearer.

I think it is the convention that makes the most sense and you should find most all patterns follow it.

I can't vouch for all patterns, so it's a good idea to read ahead (like you do for recipes!) and just make sure things make sense, especially if there are differences between the left and front (e.g. buttonholes can be on the right vs. left depending on the gender you are knitting for!). 

I hope pattern writers are using the standard convention, but you never know!

-- SweaterBabe

Crochet in a ch-2 sp?

Hello SweaterBabe!

I have been a very basic crocheter for years & really want to start learning to do more stitches, etc. I'm trying to crochet a baby blanket right now via a pattern & am stuck on a row.

Could you please translate/interpret this row a little better?? Row 6: Ch3, turn; dc in next 6 dc, 2 dc in next ch-2 sp, * dc in next dc, ch 2, skip next 2 dc, dc in next dc, 2 dc in next ch-2 sp; repeat from * across to last 7 dc, dc in last 7 dc: 92 dc and 19 ch-2 sps.

What I don't understand is the "2 dc in next ch-2 sp" part. I would appreciate your help! Thanks much!

-- Monique

Dear Monique,

Ch-2 sp means chain-2 space OR the space/hole created by a chain-2 from the previous row.

All you need to do when you get to that part is to insert your crochet hook into the hole (vs. the top of a stitch) and work your dc.  Because it is a dc, you will need to yo (yarn over) before you stick your hook in. 

Does that make sense?  It's actually the beauty of crochet that you can stick your hook into any hole and work your dc or crochet stitch. 

For example, a hole can be:

- a hole punched in leather

- a big ch-5 hole

- a ring created by a ch-4 joined with a slip stitch, which is how granny squares and all sorts of crochet "motifs" are started

- the holes (stitches) at the edge of a knitted piece

These holes are usually referred to in crochet patterns as "ch-# sp" or "ch-# arches".

Hope that explains it for you!

-- SweaterBabe

Changing Colors in Crochet

Hi Sweaterbabe,

I have read a million tutorials about this and can add a new color without problem. What NOBODY explains is what to do with the old color and how to fasten it off. Please help!!!


-- Melissa

Dear Melissa,

Good question!

It sounds like you are joining the new color by crocheting over it for a bit before changing to it?

If you aren't, then I believe you will have to deal with the tail of the new yarn as well as the tail of the old yarn, i.e. hide them and fasten them off somehow.

Regardless, all yarn tails are usually best taken care of by weaving them in using a yarn tapestry needle after the granny square or project is done.  The other alternative is to crochet over the old strand for several inches to fasten it off (however, this is not a very secure option. It's still best to weave in ALL ends.)

To weave in a yarn tail, thread it into a yarn tapestry needle.  Then, weave the needle into your crochet fabric (in an area of the same color as the yarn tail) so as to hide the needle (and therefore the yarn) so it will not show on the right side of your work.  This can be easy if you have a solid block of sc or other crochet stitches to hide inside.  This will be a bit more challenging if you have a lacy crochet stitch, in which case you need to weave the tapestry needle through the more solid parts of the stitch to try to hide it.

Try to run the needle and yarn through the fabric for at least a few inches to really secure the yarn tail.  This is more important if the yarn is at all slipperly (like a silk blend) of if the finished project will be subject to a lot of wear and tear.  You really want to weave in enough to prevent the tail from worming itself out and then maybe causing a hole in your finished project.

Additionally, I like to weave the yarn in an inch or so in one direction, then another inch or so in a different direction.  This will help prevent ends from working themselves out.

If you are working on a farily solid crochet fabric (like all sc fabric), then crocheting over the old yarn tail may be a good option.  It just means to hold the old yarn in back of your work and work your next stitches as normal, but also around the old yarn.  The old yarn will basically be encased inside these new stitches.

This is a good method only if the stitches really are close together and the hidden yarn color won't show through the stitches.

I think I might have over-answered you, but hopefully I've given you a complete answer!

-- SweaterBabe

If you have a knitting or crochet question for SweaterBabe, please email it to  (Please do NOT post it as a comment here.) 

Sorry, but due to the large volume of questions, not all questions can be answered, but many are selected and answered here on the Blog and in the newsletters.  Thanks!

Sc in ring

Dear SweaterBabe,

I'm attempting to crochet snowflakes and every one of them begins with ch6, join with slip st to form a ring, then ch1, (sc in ring, ch5) 6 times.

I understand what this means, except for the part about single crochet in ring. Does it mean I go around the ring again with sc? It doesn't look like all the pictures, so I don't know what to do! Any help would be greatly appreciated!

-- Confused Crocheter

Dear Confused Crocheter,

"(sc in ring, ch 5) 6 times" means to do what you see in the parentheses 6 times. 

"sc in ring" means to work a sc into the ch6 ring that you just formed by chaining 6, then joining with a sl st to form a ring.  To do so, insert your hook in the ring formed by the ch 6, then yo, pull through a loop, yo, pull through both loops on your hook.  You have completed a sc in the ring.

Working "in ring" is just working your crochet stitch into a big space instead of on top of another crochet stitch.

Since you will do this 6 times, you will end up with 6 sc all worked into the same ch-6 ring that you created at the very beginning.  This will make up your first ROUND for the snowflake.

Sorry if I didn't answer this in time for the holidays!  I hope working in a ring makes sense now.

-- SweaterBabe

If you have a knitting or crochet question for SweaterBabe, please email it to  (Please do NOT post it as a comment here.) 

Sorry, but due to the large volume of questions, not all questions can be answered, but many are selected and answered here on the Blog and in the newsletters.  Thanks!

Confusing Crochet Instructions.

Dear Sweaterbabe,

I am fairly new to crochet. I have done several afghans, and recently bought a book of smaller projects. Crochet and Knit Simply Plushious.

The smaller projects seem to hit more confusing instructions for me however. In working Cropped top from the link, I hit this line which is simply not making sense to me.

Shape Right Neck-

Next Row(WS) Ch 3, sk first sc, dc in next sc, {work cable} 8 times, place marker in next st turn leaving rem sts unworked - (34) sts

Neck Decrease Row: ch 1, sc3tog (neck edge), sc in each rem st across; turn - 32 sts.

Next Row: ch 1, sc in each st across; turn.

Next Row: Ch 3, dc in next sc, [work cable] 8 times, dc in each of last 2 dc; turn.

(Here is the part which is confusing me dreadfully) Work 3 rows even in established pat. Rep Neck Decrease row twice more - 28 sts
(Does this just mean repeat from the neck decrease row 2 more times? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

-- Jessica

Dear Jessica,

Without seeing the stitch pattern... I am guessing thar you need to work 3 rows even (no decreasing) first.  I'm not clear whether these 3 rows are 2 sc rows, then a dc row?  I'd have to look at the photo or pattern to tell.  It should be clear from what you've been doing...

THEN, just the Neck Derease row 2 times.  Just that row, not the rows that are after it.  This is the interpretation if I take the instruction very straight-forwardly, which is what most well-written patterns expect you to do!

Hope that makes sense!  As usual, I always recommend interpreting instructions in the most direct way, not presuming any words were left out first.  Then, follow your gut as to what you see in the photo and what makes the most sense for what you are making.

Sigh!  I prefer patterns that are more explicit about what row you are on and what to do on each specific row number; however, because people have different row gauges (yarn substituting and natural variation in knitting and crochet tensions), and patterns are often written to save space, you can end up with instructions like these that are not so clear.

-- SweaterBabe

Working 2 balls of yarn because of dye lots.

Dear SweaterBabe, 

I recently bought some fine merino wool called Merinos 8 Shadow. It came with this Notice/Suggestion. “. . . . .special dye process that produces gentle shading and subtle variations . . . . . . To alleviate any possible striping, we suggest that you join 2 skeins of yarn and alternate them every 2 rows.” How exactly do I do this?

-- Lorena

Dear Lorena,

For some yarns, there is natural variation eve within dye lots because of the dyeing process.  That's when they recommend that you alternate from 2 balls of yarn throughout so you won't don't end up with a project that has sections that look like different shades of the same yarn.

To alternate yarn every 2 rows, use the same technique you'd use to add a stripe to your project.

For instance, begin knitting or crocheting with ball #1.  Work 2 rows of your project.  Then, join in the 2nd ball at the end or Row 2/beginning of Row 3 and work Rows 3 and 4.  You can join by just picking up the strand from ball #2 and using it to knit or crochet.  It will feel "loose" because you have not knotted it to anything, but just keep using it and you can secure it later when you weave in all your loose ends at finishing time.

After Row 4, you should be on the same edge of your work where you left ball #1 hanging.  Just drop the strand from ball #2 and use the strand from ball #1 to work the next 2 rows.

Repeat this last step, alternating balls #1 and #2 every 2 rows.

This method does assume you are either making a project where the "edges" of your work will end up in a seam, or the little bit of yarn that is carried over the 2 rows on each edge (whichever ball is unused for 2 rows) are not too noticeable.

Hope this answers it!

Of course, if you see no discernable difference in the shadings/colors of the balls of yarn you are using, then don't bother!



Crocheting with Boucle Yarn

Dear Sweaterbabe,

I would like to crochet a shawl, but do not want to use the recommended yarn. The yarn I would prefer to use is one of the boucle yarns. Do I have to make any adjustments to account for the knobbiness of this yarn? Please advise. Thank you.

Dear Crocheter,

Hmm... good question.  I generally don't recommend crocheting with a yarn that is too knobby, but if it is just a little and you don't run into problems working with it, then give it a try.

It's best if you can test it out first.  Just do a little swatch in the stitch pattern that will be called for in the pattern.  The issues I have with boucle are:
-- you may not be able to see where to place each stitch because the boucle makes it hard to see distinct stitches
-- the boucle may have big loopy parts in the yarn that cause your crochet hook to get caught and slow you down or create other problems
-- the boucle yarn will product a different gauge because the boucle part will create more fabric where a "normal" yarn would not

This swatch really is your gauge swatch, which you should do just to be sure the yarn will work to your satisfaction.

One note is that if this pattern is one where you will mostly be working stitches into arches or spaces, then the boucle effect might be just fine.  Here is an example of a shawl pattern that works just fine with any kind of yarn because the crocheting is all done in the big spaces.



Turning a dishcloth pattern into an afghan or baby blanket.

Dear SweaterBabe,

I have a lot of patterns for dishcloths that I would like to make into afghan sizes and baby blanket sizes. Is there a formula for increasing a crochet pattern or decreasing a pattern.

-- Dawn

Dear Dawn,

Without seeing what your dishcloth pattern looks like, I can try to give some general advice.

Most crochet patterns have a section that repeats, then some number of chains that is needed to get started.  That's why many crochet stitch patterns says to begin by chaining a multiple of X plus Y sts.

If you can figure out what that X and Y are for your dishcloth pattern, then you can extrapolate and make an afghan or baby blanket out of the same pattern.

For example, if it seems like the dishcloth pattern is over a multiple of 3 sts plus 4, then you just need to determine how many multiples of 3 will get you the width that you want for your afghan or blanket and add the chain 4.

Assuming the dishcloth is 14" wide or so, multiplying it by 5 will give you approximately a 70" wide afghan...

Many well-written patterns will provde the stitch pattern in a generic form (thereby providing the "mult of X plus Y" instruction needed) separately from the specific instructions for the project. 

Hope that helps!

-- SweaterBabe