Blog


How To...

Published on March 18th, 2015 | by Elizabeth Bagwell

19 comments

Ultimate yarn weight cheat sheet

As we stock yarns from around the world, they’re not all manufactured to the same standard weights. Elizabeth Bagwell explains the different terms.

The Ultimate yarn weight guide for knitters - LoveKnitting blog

Yarn weights are confusing enough when you stick to one system. With the plethora of beautiful yarns crossing the oceans every day, more knitters are getting in a tangle, particularly when substituting yarns. Using the American Standard Yarn Weight System as a backdrop, my goal is to outline the types of yarn, from thinnest to thickest. If any are missing, please mention where they would fit in the comments.

What does ‘yarn weight’ mean?
The term ‘yarn weight’ refers to the thickness of the thread, not the weight of the ball or even of the thread itself. As different fibres have different densities, a metre of a fluffy aran wool may weigh less than a metre of 4ply cotton, even though the aran is the ‘heavier’ yarn.

What’s a ply?
Spinners pull fibres from a disordered mass into a single, long thread. This thread is usually plied with one or more others to make up a yarn of the desired weight. This way, the spinner or spinning machine can make one type of thread but multiple weights of yarn.

Historically, this was a good way to describe weight, as plies were fairly uniform. Today, a single ply yarn can be a very fine laceweight or a bulk sweater yarn like Icelandic Lopi, and a DK can have 10 or 20 plies in it. Plies have remained as yarn weight names, particularly in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, even though the meaning is no longer as clear.

Yarn weight conversion chart

0: Lace

Lace yarn; yarn weight conversion chartApproximately 32-40 stitches per 4in/10cm on 1.5-2.25mm needles.

Starting with the thinnest yarns, this category covers:

  • Thread: approximately the same thickness as sewing thread or 10 count crochet cotton.
  • Cobweb yarn: also known as 1ply in the UK and Australia/New Zealand.
  • Laceweight:  most commonly 2ply (UK/AU/NZ) thickness. However, the term ‘laceweight’ can be used for any light yarn used for lace.
  • Light fingering (US):  approximately 3ply (UK/AU/NZ). Some UK manufacturers call 3ply yarns ‘baby weight’.

Lace yarns are often knit on larger needles to create a more airy effect so its important to find the right weight of yarn as well as getting gauge.

 

1: Super Fine

4 ply yarn; yarn weight conversion chartApproximately 27-32 stitches per 4in/10cm on 2.25-3.25mm needles.

Fingering (US) is approximately equivalent to 4ply (UK/AU/NZ) and sock weight.

Sock weight is a very useful term but not a fixed standard. As an example, German sock yarn manufacturers may issue their colourways in ‘4-fach’ and ‘6-fach’ weights. 4-fach is approximately 4ply, while 6-fach is thicker, more like sport or DK.

In the UK, 3ply and 4ply are commonly sold as ‘baby’ yarns. Like sock yarns, baby yarns can vary enormously in thickness and you’ll commonly find them in categories 0 through 3.

 

 

2: Fine

Sport weight yarn; yarn weight conversion table Approximately 24-27 stitches per 4in/10cm on 3.25-3.75mm needles.

Sport or sportweight (US) is approximately equivalent to 5ply (AU/NZ). There is no direct UK equivalent.

3: Light

DK yarns; yarn weight conversion chartApproximately 21-24 stitches per 4in/10cm on 3.75-4.5mm needles.

DK or double knitting (UK) is the same thickness as 8ply (AU/NZ). There is no direct equivalent in the USA, although imports may be described as a ‘light worsted’.

4: Medium

Aran and worsted weight yarns; yarn weight conversion tableApproximately 16-20 stitches per 4in/10cm on 4.5-5.5mm needles.

Worsted (US) is slightly thinner than aran (UK). Both are approximately equal to 10ply (AU/NZ).

The term ‘worsted’ comes from a particular spinning method so it is possible to find worsted-spun DK yarn although this is relatively rare unless you’re buying hand spun yarn.

5: Bulky

chunky, bulky weight yarns; yarn weight conversion chartApproximately 12-16 stitches per 4in/10cm on 5.5-8mm needles.

Bulky (US) is known as chunky (UK) and 12ply (AU/NZ). Icelandic Lopi is a bulky yarn.

Bulky and chunky yarns can vary a lot in thickness. Frequently, yarn companies will lump all yarns thicker than aran or worsted into this one category. As a result, finding successful substitutions can be difficult.

6: Super Bulky

super chunky, super bulky yarn; yarn weight conversion chartAnything thicker than bulky.

Super bulky (USA) yarns are usually put in together with super chunky in the UK.

Novelty yarns, art yarns and other off-the-charts fibres

varied weight and novelty yarn; yarn weight conversion chart
Yarn weights were developed when yarn meant wool and (perhaps) cotton. As more and more creative yarns appear, from fluffy acrylic ‘eyelash’ yarns to ones made from recycled fabric, the categories become less helpful. As novelty yarns are often knit at odd tensions, finding substitutes can be like doing a frustrating (but hopefully rewarding) puzzle.

 

loveknitting youtube


About the Author

Elizabeth is a keen knitter, occasional designer, enthusiastic traveler and a professional freelance writer. She spent three years working for British knitting magazine, Simply Knitting, and has also written for The Knitter and other craft titles. She blogs at: www.elizabethbagwell.me.uk


Last updated: August 3rd, 2017.

19 Responses to Ultimate yarn weight cheat sheet

  1. Tina says:

    Just was wondering about this issue yesterday on a questionnaire for Loveknitting. Your blog popped up just now and is very helpful! Thanks

  2. Dianne Horrocks says:

    Thank you for explaining yarn weights. In Australia I have been finding less and less yarns with a ply and being old school, have found selecting yarn difficult.

  3. Kalli says:

    In Australia we also have baby yarn which is 4ply and different again. I tend now to go by the indicated needle size on the wrapper when judging the thickness for projects and go from there.

  4. Avril Kay says:

    Really useful article, thank you so much for this.

  5. Kerry says:

    I also am from Australia and I have struggled trying to understand the overseas yarns. Thank you as this is so helpful

  6. Maggie says:

    Another Australian here. Thank you so much for the yarn weight chart. I struggled for ages to understand the weights. This makes a great reference point.

  7. Elly says:

    not Australian but as a German equally puzzled at times about the given Yarn Weights.:-)
    Thank you, this chart is really helpful, great idea!

  8. Anne says:

    I agree this is a helpful article, I find recommended needle size and stitches/rows per inch a helpful guide. When in doubt I often weigh the first piece I knit to calculate if I have enough yarn for the garment .

  9. Carol says:

    Wow! Finally a way that i can explain to my local LYS in France how to define different types of wool and what i’m looking for.On our labels in froggy land i have only come across st and row count have a categorie along with a composition label,talking of plys is a bit Alien to most french knitters unless they have already used wools from other countries.
    This is very helpful as the internet is now the main Lys for most people and worldwide wools are a lot more common to use.
    Thankyou for this info 🙂

  10. Lois Zuckerman says:

    Thank you so much for this helpful article. I do wish that manufacturers would provide wpi (wraps per inch) as well as weight. It is a much more exact measure.

  11. Denise Phelan says:

    This is excellent! I’ve been struggling with yarn ply/weight/category for a project I’m doing. This explains a lot. I would love a universal ‘sizing’ which would make the yarn world a better place to live

  12. Nancy says:

    Hope someone will read this and answer. Does anyone know what category size 3 and 5 crochet cotton fall into?

    • Ranea says:

      My guess at the crochet cotton would be under the super fine. The smaller (size 10) would probably be lace weight.

  13. daphne durnsford says:

    I would very much like to print off this info but don’t know how. it is a good chart to identify different yarns , plys and so on. can someone help me with the printing thing. Daphne. Australia.

    • Marty says:

      I would also like to print it. Can I email it to myself? Don’t participate in Facebook, Twitter, etc.

  14. Charlene says:

    This is extremely helpful. There is one correction I would like to make though. USA does have a DK weight, we also use a number system on our yarns. 0 is lace, 1 is fingering, 2 is sport, 3 is DK, 4 is worsted, 5 is bulky or chunky, 6 is super bulky or chunky. American manufacturers are adding this number system to their labels to help with substitutions.

  15. lorraine spiering says:

    Is there a chart for comparing vintage yarn weights to modern…
    I am wanting to substitute the eyelash yarn for the vintage pattern for a shrug of Fleishers Featherlite angora or Bear Brand Petite kitting worsted….what do you think ?

  16. gail says:

    still confused as my pattern says use 4ply worst weight yarn , some say 4ply is D/k in England and some say worsted weight is aran , but can not find anything that says them both . Any help would help please

    • Angie says:

      Hi Gail! 4 ply is not DK in the UK, it’s still 4-ply, which is significantly thinner than a DK weight yarn. Worsted and aran weight yarns are usually interchangeable, as aran is the preferred term in the UK, and worsted is the preferred term in the US. I hope that helps!

Back to Top ↑