Have you ever walked into a yarn store and been unsure what yarn weight is best for the project you have in mind. Yarn comes in many sizes and when used with different sized needles creates different effects. Very thin yarn and very large needles creates a very fluid fabric with lots of holes, but very thick yarn and very small needles creates a very dense fabric. Choosing the right yarn and needle combination can make or break your project.
Chunky or Bulky Yarn
Most chunky or bulky yarns call for U.S. size 10 needles or 6.0mm metric needles. The manufacturer of the yarn feels this combination creates the best drape and wearability. With this combination of yarn and needle you can expect to have a gauge of 3 stitches per inch or 2.5 centimeters. Note that the gauge is approximate, check the label first, but this is just to guide you regarding thicknesses. If you use smaller needles the fabric will become denser and if you use larger needles the fabric will become loose. Depending on the project or pattern you have make sure you have enough yarn to finish your project.
Worsted weight yarn is probably the most common weight for beginners to use (naturally there are exceptions). It is the next weight down from chunky or bulky or in other words not as thick as chunky or bulky. Using size 7 U.S. needles or 4.5mm needles the gauge would be approximately 5 stitches in one inch or 2.5 cm.
DK Weight or Double Knitting weight
DK weight yarn is slightly less thick than worsted weight. It is often paired with U.S. size 6 needles or 4.0 mm needles and the gauge is 5.5 or 6 stitches in an inch or 2.5 cm. This yarn size is often used in climates where bulky and worsted weight yarns are too warm or heavy.
Sport weight yarn is again a bit less thick than DK weight and knits up at 6.5 or 7 stitches in an inch or 2.5 cm on size U.S. 4ís or 3.5 mm. needles. This is a very versatile weight of yarn and can be used for sweaters, lightweight scarves, and is even thin enough for socks.
Baby or Fingering Weight
As its name indicates this yarn is often associated with baby blankets and sweaters, but it is also a weight of yarn used for socks when the yarn is more tightly spun. It is commonly used with U.S. size 2 needles or metric size 2.75 mm. needles and knits up to approximately 8 stitches in one inch or 2.5 cm.
Lace Weight Yarn
Lace weight yarns come in a variety of sizes the finest being cobweb. Cobweb is called that due its similarity to a spider webs thickness. Lace yarn can be knitted on larger needles to create a more open effect or smaller needles down to U.S. size 000 or 1.5 mm. The gauge is approximately 10 to 12 stitches in an inch or 2.5 cm.
All of the gauges and needle sizes are approximate and a guide can be downloaded from Yarn Standards at the Craft Yarn Council . The wise knitter will look closely at the pattern and yarn and complete a swatch at least 4 inches or 10 cm. by 4 in. or 10 cm. and the swatch will have the pattern stitch incorporated if there is one. This article is just a handy guide to the names of some of the more common yarns available. Lace yarns can be classified further and there are also super chunky weight yarns that are 1.5 stiches in an inch or 2.5 cm. Look around and choose the yarn best suited to your climate and project.