Features and functions of yarn – first part

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The variety of yarn available today is astounding, to say the least. You can find everything from the basic solid-color acrylic yarns and silky-soft wool blends to long, fringy eyelash yarn and sequined yarn. In addition to going over yarn weights, styles, and materials, let’s try to discover together how to choose the right yarn for your projects.

Sizing up yarn weights

Yarn weight or size refers to the general thickness of a yarn and can range
from very thin to superthick. You can describe the weight of a yarn in numerous ways, but the majority of yarn companies tend to adhere to several common weight descriptions. The following list, although not all-inclusive, outlines the most common sizes of yarn in order from the thinnest to the thickest strands (photos)

Lace weight: Lace weight yarns include crochet thread and tend to be very thin yarns commonly used for doilies, filet crochet, and shawls.
Fingering weight: Also known as sock or baby weight, this thin yarn is generally used to make lightweight garments, baby items, and designs with an open and lacy pattern.
Sport weight: This medium-weight yarn is great for many different types of patterns, including sweaters, baby blankets, scarves, and shawls.
Double Knitting (DK) weight: Sometimes referred to as light worsted, this yarn is slightly thicker than sport weight and can be used in the same patterns, but the resulting fabric is somewhat heavier.
Worsted weight: Worsted weight is probably the most commonly used size of yarn and also the most readily available. It’s great for afghans, sweaters, scarves, hats, slippers, and toys.
Chunky weight: This yarn is sometimes referred to as heavy worsted or bulky weight. It’s thicker than worsted weight and is used for afghans, jackets, and rugs.
Super bulky weight: This yarn is a very thick, warm yarn and is generally used to make jackets, afghans, rugs, and heavy outdoor sweaters.

Many yarn manufacturers include the yarn weight symbols on the label to help you find suitable yarn substitutions. (figure with weight symbols from 0 to 6).

Even though the different thicknesses of yarns are named by weight, as in worsted weight or sport weight, the size (diameter) of the yarn is actually what that name is referring to. The terms size and weight are interchangeable when referring to the thickness of a yarn.

Different types of yarn

Yarns are made up of a wide variety of materials, ranging from natural fibers like wools, cottons, and silks to synthetics such as acrylic, rayon, and nylon.

When choosing yarn for a project, take into consideration how you’ll use the piece. If you’re making a baby blanket, choose a yarn that can stand up to repeated washings. If you’re making a tablecloth or bedspread that’ll someday be an heirloom piece, invest in good-quality cotton that can withstand the test of time without falling apart. For a warm sweater, you can’t beat wool for durability and warmth.


Of all the natural fibers used to make yarn, wool is the most popular choice to work with when you’re creating a piece that you want to endure for years to come. Wool is resilient (which helps the stitches retain their shape), soft, easy to work with, and relatively lightweight. It comes in many different sizes, from fingering weight to bulky. You can crochet with wool to make everything from beautiful, warm-weather sweaters to cozy, wintertime pullovers, hats, scarves, mittens, socks, and afghans. Wool is fairly low maintenance as well, but be careful to read a particular yarn’s label for specific washing instructions.

Although most wool comes from various breeds of sheep, you can obtain luxurious wool yarns from other animals as well. Fuzzy mohair and cashmere come from goats, and delicate, fluffy, Angora yarn comes from the Angora rabbit.

If you’re allergic to wool, don’t despair. Look for a synthetic instead. Many new synthetics mimic the real stuff so well that if you don’t spill your secret, no one will know…


Spun from the cocoon of the silkworm, silk yarn has a smooth, often shiny finish. It’s lightweight and absorbent, making it a perfect choice for warmweather garments. Silk is often combined with cotton or wool to increase its elasticity and durability.


Once used mainly to make doilies, bedspreads, and tablecloths, cotton has become a versatile yarn. It comes in a wide range of sizes, from very fine threads to worsted-weight yarn. Garments made from cotton yarn are washable, durable, and have that great cotton comfort. Cotton yarn is also a good choice for home décor items such as place mats, potholders, amigurumi toys and curtains.


Synthetic yarn is produced from man-made fibers such as acrylic, rayon, nylon, and polyester. Designed to look like the natural-fiber yarns, synthetic yarns are readily available in a wide range of sizes, colors, and textures and are generally less expensive than their natural counterparts. I also often use it in crocheting large size amigurumi toys, being very easy to work with and they are just as beautiful as those made from cotton or other synthetic yarns.These yarns, especially those made from acrylic, are good for afghans and baby blankets because they require little care. Synthetic yarns are quite often used in combination with natural fibers, which gives you even more new textures, colors, and qualities of yarn to crochet with.

Novelty yarns

Novelty yarns are fun and funky and make your pieces interesting without requiring complicated stitch patterns. From soft, fringy eyelash yarn and velvety chenille to bumpy bouclé, glittering metallics, and slinky ribbon, these yarns can add a fresh, fashionable look to any piece you create.

Organic yarns, fair trade fibers, and sustainably sourced fibers

Ecologically friendly yarns are a growing trend in the yarn world as crafters work to lessen their hobbies’ impact on the environment. Among the yarns found in this category are organic, fair trade, and sustainably sourced yarns.

Organic yarns come from companies that make their products without the use of man-made chemicals, so plants and animals are raised without synthetic pesticides or fertilizer. Fair trade fibers come from companies who work to improve labor conditions for their farmers and workers. Sustainably sourced yarns have been produced with minimal impact on the earth, meaning the fiber is cultivated without excess waste of or damage to the earth’s resources.

Some major yarn brands and local yarn shops have added eco-friendly yarns to their line, but these still tend to be more expensive than other yarns.

However, as more crafters support those brands that make a conscious effort to produce earth-friendly fibers, the more abundant and cheaper those fibers will become.

Other materials

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can crochet with any material that resembles a string. Throw caution to the wind and use fine, colored wire and hemp to crochet cool jewelry, nylon cord to whip up waterproof bags and outdoor seat cushions, and even embroidery floss and sewing thread to create appliqués and accents (gives a whole new meaning to “reduce, reuse, recycle,” huh?).

To be continued…

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