There are so many types of yarn to choose from when starting a crochet or knitting project. How do you know which yarn is the right one for you? Well, most patterns (if not all) list the size/type of yarn needed to complete the project. However, if you want to explore other yarn options, there are a few things you will need to know before you make your choice. There is so much to explore when it comes to the wonderful world of yarn. I am going to try to break it down for you as best as I can!
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According to the Craft Yarn Council, there are 7 different categories of yarn, by weight:
- 0 – Lace (Threads and light fingering)
- 1 – Super Fine (Fingering, Baby)
- 2 – Fine (Sport, Baby)
- 3 – Light (Double Knit (DK), Light Worsted)
- 4 – Medium (Worsted-Weight, Aran, Afghan)
- 5 – Bulky (Chunky, Craft Yarns, Rug Yarn)
- 6 – Super Bulky (Super Bulky, Super Chunky, Roving)
- 7 – Jumbo (Jumbo, Roving)
The higher the number, the thicker the yarn, with lace being the lightest of yarns and jumbo being the thickest. When choosing the size of yarn, you have to think about your project:
- 0 – Lace: Great for doilies and lace-work
- 1 – Super Fine: Great for socks and light baby items (layette)
- 2 – Fine: Light garments/sweaters, baby items
- 3 – Light: Garments/sweaters, light afghans, light accessories (scarves, hats, mitts), totes/bags
- 4 – Medium: Sweaters, afghans, hats, scarves, mittens, bags, home decor, etc.
- 5 – Bulky: Rugs, outerwear, thick scarves, thick blankets
- 6 – Super Bulky: Heavy blankets, rugs, thick sweaters, thick and chunky scarves
- 7 – Jumbo: Heavy blankets, rugs, thick sweaters, thick and chunky scarves
Of course, you are not limited to these types of projects, they are just a suggestion or starting point as to what can be made with the different yarn weights. As some designers will tell you, sky’s the limit! If you want to make a hat with super fine yarn, it’s definitely possible!
Types of Yarn Fibers
Yarn can be made with different types of natural and/or synthetic fibers. There are yarns that are made with all natural fibers, all synthetic fibers, or a blend.
Here are the different types of fibers:
- Wool (Merino, Icelandic, Shetland, etc.) – made from sheep’s fleece
- Mohair – made from hair of angora goat
- Cashmere – made from hair of cashmere goat
- Alpaca – made from alpaca’s fleece
- Angora – made from fur of the Angora rabbit
- Silk – made from the larvae cocoons of the silkworm
- Cotton (Eygptian, Pima, American) – made from the cotton plant
- Linen – made from the flax plant
- Bamboo – made from the bamboo plant
There are other yarns that are not like the traditional yarns. There is chenille, boucle, t-shirt yarn, and many other types of yarn alternatives such as raffia and ribbon.
All of these fibers are different from each other. Some are stronger than others. Some are more washable. Some are really expensive (silk and cashmere) whereas some are inexpensive (acrylic and some cottons). Some yarns can be machine washed whereas others can only be hand-washed. To keep your yarn looking its best, always refer to the yarn labels for wash and care instructions.
Yarn is usually measures by length (yards/meters) and weight (ounces/grams). The yarn label will specify how many yards (or grams) your skein/hank/cake/ball is and your crochet or knitting pattern will usually tell you how much of the yarn you will need.
Colors and Dye Lots
Most of the commercially available yarns are dyed in a plethora of colors. Some, however, are left natural or undyed so that they can be hand-dyed at home.
Dyed yarns can have many different color variations. Yarn companies have their own unique color combinations and techniques for dyeing their yarns. There are solid colors, variegated (either self-striping or multi-colored), ombre, heathered, and shimmered or shiny yarn (contains tinsel or other sparkly material) among others.
When a batch of dye is mixed to dye one or several skeins of yarn, those yarns belong to the same dye lot. The dye lot is usually identified with a number. Colors can vary from dye lot to dye lot so if you are working on a project that requires more than one skein of a color, make sure you have the same dye lot so that you don’t see a difference when you are creating your project.
How to choose the best yarn for your project
The crochet/knitting pattern will usually specify what weight and brand of yarn is needed for the project. You can always substitute for a different yarn but make sure you stick to the same yarn weight and material. If you choose a different material, the end result will not be the same as what is shown in the pattern.