Yarn Decision Time: Which Weight Makes for a Perfect Project?
After an epic search, you found the perfect pattern. As if that wasn't unlikely enough, the planets suddenly aligned, and the creative spirit of inspiration struck you like a lightning bolt. Now, you're almost ready to redefine yourself as a fabric arts hero. Before you can join the ranks of amazing legendary artisans, however, you'll have to choose the right yarn weight for your project.
Should you stick to the pattern's specified yarn weight, or do you have room for creative freedom? Here's what you need to know.
A Quick Primer on Yarn Weights
Yarn weight is a measurement that manufacturers and crafters have long used as a stand-in for the thickness of a given type of yarn. In the olden days of hand spinning, textiles weren't always consistent, and even modern machine-spun fibers have some variability. The approximate yarn weight system is a fairly good alternative to strict gauges or standards because it accounts for the fact that not every skein or product line is entirely uniform. Many manufacturers follow the yarn weight system published by the Craft Yarn Council of America.
A Note About Ply
You may also see yarn measured in "ply" or "fädig" units. This refers to the number of layers or independent groups of fiber needed to make a textile. For instance, you may have seen similar measurements on toilet paper or paper towel packages.
Ply doesn't always correlate with thickness. A high-ply yarn with lots of tiny strands might end up being thinner than a lower-ply alternative with fatter strands.
What Can You Learn From Yarn Weights?
Although it's not 100 percent accurate, a yarn's stated weight reveals some pretty helpful information. For instance, you might find it useful to convert yarn weights to
- Needle and hook sizes, which are often specified on patterns and skeins
- Wraps per inch
- Tension over 10 cm, or the number of rows and stitches you'll typically knit while creating an even, 10 cm tension square
- Meters per 100 grams, or the length of yarn required to make a ball that weighs 100 grams
If All Else Fails, Measure Your Own Yarn
Yarn weights don't necessarily tell you everything you need to know, especially when you're trying to customize your projects. Always be willing to knit a quick square, crochet a test chain or use your yardstick to measure out the number of wraps per inch.
Doing the ruler wrap method can help you figure out what's really lurking in the bottom of your container full of leftovers from previous projects. If you're into weaving, you'll want to take careful stock of how much material you'll need for your warp and weft before getting started.
Common Yarn Weights
Yarn weights can be fairly confusing, especially if your favorite manufacturers have their roots in countries that don't use the same standards:
- Weight 0 - Lace: This yarn is typically used for creating lace, but you can also leverage it in other projects. It's not the strongest of materials, so avoid high-stress applications.
- Weight 1 - Super Fine: These yarns are best-suited to crafts like socks or newborn clothing. They're also known as baby-weight or fingering yarns.
- Weight 2 - Fine: This yarn is a bit thicker and more durable than weight 1. It's not so thick that it's sweltering hot, however, so you can create light sweaters and active wear as long as you choose the right stitch patterns.
- Weight 3 - Light Worsted: Light worsted yarn is typically what you'll use for most sweaters, scarves and autumnal garments. You may also encounter it under the label DK, or double-knitting.
- Weight 4 - Medium: This yarn is ideal for cold-season gear, such as comfy sweaters and hats. It's also called afghan, worsted-weight or Aran.
- Weight 5 - Bulky: Also known as chunky yarn, this is what you'll want for blankets, rugs and jackets.
- Weight 6 - Super Bulky: Super bulky yarn is the heaviest material out there. While it's best for blankets and rugs, you can still use it for some apparel.
Weight isn't the only important characteristic of yarn, but it's a useful place to start shopping. Learn more by checking out our selection or contacting us!