Lets talk about yarn: Weight

tut yarn talk main

Why not indeed! Its one of my most favourite things to do!

But how do we talk about yarn and what do we mean when we say these things. This is a beginner’s guide designed for people who are either pretty new to knitting or crochet or who want to venture out of a yarn rut but don’t know what to change. I am planning to blog about all aspects of yarn over the next few weeks so it builds into a helpful glossary of words for you.

This time we will talk about weight.

Yarn is almost always sold by weight, you can get a 100g hank and a 50 g ball but when someone asks you what weight the yarn is that isn’t what they mean at all.

When we talk about yarn weight what we are really talking about is thickness. Yarn comes in a wide variety of thicknesses from the absolutely tiny to the really quite large. There are always at least two ways to describe every weight because different regions describe them differently  – US, UK and Australia all use separate terminology. The US also has a numbering system for weights which I’ve given in brackets.

To give you more of an idea of what thickness this is I’ve given approximate stitches per inch. This is how many stitches would fit into an inch of a row.

This picture shows a number of different weights:

tut talk yarn types

 

Yarn 1 is a chunky weight yarn. In the US its called bulky weight (5) and its 12ply in Aus/NZ. You can get super chunky/bulky too which is even thicker but I rarely use anything thicker than chunky. You’d normally use a 6mm or larger hook or needle with this type of yarn and if knitting with it expect to get about less than 4 stitches per inch. It knits up quickly but the balls disappear very quickly too so it can be expensive to work in chunky yarn.

Yarn 2 is an aran weight. Known in the US as worsted weight (4) and 10 ply in Aus/NZ. Actually aran and worsted are not quite the same judging by the more technical wraps per inch method but they are pretty close and normally used almost interchangeably. You’d often use about a 5mm hook or needle and expect to get about 5 stitches per inch.

Yarn 3 is a double knitting weight, often called DK. Its known as light worsted (3) in the US and 8ply in Aus/NZ. You’d often knit/crochet this with 4mm needles/hooks and expect to get about 5.5 stitches per inch.

Yarn 4 is a sport weight (UK and US name) (2). Its not commonly used in the UK although we are starting to see more of it. In Aus/NZ it would be called 5 ply. You might choose a 3.5mm hook or needle and get about 6 stitches per inch.

Yarn 5 is a 4ply (UK and Aus/NZ naming). In the US its called fingering (1) Because it is the most common weight for sock making it is frequently called sock weight too. It depends what you are making with it as to what size needle you would pick up (4ply shawls normally use 4mm needles) but to make a solid fabric for socks you might use a 2.5mm needle and expect to get 9 stitches per inch. For crochet I normally pick up a 3.5mm hook.

Yarn 6 is a lace weightin the US it is called the same (0) and in Aus/NZ it’s 1-3ply. Lace weight yarn isn’t normally knitted tightly, lace knitting often happens on 4mm or 3mm needles to give a lovely open effect. If you were to knit it to form a dense fabric you’d probably choose 2mm hook or needles and expect to knit 8 stitches per inch.

I hope this is a useful starting point to help you feel confident in the yarn shop. I have more posts planned in this series but would love to know what you would like to learn. Please let me know in the comments section.

Comments

  1. Linda Pritchard says

    From the UK, I’ve always considered DK = 6 ply; Aran = 8 ply; Chunky = 12 ply. When using up oddments – or if I’ve not been able to find the colour I want – I have always followed that

    DK + DK = Chunky ; Aran + 4ply = Chunky; 4ply + 4ply = Aran

    Sometimes using two yarns together can give a more springy feel to the finished garment.

    • notsogranny says

      I’ve heard lots of different view on this about which yarns to combine to get which weights – it sounds like a scientific test and measure would make a good blog post. If you do substitute be sure to swatch to make sure your tension/gauge comes out okay and that the fabric behaves in the way you want it to.

  2. Linda Gray says

    Very informative being in Australia I often have trouble with a UK pattern getting the wool right.

    • Meme says

      Yes I too am an Australian and have had problems like Linda. Thank you so much for the information which will give me a good guideline as to what and how much (possibly) of it I need to buy to make these patterns as we don’t always have the same wool.

      • notsogranny says

        I am so glad I went and hunted that info out! First draft only mentioned UK and US names then late at night I remembered that you antipodeans had a whole other set of names so I went on a research mission.

  3. Jennifer Crewe says

    Thank you very much. It is so hard using US patterns here in Australia and knowing what yarn to use. I have bought .red Heart Super Saver on line and it seems very chunky compared to our DK 8 ply

    • notsogranny says

      Yes RedHeart Super saver is an aran weight yarn so will be thicker than your 8ply.

  4. says

    I’m in uk. Recently I was yarn shopping, it seems to me that in uk, dk weight on 4mm is the most common, along with the chunky/super chunky. However, most American patterns (I find mine on ravelry) use Aran/worsted on 5mm. This thickness of yarn I find hard to find. In my stash (organised by what size needle/hook they use) I have around 30 balls of dk yarn, and only 3 balls of Aran.
    Most uk patterns call for dk/4mm. I tend to use the 4mm if doing something where finished size doesn’t matter, like a toy; but if I was to make something sized, like clothing, I probably wouldn’t do it if I couldn’t find the yarn required easily.
    I once asked American friends what yarn and hook/needle size they used most, their answer was worsted on 5mm.
    Have you noticed a trend in a countries preferred yarn thickness?

    • notsogranny says

      I too have noticed the UK 4mm DK vs US 5mm worsted split but I am not sure what other countries tend towards. I found my own yarn usage progressed as I improved with both crafts. I started out wanting to make everything in chunky for the quick results. Now I am most likely to be found in the 4ply section of the yarn shop because you get a really good choice of quality yarns in that weight and you get more knitting/crochet pleasure for your investment, it costs less to make a garment and I prefer the finesse of a finer yarn in my garments.

  5. Amanad says

    This is great. What always confuses me is that many magazines use fingering weight for tops and a size 7 (US) needle. But the ball band always calls for a smaller needle. Do you know why some yarns do not say what weight they are?

    • notsogranny says

      Using a larger needle size will give a fabric more drape which is more suitable for some items.
      I guess some yarns don’t list the weight because they are sold internationally. You can look up the weight of any yarn using the Ravelry database. I’ll cover that in a post soon.

  6. Shelley Clarke says

    I work in a yarn shop and I have worked out over the years, and from what our suppliers tell us, that this post is completely correct. Great info for people who don’t know