How to string seed beads quickly and easily!

It’s a new Coffee with Stacey!

I got a really fun new toy: the Darice Bead Spinner*, which promises to speed up the stringing of seed beads.

review of the darice bead spinner by FreshStitches

I string a lot of beads for bead crocheting, so I just had to give it a try!

review of the darice bead spinner by FreshStitches

Watch the video to see me using it in action, as well as a little update about my current bead crochet project!

Other Links you might Love:


What is a steel crochet hook?

This post contains affiliate links. That means I make a little commission if you buy something after clicking through. All affiliate links are marked with an *.

You’ve probably heard someone mention a ‘steel crochet hook’. Are you a bit confused about what that means?

Fear not! I’ll help you out!

Steel Crochet Hooks

‘steel’ crochet hooks refer to tiny crochet hooks, smaller than the hooks that are labeled in the US with letters.

steel crochet hook

I’m honestly not sure how the name came about… my guess is that traditionally, hooks were made from bone or wood, and only the steel ones could be crafted in such small sizes. Of course, nowadays, we have larger hooks in metal, too!

More details about steel hooks

Steel crochet hooks are labeled with numbers, and the larger the number, the smaller the hook. Funny, I know!

The numbers typically range from 00 or 0 (the biggest) to 14 (the smallest).

You usually use steel crochet hooks to crochet with thread… this page lists helpful thread size suggestions for hook size.


I use a steel crochet hook when I do bead crochet… they’re what’s needed for tiny thread!

Suggestions for using steel hooks

It’s pretty easy to pick up steel crochet hooks at a yard sale or thrift store, as they were very popular years ago and haven’t changed much! If you’d like to purchase a set of commonly used sizes, Boye makes a set* that’s good for getting started.

One problem that many folks have with using steel crochet hooks (besides how hard it is to use skinny thread!) is that your hand can tire from holding the tiny handle.

Finding hooks with a padded handle can help. The Clover Amour Steel Crochet Hook set* is beautifully colored and comes with a comfy handle that’s easy to grip.


Does Cotton Shrink?

You may have heard that cotton shrinks.

Are you ready to be surprised?

It’s a myth that cotton shrinks

I can already hear you… “I put that shirt in the washer and it shrank! I know it must be true!

So, let’s dig a little deeper. Have you ever worn your favorite pair of jeans for a few days (weeks) in a row? What happened to them? They felt looser, right?

And then you put them in the washing machine. They shrank, didn’t they?

Cotton tank top

The Lillian tank top, knit in cotton. Project page here.
What really happens is that cotton stretches, and then goes back to its original size when you wash it.


How to plan your knitting/crocheting

It’s important to keep this in mind when you’re knitting or crocheting with cotton. I love using cotton… but it’s going to stretch!

Think twice before you make a long, heavy garment, as this will increase stretching. And rest assured that it’ll ‘shrink’ when you wash it… but do a test swatch just to make sure!

Dye yarn with Wilton Icing Dye!

Did you know that you can dye your yarn using Wilton Icing Dyes?

Dyeing yarn with Wilton Icing dye from FreshStitches

You already know I’m a huge fan of dyeing with Kool Aid… but the colors can be a little limiting. So I had to try my hand with the Icing Dyes!

Advantages of Icing Dye

Icing dye, as the name suggests, is actually meant for dyeing. Granted, it’s usually food and not yarn… but it means that there are a wide range of colors that are really quite nice.

The dyes also have the property that you can mix them together with fairly predictable results, which isn’t necessarily true of Kool Aid.

The main disadvantage is that you’ll need to add vinegar to your dye bath to get the color to set. That’s not too big of a downside!

Wilton Icing Dye Color Card

For each color, my recipe was:

  • 8 yards of white worsted weight yarn
  • 1/8 tsp of Wilton Icing Dye
  • 2 T vinegar
  • 1/4 cup boiling water

And here’s how the colors look!

Wilton icing dyes and yarn freshstitches color chart

I’m so excited about the possibilities! These are the colors straight out of the jar… you can mix the colors to get even closer to what you want.

Notes on Dyeing

  • These colors were all produced with the same strength of dye. Experiment with adding less dye for more subtle colors.
  • Purple is notoriously difficult. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but the blue & red tones separated out quite a bit. I love the look, but you’ll want to always test swatches if you want a certain look.
  • A true black is very hard to achieve. I’ll play around with adding a higher intensity of dye.
  • Always do a test swatch! These 8 yard skeins were just perfect, you can wind them yourself for playing!

Have fun!

Here are handy links to all the posts about yarn. . .

Return to the main table of contents for Let’s Learn to Crochet Amigurumi.

Move on to the lessons for the basic crochet stitches.

Happy stitching!

How to Care for your Craft Scissors

I have three pairs of scissors: a pair for cutting fabric, a pair for cutting tape and an all-purpose pair (that happen to be child-safe so I can use them for travel).


Having different pairs for different craft purposes allows you to keep them in tip-top-shape, and makes your crafting easier! Here are some tips I have for keeping your scissors healthy.

Mark your Scissors

Do you have a family member who might be tempted to use your fabric-only scissors for cutting construction paper? Add a label to them! And consider keeping your special scissors away with your fabric stash.

Clean Scissors with Rubbing Alcohol

I have a pair of scissors just for cutting packing tape. Because tape leaves a residue that makes scissors icky!

When mine get too icky, I use rubbing alcohol and a cotton ball to clean the blades. The sticky comes right off!

Get them Sharpened

Many craft stores have an occasional sharpening service. Just like nice knives, it pays to get your scissors sharpened!

Any tips to share?

How many scissors do you have? And what types are they?

Do you have any care tips you’d like to share?

Read about Wendi’s “Great Scissor Rotation” here.

The Future of Crochet: 3D Printing for Hooks

Right now, you have 2 choices when it comes to crochet hooks. You can go to a store and purchase a hook that’s been made in the millions by a manufacturer or you can purchase a hand-carved, custom crochet hook.

furls crochet hook

In the future, I think there will be a third option. Hang on to your crochet hooks.

What’s wrong with the current options?

When a manufacturer makes a crochet hook, they’re trying to make one that will appeal to a large number of people. Their goal is to sell them by the thousands/millions.

crochet hooks selection

While there are lots of different designs, there might not be a hook that’s perfect for you. Especially if you have small hands or a unique crocheting style.

The hand-carved hooks can be personalized (for example, to fit a smaller hand), but they are pricey. This makes purchasing one ‘just to try out’ out of reach for most consumers.

Crochet Hooks and 3D Printing

Have you heard of 3D printers? They’re basically printers that use a resin (instead of ink) to create a 3D item.

Less than a decade ago, these printers cost tens of thousands of dollars and were only used by researchers and companies. Now, though, there are a selection of 3D printers available in the $500 range, meaning they’re becoming practical for home use.

reasonably priced 3D printer

You probably have purchased a pdf pattern online for knitting, crocheting or sewing. These are usually patterns made by independent designers (like me!) that can be produced without the costs involved with printing & distributing a book.

This model allows independent designers to create patterns for niche markets. For example, a giant company might not be interested in spending thousands to produce a squid pattern, but as a pdf pattern (without much cost overhead), designing an adorable squid is practical! Yay, niches!

I predict the same thing will happen with crochet hook designs. You will be able to purchase 3D Printer Plans for a crochet hook, that you can print on your printer at home.

Sketch for a crochet hook for a 3D printer

The cost of these plans would be similar to purchasing a pdf pattern, and would allow the customer to purchase a crochet hook almost exactly to their liking. Independent hook designers will cater to different hand shapes and styles, exactly as they do now with stitching patterns.

Isn’t that such a cool future?

What do you think? Do you see print-at-home hooks in your future?

How to Measure Yarn

Last week, I showed you how to calculate how much yarn you’ll need for a project.

How much yarn do I need crochet

But calculating the yardage is only half of the story. Getting an accurate measurement of your stitches is a crucial, as this is the measurement that you’ll be using for all of your calculations!

Today, I’ll share with you some tips for measuring your yarn.

Crochet your sample

As we talked about last week, you’ll want to measure your yarn for your particular yarn, hook and stitch pattern.

crochet circle

What’s most important is that you crochet several stitches that are not interrupted (for example, by a turning chain). In this example, I’m measuring single crochet, and working in the round is a great way to get an undisturbed run of stitches.

Start and stop at the right place

To measure, you’ll want to unravel some of your stitches and measure the length. It’s important to measure in complete stitches.

I like to hold my thumb immediately next to my work (as pictured), preserving the loop that you removed the hook from:

start of crocheting

Then, count the number of stitches as you unravel. You will want to end your measurement directly next to your work, with the loop still intact.

final crochet piece

How to measure

Now that you know where to start and stop your measurement, it’s important to talk about how to hold the yarn while measuring.

You want to pull the yarn straight, but not stretch the yarn. Most yarn is slightly elastic, and it’s possible to pull it so much that you will get an inaccurate measurement.

How to measure your yarn

See how the bottom measurement contains a full extra inch? That’s a lot of stretching!

Now calculate!

Now that you’ve measured properly, you can do your calculations accurately!

There’s more… you can weigh it, too!

Do you have a bunch of yarn that you need to measure? And a ruler seems too tiring?

digital scale

Well, then, you’ll want to read my post on how to calculate yarn length from weight!


How much yarn do I need?

How Much Yarn Do I Need - how to calculate yarn needed for any crochet pattern

It’s a question every crocheter asks… how much yarn do I need? And what if I change the thickness of yarn?

Today, I’ll show you how to calculate how much yarn your project will need. No more guessing!

crochet hooks and yarn

Discover your yarn + hook combo

The only way to know for sure is to calculate how much yarn each stitch (using your yarn and hook) takes. Using some yarn and hooks I had on hand, I did few examples:

How much yarn do I need crochet

As you see, the thicker the yarn (and the bigger the hook), the more yarn you’ll need.

How much yarn you need crochet

Your calculations may be different depending on your exact yarn and gauge… but this should give you an idea! This tutorial will show you how to calculate how much yarn you use for each stitch.

How to calculate the total for the pattern

To find out the total amount of yarn you’ll use for your project, multiply the number of stitches in your pattern by the number of inches each stitch uses.

Let’s take Jay the Bird as an example. The pattern contains the stitch count at the end of each line.

stitch count in crochet

Adding those up gives me a total of 1656 stitches.

How much yarn do I need if I want to crochet him in a fingering weight yarn?

how to calculate how much yarn you need

46 yards! That’s less than the 85 called for in the pattern because fingering weight yarn is smaller, and the project needs less!

Calculate away!

Using this method, you can calculate how much yarn a project will require with any weight yarn and hook! No more guessing!

Here are handy links to all the posts about yarn. . .

Return to the main table of contents for Let’s Learn to Crochet Amigurumi.

Move on to the lessons for the basic crochet stitches.

Happy stitching!

Online Tools to Help with Your Colorwork

You probably already know that you can add stripes to almost any knit/crochet pattern… and it’s a great way to use up leftover yarn! Another fabulous way to use up leftover yarn is to make an afghan using medallions (like a granny square) will all of your extras.

But if you’re like me, the hardest part about colorwork isn’t the actual knitting/crocheting… it’s putting the colors together in an aesthetically pleasing way!

Today I’ll share two amazing online tools that will help you plan your colorwork. Thanks so much to the folks in my Ravelry Group for pointing me to these great sites!

First, pick your colors

For a successful colorwork project, you’ll want to group colors that go well together.

Color Theory

We all have our favorite colors, so chances are that a lot of your stash already coordinates! If you want a little more help, read this post on color theory.

Random Stripe Generator

Okay, let’s say you want to throw stripes into your project. Getting random-looking stripes can be tricky (since us humans are pattern-seekers and tend to go into a pattern even if we don’t want to). That’s why I love the Random Stripe Generator over at Biscuits and Jam!

The website allows you to input the colors you’re using and maximum stripe thickness. Then… presto!

Random stripe generator

Here are the stripes it generated for me! Isn’t that neat?

The page also provides a text pattern in addition to the image.

Granny Square Generator

Selecting colors for granny squares poses a similar problem: you don’t want like colors touching, but you still want a look of randomness to it.

Fortunately, has you covered!

Input the colors of yarn you have available and you get back a chart:

granny square generator

Follow the image for each square, and assemble as shown. Nifty!

The number of colors per square is a parameter in the generator, meaning that you can use this same generator for any number of medallion patterns, not just granny squares!

Aren’t these fun?

Give them a try and tell me what you think!

A Yarn Lover’s Guide to Washington, DC

Today’s guide to yarn stores in DC is written by Jennifer Crowley, the designer/teacher/blogger at


Jennifer Crowley is a knit and crochet designer who teaches up and down the east coast. You can check out her designs on Ravelry. Recent and upcoming publications include Sockupied, Knitpicks and Classic Elite Yarns.

When not knitting or crochet, she can be often seen zipping around DC and the surrounding area on her bike.

So you are planning a trip to Washington, DC, and you want to visit some yarn stores while you’re there? Well, you are in luck. In addition to being a city full of cultural attractions, there are a number of yarn stores in DC, accessible by a combination of riding the Metro, bus, or walking. If you are fortunate to have a car, the access to yarn stores improves even more. Recent changes have meant that old yarn stores have closed, and new ones are joining the group this year, so it’s a great time to go and check them out.

When I first moved to DC, I didn’t have a car, and was entirely dependent on my bike and public transportation. I have firsthand experience about what stores are the easiest to get to, and in this quick tour I’ll highlight the ones that are accessible by public transportation.

Yarn stores in Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia

I think of the yarn stores in DC by region. In Maryland, there’s: Woolwinders (8), The Yarn Spot (5) and Knit & Stitch = Bliss (4). In DC, there’s Looped Yarn Works (1) and The Knitting Loft (2). And in Virginia, there’s: Fibre Space (3), Uniquities (7) and Aylin’s Wool Gatherer (6).

Disclaimer: I teach classes at Woolwinders, Fibre Space, and The Yarn Spot as a contract. I do not believe this influenced my review.

Looped Yarn Works

Looped Yarn Works (1) is located on the second story of a beautiful building near Dupont Circle Metro Station, about a 2 ½ block walk away. Looped offers a nice range of different priced yarns. One of the things I love about Looped is the amount of Natural light they have in the store. Susan and Janie, the owners, have put such careful work into making the space welcoming to customers, and are constantly featuring new activities, visiting authors and other events in the store.

Looped Yarn Store DC

How to get there: Looped is located on 1732 Connecticut Ave, NW #200 (remember, they’re on the second floor!) in Washington, DC. The best way to get there is by metro, as there isn’t that much parking in that area of town. Dupont Circle, located on the Red Line, is very close to the store.

The Knitting Loft

The Knitting Loft (2) is one of the newest yarn stores in DC, having opened in the Summer of 2013. As a new store, their selections of yarns are still expanding, but the staff couldn’t have been more welcoming when I stopped by over the summer. The great thing about this store, is they are wheelchair accessible and on the ground level. Located near the Eastern Market, the store is the perfect stop on a day of window shopping.

How to get there: The Knitting Loft’s address is 1227 Pennsylvania Ave Southeast, and is near both the Blue/Orange Line Metro. You can get to it from both the Eastern Market or Potomac Ave stops – both are about a 3 block walk away, though Potomac Ave is marginally closer. Parking, if you choose to drive, is a little bit easier to come by, but I think it’s still easier to metro in.

Fibre Space

Fibre Space (3) is the hip yarn store of Old Town Alexandria. They specialize in hand painted and hand dyed yarns, but have a good range of workhorse yarns too. Fibre Space offers a vibrant array of classes and great space to sit and knit. I always love checking out the window displays when I come to visit – they always have something creative put up! This last time I visited their window had a mannequin with a packed box of yarn – referring to the fact that in a few short weeks they’ll be moving around the corner to a new location that offers more space and versatility. It’ll be exciting to see how the store continues to expand!

Fibre Space Yarn Store Alexandria VA

How to get there: While technically in Virginia, Fibre Space is very accessible to DC and so it’s easy for tourists to visit. Fibre Space’s address is 102 North Fayette Street (for now) and is about 6 blocks from the King Street Metro. It’s a little bit of a walk, but under a mile, and it’s a pleasant walk at that, with lots of stores to widow shop. If you choose to drive, it’s easy to get off 495 and go straight up Route 1 (N Patrick St). You should consider parking along King, Prince, Duke or Queen Street, or any of the cross streets. Then walk to the store. Most parking is one or two hours – so be careful how much time you spend in any one place. If you are planning to make an afternoon out of looking around Old Town Alexandria, take the Metro and save yourself the worry.

The Yarn Spot

The Yarn Spot (5) is my personal “local yarn store” and until I moved this past year, I could easily walk to it in about five minutes. The Yarn Spot features two great places to sit and knit (a circle of couches and chairs and a table) and a friendly welcoming atmosphere. Yarn is arranged according to weight, with a middle section that rotates out different yarns that are being featured. They also have spinning supplies and fiber. With a knowledgeable staff – this is the perfect store to go to if you have a “knitting emergency” and need some help. They feature a wide range of yarns, from hand dyed yarns to workhouse yarns like Spud and Cloe Sweater and Encore.

Yarn Spot Wheaton, MD

How to get there: The Yarn Spot’s address is 11406a Georgia Ave, Wheaton, MD. Unfortunately, they are a bit hidden from the road, but if you look for “The Anchor Inn” sign, they are in the shopping center located behind the sign. The store has parking if you choose to drive, or it’s about a 1/2 mile walk from the Wheaton Metro to the store.


Woolwinders (8) is one of my favorite yarn stores in DC for classes. They have very knowledgeable teachers and staff, and every time I go there I learn something new. They have a good selection of mid-range yarns, and highlight some really interesting higher range yarns. The last time I was there I appreciated their selection of Rowan Pattern books. I love how two of the walls of the store are windows, and how much natural light comes into the space. It really makes it easier to choose colors for my projects.

Wool Winders Yarn Store MD

How to get there: Woolwinders is a brisk walk from Shady Grove Metro Station – just under a mile. Located at 404 King Farm Blvd in Rockville, MD, this is also a good store to drive to, with plenty of parking street-side or behind the store.

Knit & Stitch = Bliss

Knit & Stitch = Bliss (4) is one of my favorite stores to go to if I’m looking for patterns or books. They have a really good selection, and a nice area to sit down and flip through all the books and patterns as you are deciding what to work on. Yarn selection runs from midrange to some nice high priced yarns, and they have a great selection of needles and notions. Located near the heart of Bethesda, there’s great shopping and restaurants nearby if you wish to make a short trip of going to the store and picking up dinner or lunch.

How to get there: Knit & Stitch = Bliss is located at 4706 Bethesda Ave, Bethesda MD. If taking the metro, walk West down Rockville Pike until you turn right on Bethesda Ave. If driving, there’s plenty of street parking available, and a few different parking lots if you don’t relish parallel parking.

Aylin’s Wool Gatherer

Aylin’s Wool Gatherer and its compatriot, Uniquties, are both a bit harder to get to by public transportation, but still worth the visit.

Aylin’s Wool Gatherer (6) has the honor of being one of the longest running yarn stores in DC metro area, running upwards of 35 years. Specializing in offering a wide selection of mid-range yarns, including some nylon blends I haven’t noticed elsewhere, this store is a solid addition to the Metro DC Yarn stores. When shopping, prices are listed on sheets throughout the store.

How to get there: Aylin’s is a bit hidden from the street, being located on the third floor of a building (however, there’s an elevator!). Their address is 7245 Arlington Blvd, Falls Church, VA. However, when walking or driving to the store look for the Starbucks in Loehmann’s Plaza, and go around the corner. You’ll see a side entrance to the building; take the elevator to the third floor. The store is down the hall. If you have difficulty, call the store at 703-573-1900 – they are old hands at giving directions. As to transportation, this is one store where driving is definitely easier, though it is possible to take public transportation. If you ride the Metro to the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Station, you can then walk to the Temp Bay D (follow the signs). From there, you can catch the 1B bus towards Ballston Station. Get off at Arlington BV & Graham Rd, and walk towards Loehmann’s Plaza.


Uniquities (7) offers not only yarn to knitters and crocheters, but is one of my favorite stores to check out for their spinning supplies. One of the other things I love about the store is their separate class space, which makes taking classes very pleasant. I also love their yarn choices, with a stunning collection of sock and laceweight yarns, and a wide range of worsted and aran weights too. They carry some of my favorite yarn lines, like Mountain Colors, Blue Sky Alpacas and Manos Del Uruguay.

How to get there: Uniquties is also a store that is easier to drive to. They’re located at 421 Church Street Northeast, Vienna, VA. Driving, there’s a spacious parking lot to park at. If you are looking to take public transportation, take the Metro to the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Station, then walk to Bus Bay B. Take the 2T towards Tysons Corner and get off at R 123 Maple Ave & Beulah Rd. The store is a block away.

Want more stores?

While the eight yarn stores I’ve highlighted here are the easiest to get to via public transportation, there are a few others that deserve honorable mention.

Thanks, Jennifer!

Do you look for yarn shops wherever you travel? We’re also got a guide to yarn shops in Sydney, Australia, and a guide to yarn shops in Manhattan.