As I'm getting more involved in crochet projects I've been trying to learn more about yarn. This is turning out to be more complicated that I thought it would be. One of the reasons I've really dived back into crochet is the greater variety of yarns now available. In the old days yarn was yarn. You had acrylic yarns and you had wool. You had yarns of a weight suitable for afghans and you had the thinner pastel yarns suitable only for baby blankets and sweaters. The issue for crocheters is that a crochet stitch uses a bit more yarn than a similar knit stitch, which meant that crocheted fabric had a tendency to be bulkier and so were less likely to be turned into garments (except for those ugly granny square vests of the 1970s ... don't get me started on granny squares).
But fiber arts (that's what they call it now) have exploded in popularity in recent years and along with the interest (like the chicken and the egg, I'm not sure which came first) we're seeing yarns in an amazing array of fibers and thickness, although not necessarily at my local Michaels or WalMart which, contrary to the trends, have been stocking less yarn than ever. I can't figure that one out, but never mind. These newer yarns use fibers and spinning techniques that work up into fabrics with much better weight and drape than ever before which has been a boon to all the fiber arts, but most particularly to crocheters. With yarns spun finer and with more elastic fibers, the extra bulk in a crochet stitch is negligible. And as the variety of yarns has increased and improved, patterns have been written to take advantage.
All of this is fabulous for the craft, of course, and great fun when it comes to shopping for yarn. Let me loose in a yarn store and I'm like a kid running wild in a toy store. But more choices mean having to choose what yarn will work best for each particular project and that means learning more about the characteristics of fibers and yarn weights. There's a little information out there, but you have to really look for it. I have not, so far, found one inclusive source on the subject. I'm thinking that I might actually have to start compiling what information I find and create my own resource file. Daunting. Especially as I'd much rather being working with the yarn than researching it.