Knot Today: How Keep your Crochet Strands Untangled

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We love a good colorwork design, but if you're not careful, juggling so many strands can leave you all tied up in knots — literally. We've found that a few key yarn-wrangling techniques go a long way to keep those fancy projects heavy on creative satisfaction and light on frustration.

Tip #1: Contain yourself!

Mixing and mingling is great at a cocktail party, but not so much in your crochet project. Keep each ball of yarn separate from the others to make sure they all behave.

Consider using yarn bowls

If you haven't worked with yarn bowls, you're in for a treat. These handy holders are crafted with notches and holes to guide yarn off the ball and onto your needles for smooth, snag-free stitching. Put each ball of yarn in its own bowl, running the yarn through the hole, then arrange your bowls around you and crochet away!

No yarn bowls? Just give your colors some space

We love the bowls, but simply setting your colors on either side of you works pretty well too. Trust us, this easy step is 15 seconds of time well spent to prevent a tangle later on.

Tip #2: Choose the right yarn

Nope,they're not all the same. Some skein-types and fibers are way more cranky than others, and for complex colorwork, you'll want to choose carefully.

Look for center-pull skeins, or wind your own

Center-pull yarn allows you to easily pull the yarn from the center of the ball without the whole thing unraveling or moving around. Many crocheters find this just keeps everything a little more stable, reducing the likelihood of tangles. You can find skeins already made this way, but with yarn that comes in a hank, you'll have to wind it yourself.

Caveat: As with everything, there's always some dissent. Some of our stitching friends swear that center-pull balls are MORE tangle-prone. Experiment and figure out your preference.

Pick fibers that play well with others

In the event that all your best efforts fail, and you find yourself with a big ugly tangle in your work, you want to be able to easily unravel it and move on. Some fiber, such as mohair, tends to stick to itself and become almost impossible to work back. So if you're newer to colorwork, give mohair the boot. Choose cotton or other smoother, more forgiving fibers that are easy to untangle.

Tip #3: Mind those strands

Plenty of crochet patterns are ideal for mindlessly stitching while you binge-watch your favorite show, but complex colorwork designs are not. Alas, you have to pay full attention. It's worth it, though, for those gorgeous results!

Switch colors with care

Always be consistent in how you switch to a new color. This is particularly true in tapestry crochet, but it's important for other projects, too.

When working with two colors, always bring Color A over the top of Color B, whether you are switching from A to B or B back to A. This prevents twisting of the two skeins. As you gain experience, you might also experiment with yarn guides, which are devices you slip onto your fingers that have loops to help manage multiple strands.

Always turn the work the same way

When turning the work at the end of the row, you should always rotate it the same direction, either toward or away from you. (See? You're not likely to do this right every time if you're sucked into a murder mystery on TV.)

Beware of twisting

Tangles begin small ... often with just a little twist of two (or more) colors of yarn, but then they turn nasty. Make it a habit to periodically check the yarn as you work, to see that each strand is flying solo, not accidentally entwined with any others. It's much easier to untangle one twist than a dozen!

Tip #4: Store unfinished projects smartly

Isn't it amazing how yarn can seemingly tangle itself in your project bag, even when you're not working on it? We suspect there's some kind of evil gremlin involved. But being mindful in how you store your work might help: Place your working balls or skeins in the bottom of the bag, packed tightly so the yarn(s) can't move around. Attempt to place them in the same order, from left to right, that you are following in your pattern. Put stitch markers in the work itself and place your project-in-progress on top of the skeins in the bag. Give it a friendly pat and hope that when you return, everything will be as you left it!

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