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:
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 weight, in 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.