Yarn Ply vs Weight aabharcreations

Choosing The Right Yarn: Ply vs. Weight

Choosing the right yarn for any project is essential as little things like yarn ply and yarn weight can affect your work. Read on to find out how yarn ply and yarn weight can make a difference in your project.

Whenever you start a project, be it knit or crochet, you can come across several unknown terms. There are certain unique abbreviations, yarn requirements, and yarn specifications. For the knitting and crochet instructions, you can easily refer to guides online for knit abbreviations and crochet abbreviations. But, when it comes to yarn requirements, things can get confusing.

One of the most confusing terms can be ‘yarn weight’ and ‘yarn ply.’ Both the terms are about the thickness of the yarn. Most people believe that ‘ply’ has something to do with yarn weight. But, it’s not as simple as that.

Yarn Ply vs. Yarn Weight

Many patterns are written in terms that are used in the designers’ country. The terms are different in the US, UK, and Australia. The needle and hook conversions are easy to understand with all the many available online resources.

But, when it comes to ply, the meaning is different in America or Britain than in Australia. In the US and UK, ply simply means the number of strands that are twisted together in a yarn. It is completely unrelated to yarn thickness. You can have a bulky two-ply yarn or an extremely fine four-ply yarn. On the other hand, ply refers to the thickness of the yarn in Australia and NZ.

Yarn Ply – What It Means and How It Affects Your Projects?

Quite back when wool yarns were common, the ply was relevant to the weight of yarn. The ply was directly relevant to size, a two-ply yarn was thin while the eight-ply yarn was much thicker. But, at present, there is no relation between the yarn weight and the number of plies.

Plies are individual strands of fiber that are twisted together to make a plied yarn. For any yarn, ply indicates the number of strands that are spun together. If you untwist a yarn, you can see how many plies have come together to make up the yarn. For example, a two-ply yarn will have two separate strands while a five-ply yarn will have five strands. These strands can be thick or thin, depending on manufacturers’ choice of fiber and manufacturing process.

If there is a single strand in the yarn, it isn’t usually referred to as ‘ply’ though. It is known as ‘single’ as calling it a one-ply yarn wouldn’t make much sense.

If two such singles are plied together, you get a two-ply yarn. Add another single, and you have a three-ply yarn, and it continues so on. With each new ply or single, the strength, durability, and density of the yarn increase.

You can go even a step further by plying together already plied yarn to make cabled yarn.

Yarn Ply and Knitting or Crochet Projects

You might wonder that since there is an easier way to mention yarn requirements, how is the number of ply in a yarn relevant to your work?

Well, as a general rule of thumb, a yarn with a higher ply count will give you a better stitch definition. But, that’s not always true. So, if you are planning to knit cables, a higher ply count will give you more definition and texture. On the other hand, for knitting lace patterns, singles yarn will have much crisper lace and a softer feel.

Plied yarns are also more durable, and less likely to undergo pilling. If it is a single-ply yarn, it will be standing alone to withstand all the stretches and wear-and-tear. Singles can also break if you pull too hard as the fiber can rip easily. If more strands are together, for each strand, a lesser surface is exposed making it more durable.

Plying also contributes to the weight of the finished project. For example, if you are looking for a light pullover, don’t choose a four-ply yarn. But, as always, there is an exception. A multi-plied yarn is much lighter than a single-ply yarn of the same size. That’s because as the strands are plied, there’s some air in-between the strands while a singly-ply is just a solid chunk of the fiber.

Standard Yarn Weight System

This convention of linking yarn weight with the number of plies is disappearing in favor of the Craft Yarn Council of America’s (CYCA) Standard Yarn Weight System. This new system allows people from anywhere in the world to understand the thickness of yarn as the system is based on numbers. The size ranges from one to seven with one being the finest yarn and seven being the biggest, jumbo yarn.

Now most patterns you will come across will have yarn specifications following the CYCA’s system. But, should you come across a pattern with requirements of a particular ply of yarn, you can follow this general table.

Craft Yarn Council of America gives a yarn classification table that you can refer to when it comes to relating weight with the number of plies.

yarn weight standards - comparing yarn numbers, type, yarn ply chart

Few Tips While Selecting Yarn for Projects

  • Never mix different brands even if they have same ply and same weight as the strands can differ in thickness. Even a slight variation can result in making your project uneven.
  • Usually, dyed yarns are slightly thicker than their un-dyed counterparts even if they have same number of ply.
  • If, in any case, you have a yarn that isn’t working out because it’s too thin, don’t think that its waste. You can try to make your own plied yarn by using two of the same, that is double the yarn and use it.

Word For The Wise

Overall, still, there is quite a bit of variation when it comes to manufacturers classifying yarns based on ply. For example, when a pattern requires a worsted weight yarn can be 10 or 12 ply yarn. So, you need to check the gauge and swatch size for the project and adjust your work accordingly.

Check out other relevant resources that might help you out in your knitting or crochet projects:

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