Substituting Yarn, Understanding the Fiber

Not all yarn is created equal so have some insight when substituting yarn in projects. There are various things that make a difference in this product and the fiber/material that is spun can be a much overlooked reason for a successful project. Essentially there are 3 different classification of materials: protein based, cellulous based, and synthetic.

Substituting Yarn- Protein Based

Protein based yarns are those made from a material from an animal, and put up in a hank (learn how to use a hank here). This can be wool, silk, alpaca, camel, bison, and et cetera. These fibers have some unique properties, for example wool can keep you warm even after it is wet. Wool is also fire resistant, meaning that it will only burn if it has a flame to it. In addition wool is “springy” and has some stretch.

While silk is actually warmer that wool, it will not keep you warm after it gets wet. Silk is also a very strong fiber that can be added to other fibers to help increase its strength.

If you ever wonder about how to care for a protein based yarn, think about how you would treat your own hair. If you would not treat your own hair with a certain product then don’t use it on your yarn.

Substituting Yarn- Cellulous Based

Cellulous based yarns are comprised of those like cotton, and linen. These fibers typically “breath” well and are considered very comfortable. Linen, while it can “wrinkle” it repels dirt. Cotton can absorb twice its weight in water, so it helps to make a handy dishcloth.


Synthetic based yarns, are those fibers that you cannot readily make or grow yourself. The most common in retail yarns is acrylic, but you can also find polyester, nylon, and such. Acrylic is a petroleum based product and it can be made to mimic any other fiber in feel, but it will not share the same properties as that fiber. It is actually mold resistant, but it is effected by long term or high heat. Heat will change the structural properties of the yarn, making it feel and behave differently than when first produced.

The fiber that makes up a yarn effect the outcome of your project, and the highlights listed above are just a quick overview of the properties. So, when substituting a yarn in your next project, don’t just look at the weight and yardage, also give some thought to the fiber content, you will improve the project outcome.

Tour Madeline Tosh

I got a unique opportunity….I got to tour Madeline Tosh yarns. I was at an industry meeting in Texas, and one of the highlights was getting to see the behind the scene action at the company.

That means, all the steps in the process of them obtaining, dyeing, and bringing their beautiful yarn to the hands of crocheters and knitters everywhere.

What was most surprising to me was that this large yarn company still does everything by hand. The steps were the same as those I have witnessed many times when stopping by the chat at Lisa Souza Dyeworks. Lisa is the only employee, doing all the work herself, and Madeline Tosh does all the same steps and handwork, but with many more people.

Tour Madeline Tosh: How it starts

The process starts with winding yarn into hanks from cones. Fortunately there is a machine that can help to wind a few hanks at a time. It still needs human interaction, and someone to create the ties that keep the hanks orderly.

The white circles on the green bars, that is the machine that winds cones into hanks…10 at a time.

These hanks are then organized by fiber contents (the yarn bases). Now they are ready to make it to the process to be dyed. When an order comes in, these bases are pulled and taken to a dyers “kitchen”. The warehouse had several kitchen stations set up. Each with an employee that would fulfill orders, dyeing 2 hanks at a time.

The dye room…with “kitchen” stations, at least that is how I refer to them, with a stove top and pots…so they can dye 2 hanks at a time.

Tour Madeline Tosh: The Extras

If the order has “speckles” there is an additional special dye room. There is another employee that adds these extras. Just imagine speckling yarn…as a job…that just seems so cool.

The “special additions” dye room, where that add the extras like speckles of color.

Color is then set, and yarn dried before being wound and labeled. All by hand. This is also where they have quality checks to ensure that only the best gets sent out into the world.

Labeling and quality control…well it is being discussed in the photo, at a table full of yarn pulled for a stores order…


All the employees seems like they are family, with many working for the company for several years. They help in new color creations and naming. It seems like the place where people actually want to work, and that is always a nice feeling.

I was surprised at how it really was just a larger version of what Lisa Souza Dyeworks does. I guess when you find the formula that works, you don’t mess with a good thing.

Some different yarn dyeing techniques

If you want to check out some of my more unusual dyeing techniques, check out Tissue paper dyeing, and Easter Egg dyes.

Know your Ply Improve your Crochet

Yarn makes such a difference in your crochet. Often when we think of yarn color, or weight, maybe even fiber, but we often do not think about the ply. The ply however can really make a difference in our project.

So, what is ply? Well it helps to understand some basic yarn construction. Yarn is comprised of fibers that are spun together in one direction, this direction can be either clockwise or counterclockwise, the most import think is that all the fibers are spun in the same direction. These spun fibers are now what is referred to as a single, meaning a single strand of yarn.

Singles can be used as a yarn all by its self with no need for plying, but this yarn tends to be a little less stable, and honestly if you have to rip back your work it is not very forgiving. It also has a tendency to pill more in the final project, so something that is getting a lot of use may look aged quickly. However there is a benefit to this yarn, it is evenly round, its “tube” is an even circle.

The top yarn is a single, meaning it is not plied.
The bottom yarn is a 4 ply yarn, meaning that 4 singles are spun together in an opposite direction from the spin of the singles.

Plied yarns, take multiple singles and spin them together in the opposite direction from the original twist. Meaning that if the single was spun clockwise then the singles would be plied counterclockwise. This tension between the different directions of the spinning help create a stable yarn that holds up well.

So now how can your plies make a difference in your crochet if it is a stable yarn? Well it comes down to how “round” the “tube” is. If you ply two singles together you then have 2 round tubes spin together, the result is not a final “tube” that is really round, it is more flat of oval at best. There is nothing wrong with this, but the rounder the yarn the more stitch definition you have. This can be important when working textural stiches, as a cable stitch may not “pop” as much with a 2 ply yarn, verses a single.

Three swatches, using the same stitch, but the yarn changes the look.
The top swatch is a 6 ply yarn.
The middle swatch is a single.
The bottom swatch is a two ply yarn.

The more plies a yarn have typically the closer to “round” it becomes, while staying more stable. So yarns with a greater number of plies does allow textural stitches to shine more.

In some projects this may not be noticeable, but it is good to know, to ensure your project comes out the way you intend.

Festive Julie Ann Square- Moogly 2019 CAL

What a month…just last month I was working the last 2018 square for the Moogly CAL…now I am working up the second square of the Moogly 2019 CAL! Check out all the squares for 2019 here, and the 2018 square here.

I feel very privileged to be able to share with you this latest design, the Festive Julie Ann Square. Inspired by my student Julie Ann, who loves to work in the round, and makes a festive atmosphere where ever she is going.

The square uses long post loops, to create a stunning color play of the eye. Working this square for some reason always makes me think of flowers, I guess that is one of the reasons I see it as festive.

Festive Julie Ann by Linda Dean

Bring in the New Year with a bright star of festival with this square that elongates some post stitches to create a planned bleeding of the colors.


*Red Heart With Love, #1907 Boysenberry (A), #1207 Cornsilk (B), #1101 Eggshell (C), #1562 Jadeite (D)

*Hook J/10/ 6.00mm

Gauge: 12”x 12” square (30.5 x 30.5cm) –After Rnd 3 you should measure approximately 4″ (10cm)

Long Loop Front Post Double Crochet (LLfpdc): Working over post stitch of previous round, YO, insert hook around post of stitch  2 rows below from back to front and right to left, YO, pull up a loop about an inch in height, (YO, pull through 2 loops) twice.

Note that you will work a double crochet and a post stitch in the same stitch.

Rnd1: With A, ch 4, 11 dc in 4th ch from hook, join to top of beg ch. -12 dc

Rnd 2: Ch 3 (counts as a dc, now and throughout), fpdc in same st, 2 dc in next st, [(dc, fpdc in next st), 2 dc in next st] rep around, join. -18 dc, 6 fpdc

Rnd 3: Change to B, ch 3, dc in next st, LLfpdc in same st as last, dc in next st, 2 dc in next st, [dc in next 2, LLfpdc in same st as last, dc in next st, 2 dc in next st] rep around, join. -30 dc, 6 LLfpdc

Rnd 4: Change to C, ch 3, dc in next 2 sts, LLfpdc in same st as last, dc in next 2 sts, 2 dc in next st, [dc in next 3, LLfpdc in same st as last, dc in next 2 sts, 2 dc in next st] rep around, join. -42 dc, 6 LLfpdc

Rnd 5: Change to D, ch 3, dc in next 3 sts, LLfpdc in same st as last, dc in next 3 sts, 2 dc in next st, [dc in next 4, LLfpdc in same st as last, dc in next 3 sts, 2 dc in next st] rep around, join. -54 dc, 6 LLfpdc

Rnd 6: Change to A, ch 3, dc in next 4 sts, LLfpdc in same st as last, dc in next 4 sts, 2 dc in next st, [dc in next 5, LLfpdc in same st as last, dc in next 4 sts, 2 dc in next st] rep around, join. -66 dc, 6 LLfpdc

Rnd 7: Change to C, ch 3, dc in next 5 sts, LLfpdc in same st as last, dc in next 5 sts, 2 dc in next st, [dc in next 6, LLfpdc in same st as last, dc in next 5 sts, 2 dc in next st] rep around, join. -78 dc, 6 LLfpdc

Rnd 8: Change to D, ch 1, sc in same st, [sc in next 4 sts, hdc in next 3 sts, dc in next 2 sts, (dc, ch 1, dc) in next st, dc in next 2 sts, hdc in next 3 sts, sc in next 6 sts] rep around, join. -40 sc, 24 hdc, 24 dc, 4 ch-1 sps

Rnd 9: Change to B, ch 1, sc in same st, [sc in next 7 sts, hdc in next 2 sts, dc in next st, (dc, ch 1, dc) in ch-1 sp, dc in next st, hdc in next 2 sts, sc in next 9 sts] rep around, join. -64 sc, 16 hdc, 16 dc, 4 ch-1 sps

Rnd10: Change to A, ch 1, sc in same st, [sc in next 9 sts, hdc in next 2 sts, (dc, ch 1, dc) in ch-1 sp, hdc in next 2 sts, sc in next 11 sts] rep around, join. -80 sc, 16 hdc, 8 dc, 4 ch-1 sps

Rnd 11: Ch 1, sc in same st, [sc in next 10 sts, hdc in next 2 sts, (dc, ch 1, dc) in ch-1 sp, hdc in next 2 sts, sc in next 12 sts] rep around, join. Fasten off. Block. Weave in ends. -88 sc, 16 hdc, 8 dc, 4 ch-1 sps

Cathy’s Classic Handbag- Make It For Me!

Thank you to ELK Studio for putting together this Make it For Me event! what a nice way to kick off the new year, after months of crocheting gifts for everyone else it is time to rejuvenate and focus a bit more inward and create something for you! (Check out the entire list of month long projects here)

I am thrilled to be able to join this event with my Cathy’s Classic Handbag. It is made with less than one skein, so you can reach into your stash. I even provided two options for handles…I really like the wooden round handles, but reality…I enjoy crocheting and getting to the craft store or even ordering on line means I am not finishing it the same day I start, so I provided a crochet handle option too. (If you want to learn how to attach the wooden handles, I have some instructions to help you here).

This handbag was inspired by one of my students. Cathy always has a smile and carries herself with a rural, country chic charm. She brightens the room no matter what her day may have contained, and to get all dressed up I could see her with this classic style.

Cathy’s Classic Handbag by: Linda Dean

A classic handbag that is fast to work up and has a lot of charm. A bit of stretch and a bell shape add to this great purse. With optional handle options you can utilize a simple round wooden handle or crochet your own. 

Skill Level: Advanced Beginner

Finished Size Approximately: 7”x 16” (18 x 40.5 cm)

Gauge: 12 sts /16 rows=4”

Materials List:

  • K/10 ½/6.50mm size crochet hook
  • Red Heart With Love medium weight 100% acrylic (370yds/338m/7oz/198g) Sample color: 1907 Boysenberry or #1971 Tigerlily
  • Tapestry needle
  • Everything Mary Round Wood Handle (optional)


blsc: back loop single crochet (need help identifying the back loop, check this out)

ch(s): chain(s)

rem: remaining

rep: repeat

sc: single crochet

sp(s): space(s)

st(s): stitch(es)

yo: yarn over

Pattern Notes

The body of the bag is worked from one side across the bottom to the other side.

The body of the bag is worked with short rows.

The handles of the bag are attached to the row ends of the bag.

There are 2 options provided for handles.

Row 1: Ch 45, sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc in each ch across, turn. -44 sc

Row 2: Ch 1, sc in next 5 sts, blsc in next 34 sts, leaving rem sts unworked, turn.  -39 sc

Row 3: Ch 1, blsc in next 34 sts, leaving rem sts unworked, turn. -34 sc

Row 4: Ch 1, blsc in next 34 sts, sc in next 5 sts of the row 2 below, turn. -39 sc

Row 5: Ch 1, sc in next 5 sts, blsc in next 34 sts, sc in next 5 sts of the row 2 below, turn. -44 sc

Row 6-61: Rep Rows 2-5 fourteen times.

Wooded Handle Attaching (Option 1)

Working along the row ends, sc around the wooden handle, working 32 sc across edge. Fasten off. (For tips on how to work around the handle, check out this tutorial)

Repeat on opposite side.

Crochet Handle Attaching (Option 2)

Ch 1, working along the row ends, 4 sc in first row end, working in a spiral (meaning that you are working in the round but are not joining the round, you continue working in the next stitch) to create a cord, blsc in the first sc worked in the end row, blsc in each sc until the cord measures about 14” (35.5cm), sl st to opposite end row from the beginning of the cord, sl st next 3 sts of cord to same st, sc in each row end across to beginning of the cord, fasten off.


Folding handles together, whip stitch the open ends of the purse leaving between 1-2” open from the handles.

Weave in ends.