Questions About Yarn

I’ve been crocheting for a very long time. I can tell you about stitches, stitch patterns. I can teach you how to read a pattern, and possibly how to create one. I can show you a better way to weave yarn ends as you go, so they don’t unravel. I can talk about the different types of crochet hooks, and give you pros and cons to using each type.

One thing I don’t know much about… is yarn. Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand about the different weights, such as light 3 weight, medium 4 weight, or bulky 5 or 6 weight. But there are so many different types of yarn out there… with different weights and different names, and I will admit, for someone that has been working with yarn as long as I have, I know almost nothing about yarn!

Sock yarn, fingering weight, sport weight, dk yarn, worsted yarn, aran yarn… these are all yarn terms that I have seen, or heard of, and have absolutely no clue what they are. So I’m hoping that someone out there (or several someones) can tell me what these things mean, and maybe show samples of the different types that are out there.

Can someone please help?

[SIZE=14px]Sock yarn, aka ‘fingering’ wt yarn, is a fine yarn that will give you about 8 stitches per inch. If you are using it for actual socks, you want small needles like size 1, and keep your stitches tight. The denser the knitted fabric, the stronger the socks are against wear. Good sock yarns are wool with 25% nylon content for strength.

Some fingerings are meant for baby knitting and would be blends with polyester or nylon, typically. In that usage you can use a bit bigger needle and get looser drape than socks, (since no one will be walking on your work!)

Next smallest is DK. DK is huge in Europe but has only just caught on here in the Western Hemisphere. DK is my favorite size to work with… you get roughly 5-6 sts per inch with size 3-4 needles.

Sport wt. is the American equivalent to dk, sorta-kinda. 6 stitches per inch.

Aran is next bigger, sometimes called ‘light worsted’. Expect about 5 sts per inch.

The next size up is Worsted… 4 sts per inch on size 6-7 needles. Very common size to knit sweaters.

Bulky is thicker, 3-4 sts per inches on maybe an 8 needle.

Super bulky is the really fat stuff for quick knits. 2-3 sts per inch on probably a size 10 needle.

How tight/loose you knit comes into play too. I knit continentaly so very loose. I have to go down a needle size to get gauge, usually. For socks I have to wrap the yarn around my left pinky to give me something to pull my tension tight on. If you can see daylight through your socks, they aren’t going to last long when worn.

Of course there is also lace weight wool… the finest of all. For lace knitting tho, you want the knitted fabric very loose and open, so you use a biggish needle like a 2 or 3.

I have no idea if this answered your questions adequately. You can pm me anytime you want to pick my brain.[/SIZE]

I do have more questions, but I would like to keep it here, where all can see. I’m sure there are others that need these answers too!

I’m a crocheter, I’ve never really learned how to knit, except for on looms.

Most of my yarn I buy in the stores. I’ve seen light 3 weight, medium 4 weight, and bulky 5 or 6 weight. The three yarns I usually buy, are Bernat, Lions Brand, and Caron Simply Soft.

So are all light 3 yarns fingering weight yarns? Are sock yarns and baby yarns the same weight? Or is there a difference?

All I’ve ever seen is baby yarn, medium yarn, and blanket yarn. None of the labels I’ve seen states whether they are aran, worsted, sport weight, or what ever else there is. So how can someone like me, look at the yarn, and be able to tell whether it’s worsted, aran, fingering or sock yarn, etc?

Another note about weight. Knitting shawls is very popular currently. One favorite combination is sock/fingering weight yarn knit on a somewhat larger needle, like a US6. This give an open lacy result.

Not only is it fun to experiment with different weights, trying out various fibers is great too. The same pattern knit with the same size needles (or crocheted :slight_smile: ) will have a completely different result when knit with wool versus acrylic, or cotton, for example. Blend a couple fibers and it changes altogether again.

I personally prefer to knit with wool for wearables… because blocking covers a multitude of sins… But if I really want it warm, alpaca is a favorite. Of course cotton is a must if you need something absorbent, like a washcloth. And sometimes a person may have allergies to consider. It’s always important to consider the recipient. Will they take the time to care for something that requires delicate washing, or do you need to make sure it can be machine washed? Is it for a baby and will need frequent washings?

This is how I’ve become a yarn snob… A yarn spend so much time in your hands while you make something. I want to be sure I love how it feels in my hands.

I will admit, right now, I buy what I can afford. Which is why I usually buy Caron Simply Soft. I love the way it feels, it’s soft, not scratchy. And it’s affordable to me, less than $5.00 a skein. I would LOVE to use the yarn that the vendors are posting here on this site, but the truth is I simply can not afford to spend $20-30 on a single skein of yarn. Not when I need anywhere from 4-6 skeins to complete a project.

Those numbers are supposed to be a standard guideline. It seems the yarns I buy don’t always print those on the labels, so I tend to use the needle size to verify. 1-2 I will consider fingering/sock, 3-5 sport/dk, 6-7 aran, 8-9 worsted. It’s not always consistent, but it’s a place to start. My next step would be to compare the pattern’s gauge to the gauge shown on the label. If they are close, then I can probably adjust by going up or down a needle size.

Wraps per inch will tell you weight as well.

@SDMcDaniel The only correction I’d make to what sewbizgirl said is that sport weight really isn’t the American equivalent to DK, though it is close in weight…typically just a bit thinner. In fact, it’s much easier to find DK weight yarn than sport weight yarn (albeit maybe not in big box stores)…it’s a pretty popular weight. Some people would refer to DK as light worsted. Others argue that light worsted sits between DK and worsted, but I think that hails more from the days that worsted was a bit heavier and before the US really adopted the DK and Aran weights. Anyway, sport kind of sits in between Fingering and Dk. It used to be - long ago - that plies were a standard thickness and plying a certain number of plies together gave you whatever weight. This is still how yarn is classed/named in the UK and a few other places. So, for example, lace weight would be 2-ply, fingering was 4-ply (knitting weight), DK (double knitting weight) was double fingering…so 8-ply, etc. Sport is typically considered 5-ply, so lighter than DK, but heavier than fingering.

NOW, understand first that that system doesn’t really apply anymore in that yarn of any weight can be made up of any number of plies…think about the super-bulky yarn that is a single ply or a fingering weight yarn that is 3-ply. Also know that our yarn weights are not standardized at this point. There is a range of thicknesses in each category and it’s really the yarn company or yarnie that is determining what they call their yarn or what gauge they assign to it. Part of this has to do with the great variety of fibers and textures that we have available today. Some thinner yarns are simply designed to be knit with larger needles than you’d typically use for another yarn that is the same thickness. This is why the craft council numbers are, IMO, fairly useless at this point unless you are using the yarn called for in the pattern or at least one made by the same manufacturer. Say your pattern calls for a 4 (medium) weight. Well according to the craft yarn council that is either worsted or aran weight. There can be a HUGE difference in those two weights since there is no standardization.

Because there are so many variances in the weight categories, this is just one reason why it’s so important to swatch and especially for garments that need to fit. It’s better to find out early that the Caron Simply Soft you bought is not as heavy in thickness as the Red Heart Super Saver called for in your pattern even though they are both labeled as a 4 (medium).

So that doesn’t even begin to cover differences in fibers…how warm (or not) they are, how they are processed, how they behave when knit or crocheted. A really great resource for learning more about yarn is “The Knitter’s Book of Yarn” by Clara Parkes. Also, if you have a local yarn shop, the staff there are often a great resource. Another great resource, if you have one nearby or want to travel, are fiber festivals. Lots of visitors and, of course, vendors are thrilled to talk about their yarn and the fibers, etc. Touching and comparing are often the best way to learn.

@SDMcDaniel There is absolutely nothing wrong with using what you can afford. If you love the Caron, then there’s no reason not to use it. The Caron has a HUGE variety of colors. I used to use it all the time for prayer shawls. Sadly, I cannot use any acrylic anymore due to a severe reaction to the fibers. It’s really the perfect yarn (acrylic, that is) for lots of charity knitting. Interestingly, I found with some of the big box yarns that you really have to watch the prices. (Not with the Caron so much, but with some of the more expensive big box stuff.) I was finding that sometimes the skeins or balls were much more expensive for the yardage than some of the commercial lines at my local yarn shop and that I’d end up spending a fortune on yarn for a larger project at, say, Michael’s when I could have purchased yarn for the same price per skein but with more yardage at my LYS. That often happened with some of the Lion Brand yarns that were natural fibers or blends. Plus, some yarn shops have clearance bins where you can get amazing deals.

Yarn is expensive. You have to figure out how to make it work. We can’t not knit (or crochet), right?!

I was fortunate enough to work for several years at our LYS, so I built up a decent stash. Thankfully there are some nice soft affordable yarns out there.

Wouldn’t know what to tell you.
I never worry about what yarn I use, as long as it makes what I have in mind. Just b/c someone recommends fingering or dk doesn’t mean I will use it. Usually, I make my own pattern and style, sometimes using someone’s else’s as inspiration. As long as the stitch I use fits nicely into what I make, I’m fine.
I love to use variety of yarns together, 3,4,5 strands. It makes beautiful blankets, hats, scarfs. I don’t follow recommendation or rules. I have hard time following written american patterns so most of the time, I make things up and choose yarn I like.
Buying yarn? My huge stash is built from yarn bought mostly on ebay. I never pay full price, many times not even half price and my kidsilk collection was 1-3 dollars a piece! Never bough skein for 20 and up yet, even tho I am looking at some now. I use to go look every night on ebay and searched for deals. Many sellers are not there anymore but deals are still there. My stash is mostly natural fibers and blends of it.
What yarn are you looking for to have ? Maybe I could help out!

oh, my husband has told me that I can’t get anymore yarn until I use some of what I have! There are 4 of us living in a really small, 2 bedroom house, and I’m not allowed to have more yarn than what will fill my closet. Right now, my closet isn’t set up efficiently, so I have already passed my yarn allotment. I need to get one of those closet organizers, so I can make better use of the space. But I can’t afford that right now.

The way to tell what size a certain yarn is, is to look at the suggested gauge. Granted tho, there are lots of errors on the label related to gauge info, in the Big Box stores. The only way to tell for sure what you are going to get, is to work up a swatch… whether knitted or crocheted. Try some different size needles until you get a knitted fabric you like. That’s the only way you are really going to know how your project will work up.

Like anything, the more experience you have, the more you will know what you are looking for. There’s really no shortcut to that.

There is a big chasm between Big Box acrylics and the $20-30 hanks of yarn you spoke of. I would think those are the two extremes. Yarn that expensive is either hand dyed or contains rare animal fibers. I buy a lot of nice dk yarn from, and pay usually less than $3 for a big ball of acrylic. They are my favorite website to shop from. I find high quality yarns that I can afford, and their shipping is cheap. They always have stuff on sale, too. Fast service, I really can’t say enough good things about them.

You can plug in your price range and see what comes up. Loads of choice!

I put that restriction on myself too. I decided I wanted to live in a home not a warehouse LOL!! It makes me knit more though. I want to finish projects so I can go shopping again!

Since you love Caron Soft, you’re lucky. The stores can store it for you as it’s readily available when you want more right? (I’ve knitted a few things with it and I liked it a lot too.)

My one exception to my rule is sock yarn. If I’m on a trip, I’ll let myself buy an expensive skein if I’m lucky enough to find a great LYS while traveling.

@runner5 well, I sort of got lucky in one respect. A couple of years back, I sort of inherited a big box of yarn. A woman I knew, that was also a crafter, had been receiving sample yarns for years. She was a knitter and crocheter, too. But she started a craft business (working the shows), and to compete with those people that bring in stuff from China and Mexico, she had to keep all of her products under $5.00. She figured out how to make it work, but that meant she no longer had time for the crocheting and knitting. And all of her yarn was just sitting there, collecting dust. She knew I was a crafter, so she brought me all of those yarn samples.

The good news is that it gave me all these wonderful new brands of yarn to play with! Stuff that normally, I just couldn’t afford. The down side of that, is I only have a skein or two of each, and trying to come up with projects that uses those skeins, without having to buy more, is extremely difficult!

Are we considering any type of Comments on Yarn section? I’m working with Berroco Vintage right now and while it’s easy enough to find information about the yarn itself on their website, I’d be interested in knowing people’s experiences with the yarn - does it block well? does it wash well? does it pill?

I worked with a sock yarn that contained cashmere (I believe it was called Soxx or something similar, so recommended for socks) and while it was wonderful to knit up, scrumptiously soft, it still bleeds in cold water washes, and pills like no one’s business (I have to shave it after about five wears). I’ll never use it again, at least not for socks.

@SDMcDaniel I’m so glad you asked your question! Like you, I’ve crocheted for a few years using primarily big box acrylics because of availability, cost and ease of care. I somewhat understood the difference in weights and noticed the difference in the “thickness” of yarns of the same weight but, it was never really an issue since I was primarily making baby afghans and exact size didn’t matter.

Now that I’m learning to knit it will make a difference (And, yes, I must discipline myself to make gauge samples!). I can also see that the responses to your question will be a big help in yarn substitution. So again, thank you for “sticking your neck out” to ask a question that will be helpful to so many. And thank you to all who gave such thorough and outstanding information.

Now…how do I “save” “bookmark” “favorite” this discussion so I can find it in the future?

I use Caron Simply Soft pretty often and though it’s labeled as “worsted” medium, I find it to be more like a light worsted or maybe even aran weight. Lions Brand has true worsteds (my opinion here btw) and Bernat is usually baby yarn??? So maybe a dk?

You’re not alone! I am a frugal knitter that only sometimes splurges on the “good stuff”. My go to is Caron Simply Soft and Vanna’s Choice, although Hobby Lobby has a pretty good line too. (I Love This Yarn). It’s like a better version of Red Heart (BLECH).

95% of my good stuff is only good for single skein projects since I have a small stash.

I spend money on yarn but wouldn’t pay for the storage boxes! I’d rather spend it on yarn,
I use cardboard boxes with plastic bags and tissue on my expensive yarns. Boxes work fine. I have them stacked for now. I have some open cubicles and they were inexpensive but I would need many sets to hold it all so not economical.
So boxes for now. I have many from Chewy’s from my dog food deliveries and they hold a lot and stack well,

@SDMcDaniel This may not help but this is how I think about yarn weights…

The names of the yarns are not standardized and can vary by country and even by region within a country. So I just ignore those names.

​​​You know how the second hand on a clock sweeps through all the degrees of arc all the way around the circle? Yarn weights are just exactly like that, from fine yarn that’s like a thread and to very thick yarn that makes me think of rope. A yarn could be any weight in between.

If you look at the label of a yarn it should list the weight - a certain number of ounces/grams - and the length - a certain number of yards/meters. Very fine or thin yarn will have many, many yards in 50 grams. A thick or bulky yarn will have not so very many yards per 50 grams.

By comparing how many yards in a specific unit of weight (50 grams is a common one listed on yarns labels, as is 100 grams) you can compare the yarns you are considering for your project. The more yards per gram the thinner your yarn.

This may not help you, but it certainly helps me when I’m looking at the yarns and trying to compare them to one another.

Happy knitting!