Technical Stuff: Yarn Weights

Holly Handspun Yarn by Marlana. Used under Creative Commons License.

Just when you thought that you were on top of your knitting lingo, along comes something else to learn. As a beginner knitter, you might just grab whatever yarn and needles come your way, but soon enough you will come to realise that there are differences in yarn weights and indeed in what they are called. For instance you might be using an American pattern, but be based in the UK and wonder what on earth sportweight yarn is in the first place …let alone where you find it, and why aran weight yarn won’t do instead.

The basic reason for needing to use the right weight of yarn is for sizing. If your yarn is too thick or too thin, you can’t get the right tension and your sizing will be out. Because of this, it is important to know about the differences in yarn weights, and what they are variously called.

Here are some general guidelines:

UK – 2-ply/ Lace
US – Baby / Laceweight
UK – 3-ply
US – Light Fingering

UK – 4-ply
US – Fingering

UK – (light-ish DK)
US – Sport weight

UK- Double Knitting
US – Double Knitting / Worsted

UK – (light-ish Aran weight)
US – Worsted

UK – Aran
US – Aran / Fisherman

UK – Bulky
US – Chunky

UK – Superbulky
US – Superchunky

As you can see, sometimes there isn’t a direct equivalent for the yarns, but you can generally make a near- match. Another useful thing to know is that sock weight yarn will be either 3-ply or 4-ply, depending on the manufacturer, but due to its need to wear well, it will often have nylon content or be a superwash wool, which withstands machine washing.


4 responses

  1. Now that’s a really useful post. I have starred it in my reader.

    02/09/2010 at 1:55 pm

    • ingridnation

      I’m really pleased that it has been helpful Eddie! It can get really confusing sometimes.

      21/09/2010 at 3:54 pm

  2. pam

    Meeee tooo! Bookmarked in my knitting file.

    This is so helpful. I am new to knitting and still struggling with my first pair of socks. Seeing these terms flying around has been confusing and I am only now just beginning to sort them out. This post is a huge help. Thank you so much.

    20/09/2010 at 5:40 am

    • ingridnation

      Ah, socks are so much fun, but are you knitting them one, or two at a time?
      Good to hear that this has been helpful to you as well, Pam. I find that, especially with the internet, when you come across a term which isn’t from your native country it completely throws you. I wondered what sport weight was for a heck of a long time!

      21/09/2010 at 3:58 pm

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