Choosing The Right Yarn Weight For Your Project

If you’re new to the world of knitting or crochet – or perhaps you haven’t done any in a while and are a little rusty – you might be wondering what yarn weight is and which type you need for a given project. There’s no right or wrong here, no one weight of yarn will do everything you need it to – but with different terms for yarn across different countries, it’s easy to get a little confused. Bought an Australian pattern but no idea where to find 8ply in the UK? Struggling to find the right gauge of worsted yarn? After getting confused myself, I thought I ought to write a yarn weight guide to help clear up some confusion.

Yarns of different colours
Yarn weight doesn’t mean it’s physical weight in grams, it refers to the thickness and density of the yarn

A guide to the different kinds of yarn weight

The first thing to note is that yarn weight doesn’t refer to the yarn’s physical weight in grams. Most yarns are bought in skeins or balls of 50-150g, though some come in mini skeins of 20-25g too. The term yarn weight refers to the thickness and density of the yarn itself. This is sometimes denoted by the yarn’s ‘ply’, which is how many strands of yarn are spun together to create that weight of yarn. You might see this when working with the yarn, as sometimes you can split the yarn with your needles or hook by accident.

You can use any given yarn weight for a wide range of items too, not just what it’s named after – there are plenty of scarves and shawls made from lace weight yarn and you can make socks from most yarns, not just sock weight. If you’re a complete beginner, thicker yarns are much easier to work with, so try something that uses aran or DK rather than lace as your first couple of projects, as otherwise you’re likely to struggle.

Lace

Global terms: #0
US terms: Lace
UK terms: Lace, Cobweb, 1ply
Australian terms: 2ply
Also known as: Crochet thread, Zephyr yarn

Lace weight yarn is very fine, with typically 800-1200m of yarn per 100g skein. It’s used with very fine knitting needles and crochet hooks, typically between 1.5-2.5mm though it can be used with needles and hooks up to 5mm if the pattern is quite open with lots of decorative holes.

Light Fingering

Global terms: #1 or Super Fine
US terms: Light Fingering
UK terms: Lace, 2ply
Australian terms: 3ply
German/European terms: 2ply

A slightly heavier weight yarn than 1ply lace, there’s typically 600-800m of yarn per 100g skein and you’ll want to use the same size needles and crochet hooks with it as 1ply lace. In the UK this weight of yarn is typically known as lace weight and will be found in the same categories when shopping for it.

Baby

Global terms: #2 or Fine
US terms: Fingering or Sock
UK terms: Baby, 3ply
Australian terms: 3ply
German/European terms: 3ply

Baby weight or 3ply yarn isn’t as well known as lace or sock weight yarns and can sometimes be grouped together with sock yarns due to their similarity. This yarn is typically used with needles and hooks between 2.25 and 3.75mm in diameter and you’ll find roughly 500-600m of yarn per 100g.

Sock

Global terms: #2 or Fine
US terms: Sport
UK terms: Sock, Fingering, 4ply
Australian terms: 4ply
German/European terms: 4ply

Sock yarns in the UK are quite common, which isn’t surprising given that socks are one of the most popular items to knit and crochet! Depending on what you’re using the yarn for, there’s a few different needle and hook sizes which are recommended for use with sock yarns – between 2 and 2.5mm is recommended for socks, while 2.75-4mm is recommended for sweaters and shawls, which isn’t surprising given that socks will need a much smaller stitch than sweaters or shawls will. A 100g skein of sock yarn should have anywhere between 320 and 450m of yarn.

Sport

Global terms: #2 or Fine
UK terms: Sport
Australian terms: 5ply
German/European terms: 6ply

Often categorised with sock yarns due to their similarity in size and length of yarn, sport yarns tend to be used for lightweight garments as well as socks. You’ll typically find around 250-350m of yarn in a 100g skein of sport yarn and you’ll want to use needles and hooks that are 2.75-4mm in diameter, just like sock yarn.

DK

Global terms: #3 or Light
US terms: Light Worsted
UK terms: Double Knit, DK, 8ply
Australian terms: 8ply

Perhaps the most common and well known weight of yarn, DK yarn is used for all sorts of items – including toys, amigurumi, shawls, sweaters, tops and more. Most of what I’ve been crocheting so far has required DK yarn and it’s widely available all around the world. You can use this yarn with most needle and crochet hook sizes, though it’s best used with 3-5mm needles or hooks and most 100g skeins will comprise between 200-300m yarn.

Aran

Global terms: #4 or Medium
US terms: Worsted
UK terms: Aran, Triple Knit
Australian terms: 10 ply
Also known as: Afghan, Fisherman

Aran is a popular weight of yarn for colder weather clothing including sweaters and even slippers – though it’s perhaps most popular for scarves, as it’s just the right density to keep you warm while being easy to knit and crochet together. You can also make socks from aran weight yarn, though as you’ll need bigger needles and hooks you’re more likely to make slipper socks, boot socks and other winter essentials than ones for regular everyday use. Recommended needle and hook sizes are between 4 and 6.5mm depending upon what you’re making and you’ll find around 150-200m of yarn in a 100g skein.

Chunky

Global terms: #5 or Bulky
US terms: Craft, Rug
UK terms: Chunky, Double Double Knit
Australian terms: 12ply

Chunky yarns are mostly used to make thick, cosy blankets. As you might expect, they require quite big needles and hooks to work with, typically between 6 and 8mm in diameter. We’re also getting less meterage per skein now as the yarn gets thicker and heavier – there’s usually around just 100m per 100g.

Super Chunky

Global terms: #6 or Super Bulky
UK terms: Super Chunky
Australian terms: 14ply

Even thicker, super chunky yarn needs 9-12mm needles and hooks to work with it effectively. With just 50-70m per 100g skein, you don’t need much to make cosy baby blankets or rugs. Macrame rope is sometimes included in super chunky categories, so keep an eye out for that if you want to make rope bowls or macrame decorations.

Gorilla

Global terms: #7 or Roving
US terms: Jumbo, Roving
UK terms: Gorilla, Jumbo

Gorilla yarn is some of the thickest you can get – it’s so thick that you can knit or crochet it with your fingers if you really want to! Using needles and hooks 15mm and thicker is best for gorilla yarn and you’ll get just about 8-10m of yarn per 100g – so use it wisely!

Super chunky yarn balls
Super chunky and gorilla yarn is far thicker than any other yarn weight you can work with

You may have noticed that some yarns use similar size needles and hooks; this means that you can be confident in making some substitutions if you can’t get hold of a particular weight of yarn – for example, using a sport yarn instead of a sock yarn. Generally speaking, these weights of yarn are all available, though you may find some a little more difficult to find than others and so this is when you’re most likely to consider substituting for a different weight of yarn.

Yarn weights affect the tools you use

If you do feel you have to substitute, look at the size of needle or hook required – if it’s on the smaller side of the recommended sizes listed above, go for the lighter weight than the one your pattern calls for and if it uses a bigger size of needle or hook, use the next weight up. That way you aren’t altering the expected size of your pattern too much, as this can cause problems with items being too big or too small for who or what they’re intended for.

Hopefully this clears up any confusion yarn weight might be causing you – with patterns easily downloaded from anywhere in the world, it’s not difficult to find one using terms you’re not used to, but this shouldn’t put you off making it!