How to choose the right yarn for a knitting or craft project

January 12, 2015

If you're a novice knitter or crafter, you know choosing the right type of yarn for a project can be daunting. To help get you started, here's the long and short about yarn.
Yarn content and weights: what do they mean?

Yarn is made from natural fibers like wool, cotton, silk, flax and animal fur. It can also be made from man-made fibers like polyester and nylon. Before starting a project, you‘ll need to know the weight (or thickness) of the fiber and the gauge that you can expect when using it to make a garment or a decorative piece.

Countries use several methods to determine yarn weights. However, the Craft Yarn Council of America offers a pretty good chart to help you choose the right one for a particular project.

Yarn weights are numbered 0-6 and this list includes the United Kingdom (UK) equivalents, since many patterns from the UK are also available in Canada:

  • 0 or Lace (1- or 2-ply in UK)
  • 1 or Superfine (3- or 4-ply in UK)
  • 2 or Fine (no UK equivalent)
  • 3 or Light (double-knit or 8-ply in UK)
  • 4 or Medium (Aran, triple-knit in UK)
  • 5 or Bulky (chunky yarn, triple-knit in UK)
  • 6 or Super Bulky (no UK equivalent)

Yarn types: how are theydifferent?

While many yarns are multi-purpose, some yarn types are manufactured for specific uses. That includes:

  • Sock yarn: Usually No. 1 Superfine and often available in heathery twists.
  • Baby yarn: Soft and fine for delicate baby skin. It's also machine washable for easy care.
  • Sport yarn: Medium weight, useful for accessories and sweaters, especially those with traditional patterns—like Norwegian sweaters.
  • Craft yarn: Available in many weights and colors for use in fiber art and craft projects.
  • Rug yarn: Available in hanks, but most often packaged in pre-cut strands ready for hooking. This type of yarn is commonly made of wool, but is also available in acrylic fibers.

Other considerations when buying yarn

It's important to know which yarn is appropriate for your project. Pattern instructions will begin with the type of yarn and needle size required. When shopping for yarn, look at the label to determine a good match:

  • Weight/length: Look for a weight number or ply. For example, a No. 5 Bulky might weigh 40 g and measure 52 m per ball.
  • Recommended tension: A chart or sentence might tell you that you’re looking to reproduce 10 cm square with 16 stitches over 20 rows, using 5½ size needles.
  • Fiber content: Yarn labels are required to show what fiber materials are used.
  • Batch: Look for a batch and color number when buying several balls of yarn for the same project. This ensures that the color is consistent.

Once you’ve chosen your pattern, take it to a yarn store so you can select a suitable yarn in a color you love. Yarn stores almost always have knitters on staff so ask for their advice—they'll be more than happy to share what they know.

How to choose the right yarn for a knitting or craft project
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