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Yiayia’s Guide to Yarn Weights

Posted by Lee Ann Petropoulos on

Heads up:  I have strong opinions on this subject.

Weird subject to get bent out of shape about, I know. But I honestly think that the push for a standard system has muddied the waters and now it is more difficult than ever to know what yarn will work with what pattern.

I couldn’t tell you exactly how long ago, but long after I learned to knit, the Craft Yarn Council instituted the system that looks like this:

This chart, in my opinion, is less than helpful.

This system is used on yarns sold by JoAnn Fabrics or Hobby Lobby, but none of the yarn labels in our shop include these symbols. Although I always recommend that you find a pattern for your project first, then find a yarn in a suitable weight to make it, sometimes that’s just not how it works – you were at SAFF and the siren call of an exquisite yarn was too much to resist, so you bought 3 skeins and hoped to find the perfect project for it later. Been there, done that. That yarn will also not have one of the above symbols on it, though.

Even when you have succumbed to the yarn before finding a use for it, and even if it has one of those symbols, you will still have to know how those symbols relate to the weight classifications typically used on patterns. I have yet to see a pattern on Ravelry recommend a yarn based on this system. There may be some, but I haven’t seen them.

Moreover, if you look at the description of the symbols on the Craft Yarn Council website, you will see that fingering weight is listed under both Lace (0) and Super Fine (1). Baby is listed under both Super Fine (1) and Fine (2). When did “baby” even become a yarn weight?!?

If you search Ravelry with a filter for the weight of yarn you want to use, these will be your choices:

As you can see, there is a category for “light fingering” in between lace and fingering, eliminating that duplication. Also, do you see “baby” weight listed? No, you do not. Case closed.

Alright – so now what?

In the shop we commonly use the weights listed in the Ravelry chart above. What makes a yarn “sport weight”? Sport weight yarn will knit up to 24 stitches over 4” (or 6 sts per inch) with the recommended needle size. Each weight has its own recommended stitch per inch measurement, but yarn labels commonly list the stitches per 4” rather than per inch. Measuring across 4” of fabric is a more accurate way to get gauge.

Another way to figure the weight of the yarn is by WPI, or wraps per inch. If you look up a yarn in the yarn database on Ravelry, it will list the weight of the yarn (worsted, sport, etc.) and beside that will (usually) be a number with WPI beside it. That is how many times it will wrap around your needle in the space of one inch. The easiest way to measure that is to wrap the yarn around a ruler, being careful not to stretch the yarn and keeping each wrap nestled right up against the last one.

WEIGHT

# STS PER 4”

WPI

Lace

32-34

 

Light Fingering

30-32

18

Fingering

28

14

Sport

24-26

12

DK

22

11

Worsted

18-20

9

Aran

16-18

8

Bulky

14-15

7

Super Bulky

7-12

5-6

 

As mentioned in the post Yarn + Project, A Love Story, there is more to choosing a yarn for your project than just getting the right number of stitches per inch!

Although you could get the same gauge with our Anchor Bay and Wonderland Mad Hatter, the Anchor Bay will produce a stiffer and heavier fabric.

Leading Men Callback and Knit One Crochet Too’s Cozette 2 should both give you 6 sts per inch, but Cozette is a floaty, drapey 65% silk, and the 100% merino in Callback will have better structure for texture or cables.

 

Now you have a reference for yarn weights, go explore your local yarn shop and find the perfect yarn for your next project!

2 comments


  • Hi Valerie! Lamb’s Pride is available in both a bulky weight and a worsted weight – are you sure you have the bulky version? It can be very challenging to mix yarns on a project unless the project was designed to use two different yarns. The Cascade ECO+ is technically a “chunky” weight which recommends a gauge of 14-16 sts per 4". So that’s 3.5-4 per inch. Lamb’s Pride worsted is labeled for 4.5 sts per inch, and the bulky at 3 sts per inch, so as you can see the ECO+ fits right in between those two. You could possibly try using different needle sizes for the two in order to get the same gauge, but be sure to do a large swatch – you may not like the difference in the fabric created.

    Yiayia on

  • Yes this is hard sometimes! I am swatching for a poncho with ECO+ which says it a bulky. I thought Id use up some of my Brown Sheep Lambs Pride (85 wool/15 silk), which also says bulky on the upper shoulders and turtleneck. I’m getting 2 stitches less in 4 inches with the lambs pride on the same swatch.

    Val on

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