Thin Or Thick Or In Between: Yarn Weights

Yarn is produced in a variety of thicknesses, called “weights”. The yarn strand varies in thickness from very fine to super bulky. Somewhat less than exact, weights are useful as a guideline in choosing yarn for your projects, particularly when substituting one brand for another. Many pattern magazines such as Vogue Knitting categorize yarn weights into the following groups (a numerical symbol may be used to identify each category).

  1. Lace (0): A very fine, lightweight yarn that is beautiful knitted on larger needles to create lacy, openwork patterns. There is great interest in this category. Traditional Shetland lace shawls are made with lace weight yarn.
  2. Superfine (1): Common types include fingering, sock, and baby yarn. This category of yarns are popular for knitting lacy scarves, shawls, socks, and baby clothes. One skein goes a long ways.
  3. Fine (2): Common types include sport and baby yarn. Ideal for baby clothes, close fitting sweaters, or layering pieces. Looks great in colorwork patterns such as Fairisle.
  4. Light (3): Common types include DK(double knitting) and light worsted. DK is the most popular weight of yarn, as it is useful for a variety of projects including blankets, sweaters, toys, and accessories.
  5. Medium (4): Common types include worsted, aran, and afghan. Worsted is another popular weight (both terms DK and worsted are often written on the ball bands). This category is a traditional choice for cable knits like Aran sweaters (Aran is this case refers to sweater designs produced in the Aran Islands of Ireland). The  word “aran” as in aran weight yarn, is slightly thicker than worsted.
  6. Bulky (5): Common types include chunky, craft, and rug yarn. Chunky yarns are popular for cowls, scarves, and quick knit projects. They can add weight to a garment depending on the fiber content; may be heavy and droop out of shape.
  7. Super Bulky (6): Common types include bulky and roving. These yarns knit up very quickly and are appropriate for hats and scarves. These yarns often vary in thickness along the strand. Roving is fibers that have been cleaned, carded or combed, pulled into a rope like form, and given a slight twist. Knitters often use roving for needle felting and thrummed mittens.

Approximate gauge for each category is sometimes provided, but these are not exact. The labels on the yarn you purchase give the gauge along with the suggested needle size, and I would rely more on the label when choosing yarn. Remember that there is no “correct” needle size, only a “correct” gauge.

Next week I’m going to talk about substituting yarns.


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