There are so many types of yarn to choose from. If you’re just starting to learn to knit or crochet, you might find this a bit confusing…I know I did!! I’m hoping this post will help you with which yarn to use for your next project!
Whether you crochet or knit, yarn is yarn and the things you need to take into account when your thinking about which yarn to use are the same.
Yarn is usually categorised by “weight”. That really means how thick the yarn is. It’s important to understand yarn “weight” as the weight (or thickness) of the yarn will determine the needle size required.
The main “weights” (thicknesses) of yarn you will find are as follows:
As you can see, lace is the finest (and will need the smallest needle) and super Chunky (sometimes called Super Bulky) is the largest you will normally find.
“Extreme knitting” is a thing now, and I’ve seen people arm knitting so you CAN get bigger but for most normal knitting projects you will probably be buying one of these weights of yarn.
Yarn Weights – what are they good for?
“Yarn….yeah….what is it good for?…absolutely EVERYTHING…..”
Sorry, something about that title made me start singing Frankie Goes to Hollywood ….back with you now…
So, which yarn should you use for your project. It kind of depends on what you’re making. What sort of things can you use the different yarn-weights for?
Lace weight yarn is great for shawls
Fingering weight yarn is also great for scarves and shawls and a lot of socks are knitted or crocheted using this weight yarn.
DK (Double Knitting) yarn is what I would call an all-rounder, you could make most things from this! I know it says “double knitting” but you can of course use this to crochet with too!
Aran yarn is great for jumpers and scarves
Chunky and Super Chunky Yarn is great for chunky knits like winter hats and scarves or blankets. Because you use large needles or hooks to knit / crochet this with, it will work up quickly!!
How do I know which yarn to use?
Your pattern will tell you which yarn to use to make the item. It will normally specify a type of yarn and often it will also recommend a specific brand of yarn too, for example it might say:
“1000 [1100, 1200, 1400] yards or 914 [1006, 1097, 1280] meters of Cascade Heritage Solids, or any other fingering weight yarn”.
In this case, the designer has used “Cascade Heritage Solids”, so if you want it to look exactly like the pattern, you should use the same yarn. It will often also specify the colour(s) used to allow you to match it exactly.
Choosing your own yarn – How to do that?
Most of the fun from knitting and crocheting (I think!) comes from choosing your own yarn though and making the pattern your own. Don’t feel like you have to use the same yarn as the designer recommends if you don’t want to, or you can’t get that specific yarn.
1. Use the same yarn-weight as the designer.
The main thing about changing yarn type is to look at the weight, if the pattern uses “fingering” weight yarn, you should choose a fingering weight yarn too. If you don’t, then your gauge will be WAY out and you’ll find that whatever you are making is much bigger or smaller than the designer (and you!) intended. If you want to learn more about gauge, check out this post on how to read a knitting pattern and how to measure your gauge.
2. Seek inspiration from other people
If you use Ravelry, try looking at other people’s projects to see what they have used. People are normally good at recording what they have used. Ravelry will also recommend which yarn to use based on what people have used before. I find this is a great-way to get ideas for different colours or other tweaks and modifications you could make to make something exactly as you want it.
3. Consider the material used to make the yarn
As well as yarn weight, you should also consider the material used. For example, if what you are looking at is a lovely fluffy scarf made from Angora wool. You CAN use cotton, or something less fluffy to make it with, but it won’t end up looking anything like the same sort of scarf.
Ball / Skein / Hank / Cake…..what???
Yarn comes in so many forms,
You can get:
like this drops Lace mix. So beautiful but it takes SO LONG to knit with because it is so fine!
Like this beautiful Scheepjes Whirl. Yarn Cakes tend to be very big. This one is 1000m long, big enough to make a shawl using only one ball. I’m a little in love with Scheepjes Whirl as you’ll probably have noticed from all the posts I make about it!
Why is it all cake related? This Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran comes in a doughnut shape.
A lot of the nicest (but most expensive yarn) comes wound into these Hanks (some people call them Skeins).
The only warning I would give about these is that they will need to be wound into a ball before you can knit with them. To do that you can use a “ball winder” or you can use
a very patient friend two chairs to hold for you whilst you wind.
Do give it a go though, there are so many beautiful yarns sold this way that you will miss out if you don’t!
Washable or not?
The final thing to think about is whether the yarn is washable or not. Some yarn is machine washable (sometimes called “superwash yarn”) and some yarn isn’t. It probably depends on what you are making and how often you will need to wash it.
The Yarn Label tells you whether the yarn can be washed and if so, at what temperature.
For me this isn’t much of a consideration because I’m very rarely brave enough to put something that I spent hours knitting or crocheting into the washing machine. I mostly hand-wash instead!
What is all this stuff on the yarn label??
The Yarn label (often called “the ball-band”) will give you lots of information about the yarn you’re looking at.
As you can see from the label below, it will tell you the estimated gauge, the needles or hook size that you should use, the care instructions (how to wash it once its is a finished garment) , the type of material that this yarn has been made from and how many feet/ meters long it is.
Because everyone knits differently, and each pattern will have a slightly different gauge, the needle/hook size and gauge information on the ball-band is just a guide. You should always use the size needles or hook you need to use to get the gauge required by your pattern.
So there you go, I hope this post has helped you with which yarn to use for whatever it is that you make next. As ever, if you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to help! 🙂
This is super helpful!
thanks! I’m glad! 😊
Most practical ! 🙂
But (sorry to be an old fart) there’s one yarn not described in that first image: could it be “DK, worsted, aran” mebbe ?
I have enough trouble with fingering: how anyone manages lace weight is beyond me …
ah! good point. In the UK I believe Aran and worsted are usually used interchangeably for the same sort of yarn? I should have mentioned it though so you’re totally right!
What a great post:)
thank you! 😊
I love that you’ve started making those sorts of posts, I think that it’s always useful even for non beginners 🙂
thank you! its hard to get the balance of stuff about what I’m up to and tutorials. don’t want it to get boring for anyone! 😊 I’m glad you like these posts too!
I think it’s always great to learn those kind of things, even if you do end up figuring it out eventually it’s nice to know the reasons behind yarn choice for projects
Very nice summary – will be extremely helpful for newbies 🙂
As someone returning to knitting after a very long absence, this is extremely useful. So much has changed! Giant balls of wool, self striping colours, circular knitting needles, there’s been so many changes. I have the wool, I have the needles, I have the patterns, I just need to crack on with something!
I’m sure lots had changed …but it’s still just a knit or a purl, no matter what your doing it with! 😁 welcome back to knitting! what are you going to make first? 😊
I’ve made a family of snowmen, abandoned a tank top (not enough wool and Hobbycraft have sold out). My partner has asked for socks, there may be tears / tantrums / bad language!
aww cute! (the snowmen, not half a tank -top! 😂) some people love socks. I’ve made a few but I seem to prefer other things. tears and tantrums for me too if someone asked me to make them!
Thank you 🙂 Being new to this game I get super confused and that is really helpful 😀
you’re very welcome! I’m glad it’s helpful! 😊
Huzzah! Definitely a very helpful post – and one I’ll also send newbies to in the future!
thanks! so glad it’s helpful! 😊