crochet hat beanie yarn happily hooked

If you’re like me, then beanies are your jam! I love seeing all the creativity that starts pouring into the community with new styles and revamps of old styles. Oh, so much yarn and so little time.

So, let's get on with things because we don't have much time!

Speaking of time and yarn; what time of year is it? As I right this, it’s fall, and that means Wiiinnnterrr is Commming (see what I did there). This also means that winter hat season is here! Especially if you are a maker/gifter.


However joyous an occasion this is, it can also be very stressful, especially when it comes to picking the perfect fiber for your project. Learning to choose the right yarn for your winter noggin-warmer is important and can really accentuate the stitches of your hat pattern as well as the overall shape and feel of the hat.

Today, we will compare some different yarn companies that have the same specs on their labels, see how they match up, and learn what to do next.

But first, we need to figure out which yarns might work out of the thousands available.

So, let’s talk fiber!

There are so many yarn choices. Which one is best? If you’re using beginner crochet patterns that you’ve bought, or found for free, then definitely reference the pattern to see what the designer recommends. This information is usually in the “Materials” section of the pattern. Can’t find that specific yarn at your favorite fiber store? No worries — let’s break it down.

Generally, look for yarn that has the same information on the label as the pattern designer recommends in the pattern.

What to look for on the yarn label:

Step 1 – What is the weight of the yarn the designer used?

This information can be found here (Medium 4, in this case). This number tells us the size of the yarn, also referenced as the weight of the yarn.

crochet yarn label weight

Medium/#4 weight is also called Worsted or Aran weight, depending on the manufacturer.

Step 2 – Are the fibers similar, such as acrylic, wool, alpaca, nylon, etc.?

This, too, is so important because it determines how the yarn you choose will behave in this weight. We’ll talk more about this later.

crochet yarn fiber material

Acrylic is a manmade fiber, as opposed to natural fibers, like cotton or wool.

Step 3 – Is the gauge similar or close enough to make it work? Are the recommended hook sizes the same?

Ah, yes the dreaded gauge. Luckily we are only talking about the gauge on the label. This is more of a guideline, which is why I put it third. As yarn brands are different, this just gives us an idea that if the yarn you choose is worked with the hook recommended, and with the stitch recommended, then the different yarns should work up similarly.

crochet yarn gauge label

Yarn label gauge is usually based on the number of single stitches and rows in a 4×4-inch square (10x10cm).

TIP: Another piece of information you can look for in the pattern is the number of wpi (wraps per inch). This information is not always available, so it may be more difficult to compare. It shows us that when we are working up our piece, we’ll use the same amount of yarn for our project as the designer, so long as our gauge is correct.

With all this information gathered, we can now go and start working up our project!

What are my favorite beanie yarns?

Now that we’ve discussed how to substitute for another designer’s recommended yarn, let’s talk about some of MY favorite beanie yarns! For each of the following swatches, I worked 24 single and 18 rows using a 6mm J/10 Clover Amour Hook.

My go-to yarn

You may already have a favorite yarn for crochet that is your go-to. But if not, I recommend you try my go-to yarn for most of my beanie designs, which is Yarn Bee Soft & Sleek. What I like about this yarn is that it’s anti-pilling, which means that after all the love your gift receiver or purchaser gives to your hat, it will still have that new appearance to it.

Most yarn companies have an anti-pilling yarn now, but for some reason, I continue to come back to this specific brand. I love how soft it is. My guiding finger doesn’t get raw from the yarn being dragged over it, and what makes this one of the perfect yarns for beanies is how full the strands are. It has a nice spring that allows you to pull on it to work a stitch, then fills in the gaps as it settles.

crochet hat yarn choose yarn bee

Yarn Bee Soft and Sleek: As you can see from this picture there is virtually no gapping between the stitches. Its label gauge is 12 Single x 15 Rows = 4″ x 4″, J/10 (6mm) hook.

A bit gappy

Lion Brand Basic Stitch is also an anti-pilling yarn, its label notes a gauge of “16 sc x 18 r on H-8 (5 mm)” otherwise known as 16 singles by 18 rows. That’s a little thinner than the Yarn Bee, but not too far off. This was my first time working with this yarn and I was pleased with its softness. It reminded me of a baby-soft yarn. It glides over your fingers nicely and has a little sheen to it that is pleasing to the eye.

The strands are a little thin, I feel, for a #4 worsted yarn, and when I worked it with a 6mm yarn, there were small gaps between the stitches. If I were to choose this yarn for a beanie I would probably change my hook size, starting with the next half-size down, until I found a hook size that gave me the look I wanted. Then, I would adjust the pattern to match the dimensions of the designers.

crochet hat yarn choose lion brand

Lion Brand Basic Stitch: You can see from the picture that there are small gaps between the stitches when I worked with the 6mm hook size.

Affordably soft

Premier Anti-Pilling Everyday is another option with a label gauge of “I-9 (5.5mm) hook: 12 sc & 15 rows.” Again, very close to the Yarn Bee. Premier is a very affordable yarn, too.

This yarn was surprisingly soft as well, and like the Lion Brand Basic Stitch, was a little thin for a #4 worsted. If I were to choose this yarn, I would find the hook that works best for this yarn and my liking, then adjust the pattern accordingly.

crochet hat yarn choose premier

Premier Anti-Pilling Everyday: This yarn worked up like the Lion Brand Basic did, with holes between stitches. It would need some adjustment.

Not a smooth move

Loops and Threads Impeccable does not give a gauge on the label, but it does recommend using a 5mm H/8 hook. I found this yarn to be scratchy and stiff. I’m not sure this would be my first choice in a beanie. I want the yarn that touches my skin to be soft and comfortable. When working with this yarn, the drag irritated my guiding finger.

I also found it to be a thicker strand of yarn, so my gauge was a little different from my other swatches. There were minimal holes between the stitches when working with a 6mm J/10 hook, which is good because that tells me that when working with the 5mm H/8 hook those holes will most likely disappear.

crochet yarn loops threads impeccable

Loops and Threads Impeccable: You can see from the photo that there are minimal holes between the stitches when working with a 6mm J/10 hook.

A pleasant surprise

*Red Heart Soft*, I put this yarn in asterisks because it does not declare itself to be anti-pilling. As I was out on recon I came across this and was intrigued. I couldn't find information on the label or the web that this yarn is anti-pilling but wanted to add it to this list because Red Heart is such a staple for so many crocheters.

This yarn is a #4 worsted with a label gauge of “12sc x 15 rows with a 5.5mm I/9” hook. I was pleasantly pleased with this yarn. It is soft and works up very nicely. Typically, I’m not a fan of Red Heart, but I liked this yarn. There were minimal gaps between stitches when working with the 6mm J/10 hook.

hat yarn crochet choose red heart

Red Heart Soft: This yarn worked up into a nice closed fabric and could be the yarn you choose to use.

Now that we have compared how our yarn feels and works up in a swatch, let’s look at the gauge and compare outcomes.

Behave yourself, yarn!

Now, this sounds peculiar, but the way a yarn “behaves” will ultimately determine the outcome of your project. Is it soft? Is it scratchy? Does it move freely, or is it working up stiff?


When you are shopping for your yarn, touch and feel it to see how it feels against your skin. Does it feel good against your arm where the skin is soft? A beanie will be touching the soft skin of the forehead, back of the neck, and under the ears. Scratchy yarn will no doubt lead to a beanie that sits on the sidelines because it is not comfortable to wear. (So sad! 😭)

Squeeze the skein. Does it squish? Or is it hard as a rock? Squishy yarn, I find, is more likely to work up with a nice drape to it, meaning it will move more freely. This is important when whipping up a beanie because the hat should shape to the head. 

If you are buying yarn online, read through the reviews to see what others have to say about the yarn you are eyeing.

Swatch vs. swatch

Let's compare our swatches and see how they compare against one another:

swatches compared yarn

Once the yarn swatches are marked off in 4×4-inch-squares (10cm), simply count the number of singles to determine gauge.

The orange pins mark stitches in a 4-inch (10cm) section. My stitch count for each swatch is as follows.

1. Lion Brand Basic Stitch = 14

2. Yarn Bee Soft and Sleek = 13 

3. Loops and Threads Impeccable = 12 

4. Premier Everyday =  14 

5. *Red Heart Soft* = 13 

So, what does this tell us?

We know now that if, when using yarns I've numbered 1, 2, 4, and 5, we were to use the recommended hook suggested by the yarn label, our gauge would probably be right on with the yarn company's gauges. We also learned that yarn number 3 works up a little bigger with the J/10 (6mm) hook. If we use the H/8 (5mm) hook, the yarn may meet the gauge of the yarn company, but it will also be stiff, so we may have to adjust our pattern to get the same outcome as the designer. Or use the recommended hook and have a stiff beanie (yuck!)

Now that we have our swatches, the next step is to compare them to what the designer has recommended. This is where you will have to take the reins and determine if the yarn you chose will work for the project. By comparing our swatches above we can see that yarns 1, 2, 4, and 5 all work up about the same way, so they would be good substitutes for one another. If the designer's yarn recommendation has the same gauge as our swatches, then the yarn will work.


Let’s recap! (Re 🧢)

So, we’ve talked about what to look for when substituting yarn when purchasing a pattern or finding one you love for free. We also discussed great yarns for creating beanies that will last. We went over how to decide which is the best yarn for your project. The rest is up to you!

If you're wanting to get your hands on some great beanie patterns (and SO much more, really), go check out the Happily Hooked Membership! With over 100 patterns to start, you'll have a handful of beanies to choose from. But you'll also continue getting new patterns each month for a year!


I think beanies are MY favorite thing to make. They work up quick and that fills my need for instant gratification. I like to think about what the person wearing the hat will look like with it on. Recently I received an order for a beanie from an unexpected person. My ex-husband …

About six years ago, I had to contact him regarding some technicalities with the church. I wanted to baptize my daughter and our Monsignor (the head priest) needed more confirmation of our divorce and asked us to have our marriage annulled. We were never married in the church, but what’eves. So my ex and I worked it out and got everything taken care of. We also had a chance to each take accountability for what happened, and resolve our issues. So now we talk through social media and such.

Anywho! When he asked me to make him a beanie, the first thing I thought of was that he works in a garage, so the beanie will need to be very warm to keep his bald noggin warm 😂 . I instantly thought of the thermal stitch! I am very happy with how it is coming out!

~Faydra at Knottie Hooks

This post talked a lot about yarn labels, gauge, and making swatches. If that had you thinking “huh?” more than once, you should consider a Happily Hooked Membership! You'll learn ALL the ins and outs of crocheting, including all this not-so-glamorous stuff like labels and gauge swatching. Plus you'll have premium crochet courses, TONS of patterns, and the most supportive community you could ever dream of!