Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Different yarn types and deciphering the terminologies

I was delighted to hear from a HappyBerry trooper today who was new to crochet, always happy to hear of a new recruit for our yarn mission he he but she put forward an interesting question. She wanted to know about yarn and what all the different terminology means.

Yarn terminology can mean different things to different people. Depending on where you live, picking up a say a UK pattern can confuse you when it comes to buying the yarn stated if you, for example, live in Australia unless you are used to the different yarn terms so today I've decided to help out whilst sipping my morning coffee and put together a quick guide to yarn! Any excuse to talk about yarn right?

So let's start with the thinnest yarns you can buy. 

0. The thinnest yarns that you would actually crochet or knit with would be lace-weight yarns as they are known in the US. In the UK these are known as 1 ply yarns but in Australia they would be known as 2 ply yarns. Even so, if you are still confused, the best thing to look for is the yarn symbol on the side of the packaging, which would look like the symbol on the right, a ball of yarn with a number inside it. Any decent crochet pattern will also add this symbol to help you identify the yarn you need for that pattern, although many designers do not do this and can be quite country specific in how they write things. Some patterns don't even state what terminology the pattern is written in, UK or US, so be careful on that score as well.

Going back to yarn though, if the yarn you want to buy doesn't show this symbol and doesn't obviously state whether it's a worsted weight yarn or a DK yarn or whatever don't despair, just check the wording carefully on the packaging for something like 'weight category 0'. This is the same as the symbol. The most popular categories range from 0 - 6 as we shall see here.

1. The second thinnest yarn up from lace-weight will have a weight category of 1 (super fine). This yarn is known as a sock or fingering yarn in the US. In the UK this is known as a 2-3 ply yarn or there about. In Australia this would be a 3-4 ply yarn or there about.

I say there about because as you will discover, yarn weights vary across the world, it is impossible to fine exact replicas unless you use the exact yarn brand stated in the pattern but yarn guides such as this one should give you a rough idea of the yarn types you should be using to get as near to the pattern as possible. Always check your gauge as that will be the most important thing to make sure you're on track to the right sized garment.

2. The next yarn up has a category weight of 2 (fine), which in the US is known as a Sport or Baby yarn. In the UK this would be a 4 ply yarn and in Australia it would be known as a 5 ply yarn.

Now we move on to the most commonly used yarns for crocheting and knitting.

3. The next yarn up is the one I use the most in the UK and this is probably not unique to me but to British crocheters and knitters in general in the UK. This yarn has a category weight of 3 (light).

This yarn in the UK is more commonly known as a DK (double knit) yarn. In the US this is known as a Light Worsted weight yarn. Not to be confused with just worsted weight yarn, again check the category weight because there can be a difference between a light worsted and just a worsted weight yarn. In Australia this weight yarn is known as 8 ply.

I like this yarn a lot as it is great for working up fairly quickly but thin enough to not be too bulky, so great for baby projects.

4. Next we move on to the most popular US yarn weight, which has a category weight of 4 (medium). This yarn in the US is known as Worsted. One thing I have come across with US yarns is that they like to hide the word worsted sometimes, so do check the text on the packaging or in the description for 'category weight 4'.

In the UK this yarn is known as an Aran weight yarn, which can still be quite hard to find in yarn stores for some reason with DK over-ruling, however it is fairly easy to buy online these days such as from or The Wool Warehouse. Not forgetting our friends south of the equator, in Australia this yarn is known as a 10 ply yarn.

5. The next yarn size up is another favourite of mine and those who like to make something quick will also enjoy using this yarn. This yarn has a category weight of 5 (bulky). In the US this is known as a Bulky weight yarn. Like I said for the light worsted yarn don't confuse it with Super Bulky yarn as there is a difference. People often see a pattern which states 'Bulky' but then wonder why, when they make it using a Super Bulky yarn, it turns out too big so be careful. Always check the category weight on the yarn, and in the pattern if it is stated.

In the UK this yarn is known as a Chunky yarn and in Australia it is known as a 12 ply yarn so nice and thick. This yarn is great for scarves or cowls, anything that you want to whip up quickly that compliments a bulky look. Hence the name I guess!

6. Lastly comes the yarn with a category weight of 6 (super bulky) and the name is the same in the US, Super Bulky. In the UK this yarn is known as Super Chunky so fairly simple, and in Australia it is known as a 14 ply yarn.

This yarn I would say is for the ultimate lazy knitter or crocheter he he as it really does work up quickly. Not something you would want to use for babies or children really so a good yarn again for cowls and scarves, bags that kind of thing.

Other yarns and textures.

It doesn't end there though, there are other types of yarns as well such as Fashion Yarns, which tend to not really have a designated weight as they can look unusual, have beads woven in or sequins, be really fuzzy etc. You can also get bobbled yarn which can be fun (and frustrating) to work with but it can be fun to experiment with fashion yarns when you are more used to knitting or crocheting as different effects can be achieved.

You may also come across something called Crochet Threads with different weights again that do not relate to the normal weight categories such as those from DMC Creative, these make no sense to even me when figuring out what size you need so they only really work with patterns that state that specific yarn to use.

Going on to yarn textures, there are many different types of yarns to buy. You can opt for more natural yarns such as Wool or Alpaca yarns, these can be expensive though, especially Baby Alpaca. Many people find wool itchy so alpaca can be a good alternative.

You can also use cotton or bamboo yarns. Cotton yarns are great for projects you want to last, especially in washes, so good for wash cloths or baby items that get messy! Cotton is also great to use because it doesn't go fuzzy like other yarns can over time. 100% cottons can be expensive though, depending on the brand, and can also be stringy sometimes to crochet with so sometimes a mix can be good such as a cotton and acrylic mix.

The man-made yarns such as acrylic are cheaper, and although not as good for the environment, they are great for baby projects too. Soft on the skin and can be put in a normal wash, unlike wool.

You may also come across other things like Lurex which is often added for sparkle! This is fun to add into a project with a normal yarn for that extra interest and it comes in a range of exhilarating colours.

Well, I hope this may have helped some people. Once you get used to the different yarns it will become second nature but before that time just enjoy experimenting and trying the different yarns, and of course, happy crocheting! (or knitting!)

Let me know what you're favourite yarns are to use in the comments below. (^-^)

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