Knitting Supplies: Yarn

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When choosing yarn for a knitting or crochet project, there are two basic considerations: Fiber & Weight.

Why do these things matter? Well, if you are working with the wrong fiber, it might not drape properly, feel comfortable, or hold up to the wear-and-tear of the finished item’s use.  Also, if you have the wrong weight, your project will not be the right size.  The gauge will be off, and therefore the finished product will not fit properly or be the desired size.  Always check your gauge with a gauge swatch before starting a project.  You may need to adjust the yarn weight, needle size, or both.

Fibers: There are numerous types of yarn fibers, each with variations and blends.  It is important to know the basics of the fiber before using it, especially its texture and care.  Here are a few common types:

Fiber Derivation Description Care Cost
Wool Sheep Warm, breathable, may itch or pill Most hand-wash, some are washable $$
Mohair Goats Long, shiny, warm, may itch Hand-wash $$$
Cashmere Goats Luxurious, soft, warm Hand-wash $$$$
Angora Rabbits Very soft, sheds/pills Hand-wash $$$
Cotton Cotton Structured, no pilling Washable $$
Silk Insect fiber Strong, shiny, smooth Hand-wash $$
Acrylic Synthetic Washable, inexpensive Washable $

Weight: There are eight standard yarn weights.  Most patterns will call for a specific weight in order to achieve the right gauge (number of stitches to a certain length).

Weight # Category Types
0 Lace Fingering 10-count Crochet Thread
1 Superfine Sock, Fingering
2 Fine Sport
3 Light DK, Light Worsted
4 Medium Worsted, Aran
5 Bulky Chunky
6 Super Bulky Super Bulky, Roving
7 Jumbo Jumbo, Roving

My Picks: Bargains & Splurges

Here are some of my favorite yarns to work with:

Weight Bargain Splurge
1 Lion Brand Yarn – Sock Ease Tosh Merino Light by Madelinetosh
2 DROPS Alpaca Arroyo by Malabrigo
3 Berroco Vintage DK Tosh DK by Madelinetosh
4 Vanna’s Choice Yarn Rios by Malabrigo
5 Lion’s Pride Woolspun Mecha by Malabrigo
6 Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick Rasta by Malabrigo

More Yarn Tips

  1. Make sure to buy enough yarn for your project.  Check the yardage listed on the pattern and the yardage on the yarn wrapper.
  2. Read the yarn label before purchasing the yarn (and definitely before using it)! The label will tell you so much, including the fiber content, weight, yardage, and care instructions.
  3. If you buy yarn at a local yarn shop, let them wind it for you when you purchase. It is a big mess to wind a hank of yarn if not versed in the art. (Yarn bought at craft stores, such as Michael’s, JoAnn, or Hobby Lobby are typically packaged as a center-pull skein, which won’t require winding.)

What are your favorite bargain and splurge yarns?  Share in the comments. 🙂

Understanding Yarn Weight: Selecting the Correct Yarn for Knitting and Crochet Projects

When I was new to knitting, I was so excited to get started on a project that I just jumped right in.  I didn’t bother to make sure I had the “proper” materials.  I had needles.  I had yarn.  I was good to go.  So, why did my first hat turn out WAY too big?  Why did some of the stitches seem way too tight?  Way too loose?

I began digging a little deeper into the details of the patterns.  First, I saw that I was to use a certain needle size.  Okay.  That is easy enough.  Then, I noticed that there was a specific yarn suggested, along with a number and a weight name (something bizarre, called “worsted weight”).  Then, there was a “gauge” I was supposed to check once I had the right needle size and yarn weight.  My gauge should be roughly the same as the gauge listed on the pattern, and that will ensure the right size and shape of the finished product.

Ah.  Now I knew I needed to slow down and gather all of the right tools in order to successfully create the finished product.  That meant I had to figure out what all of the symbols and numbers on the yarn wrapper meant.  In an effort to make this process easier for any beginning knitters and crocheters, I have provided the following quick “cheat sheet” of sorts.  For now, I am focusing on yarn weight, which is (in my opinion) the first thing to look for on a yarn label.

Yarn Weight

Whenever I begin a project, the first step in selecting the right yarn is looking at the weight.  When working from a pattern, a yarn weight is specified in order for you to obtain the correct gauge, and therefore a correctly-sized project.

There are, as of now, eight yarn weight categories.  They range in number from 0-7, 0 being the smallest, lightest yarn, and 7 being the thickest, bulkiest.  If your pattern indicates a “4” yarn weight, you can almost always choose any yarn, as long as it has a “4” on the yarn wrapper.  The type of yarn will impact that to some degree, as well, but it is important to start with the right weight.

Here are the eight yarn categories, by number and name.  I have also included some of my favorite yarns in some of those weights, just for fun. 🙂

  • 0-Lace
  • 1-Super Fine
  • 2-Fine
  • 3-Light: I like Bernat Softee Baby Ombre
  • 4-Medium: I like Lion Brand Heartland
  • 5-Bulky: I like Lion Brand Homespun
  • 6-Super Bulky: I like Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick and Quick
  • 7-Jumbo

Typically, the larger the yarn weight, the larger the knitting needles or crochet hook used.  Larger yarn and needles/hooks work up faster, creating bigger, chunkier stitches.  Smaller needles/hooks and yarn weight create more delicate, tighter stitches.  All the details about each yarn weight, including the yarns that fall into each category type, can be found at the Craft Yarn Council’s Standard Yarn Weight System page.

Keep in mind that other factors will impact the gauge of your project, including how tightly or loosely you stitch and the material of yarn (such as wool, cotton, etc.).  Once you have a handle on selecting the right yarn weight for your project, you will have more things to consider, including the care instructions and yardage of the yarn, but this will be a good place to start.