Changing Yarn Over Directions

In progress crochet swatch

At the School of SweetGeorgia, there’s a big emphasis on trying new things and adding techniques to one’s fiber-crafting toolbox. I love exploring the fibre arts, including disciplines I don’t have the time or space for at the moment (weaving and natural dyeing, I’m looking at you!), but today’s post is about returning to the basics, even when it’s something you think you already know, like yarn overs.

A basic refresher yields startling results

When Charlotte Lee’s Crochet Basics course launched last year, I knew I had already learned all the skills that were outlined in the syllabus. However, I also realized I was a self-taught crocheter with fewer years of experience than Charlotte. She would likely have tips and tricks to teach that would make me a better crocheter overall. In the end, I learned lots of neat tricks, but the biggest lesson took me completely by surprise.

While watching Charlotte’s demonstrations of half double and double crochet, I realized she wrapped her yarn in the opposite direction than I did when doing a yarnover. Charlotte wrapped her yarn from the back of the hook to the front, while I had been grabbing the yarn from behind with the hook—wrapping my yarn from front to back. I asked Charlotte about it in the forums and shared a picture of how I was working yarnovers; she encouraged me to experiment, as she suspected that the resulting fabric might differ from one method versus the other.

Testing out the yarn over directions

I worked up two swatches in Superwash Worsted: a blue swatch with my usual method of wrapping the yarn front to back, and a purple swatch wrapping back to front. (Before crocheting the purple swatch, I practiced wrapping back to front on other swatches to make sure that I was comfortable with the technique since discomfort can significantly change gauge.)

Both swatches are double crochet, 20 stitches wide by 10 rows high, so each swatch contains 200 stitches. While working, I noticed that the yarn travels slightly farther when being wrapped back to front as opposed to being grabbed from the back. This was my first clue that the two swatches would be different since the length of the yarnover creates the height of the stitch.

Before washing the swatches, I weighed them both to see how much yarn they used. The blue swatch weighed 11 grams, while the purple swatch weighed 12 grams. Again, the two swatches contain the same number of stitches, so this means that the purple swatch used just slightly more yarn per stitch than the blue swatch. The difference isn’t huge in a small square or rectangle, but in a large project such as a shawl or sweater, those extra tiny amounts will add up quickly.

After weighing, I washed the swatches and laid them flat to dry without stretching or pinning. Once they were dry, I compared the fabric and measured them.

Two crochet swatches showing the difference in yarn over directions

The results are in

As you can see, the difference is astounding. The blue swatch has a gauge of 16 stitches to 4″/10 cm, while the purple swatch has a gauge of 15 stitches to 4″/10 cm. The row gauges are even more disparate, with the blue swatch at 12 rows to 4″/10cm and the purple swatch at 10 rows to 4″/10 cm. The difference in row gauge is easier to see when comparing the two, but both measurements have a major impact on yardage and finished size in a final project.

Laying the two side by side with the right side facing, the surface of the fabric is similar. If you look closely, the odd-numbered rows (1, 3, 5, 7, and 9) in the purple swatch lean slightly to the left, while the even-numbered rows (2, 4, 6, 8, and 10) in the blue swatch lean to the right. This isn’t a huge deal in plain double crochet, but it may affect the appearance of more complex stitch patterns and change which side appears as the right side vs. the wrong side. I’ve always wondered why I didn’t have trouble with tapestry crochet slanting the way others do, and now I think I know…

A grey crochet swatch showing the difference in yarn over directions

Given all these factors, I’ve switched to wrapping back to front for my crochet yarnovers. As best I can tell after researching, this is the standard method of wrapping. As a crochet designer, it’s important that I write my patterns on the same foundation that other crocheters are working from. While developing a new habit and breaking an old one takes time and effort, I’m confident that this is the right step to take, and I’m so glad I didn’t gloss over the course thinking that I ″already knew it″. So, with that, I’m off to practice!

Think you’ve already learned it all? Come join in the discoveries, fun, and camaraderie in the School of SweetGeorgia.

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