Frequently Asked Questions / FAQ
Since publishing my crochet web pages I have received numerous questions! I have come to realize that some things I take for granted and just intuitively do from years of crocheting, are not so “intuitive” to people who are new to crochet.
If you’re working on a particular pattern and have come across instructions or a term you don’t understand (like “work in same stitch,” “work into next ch-2 sp,” “dc in the top ch of the tch,” etc.), click here.
If you’re trying to figure out an abbreviation that you’ve come across in a pattern, click here.
There are also a few questions that I get frequently regarding Crochet Cabana itself--please check here for an answer before e-mailing.
Crochet Cabana FAQ
Do you do link exchanges?
Why didn’t you answer my e-mail?
Can I send you something I’ve made so you can tell me what I did wrong?
I can’t find this pattern. Can you help me?
I am trying to work a pattern and am having trouble. Can you help me to figure it out?
Can I send you a pattern, so you can re-write it for me in plain English?
Do you take donated yarn?
General Crochet FAQ
What do the skill level terms found at the beginning of a pattern mean?
I love this knit pattern! Can I crochet it?
My pattern calls for a hook I don’t have. Can I substitute another size?
How do you measure crocheted squares?
I need to join my squares. Should I use sewing thread?
How long will it take me to finish this pattern?
I can’t read this pattern! It looks like Greek to me. What do I do?
I’ve made an afghan from a pattern I found in a book. Can I sell it?
My pattern uses rounds, not rows--how do I do it?
Why do I always hear not to make knots? What’s wrong with knots?
Why do I have to leave long ends?
Should I weave in as I go, or wait until I’m finished with the project?
How can I keep my work from unraveling before it’s completed?
How big should I make this ...?
What can I do if I discover too late that I didn’t make enough foundation chains?
Should I wash my finished project?
How should I wash crocheted pieces?
What kind of yarn should I use?
How can I tell if my yarn is wool or acrylic?
Where’s the center pull?
Should I wind all my yarn into balls?
Can I substitute one yarn for another?
Can I use cotton or acrylic yarn instead of thread?
I don’t have enough yarn from the same dye lot to complete my project. What do I do?
How can I clean a skein of yarn before using it?
Are these two yarns the same weight?
My goal here is to help you fully appreciate and enjoy your work, both in the making and in the final product. Thanks to everyone who has asked me questions in the past and those who have taught me the things I’m including! Also, if you have a different answer to the question, feel free to write and let me know how you have solved the problem. Can’t promise to know the answers to all your questions, nor can I promise to give what others might consider the right answer, but if you don’t ask, you’ll never know. :-)
CROCHET CABANA FAQ
Do you do link exchanges? Yes and no. I ignore all those e-mails I receive that say "I put a link to your site on my site and I will be waiting for you to link to me." or "I linked to you. You have xx amount of time before your link is removed." Go for it. Link to my site if you find it useful. If I find your site useful, I’ll link to you too. Feel free to send me a link to look at, but I am very cautious about clicking on an unfamiliar link. If you are a crochet friend or someone on one of my e-mail lists, let me know how it is you know me. A good way to get me to notice your blog or web site is to have a link in your signature line. I often click on those links when I visit my trusted lists.
Why didn’t you answer my e-mail? You say you answer all e-mails. Well, I wrote you once and you didn’t answer! I do answer every e-mail I receive, even if it is to say I can’t help you. Sometimes e-mail goes into my spam box and I don’t see it. I get hundreds of spam items in each of my half dozen accounts so I rarely go through it unless I’m expecting something. Other times I do answer an e-mail and the e-mail I send out is returned to me as undeliverable. I usually will try once more, but then I give up. I don’t have time to keep trying to answer the same message over and over again. Also, sometimes a person will send me a message through a form, but not include their e-mail. I certainly understand the precaution of not handing out your e-mail address to just anyone, but I can’t provide an answer if I don’t have your e-mail.
If you don’t get an answer to your question within a few days, try again. I answer my mail daily unless bad weather or bad health prohibits me using the computer. Oh, and if you reply to my reply, please include the text of my answer as I get a lot of mail, and I don’t always remember your exact situation.
Can I send you something I’ve made so you can tell me what I did wrong? No. Don’t do that as I most likely wouldn’t be able to tell what you did wrong and that gives me the trouble of returning the item or not being able to, depending on finances at the time. You can take a picture of it and send it to me if you ask me first, though I don’t guarantee I’ll be able to help then either. I don’t open attachments I am not expecting, but I am always willing to help if I can.
I can’t find this pattern. Can you help me? I’m sorry, but no. I would love to have a 48-hour day so I could do this, but I just don’t have the time. Besides maintaining this extensive web site, I have several blogs and two other web sites. I also have other obligations - and other interests too. Sometimes, however, a pattern someone asks about is something I’m interested in myself or something I remember seeing recently. However, most of the time I will just tell you to do a web search, which is what I would have to do myself. My search engine of preference is Google. I might also suggest you put a message on a message board or join a crochet list. When more eyes are looking, the chance of finding what you’re looking for is better.
I am trying to work a pattern and am having trouble. Can you help me to figure it out? I am very happy to help when the problem is one I can solve without actually working the pattern. I cannot make the items you are making in order to help you and sometimes it’s hard to tell the problem without doing so. I cannot take you row by row through your project though I’d love to do that if I had the time. I can only help with general questions, many of which are answered right here in the FAQ. Again, this is a time thing, not a lack of desire to help. I put all the information I can think of on the web site so that you can, hopefully, find the solutions to most problems here. Having said that, however, many times I get ideas of things to add or changes which need to be made from questions you ask me. Your question may lead me to something that might help others or to improve on what I already have on the site. The Crochet Dictionary resulted from a question a visitor asked. Don’t hesitate to ask. If I can help, I will. If I can’t, then I’ll make a suggestion as to where you can find the answer.
Can I send you a pattern, so you can re-write it for me in plain English? Do not send me any copyrighted patterns without permission from the publisher or web site designer. Feel free to send me links of patterns that are on the Internet, but not the complete pattern.
Do you take donated yarn? I am usually happy to accept donated yarn for charity purposes if the yarn is worsted weight acrylic yarn, not black or a very dark color (because of my eyesight), and in good condition. By good condition, I mean clean - no bug wings or dirt or unidentifiable brown stuff on it. (Yes, I speak from experience.) Also, I don’t accept yarn from a smoke environment. We have allergies and asthma in the household. So please check it over carefully first, and then if you would like me to use it, holler out and ask.
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GENERAL CROCHET FAQ
What do the skill level terms found at the beginning of a pattern mean? The designer of the pattern determines what skill level he or she chooses to put on it, if any. I normally don't put skill levels on my patterns though I have on a few of them. This is particularly because it means different things to different people. One of the ladies on a crochet list I belong to, crochet designer Bendy Carter (author of Crochet on the Edge), posted her ideas and I really liked them. I think she and I agree on what constitutes beginner and experienced crocheters. She has given permission for me to post these and you can find them on the Reading Patterns page. Note that this is not an "official" standing. These are just her (and my) opinions, a general guide for those who would like one. You might also remember that being ABLE to do something and wanting to do it or wanting to take the time to mess with it are not the same thing. You might have the skill to do it, but it may not be something you are interested in doing.
I love this knit pattern! Can I crochet it? In my opinion, you cannot get an exact duplicate of a knitted item in crochet. I do have some suggestions, however, on my knit to crochet page.
My pattern calls for a hook I don’t have. Can I substitute another size? Of course you can. However, your project may not turn out the size it says in the pattern and you may not have the right amount of yarn. Check your pattern BEFORE buying your yarn. Keep in mind that some things are made to fit.
How do you measure crocheted squares? You can find the answer and more on this topic in the How to Measure Squares section.
I need to join my squares. Should I use sewing thread? NO. Do not use sewing thread. Use the same material that you made your project in. For more information on assembling squares see the tutorials on joining.
How long will it take me to finish this pattern? Well, that depends. How fast are you? You don't know? Then you need to find out.
Every pattern will be different because patterns are of different complexity. If you need to know whether you have enough time to finish an afghan before Christmas or a special birthday or whatever, time yourself while crocheting one row of the project. You might want to time yourself say three separate times and take the average. Then figure out how many rows you need. Multiply the time it took you to make one row by the number of rows and voila, that's how long it will take you to make the blankie in a perfect world. Keep in mind that this is if you continue to crochet without stopping. Of course, you're going to stop - you have to cook, eat, use the bathroom, shower, bring the kids here and there, check your e-mail *wink*. You also will not crochet without stopping, especially if you're having a conversation or watching a movie or TV program that steals your attention. So figure at least three times whatever you come up with (in daylight hours unless you crochet in your sleep). Or you might double the time you get for each row. Say it takes you 15 minutes to do a row when you're concentrating fully on that. Estimate then that it will take you 30 minutes per row when you're not doing something else while crocheting. Don't forget to add time for edging and sewing in ends, which can take quite a while. Your edging will take longer than your rows because the length will be longer.
Example 1: I timed myself while crocheting a row in a doll blankie I was making. It took me 6 minutes to do one row. I knew I needed 45 rows, so that is 270 minutes, or 4.5 hours. If I would have done nothing but crochet on that blankie, I would have finished it in approximately 4.5 hours, probably a little longer since you won't go at the same speed the entire time you're crocheting. When you're timing yourself you tend to go faster to meet the challenge. How long did it actually take me? Two days. Besides the 45 rows, I also did a two round border and then had to sew in the ends.
Example 2: I was working a dc ripple using blo (back loop only). I mention the blo because it takes longer to do. You wouldn't think so, but it does because you have to pull that back thread where it is more automatic to go through both loops. You have to watch what you're doing. I timed myself crocheting one row. It took about 16 minutes. Later, I timed myself while watching television. It took about a half hour. There were times I found it took even longer if it was an exciting show or the dog wanted to go out often, or the kids needed something. I estimated I would need about 130 rows. At the shortest time that would be about 35 hours for the afghan, not counting the edging and sewing in the ends. At a half hour per row, that would be 65 hours, also not counting edging and ends. That's quite a difference - well, almost twice as long *grin*. Unless you have a family who really appreciates crochet, you won't get more than a couple hours where you can concentrate on crocheting. I cheated. I found movie marathons and got them interested in them because this was something I wanted to finish before Christmas and I definitely needed more than 2 hours per day of crocheting time. I also went no-mail on my e-mail lists, and didn't plan any elaborate meals during that time. :-)
So, how long would it take to complete that afghan? It is a twin size afghan if you're wondering. Figuring 2 hours per day at the longer time because that is more realistic, it would be 33 days.
Why do all this figuring anyway? Well, in this case, I didn't HAVE 33 days to complete this project, so I knew I needed to work more than 2 hours per day, possibly spending a few late nights.
Don't forget to add mailing time if you have to send off that project!
I can’t read this pattern! It looks like Greek to me. What do I do? Try my Reading Patterns page for some useful info, or click here for a list of common pattern abbreviations and symbols.
I’ve made an afghan from a pattern I found in a book. Can I sell it? Okay, I'm not a lawyer but I recently received a response to a query I made to Leisure Arts which said "Although you may sell your finished pieces on an occasional basis, as a hobbyist, we do not grant permission for the designs to be used for commercial purposes, meaning that if you are considered to be in business, you are prohibited from using our designs." I suggest you check out the copyright laws. Here are some links I have found useful.
For more information on copyrights, please see
About.com (excellent article)
For teachers and students: Copyright Mystery
United States Copyright Office
The Copyright FAQ for Knitters
United States Patent and Trademark Office
The Girl from Auntie
Rose Red Designs
I might also note that for works copyrighted before 1923, they are now in the public domain and anything published after 1978 is considered copyrighted whether the person has filed or not. Other years require more information to know whether they are still copyrighted or not. When in doubt, check it out.
As to selling something you make, if the designer or publisher does not say specifically that you can, then you must ask permission, even if you purchased the pattern.
My pattern uses rounds, not rows--how do I do it? Working in rounds means that you will be going in a circle rather than working right to left or left to right in rows. There are several tutorials dealing with the technique on the tutorials page.
Why do I always hear not to make knots? What’s wrong with knots? I have a page devoted to ends and finishing off your work which answers this question.
Why do I have to leave long ends? See my tutorial on ends for more info on those pesky ends and why it’s best to leave them long when you finish off your work..
Should I weave in as I go, or wait until I’m finished with the project? It really doesn’t matter as far as how your finished project will look, but Darla Fanton of Designs by Darla makes a good point when she suggests that if you are one who can’t help but rip back when you find an error, no matter how far back it is, then you might like to save the weaving until the end when you’re satisfied all is well with your work and there are no mistakes. That is because it is sometimes hard to rip the section where you wove the ends in, especially if you did a really good job. You might end up having to cut the yarn in places and not have enough left to weave in again.
How can I keep my work from unraveling before it’s completed? I have used various methods to keep my stitches from coming apart when someone accidentally gets tangled up in my work, or I put it down and when I pick it up again, I have to search for the end of it etc. Stitch holders work, as do paper clips, and safety pins, but of late I have been using "Lil’s Knot". I have a tutorial showing how to make it. By using this method, I don’t have to make sure I have a handy paper clip or safety pin or stitch holder. All I need is my fingers and the yarn, which I have. LOL
How big should I make this ...? In regards to afghans, I have another section on the site for afghan sizing where I give you mattress and blanket sizes. However, I just learned a very interesting fact about scarves. I understand it is customary to make a scarf at least as long as the person is tall. At the time, I’d never heard that before, but since then I’ve heard it numerous times so it must be correct, right? It does make sense since you wrap it around your neck - sometimes multiple wraps if it’s really cold. Thank you, Mary, for this tip!
What can I do if I discover too late that I didn’t make enough foundation chains? If you often discover at the end of your first row that you didn’t make enough chains, there is a simple solution to the problem while still using the traditional foundation chain. If your pattern says chain 150, just chain 155 or 160. When you complete the required stitches of your pattern, you just undo the extra stitches. It is easier to undo a few stitches, than to have to redo 150 chains! Now I recommend you go back and check your pattern to be sure you didn’t make a mistake before you undo those chains--especially if the first row is straight sc or dc. :-) You can also add a few stitches by making more foundation chains on the end of the ones you’ve already made. Just insert your hook in the slip knot and use the dangling strand to make the chains. Now in order for this to work, you need to leave a looonnggg yarn end. So if you plan to be short *smile*, make sure your yarn end is long. I suggest leaving a long end regardless.
Jean Leinhauser has a wonderful lesson (with pictures) on this method in the book, The Crochet Yearbook (ASN). There are several great tips and tutorials in this book. I highly recommend it.
If you are interested in another method where you do not have to make a long chain, but can make your first row at the same time as your foundation chain, then there is another way to handle this problem. This method can also be used when you need to add stitches at the end of a row, as when making a vest or sweater perhaps, or a shaped pillow. What you do, briefly, is to chain 2 for a foundation chain, single crochet into the second chain from hook, then for your next stitch, you insert your hook into the base of your sc, yo and pull up a loop, yo and draw through one loop on hook (this becomes the base or chain for your next stitch), yo and draw through both loops on hook.
You can find many videos on variations of starting your row with both the foundation chain and the first row together. It might be called the foundation single crochet, or foundationless single crochet, or no foundation chain, or some other variation.
Should I wash my finished project? To wash or not to wash. I have discovered that washing projects sometimes causes strange things to happen so better to happen to me than the person I’m sending it to, right? :-) Threads you thought secure may pop out at you. Also, some yarns become much softer after washing. Red Heart yarn is this way. Stiff to work with, but soft after washing. I’d rather send off a soft piece than a rough one.
If you’re short on time, though, and your ends don’t normally pop out, I wouldn’t hesitate to send it without washing as well. Most Moms wash newborn items before using anyway. It would be thoughtful to include the yarn label washing instructions, or your own little note telling the recipient how to wash the piece. I find people are sometimes hesitant to wash a handmade item as they are afraid to damage it.
How should I wash crocheted pieces? I just throw mine in the washing machine, on gentle cycle with my regular detergent. Generally, cold water gentle cycle and low heat are good for most acrylic items. Then in the dryer with a softener sheet. If it’s for a baby, I usually use Ivory Snow or Dreft or anything made for babies that won’t take the fire-proofing stuff out. For preemie items, the softener smell may be too strong so you may prefer to use softener in the washing machine rather than the dryer for those items or use one of the fabric softener sheets with no scent added.
Keep in mind that crocheted items may stretch if hung, so they should be folded and stored flat. You can wrap in tissue if you’re storing it for the summer or a long period of time. In her book, Crochet 200 Q&A, Rita Taylor suggests using blue tissue paper to keep white cotton items looking white. I was glad to read this hint because, to my disappointment, I have had items develop yellow spots.
Bonnie in Washington suggested hand-washing items which use mixed yarn types with a mild shampoo.
Some yarns have a longer drying time than others. Make sure your piece is completely dry before packing it into a plastic bag or your item will arrive damp and the bag will be full of droplets.
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What kind of yarn should I use? Cotton or acrylic? Wool or man-made? All kinds of yarn have their uses! Acrylic yarn is fine for most purposes. I use it for afghans a lot. I also use blends of wool and other fibers. Some people are allergic to wool, but if they are not, wool is perfect for warm afghans. If you’re working from a pattern, it will usually tell you what type will work best.
How can I tell if my yarn is wool or acrylic? You wouldn’t want to shrink it in washing or use it in a product you’re making for someone with a wool allergy. You can read more about this subject and learn a couple of ways to tell the difference on the Yarn Yak page.
Where’s the center pull? I like a center pull, but manufacturers don’t ask me what I like, more’s the pity and sometimes skeins/hanks don’t have one. Even if they do have one, sometimes it’s hard to find that center thread in a skein of yarn. Of course, it’s good if you DO find it as it makes your tension smoother as you crochet. If you absolutely can’t find the center pull thread in a skein that should have one, you have options.
You can find the ending strand and rewind the yarn into a ball which would make it easier to unwind for crocheting. A yarn winder is a nice tool to have in your crochet arsenal for these instances. Be sure to wind loosely so you don’t stretch the yarn. If you don’t have a ball winder or just don’t want to do that, you could use the end thread as you work. Be sure to unwind enough for several stitches to keep your tension even. I have heard that if you use the ending thread you are using the thread in the opposite direction from which it was wound and thus not as it was intended to be used. Whether this will cause any problems, I don’t know.
If you are using a variegated yarn and you use one strand from the center pull and another from the end, in a continuous piece like an afghan, your colors may be backwards on one and might not look as nice. It’s good to check variegated yarn anyway as I’ve had some that were apparently wound in the opposite direction as my colors were in a different order on different skeins.
Before you pull your center thread out, look on the other side for a thread that is tucked into the skein. That is the ending thread. If you pull it out, when you grab your center pull you should have little trouble. If you forget to do that or it’s not obvious which is the ending thread, when you pull on the center thread it may be tight. If that is the case, as you pull on your center pull thread, look to see if a thread tightens at the opposite end. That would be the end tail which got caught around your center pull thread. If you can pull it out then, great. If not, just clip the yarn at the OPPOSITE end (not your center pull thread) just where it tightens. Be careful not to clip anything else. If you clip it, when you pull on your center thread, that small piece will come out. Just untangle it from your center pull thread and throw it away or use it for your magic ball. I don’t recall reading this suggestion anywhere before, but it happens to me all the time and I’m sure others must know this too.
On skeins that don’t have a center pull, I will sometimes dig in there and find it. I’m told this is not the best thing to do, but I do it anyway. I do like my center pull.
Should I wind all my yarn into balls? If you have a ball winder and it only takes you a few minutes, and you really want to, go ahead and wind all your skeins into balls (be sure to do it loosely not to stretch the yarn). Then put them into a paper bag or one of those gift bags, on the floor by your feet, as you work. They will roll around in the bag and you won’t have to go chasing it around the room. I use the center pull on my skeins whenever possible. I do ball the leftovers when finished with a project and I also ball yarn when I am frogging (ripping) a project. I will often put my skein in a plastic Ziploc bag as I find this helps with the end-of-skein mess you sometimes get. When I put the skein in a bag I have very little trouble.
Can I substitute one yarn for another? Short answer: Maybe. The best way to determine that is to make a gauge swatch. Not all yarns of any particular kind are equal, so whether your yarn will make a good substitute needs more consideration. Sometimes you can tell just by looking at the two yarns side by side. If size of your finished project is not a consideration - say it’s a scarf and it doesn’t matter if it’s a little off in size - then yes you can substitute any worsted weight yarn for any other worsted weight yarn; just know that the size may be slightly off what is noted in the pattern. If size IS a consideration, make a swatch and see if you get the gauge listed in the pattern. You can read more about this topic on Yarn Yak.
Can I use cotton or acrylic yarn instead of thread? That perfect pattern is made with thread and I don’t have any. Yes, you can substitute cotton or acrylic yarn, but the size won’t be the same. Thread is thinner than yarn, much thinner. The item will be significantly larger in yarn than in thread, but not necessarily awful looking. Some items look nice large or small. I made some Christmas ornaments in thin cotton yarn and also in acrylic yarn. The yarn ones were larger, but both looked okay. So the answer it, it just depends. See yarn equivalents in Yarn Yak for more info.
I don’t have enough yarn from the same dye lot to complete my project. What do I do? You can try buying a skein that looks similar, but if the yarns are placed side by side in a project, you may be able to tell where the new yarn was joined. Another option is to go with a contrasting or complementary color to complete your project, if that is possible.
Sometimes store personnel will call around and try to find more of your yarn in the same dye lot, if they are a chain and have more than one store in the area, and the salesperson is a sweetheart. You could always ask. Even the “no dye lot” skeins do have a slight color variation in skeins purchased at different times. This won’t matter if you’re not using it on the same project, but if you put two even slightly off color skeins next to one another on the same project, you will be able to see the difference. This is true of variegated yarns as well as solid color.
When working on a large project, it is sometimes difficult to find enough yarn in one store to complete your project. In this case, you can order a sufficient quantity of yarn from a catalog or online store. This way you can order as many skeins of one color as you need, and they should all be from the same dye lot. Of course, you take a chance if you don’t know specifically the name/number color of your yarn. I have purchased some in the past, judging by the picture on the web site and was disappointed in the color. However, if the color is not critical or you know the actual name or number you want, this is a way to go.
Also, when using variegated yarn, when you start a new skein, check to be sure your colors are appearing in the same order as previously. Sometimes they wind the yarn backwards, though I’m not sure how that happens. I just learned a neat trick to keep the variegated yarn from making a "pattern" in your work (color flashing and color pooling). You can use two skeins, changing skeins from one row to the next, but don’t cut the yarn. Just carry it up the side as I show in my tutorial on joining new colors.
Extra hint: Buy MORE than you think you need. You can always use extra, but can’t always get the same yarn if you run out. And you can probably return the unused portion <gasp> if you keep your receipt and do it within a reasonable time frame.
How can I clean a skein of yarn before using it? Jean Felton told me to place a skein of yarn in an old stocking, tie the ends securely, and throw it in the washer. Now you can see if that “stain” comes out before you spend a lot of time making something from it. Another lady (sorry I can’t remember who it was) said that if your completed project has a smoky smell, put it outside in the rain. I did have some preemie afghans with a strong smoke odor. I washed them in Tide and used a Cling Free dryer sheet and the smell seemed to come out though I’m told it is only temporary fix and it comes back. I can’t give a definitive answer to that one. You could also try hanging them outdoors after washing (or even before) if you have a clothes line.
Deborah in Arizona sent me still another washing hint: wash using cold water and one half cup of white vinegar in the wash cycle to set all dyes and remove all preservatives used in the yarns.
Are these two yarns the same weight? See Yarn Yak for information on yarn weight and substituting one yarn for another.
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