Before you cast a stitch onto your needles, there are important choices to make. There’s the choice of project, the choice of pattern, and the choice of yarn. If you are a beginner to knitting take a look at the article Beginner Knitting 101.
Sometimes there may be a skein of yarn you are dying to use. Before getting started with that yarn, you will want to take a close look at its label.
There may be other times, you start by falling in love with a pattern and know you’ll find the yarn later to make the project turn out the way you hope.
Whether you start with the pattern or the yarn, the match between the type of yarn and pattern is important. Those little numbers and words on the skein’s label provide information that you’ll need to understand to make the project one that you love.
A couple of important things your yarn label will tell you are the yarns material and the yarn’s weight. Today we’re going to talk about yarn weights and the basic details you need to understand before getting started.
There are now seven basic weights of yarn. These range from super thin to super-chunky. As you move up the scale, the yarn increases in thickness and the average number of stitches per inch (gauge).
Sometimes you can make a pattern work with a yarn weight neighboring the one suggested in the pattern, but substituting a lace weight yarn for super-chunky is simply not going to work.
Here are a few basics about each type of yarn:
Lace (Also known as Fingering) This yarn is very thin. It may easily tangle and/or break. Typically, it is used for lace patterns in projects such as doilies and delicate shawls.
Super Fine (Also known as Fingering, Sock, or Baby) Also can be used for lacy patterns. Many baby items, sock patterns, and again shawls are great options to make with a super fine.
Fine (Also known as Sport or Baby) Use this yarn for socks, tight-knit sweaters (like the cardigan you might buy from a store), and baby items. It can also be used for blankets with a loose or lace pattern.
Light (Also known as DK or Light worsted) Near the middle of the yarn weight spectrum, this yarn is appropriate for heavier baby items (a thicker sweater or hat) and also great for adult garments.
Medium (Worsted, Afghan, Aran) This yarn is used the most often. It is very versatile and easy to work with. Beginners often use Medium weight yarn for their projects. It can be used for a variety of projects including hats, sweaters, and blankets.
Bulky (Chunky, Craft) If your goal is to finish a project quickly, use bulky or the next levels up. You will want to use large needles with this yarn. Bulky yarn makes great sweaters, blankets, scarves, or rugs.
Super Bulky (Roving) Near the heaviest end of the yarn weight spectrum, Super Bulky yarn and Jumbo are very thick. The roving yarns are typically unspun and can be used if you are wanting to do a felting project. It will make a nice scarf, hat, or cowl.Jumbo (Roving) This yarn weight is relatively new to the market. (It was added in 2014.) Jumbo is useful for arm knitting and is a super thick yarn.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT YARN
Patterns will indicate what brand, weight, and size of the needle the author used. Often, they’ll even offer a color suggestion. If you cannot use the exact same yarn suggested, you will find yourself less frustrated if you can at least match the yarn weight and fiber content. If you choose not to use the exact yarn suggested in the pattern, you will need to understand the modifications that may need to be made.
Regardless of what yarn choice you decide on, really even if you use the yarn suggested by the pattern, you will want to knit a sample swatch first to check your gauge. Be sure to see what yarns are available at Jimmy Beans Wool.
CHECK YOUR GAUGE
It’s important to understand that the weight of yarn you choose relates to the gauge. Don’t panic about gauge. While it’s important to understand each project, it isn’t complicated. Gauge is simply how much yarn it takes you to knit one inch.
The weight, or thickness, of your yarn, will be a factor in determining your gauge. Another factor is your personal way of knitting. Some people hold their needles loosely which takes less yarn per inch and others may hold the needles tighter. Tighter knitting means smaller stitches and more yarn per inch.
The yarn label will have the expected number of stitches you can expect to knit per inch using the suggested needle size. If you make a sample and it does not measure the number of stitches and size expected, you will most likely want to make adjustments to the pattern.
Don’t be discouraged. Knitting the swatch to make sure your gauge matches the label will save you frustration in the end and will make a difference between a knitted item you love and one that just doesn’t fit quite right.
Now that you have a basic understanding of yarn weights, you’re almost ready to get started, but don’t get your needles out yet. It’s also important to understand the types of yarn material. We’ll cover that in our next post. Comment and tell us about when you learned gauge is important.