Speaking in Yarnish: Tips 'n Tricks / by Melody

Crochet is without a doubt my first love, the craft I'm most skilled in. I learned when I was nine or ten years old, and just kept going. I have dozens of unfinished projects, literal hills of yarn, and a few cans full of hooks and needles. Sometimes I guess you could call it an addiction. I learned to knit a few years ago and have fallen in love with that as well - I love the smooth rhythm of the needles and the neat, finished look of the stitches. Recently I've gotten better ,and haven't bought any new yarn or started any new projects (read: haven't had enough time lately), but I'm looking forward to starting and finishing some fall projects, and perhaps coming up with some summer things ahead of time!

In the meantime, here are some tips and tricks I've learned along my yarny journey. Some of them are painfully obvious, but hey, everyone needs a reminder sometimes! I hope these are helpful.

-When making a join-as-you-go blanket, try to weave in the ends ahead of time. It saves time, and then you don't get that horrible sinking feeling when you finish the last motif and realize you have about a million ends to weave in before you're truly done. What a pain!

-This is stressed all over the place, but when you are buying yarn for a specific project, make sure you buy enough to finish the project! I've made the mistake of not buying enough yarn for something, going back to the store, and being unable to find the yarn again! It was clearance yarn, for one thing (headsmack), and a brand specific to the craft store (harder headsmack). Don't be like me - buy enough yarn to finish the project, or buy a brand and color you know you'll be able to find again if you need more.

-Measure your gauge. Oh, gauge. I never followed gauge instructions in the past. I used to be an avid subscriber to Crochet Today! magazine, and I would attempt many of their designs with gusto. Half of them never turned out right because I used the wrong weight yarn, the wrong hook, and never made a gauge swatch. Again, don't make that mistake! Take the time to crochet a gauge swatch, and make sure it measures up to the measurements in the pattern. There's no rush. If you do this step, you won't regret it. If your swatch is too big or too small, you'll know to adjust your hook size or yarn weight accordingly. And if your swatch measures out exactly like the pattern says, even better! Now you'll be able to create the design in your desired size without fear of the pattern turning out too big or too small. Yay! Time well spent, and frustrations avoided. I can't even begin to number the amount of times I've had to rip out an entire project because it turned out the wrong size. Worst. Ever.
-This is kind of a dumb piece of advice, and it will probably help no one and just embarrass me, but don't ever buy yarn amounts based on ounce. Check the yardage/meterage. When I was young and stupid (did that change?) I had no idea that I needed a certain amount of YARDS - I thought I could substitute four ounces of one brand yarn, for four ounces of another yarn brand. Not. 
-Here is an amazing tutorial from Lion Brand on winding a center-pull ball of yarn. I am SO glad I found this. Sometimes I am able to find the center pull in a skein of yarn that I buy, but most of the time I am stuck unrolling the yarn from the outside, and that's annoying. The skein rolls all over the place, off the couch and across the floor, and I have to stop working every five seconds in order to unroll enough yarn to keep going. I tried this tutorial on one of those huge, 500-yard twists of yarn you can buy at a bonafide yarn shop, and it turned out great. Give it a try! It will make your yarny life so much easier.

-When choosing a new project, treat it like picking out a new item of clothing. If it's for you, do you need it? Will you wear it? Is it practical? Are you going to have to spend a fortune on the yarn needed to make it? And is it absolutely worth it? These questions will help you decide what's practical, and hopefully save you time and money in the long run.

-If you are looking for a sizeable amount of 'new' yarn, head to your local thrift store and grab a sweater in a fiber and color that you like! Make sure you wash it first, and then start unraveling! Old sweaters are easy to unravel if you're careful. You'll get a whole new stash of fresh yarn for a mere fraction of the cost of brand new yarn!

I hope these tips helped out a bit. Thanks for reading!