Types of Yarns and Everything Else You Need to Know About Them!
The first time you start browsing for yarns online or enter a yarn store, it can get a lot overwhelming. There are so many different types of yarns and so many color options to choose from! All of this can become confusing, especially for a beginner in the world of either crochet or knit.
Even if you are following a specific pattern, and it mentions a particular yarn and needle size or crochet hook size, it can still be daunting and confusing. As a novice, you might wonder what the difference between a DK yarn and a worsted weight yarn is? Baby yarn or thread yarn? Afghan or Super Chunky?
There are so many things to consider while buying a particular yarn for any project. This post will highlight all the different types of yarns that are generally available, and it will guide you to choose the right skein of yarn for your knitting or crochet project.
To start with the basics, what is yarn? Yarn is a textile fiber that is commonly made of either fiber that is animal-based, plant-based, or synthetic. These fibers are interlocked (ply) and spun together to form thicker strands. The general feel of yarn depends on the number of plies that are woven together—for example, single-ply or two-ply yarn, and so on.
Types of Yarn Fibers and Composition
Yarn can come from different fiber sources, as mentioned earlier. These sources are:
- Animal-based fiber in the form of sheep’s wool, mohair, or angora;
- Plant-based fiber like cotton, silk, or hemp;
- Synthetic fibers like polyester, rayon, or nylon
Common Animal-Based Yarns
The wool comes from the fleece of a sheep, and it is one of the most popular yarns. It is easy to handle and is easily accessible at reasonable prices. Wool is an ideal yarn for making knit or crochet garments for either winter or summer. It is durable, resistant to moisture, and offers excellent breathability.
Naturally, it comes in creamy white color but can be dyed into a wide range of colors. Any wool garment requires more care and maintenance. You can gently hand wash in lukewarm water. One drawback of wool yarn is its pilling over time.
Shop for popular wool yarns on Amazon.
It’s a fluffy and entirely a luxurious fiber with a soft sheen. Mohair is well known for its lightness despite being one of the warmest fibers that come from an animal. The fibers are elastic and can regain their shape back upon stretching. As the fiber is very fluffy, it is difficult to use it in projects, especially if you are making some intricate stitches.
It generally comes in blends with silk or wool to increase its weight. Although mohair is low-allergenic, it can still cause skin irritation and itchiness. To care for any mohair garment, you need to dry clean or machine wash on a gentle cycle.
Shop for popular mohair yarn on Amazon.
The fiber comes from the fleece of alpaca, and it’s a dense fiber. Unlike other fibers, it is hypoallergenic, making it a perfect choice for people with sensitive skin. Because of this, it is also ideal for making babywear.
As it is a delicate fiber, it needs dry cleaning or hand washing for maintenance. It is blended with other fibers to strengthen the natural alpaca fiber.
Shop for popular alpaca yarn on Amazon.
It’s a wool-type yarn that comes from Merino sheep. Merino wool is super soft, and it is also hypoallergenic. Projects made using merino wool have an excellent drape, and they tend to maintain their shape for a long time. However, like wool fibers, it is prone to pilling over time.
It’s a warm wool fiber making it perfect for winter garments.
Shop for popular merino yarn on Amazon.
Angora is another animal-based fiber that comes from the angora rabbit. It is one of the finest animal fibers that are light, incredibly warm, and silky soft! Angora fiber yarn is considered premium and luxury yarns, and its high prices reflect that. Just like mohair, it is not meant for projects involving complex stitches, and in terms of texture, it is a bit slippery.
It is generally available in blends with an acrylic fiber to make it more manageable and reduce its elasticity. Anything made using angora yarn needs to be dry-cleaned or hand washed in cold water.
Shop for popular angora yarn on Amazon.
This luxury yarn comes from cashmere goats or Pashmina goats. The best part about this yarn is that its softness improves with wear over time! The fiber offers superior insulation, making it a perfect yarn to make cardigans, shawls, and other accessories.
It is typically blended with other fibers to reduce the cost into something more manageable. It’s not as breathable as other natural fibers, and like wool, it is prone to pilling. Even the maintenance is difficult as it can only be dry cleaned.
Shop for popular cashmere yarn on Amazon.
Common Plant-Based Yarns
Cotton is a natural and most common plant fiber making it quite inexpensive. The fibers are smooth, and whenever you use it in any project, it has excellent drape. Because of its texture, these types of yarns are perfect for complicated stitchwork, as it will be clearly visible. However, unlike the animal fibers, it is inelastic and can split while you are working.
Its an easy maintenance yarn as you can simply machine wash without worrying about anything.
Shop for popular cotton yarn on Amazon.
Just as the name suggests, the fiber is silky smooth and has a lustrous shine. You can mostly find silk yarn in thin ply yarns as it is expensive. It is perfect for making lace and other fine accessories.
The silk fiber yarn is prone to static cling and catching. To prevent this from happening, it is better to choose a yarn that is tightly spun with higher ply. Silk fibers are also blended with other fibers to add some luxurious softness and shine. It needs dry cleaning or hand washing for cleaning purposes.
Shop for popular silk yarn on Amazon.
Common Synthetic Yarns
It’s a much cheaper option of fiber as compared to the natural fibers. These types of acrylic yarns are easy to maintain, hold vibrant colors, and easy to work with. Acrylic yarns are perfect for beginners and amateurs in the world of knitting and crochet.
Shop for popular acrylic yarn on Amazon.
It’s the oldest human-made synthetic fiber that imitates properties of natural fibers. Its silky, shiny, and saturated with color. The fiber has an incredible drape that makes it perfect for all kinds of projects. Unlike animal-based fibers, it does not retain warmth and isn’t elastic. It also does not age well over time, unlike cashmere, which improves as it ages.
The yarn is perfect for making summer wear garments as it is cool, conducts heat, and comfortable. You can hand wash most rayon yarns.
It is a synthetic alternative to silk fibers. Just like rayon, it is smooth, shiny, easy to maintain, and cool to touch.
The nylon yarn is very durable and sturdy. It’s also machine washable, making it perfect for many different projects.
Polyester fiber is mostly for blending with other yarns to make them more comfortable to use and handle. These types of yarns have excellent breathability, moisture-wicking ability, and great drape, making them perfect for any season.
It is the easiest-to-use type of yarn. Polyester yarns create garments that keep their shape and are generally machine-washable when on their own, which makes it a great selection for baby projects.
Shop for popular polyester yarn on Amazon.
Types of Yarn Weights
Before starting any project, it is essential to understand the different types of yarn weights. This is because, ultimately, yarn thickness determines the final dimensions and appearance of the completed project. The weight of a yarn is measured in terms of the thickness of the yarn.
What is ‘ply’?
It simply refers to the strands that have been twisted and interlocked together to make a yarn.
Yarn thickness is also referred to as ‘ply,’ but this number doesn’t always reflect the thickness of a yarn. That’s because the final thickness is dependent on the thickness of the individual strand or fiber. A 2 ply yarn can be fine or even bulky depending on the size of the yarn fibers.
At one end, you have the thinnest yarns, Lace yarn, while on the other, you get Jumbo yarn that is extra thick and perfect for arm knitting.
Here are the available various yarn weights and their basic features.
It is also referred to as Thread, Light Fingering, and Cobweb Yarn. Lace yarn is useful for making lace patterns and other complex projects. It’s the thinnest and the lightest yarn out there. If you are a beginner, it is likely that you won’t come across these patterns as they are complex and involve advanced techniques and stitches.
In terms of ply, Lace Yarn is an approximate equivalent of 1 – 2 ply.
Super Fine Yarn
It’s an ultra-fine yarn that’s also known as Fingering Yarn. It is slightly tricky yarn to use, and you can find it in patterns for decorative throws, shawls, and accessories mostly. You can make complicated stitches using this particular yarn.
These types of yarns are suitable for making mittens, hats, socks, etc. You can even make a sweater using this yarn, but it will need a lot of time and patience. Its the number 1 on the yarn weight chart and its approximate equivalent of 3 – 4 ply.
It features Sport and Baby Yarn and is a great all-rounder for making lightweight clothing. You can make scarves, socks, mittens, baby clothes, and even sweaters using these types of yarns.
It’s the number 2 on the yarn weight chart, and it falls in the category of 5 ply yarn.
It includes DK (double knitting) and Light Worsted Weight Yarns. These types of yarns are much warmer, and you can find them in patterns for small clothing items like socks, hats, accessories, and others that will keep you warm.
It’s the number 3 on the yarn weight chart and its approximate equivalent of 8 ply.
It is also known as Worsted Yarn and is one of the most popular types of yarn amongst knitters. That’s because it can provide excellent stitch definition in all projects including, sweaters, caps, mittens, cardigans. If you knit or crochet chunky stitches using this yarn, it can enhance the fiber warmth. Medium yarn weight includes Aran, Afghan, and Worsted Yarns.
It’s the number 4 on the yarn weight chart and its approximate equivalent of 10 – 12 ply.
This category includes Chunky, Craft, and Rug Yarns. They are perfect who want to complete their projects in no time! The final result is always chunky, but it makes for a comfortable piece of winter wear.
It’s the number 5 on the yarn weight chart and its approximate equivalent of 12 – 14 ply.
Super Bulky Yarn
Super bulky yarns are useful in making small projects quickly. The result is super warm clothing with a bulky look.
It’s the number 6 on the yarn weight chart and its approximate equivalent of 14 – 16 ply.
It’s a relatively new entry into the yarn weight chart, and it includes Jumbo and Rovings. These types of yarns are mostly useful for making blankets, home décor items, and for arm knitting projects.
It’s number 7 on the yarn weight chart and approximate equivalent of 16+ ply.
How to Choose the Right Yarn for Your Project?
All patterns for knitting and crochet projects always include the weight, color, and brand of the yarn used, so it is easy to get the ideal yarn. If you want to make use of a different brand, then it is important to choose the same yarn weight and fiber composition as given in the pattern.
If you do end up choosing a different fiber composition and yarn weight, the final result will feel and look different from the pattern.
Best practice in such a case is that you make a swatch using the selected yarn and compare it with the gauge in the pattern. Make sure that you adjust the needle or hook size according to the gauge.
Patterns also include information about the requirements of grams of the yardage of yarn for a specific project. The best way to go about it is that you purchase more yarn than suggested. It will be helpful to have more yarn in case of any mistakes or gauge issues.
Understanding a Yarn Label
Each yarn comes with a label that gives out all the information about the yarn. It includes information such as the fiber content, weight, amount, care instructions, suggested needle size, gauge, dye-lot number, etc.
Yarn Weight: It refers to the total yarn thickness and is written in terms of wraps per inch or WPI. The ply count also affects the yarn weight, and it ranges from the finest weight to the heaviest between 1-ply to 14-ply.
Fiber Content: It is the material of the fiber in yarn, and it is expressed as a percentage. For example, yarn can be 100% cotton, 80% Merino, and so on.
Amount: It’s the total length of the skein of yarn, and it is generally expressed in yards and ounces (or meters and grams).
Laundry Care: It gives the necessary information about how to wash and dry the completed projects.
Gauge: Yarn gauge is specified by the number of rows and stitches in a swatch of size 10 x 10 cm or 4 x 4 in made with specified knitting needles or a crochet hook.
You can check out our crochet hook and knitting needle size guides.
Dye Lot Number: It refers to basically the color of yarn. If you are buying multiple skeins or balls of the same color, it is important to make sure that the dye lot numbers match. The skeins may appear the same color even when they are different. That subtle difference will become apparent in a completed project if the dye lot number is different.
Things to Consider While Buying Yarn
A lot of the decision depends on the project that you’ve selected. Often, patterns will specify which weight yarn and needle size to use. But, if you are designing something on your own, there are a few things that you should keep in mind.
Weight: Are you looking for something as winter wear, or something for summers? Ultimately it will depend on the function of the completed project. For example, you can make a scarf by choosing either a Bulky Yarn or a Medium Yarn. You get a scarf in both, but one will have a super soft cuddly feel while others will be better to show off your stitching skills.
Texture: If you are making something for a newborn or kids, you need a soft yarn, similarly, for someone with sensitive skin, its best to go with a hypoallergenic yarn.
Fibers: The choice of yarn fiber composition is dependent on the project. Do you want the completed project to be machine washable? Is it a garment for summers that needs a breathable yarn? Is it winter wear that requires a warm wool yarn? Furthermore, the fiber composition also determines the life of the finished project. If you’ve used cashmere, then you know that its gonna improve over time. But, if you’ve used wool yarn, then you can expect pilling over time.
Color: This is the most flexible option when it comes to deciding on buying yarn. If you are making a wearable for someone, then you can consider what color suits them best. If you are making a home décor or other accessory items, then you can try to match it with the rest of the décor. Ultimately, it’s all about your personal preference. Most yarns offer a whole lot of color options, so the world is wide open for you!
Price: Its always better to set a budget for any project and choose a yarn that falls within the set budget. The price range varies a lot when it comes to yarns. Choose the one that you’ll be comfortable in spending.
There’s no denying that the world of yarn is like a magical world of wonders! Knowing all the information about types of yarns and their features will certainly help you in making the right decision when it comes to selecting a yarn for a project.
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