Reported by Deja Jetmir
As a crochet designer I get to work with many different types of yarns. One particular type that has always been near and dear to my heart, yet has failed me time and time again is self-striping yarn. I can never seem to resist all those combined colors calling out to me from the shelf, but I know I should because I will be bitterly disappointed once I begin to make something. The reason being is because most ( I won’t say all because I haven’t tried all that exist) self-striping yarn is made for knitters.
Self-striping yarn is made from one piece of yarn that has continuous color repeats (sometimes long, sometimes short). Once worked up, the project takes on the appearance of stripes, or fair isle, without actually having to change yarn. It is a wonderful invention, but not well-thought-out for a crocheter. Knitting, in general, takes less yarn than crocheting – sometimes as much as half for a similar project. Because of this extra yarn, crochet is a much denser fabric and each row that is crocheted uses up more of each color in a self-striping yarn. This is where the problem lies. If a yarn manufacturer makes a yarn specifically for a knitter, it will never look quite right in a crochet project.
However, I am a glutton for punishment and am always experimenting with new yarn trying to find one that will work for crocheters. That search has lead me to review Bernat Baby Jacquards. I was drawn to the cute colors and fair isle pattern it promised me on the label. For purposes of this review. I decided to follow Bernat’s gauge and make a swatch in knit (for comparison to the crochet stitches), single crochet, half double crochet and double crochet, then finally work a project in the best crochet stitch I found.
Baby Jacquards is a light weight yarn and Bernat’s recommended gauge was 4″ by 4″ = 23 stitches and 30 rows with size 6 (4mm) needles. Unfortunately, all we are given for gauge information for crochet is to use a size US G/6 (4mm) hook. This is an automatic red flag for me because Bernat hasn’t even attempted to give us a gauge swatch to work.
The reason a swatch gauge is important for self-striping yarns is because they are often made so if you are designing something from scratch, you know to use multiples of this swatch to keep your stripes, or fair isle pattern even and consistent. Using this swatch information for example, we know we should make the swatch, see how many rows we stitch for each color change and then figure out how wide we can make the project and still have pretty striped/fair isled rows. The number of stitches will usually be a multiple of the swatch gauge (i.e. 23, 46, 92). Since I have no crochet swatch information, I am forced to make my own and see what kind of results I achieve.
First off, I begin with a knit swatch to see what kind of pattern I should have. As you can see in the picture below. There are long color changes that last for about 6 rows on average. This means I can make my knit project at least 138 stitches wide (or about 24″ wide) and still have a nice striping effect. Plus as you can see in the swatch, some of the color changes are mid row, yet they are not that noticeable because the knit stitches are somewhat small. Since this yarn is intended for children projects, I can make just about anything under these constraints since most garments are pieced together and are easily made under 24″ wide for each piece. So for a knitter, this is a wonderful yarn (in terms of color changes, I will review the yarn itself later).
Next I begin with the most common crochet stitch and usually the most successful of self-striping yarns – single crochet. Following the knit gauge, I use a base of 23 stitches to attempt to get a similar effect of the knit swatch. As you can see the effect of single crochet from knit is quite different. I have about 5 fewer rows in my crochet stitch, because the actual stitch is slightly higher than a knit stitch. The color changes are also much shorter with a crochet stitch. You can see the multi colored pattern near the top of the single crochet swatch and knit swatch and see the difference in size and appearance. With the single crochet I only got 2 and 1/2 rows out of the color change, whereas with the knit stitch I got 7 rows – quite a difference. This tells me that my crochet project can only use about 46 to 60 stitches per row (or about 10.5″ max width) if I want to keep a nice striped effect to my project.
Note: Though you see some color changes on the single crochet swatch that are much longer than the multi colored fair isle pattern, it is best to not go wider than your shortest color repeat. Imagine a big project like a blanket with spots of color within rows where shorter repeats did not get to make a full row.
So with this information, I know I can only make small projects with this yarn and will need to only use single crochet if I want good color changes. I normally wouldn’t go on with making any larger size stitch swatches because I already know they won’t work, but for purposes of this review, I made two more to show you the difference.
I then moved on to the next size up crochet stitch — the half double crochet. That is an appropriate name because I only got half the number of rows for the same size swatch as the knit swatch (about 15 in total). As you can see I did achieve a couple rows before each color change, but anything larger than a washcloth project would give very poor results. Each row would maybe only reach the length of one color change. As you will see in the crochet project below, one row color changes are not that great looking in a fair isle pattern yarn.
Lastly I tried a double crochet swatch. As you can see from the picture this was the worst of the bunch. I barely achieved a full row on a couple of the color changes and all of the color changes are very noticeable. Trying to crochet any project using this stitch and yarn would result in a waste of time.
I then decided the best and about only crochet project I could get away with using this yarn would be a baby beanie. And since I am having a baby in October, I made it a newborn size.
Though I took care to make sure I had at least one color change per row, the overall effect to me is muddy. I see the pattern of the color changes, but it isn’t at all the beautiful fair isle pattern that the knit stitch creates. Plus even with this small size (circumference was 14″) I ran out of colors on some rows (thankfully because the beanie is round it hides this), and I know I couldn’t make a larger beanie because I wouldn’t even get one row of color change.
Overall I think Bernat’s Baby Jacquard yarn is a wonderful product for its beautiful colors, softness, and ease of care. For me as a crocheter; however, this self-striping yarn is highly disappointing. My suggestion to Bernat and any other yarn company who only cater to knitters when it comes to their pattern yarns, is to extend the color changes for a crochet-friendly product. Just a couple extra rows would make a huge difference to a finished product and then both knitters and crocheters could use it.
- beautiful colors
- lots of yardage per skein (346 yds)
- easy care (machine washable and dryable)
- no gauge information on label for crocheters
- pattern repeats are too short for crocheters
- only one free pattern for crochet on Bernat’s website for this yarn (and it’s a baby beanie)
- 346 yds to a skein
- 90% acrylic/ 10% nylon
- Suggested Retail: $3.99
Have you tried Baby Jacquards by Bernat? Did you have better luck crocheting, or did you stick to knitting? Leave us a comment and let us know!