Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Yarns - Types, weights, etc....

A lot of craft newbies are overwhelmed by the vast variety of yarns around them, and often find the terminology very confusing. Cotton, wool, 3-ply, worsted, blends - these are a few names one can see associated with yarns, and these varied, unrelated terms add to the confusion. So here today we will try to untangle the puzzle and give you information on what are the various yarn types, ply, yarn weights, how they affect your project, and how to choose your needles or hooks according to the yarn.

To understand more about yarn, let us first see how yarn is classified. Generally, yarn is classified according to the source, ply,and weight.


Classification based on Source: Plant based, Animal based,etc.


  1. Plant based yarns: these yarns are made from plant fibers. Examples of plant based yarns are cotton, bamboo, linen, soy, etc.
  2. Animal based: these yarns are sourced from Animal hair. Examples are wool, merino wool, cashmere, angora, alpaca, silk, etc.
  3. Synthetic: these yarns are artificially prepared, mostly from petroleum products. Examples are acrylic, microfiber, polyester, nylon, rayon, etc.
  4. Blends: these yarns are made by blending synthetic fibers with natural fibers, to get yarns that are heat resistant, shrink resistant, and machine washable. Examples would be wool-acrylic, cotton-acrylic, bamboo - polyester, and so on.

Classification based on Ply: single, 2-ply,3-ply...


Plying is twisting strands of fiber together to get a thicker fiber. Accordingly, yarn can be single ply or 1-ply, 2-ply, 3-ply and so on. The more the number, the thicker the yarn.


Classification based on weight: lace, sock, etc.


Here is a chart (courtesy craftycouncil.com) that explains the names associated with yarn weights, number assigned to each weight category, the corresponding needle and hook size, etc.






















Wraps per inch - Abbreviated as WPI, this is a good method to determine the weight of an unknown yarn ball where nothing is mentioned about the weight, yardage, etc. To determine the WPI, wrap the yarn around a pencil, knitting needle, or a ruler, keeping the yarn flat. Push the strands together so that there are no gaps between the wraps. the yarn should be wrapped neither too tight nor too loose. Measure the number of wraps in 1 inch (2.5 cm). This gives you the WPI score of the yarn. Compare it with the chart above to know the yarn weight. 


Hope this information will come handy when you purchase your next lot of yarn. Please leave comments if you still have queries regarding this topic.


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