Differing Yarn Weights…what are they really…

ScannedImageI was asked a question the other day, of something I kind of take for granted; yarn weights. You hear a lot about different yarn weights, and as a crocheter I have always had a grasp of the traditional worsted (medium) weight acrylic yarns, but when you hear phrases like “I need to get some DK”, or “ I really enjoy this fingering”, there is a smile and a nod, but not a full appreciation of the statement.

So I will address my perspective of yarn weights (note; this is not about threads, that is a whole different discussion, but the same conclusion applies). The Craft Yarn Council of America has been attempting to help standardize many things in the yarn industry for consumers, including yarn weights. But that doesn’t mean that all worsted weights are created equal.

You have probably noticed numbers listed on the skeins of many commercial yarns, these are on a gradient scale with 0 being thinnest and 6 (or greater) being thickest.

So for the 0, listing this is categorized as Lace weight yarn, but has gone by other names such as Fingering, and 10 count crochet thread. While 1 is categorized as Super Fine, and has gone by the name of Sock, Fingering, and Baby. Not to be confused with 2, known as Fine, also called Sport or Baby. Confused yet? Basically the name terms have a more loose interpretation of what they really are. The number scale is devised of by using yarns with hooks that given an even drape and measuring the number of double crochet stitches over 4 inches (just like a swatch, that we are suppose to do before every project…and sometimes realize later that this is good advise). The greater the number of stitches, the finer the yarn (You can find the complete table and all the hooks used, and stitch range used for each category here).


Yarn weights, 0 to 5- lace to chunky

This may work great when shopping at larger box stores, but not always helpful when buying yarn at some smaller local yarn shops or at larger events such as Stitches, or other venues that small distributors, yarn dyers, and personal yarn spinners. As they may not use the numbering standards and instead using the other terms; Fingering, Sock, Baby, Sport, DK, Light Worsted, Worsted, Afghan, Chunky, Craft, and Bulky (At these large events I don’t usually see a lot of the heavier weights, often it is hard to find what I would consider a worsted weight yarn), or simply give you a number of stitches per inch on certain size knitting needles (not really helpful to someone that doesn’t knit). Often they are using another unit of measure to determine the classification they are using such as the number of twists per inch in a length of yarn (the higher the number of twists the finer the yarn), or the numbers of yards in a pound (meter in a gram) (the more yards per pound the finer the yarn), so don’t feel intimidated to ask. I know you may feel like you will get slighted as a crocheter by knitters for asking, but if the booth wants to really sell yarn they will treat you like the valued customer you are.

A good mental note to use is to close your eyes and gently rub the strand between your fingers, let your instincts guide you. If you were to pick up a hook just now and crochet what hook would you pick up? The other thing to remember, if you like it, you’ll find a way to make it work. The classification only really matters if you want to substitute exactly, but let’s be honest, how often do we follow the patterns to a tee? (Okay I am not suggesting that you can substitute a lace weight yarn for a chunky and not have some difficulties, but reasonably close and you can make it work). We know how to make it our own, even if we don’t feel confident in explaining this. Everyone crochets differently, no two are the same, and we always make adjustments for this, yarn weight is no different.

If you have not left your comfort zone and have not attempted some finer weight yarns, what are you waiting for? There are many beautiful yarns that are finer weight that you can have fun with, remember ultimately you set the rules.