Working with the right type of yarn for your project is essential to knitting a project you love. So, how do you choose the correct gauge and texture of yarn for your needs? From understanding terms like ‘wrap per inch’ to ‘plies’– this guide offers valuable insight into everything you need to know about choosing yarn by gauge.
- Understanding Yarn by Gauge
- The Yarn Gauge Chart
- Terminology Surrounding Yarn & Yarn Gauge Charts
- What’s the Easiest Way to Determine the Weight of a Mystery Yarn?
- Common Misconceptions about Yarn by Gauge
- Choosing the Right Weight Yarn for Your Knitting Project
- Yarn by Gauge’s Ultimate Matchup: DK Versus Worsted Weight
- Where Do I Go From Here?
Understanding Yarn by Gauge
Yarn gauge is the measurement of the thickness of yarn. Understanding different gauges allows you to choose the right yarn for your project, both in terms of tension and texture.
Clearing Up Confusion about Yarn Gauge & Yarn Weight
You may hear: “What weight yarn did you use?” Yarn gauge and yarn weight is the same thing!
Yarn gauge and project gauge are two different things. Yarn gauge refers to the size of a strand of yarn. Whereas your project gauge is determined by counting the number of stitches & rows in an area.
The Yarn Gauge Chart
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Terminology Surrounding Yarn & Yarn Gauge Charts
There are a few terms that you need to know about when it comes to yarn gauge, so let’s break it down!
- Plies refer to the number of individual threads that have been twisted together to make up a single strand of yarn. These plies can be either S-twist or Z-twist, which refer to the direction the strands have been twisted.
- The tensile strength of a strand is the amount of force required to break the strand.
- Wraps per inch (WPI) is a measurement that tells you how many times a yarn can be wrapped around a ruler or gauge in one inch—it’s a key part of determining gauge, or how tightly a yarn is woven.
- Finally, grist is a measurement of how many yards of yarn is equal to one pound. This is a great way to know if you’re going to end with a light and airy fabric or a heavy one.
Knowing these terms is like icing on the cake for any knitter. You don’t need them to enjoy a good cake, but a little makes it soooo much better!
With the right information and a little practice, you can easily identify yarn types and select the perfect yarn for any project. By understanding yarn gauge and learning to read a yarn gauge chart, you’ll be well on your way to making beautiful projects with the appropriate fiber.
What’s the Easiest Way to Determine the Weight of a Mystery Yarn?
Determining the wraps per inch (WPI) is the easiest way to figure out the weight/gauge of a mystery yarn. All you need is a ruler! Wrap the yarn around the ruler, taking care not to pull it tight or leave it too loose, for just one inch of the ruler. Then count how many times you’ve wrapped it.
Use the chart above to determine which category that number of wraps falls into. It’s just that simple!
Common Misconceptions about Yarn by Gauge
- The number of plies does not affect the gauge or weight of the yarn. You can have a single ply in bulky weight and a fingering weight of 8 or more plies.
- The weight of yarn does not affect the durability of the yarn. This has to do with the fiber (longer fibers = more strength), the spin (worsted spun [different from worsted weight] is heartier and heavier than woolen spun), the amount of plies (3+ is more durable), and the twist (higher twist = more strength but not as soft). A high twist 4-ply fingering weight yarn with BFL and nylon will kick the pants off a 2-ply woolen spun yarn in worsted weight.
Now that we’ve go this cleared, let’s dive in so you can get the most out of your next project!
Choosing the Right Weight Yarn for Your Knitting Project
Choosing the right yarn for your knitting project is important for both aesthetic and practical reasons. Yarn comes in a vast array of types, weights, fibers, and spins, all of which are suited to different projects.
The easiest course of action is to use the weight of yarn your pattern recommends. Even if you can get stitch gauge in another gauge of yarn, you will end up with dramatically different fabrics.
If you’re working without a pattern, consider the weight of yarn you will need based on the gauge of stitches required for your project.
Consider how much user wear and tear your item will experience and select the appropriate fibers that can endure those conditions. (More on fibers soon!)
Yarn by Gauge’s Ultimate Matchup: DK Versus Worsted Weight
As you can see in the chart, there is a range within each weight of yarn that can make for some close calls, but the biggest question I hear again and again is which is “Which is the best for my project, DK versus worsted?” And it all depends on the qualities you’re looking for!
If you’re like, “Megan, on DK versus worsted weight just give me a straight answer for once!!!” I like DK for sweaters and worsted weight for blankets. Here’s why.
DK weight yarn is a great middle of the road choice. It works up at a decent speed but makes a nice mid-weight fabric that I can wear more often. It makes a fine fabric with a gauge small enough that it might just be machine made (giving you a great opportunity for the awesome “Thanks, I made it.”)
While you could totally make a blanket out of DK yarn, I think doing so would personally drive me a bit crazy. But there are amazing knitters who have made entire blankets out of fingering weight yarn, so what do I know?
Worsted weight yarn is fun because it works up fast! If I’ve been working in the smaller end of the yarn by gauge pool for a while and then pick up some worsted it’s absolutely delightful. This is why it’s always been my go-to for blankets, because I can usually finish before I’m utterly bored.
You can absolutely make sweaters out of worsted weight yarn. I have and I will again. But it is a heavier fabric (so be careful with a worsted spun Merino in worsted weight—its own weight will cause it to streeeeeeetch.) It is also a warmer fabric. So if you’re up north, awesome, you’ll still get a lot of great use out of it. If not, you may only get to wear it a few days out of the year.
In the matchup of DK versus worsted weight yarn, there are no clear winners. So pick which one you like best, and go for it!
Where Do I Go From Here?
If you have a yarn you love, determine the gauge and find a pattern that suits it! If you have a pattern you’ve been eyeing, now you know how to choose the yarn by gauge that will make that pattern a success!
Or if you’ve found a fabulous yarn, but don’t have a pattern yet, check out this awesome article on how to estimate yardage needed for a sweater!
Either way, be sure to grab your downloadable PDF of the Yarn by Gauge Cheat Sheet by signing up above When you do, you’ll also receive access to my video tutorial vault and PDFs of all my free patterns!
What will you cast on first?