Yarn Weights and Categories. A beginner's guide to the weight category of yarns, and their uses.

Yarn Weights & Categories

So, you’ve been hanging around long enough now to have heard some terms and abbreviations bandied about.  One of those terms we talk a lot about is yarn weight.

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Yarn Weights and Categories. A beginner's guide to the weight category of yarns, and their uses.

What is Yarn Weight?

Yarn weight, despite what it implies, does not refer to the weight of the ball of yarn.  Also, not to be confused with ply ( the number of strands twisted together to make the yarn) yarn weight refers to the thickness, or the size, of the yarn.  I know, crazy right?

There are basically 6 different weight categories, although some yarn manufacturers have separated them out even further, and with the addition of the now popular giant yarn, I suspect a new official weight category will be added soon.

Yarn Weights & Categories

So about those 6 categories.  From smallest to largest, there are

  • Fingering
  • Sock
  • Sport
  • Worsted
  • Bulky
  • Super Bulky

The finest yarn, fingering weight will feel the softest, whereas worsted may start to feel a bit scratchy.  But then again, yarn has come a long way, and it is now entirely possible to get a worsted weight merino that feels lovely, and even a worsted weight synthetic that would still be super cozy.  But I digress.

Yarn Weights and Categories. A beginner's guide to the weight category of yarns, and their uses.

Best Uses for Yarn Weights

Because of the softness of the fingering and sock weight yarns, it is often the popular choice for baby clothes and socks. Due to the fineness, it is also usually the yarn you would choose when making lace, or airy, delicate shawls and wraps.

Sport and DK (double knit) weight yarns are often the go to choice for kids’ clothes, and spring and summer wear.  You can use this yarn weight also for hats and scarves and sweaters etc, however, most patterns for those items are written with a bigger yarn in mind, such as a worsted weight or larger, and you would really need to mind your gauge.  We’ll save the gauge talk for our next pontification.

Worsted weight yarns are probably the yarns that get the most use.  Good for sweaters, afghans, scarves, mitts, hats, thick socks, kitchen and bath accessories, and many many other projects.  As I mentioned before it is possible to get worsted weight yarns ( both natural and acrylic varieties) that still feel luxurious.

Bulky yarns and Super Bulky yarns are possibly my favourite weight yarns.  Not always the easiest to work with, but they add a certain level of instant gratification to any project, as using them helps the project work up much, much quicker.  Excellent for hats and scarves, and blankets etc.Yarn Weights and Categories. A beginner's guide to the weight category of yarns, and their uses.

Was this helpful?  Check out our Which is Better, Acrylic Yarn or Real Wool? pontification

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natural wool vs acrylic yarn. The pros and cons and when to use acrylic yarn instead of natural wool

Which is Better, Acrylic Yarn or Real Wool?

The answer is pretty obvious – natural fibers are going to always be better than synthetic ones, right? Of course.  Before we write off acrylic yarn completely though, let’s talk about the pros vs. cons.

natural wool vs acrylic yarn. The pros and cons and when to use acrylic yarn instead of natural wool

Natural Wool

Natural wool fibers can not be dismissed.  This stuff has been keeping multitudes of animals and people warm and dry for eons.  If you’re looking to knit some hard core work clothes, 100% natural wool is definitely your better option.  It can and will likely last a very long time, and stand up to the elements.  As long as wool bearing animal farms keep producing healthy stock, it is a renewable resource.  Also, the wool market has grown to include more than just sheep.  Wool producers have turned to alpacas, goats and rabbits as well as yaks.  Now really, what could be cooler than a yak farm?

natural wool vs acrylic yarn. The pros and cons and when to use acrylic yarn instead of natural wool

Be aware however, that it does not wash easily, and is quite expensive.  Depending on the wool itself, it may not feel so great next to your skin.

Acrylic Yarn

Acrylic yarns come in all varieties of textures, weights, colours – I have yet to meet a yarn I don’t love. They are 100% washable, dryable and wearable, and that makes them more than ideal for children’s clothes, hats, mittens, socks and anything else you need to wash often, without having to rely on washing by hand.  Don’t get me wrong, washing the laundry by hand is totally something I want to spend my time doing. Ok, so not really. Acrylic yarns are more affordable than real wool, and can be manufactured to be soft enough to be against the most sensitive skin.

natural wool vs acrylic yarn. The pros and cons and when to use acrylic yarn instead of natural wool

So acrylic yarns get a bad rap because, they’re well, synthetic. And wool is frowned upon for being unwashable. Consider though that acrylic yarns can now be manufactured using recycled synthetics, which is a win all around, and natural fibers can be treated to make them washable. Another win.

natural wool vs acrylic yarn. The pros and cons and when to use acrylic yarn instead of natural wool

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