>Size Matters

>It matters when we’re talking about crochet hooks and matching hooks with yarn. You always want to use the appropriate sized hook. If you’re working from a pattern, then obviously you start with the one specified in the materials or tools section. Then feel free to keep switching hooks and sizes until you can hit the stated gauge.

Hey, but what if you want to start messing with the fabulous new stuff you just brought back from Portland or wherever and you aren’t waiting around for the right pattern. Or maybe you want to do like an All Shawl where you can use any yarn. With enough experience you’ll simply know for yourself which hook will work. But here are a few pointers on how to get started.
If your yarn comes with a ball band or label, read the fine print. A few yarn manufacturers put crochet hook and gauge information right on there. Lucky if you can find this. Most do not.
Failing that, check for a little yarn skein symbol like this:
That’s the Craft Yarn Council of America’s standard yarn weight system that the industry is being encouraged to use. You can download the Standards & Guidelines and use this to de-code much of what’s on yarn labels these days. Among other things, the booklet gives descriptions for each yarn weight category and suggests gauges and hook/needle sizes. You’re going to see all sorts of words that describe yarn weight: laceweight, fingering/sock or baby weight, sportweight, DK (double-knitting) or light worsted, worsted or Aran weight, chunky, bulky, superbulky. Some yarns defy precise categorization or fall in-between. Some yarns labels are just wrong. So don’t let the tags confuse you.
If you’re not finding a little skein symbol, then look for some of the other information in the fine print. Most yarn ball bands have a knitting gauge. That’s the tiny grid representing a 4 inch square swatch in stockinette stitch. There’s always a needle size listed with these gauge swatches. If you don’t know squat about knitting needles, just remember that in the American sizing system, the needle number/mm size corresponds to a crochet hook number/mm size (until you get into the really big sizes, then it gets all hinky). So a size 8 knitting needle is 5 mm and the same diameter as an H-8 (5 mm) crochet hook. You could start with that suggested size, but more often than not I find that I have to go up at least two sizes to get a comfortable gauge. So for size 8 knitting needles I would try a J-10 (6 mm) crochet hook.
What if there’s nothing like this on your label? Occasionally you can get an idea of the yarn’s place by comparing the yardage per ounce or per standard 50 g ball. But that involves too much math and can be misleading if the yarn is loftier than average or denser than average. Just use common sense to lead to you a close enough match.
Ultimately, how do you know if the hook is the right size for your yarn? Everybody crochets differently and has different expectations of what the results should be. Just crochet a bit and see how it feels. Does the hook glide in and out of the stitches smoothly and easily, without undue splitting, hanging-up or dropping of loops? Do you like the fabric you’re making? Then you must be on to something!
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One thought on “>Size Matters

  1. >You musta been reading my MIND….! So the Koigu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino that I brought back from Portland says “3 mm/3 U.S.” for knitting needles. And my handy-dandy chart here says 3.25 mm is size 3 U.S., but I am not daunted! 3mm is halfway between a C and D crochet hook on that chart, so if I go up two I get to E or 3.5 … I’ll report back!

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