If you are just starting your new hobby of knitting or crocheting, you have likely walked down the yarn aisle of an arts and crafts store and felt completely overwhelmed. With so many different types of yarns available, your head may have been swimming!
Should you choose acrylic yarn or wool yarn? What do “worsted weight” yarn and “fingering weight” yarn mean? How do you know what size crochet hook to use with the yarn you choose? Let us explain some of the basics of yarn types, fibers, and weights so you can start your crocheting or knitting journey with confidence.
Different Types of Yarn Fiber
The first thing you need to understand about different types of yarn is that they are made of different fibers, which can be broken down into two main categories: natural or synthetic fibers. Natural fibers come from animal products (such as sheep, alpacas, or silk from silkworms) or are derived from plants (such as cotton or bamboo). Synthetic fibers are made from various plastics such as acrylic, polyester, rayon, or nylon.
In addition, there are blended yarns that include both natural and synthetic fibers, such as an acrylic and cotton or wool blend. When you are crocheting or knitting a project, it is important to choose the right kind of yarn — for instance, you should not choose acrylic yarn for a potholder since the synthetic fiber will melt when it comes in contact with heat. For that project, you should choose 100 percent cotton yarn , or a linen/cotton blend that can withstand exposure to heat.
Main Yarn Fiber Types:
- Wool yarn from sheep (wool may come from different breeds of sheep, such as Merino, Blue-Faced Leicester, Peruvian Highland, etc.
- Other wool-producing animals :Alpaca, Llama, Camel, Yak, Goat (cashmere or mohair), Rabbit (angora)
- Plant-based yarns such as bamboo, linen, hemp, Cotton yarn or thread, tencel
- Synthetic yarns including acrylic, polyester and nylon.
- Yarn blends
What Yarn Fiber Type Should I Use?
If you are a beginner crocheter or knitter, the three best fiber choices to use are wool yarn, cotton yarn, and wool/acrylic yarn.
Yarn from wool-producing animals is great for practicing your stitches, as it is resilient and forgiving of mistakes (memory), it is also anti-bacterial, anti-flammable, and insulating, but some people have wool allergies.
Cotton yarn is an inelastic fiber, which can be more challenging to work with, but it is great for a project that needs to hold its shape (and it’s lighter than wool). It also is antiflammable.
Acrylic yarn is a popular and affordable fiber choice, but not only can it be challenging to work with, it is also a synthetic that does not insulate, and melts under high heats. It is actually a poor choice for babies or blankets, although it is widely used because of the low cost, bright color choices, and washability.
What Are the Different Yarn Weights?
The yarn weight refers to the yarn’s thickness. The weight of the yarn will determine how and when you should typically use the type of yarn.
You will sometimes to be able to find the yarn’s weight on its label, numbered from 1-7 (from thinnest to thickest), or by the recommended needle sizes. The best yarn for beginners to use is worsted weight yarn, which is often labeled as weight #4, as this is an easy-to-work-with, medium-weight yarn. Other good yarns for beginners would be a “3” DK weight yarn or a “5” bulky weight yarn.
Be sure to use the correct crochet hook or knitting needle size recommended for the yarn weight that you choose. The recommended crochet hook and knitting needle size will typically be listed on the yarn’s label. For instance, it is recommended to use a 5.5-6.5mm crochet hook or size 7-9 (US) knitting needles with worsted weight yarn.
Get Started Crocheting or Knitting
Equipped with this helpful knowledge of yarn types and weights, you are one step closer to becoming well-versed in the needle arts of crocheting and knitting. As you find yourself looking for crochet and knitting supplies, be sure to check out our online inventory at Apples to Oranges. Happy stitching!