Crochet and knitting are wonderful hobbies – all you need is several types of yarn and a hook or needle! With just these two things, you can create a huge variety of useful items. The word ‘yarn’ can be misleading, though. You can actually crochet or knit with anything that resembles a string, which can be wrapped around a hook! You can even crochet or knit jewelry with a very fine wire which has beads threaded onto it. This article will discuss the different types of yarns that can be made from various fibers.
What are the Different Types Of Yarn?
Which fiber you choose to create your items can make a great difference to the final outcome of your product. It can be the difference between a masterpiece that can be used for many years, and a flop, which is thrown into the garbage in disgust. The types of yarn you use generally depend on what that yarn is made up of. Here is a list of the most common types of yarn, along with suitable uses and washing care.
Types of Yarn by Fiber Source
The different types of yarn material for crochet and knitting can be broken into:
- Man-made yarn
- Animal-based fibers
- Plant-based fibers
Man-Made Types of Yarn
Acrylic is a synthetic, man-made yarn. It is cheaper than the more natural yarns. This yarn is perfect for beginners, as it is of even thickness, is easy to work with, and comes in a vast variety of colors. It is colorfast, strong and light to work with. It can be machine washed and is moth-proof. Your garment will last for years as it is a very hardy yarn.
Nylon was originally made for manufacturing parachutes. It is a synthetic fiber that is good for light, draping projects. It was also used to manufacture stockings. Nylon is shiny and sheer, but not at all absorbent. It can be machine washed. (Read what is nylon)
Rayon is a mixture of natural and synthetic fibers. It is also known as Viscose. It is light, smooth, and soft, and is good for warm weather garments. It can be hand or machine-washed.
Wool is usually blended with cotton or acrylic fibers, sometimes with silk. The reason for this blending is to make the best use of and to get the best qualities out of each fiber. Wool blended with acrylic is generally cheaper than other blends, and still gives many of the advantages of pure wool. These blends are good for creating soft, warm winter garments. They are generally hand-wash fibers.
Types of NoveltyYarn
These are a lot of fun to work with, although some require some skill and dexterity.
- Bouclé has bumps and loops and creates a textured look.
- Chenille is velvety and has a really soft texture, but can be difficult to work with.
- Faux fur, when crocheted up, it gives the appearance of fur.
- Eyelash yarn is similar to faux fur, it also has fluffy bits attached to the main thread to give a furry or hairy appearance.
- Ribbon yarn is made from ribbons.
- Thick and thin yarn has uneven areas of thickness, which give a bumpy, textured look when made up.
- Plarn is a plastic yarn made from thin strips cut from plastic sheets. It is often homemade from recycled carrier bags.
- T-shirt yarn is made from strips of knit (t-shirt) fabric. It is very thick and absorbent.
- Self striping yarn is most often acrylic yarn that has been dyed to create stripes in your crochet as you work. It changes color without you changing balls of yarn. Great fun to work with, but the disadvantage is that you have no control over when your color will change!
Animal Fiber Types of Yarn
Many types of yarn can be made from various animal fibers for warmth and softness.
An alpaca is an animal similar to a llama. Alpaca yarn is soft and warm but is fairly expensive. It is both softer and warmer than wool but doesn’t hold its shape as well. It is good for people with wool allergies. This yarn must be hand washed.
Angora yarn comes from angora rabbits. It is exceptionally soft, warm, and fine. It is often blended with acrylic or wool to help it keep its shape once crocheted into a garment. It must be hand washed or dry cleaned.
Cashmere is soft, warm, and luxurious. It is made from the undercoat of goats. Because the goats have to be hand combed to get their fleece, it is rather expensive. It is good for people with wool allergies but is not as strong or hard-wearing as wool. Must be hand washed or dry cleaned. (Read what is cashmere)
This is not as soft as alpaca yarn, although the animals are closely related, and often confused. It is good for hard-wearing items and household accessories. It must be hand washed or dry cleaned.
This is a specific type of yarn that comes from Merino sheep. It is very soft and holds its shape well, but it also ‘pills’, which can be annoying. Pilling refers to the little beads of yarn that form on a garment after repeated washing. It is wonderfully warm, and it wicks moisture away from the skin. Merino generally needs hand washing.
Mohair is an expensive type of yarn, which comes from Angora goats. Not to be mixed up with Angora rabbits! It has a sheen to it and is especially warm, soft, and breathable. It is best to hand wash or a very gentle machine wash.
Silk is spun by silkworms and is very labor-intensive to produce, which makes it rather expensive. It is soft, light, smooth, and luxurious. Silk is great for fine shawls or wraps. It needs a gentle hand wash or dry clean.
Although Merino wool has already been mentioned, there are many varieties of wool, depending on the breed of sheep from which they come. The most common types are Merino wool, Shetland wool, and Icelandic wool. Lambswool is extra soft and fluffy. Wool has excellent insulation properties and creates warm garments. Some people are allergic to wool. This is caused by lanolin, which is the natural oil in the fibers. Wool garments are prone to shrink, so must be hand washed in cool water or dry cleaned.
Plant Fiber Types of Yarn
This is a lightweight, soft and silky type of yarns. It has a luxurious feel. It drapes beautifully, so is good for garments that need to flow. It is not as warm as some other types of yarn, so is good for summer garments. Bamboo yarn is very absorbent.
As its name implies, cotton types of yarn come from the cotton plant. It is widely used for woven fabrics as well as being spun into yarn. It is light, absorbent, and extremely hard-wearing. It is good for creating summer garments. Sadly it doesn’t hold its shape as well as some other yarns and it stretches easily. It can, however, be machine washed.
This is one of the most eco-friendly yarns. The plant from which it is produced grows much faster than cotton and produces much more fiber. Although it was originally used for weaving and macramé purposes, it is now becoming more popular as a yarn for crochet and knitting. It is hard-wearing but still fairly soft and comfortable. Hemp must be hand washed.
Linen is a plant fiber made from the flax plant. It dates back to the time of Ancient Egypt. It is a cool, breathable, and absorbent fiber, which dries fast. Linen is good for creating light summer garments or household accessories. It is machine washable.
Now that you know about all the properties of various types of yarn, you can plan an outing to your nearest craft or yarn store, knowing exactly what you want to buy!
Types of Yarn by Weight
Now that you know what types of yarn you want for your crochet project, you must also give consideration to the weight of the yarn you will choose. Thicker yarns knit or crochet up more quickly while thinner yarns can be used for lace-like projects. 0 is the most lightweight yarn and 7 is the heaviest.
The weight of the yarn will determine the size of the crochet hook or knitting needle.
Here is a table describing various yarn weights to help you decide.
|0||Lace||Crochet thread, Cobweb, Light fingering||Anything lacy, doilies, fine scarves, and shawls.|
|1||Super Fine||Sock yarn, Baby yarn, Fingering||Shawls, socks, mittens, baby garments summer garments.|
|2||Fine||Sport, Baby, 4 ply||Lightweight garments, socks, hats, scarves, mittens.|
|3||Light||Double Knit(DK), 8 ply Light Worsted||Cardigans, sweaters, scarves, hats, mittens.|
|4||Medium||Worsted, Aran, 10 ply||Almost anything! Good for beginners, easy to work with.|
|5||Bulky||Chunky, Craft, Rug||Thick garments, rugs, throws, cowls, scarves.|
|6||Super Bulky||Super chunky, Roving||Warm hats, jackets, blankets.|
|7||Jumbo||Ultra, Roving||Rugs, scarves, afghans.|
Types of Yarn by Ply
Yarn ply is slightly different from yarn weight even though they are sometimes used interchangeably. Ply is predominantly used in Australia, the Uk, and New Zealand. It refers to the number of plies (or strands) that are twisted together.
In yarn shops, typical yarn plys that you will see include 2 ply, 4 ply. 8 ply and 12 ply.
In theory the higher the number of plies, the thicker the yarn. You can however have 2 plies twisted to create the same thickness as 8 thinner plies. This is why it is better to use the yarn categories listed above.
How to Choose the Right Type of Yarn for a Pattern
Knitting patterns and crochet patterns will always specify the type of yarn and the thickness to be used. They will often recommend a particular brand and offer substitution suggestions.
When varying the yarn you choose, it is important it is a similar thickness, particularly when making garments. You wouldn't want a sweater to be much larger or smaller than the pattern dictates.
Always knit or crochet a swatch and compare the stitches and number of rows to the gauge of the pattern.
Types of Yarn Labels
Yarn labels will always specify important information such as the weight category or ply, as well as care instructions and needle or hook sizes. It should also give an indication of the gauge so you can produce a swatch.
Typical yarn label information includes:
- Yarn weight - This may be the category eg bulky or the ply eg 8 ply.
- Fibers - The label should tell you what type of fiber the yarn is made from. An example of this may be a wool blend where is says 10% Merino/90% Acrylic.
- Size or weight of the ball - This will be in grams or ounces and sometimes includes the length as well in yards or meters.
- Care instructions - Labels should always tell you how to look after your yarn product. It may have laundry symbols or give a text explanation.
- Dye lot number - Yarn is dyed in large batches. Even with today's sophisticated dyeing technology, there can be slight differences between dye lots. If you are knitting or crocheting an item with multiple balls of yarn, make sure they are all of the same dye lots.
- Knitting needle size or crochet hook size
Other Types of Yarn Factors
As well as all the fiber from which a yarn is made from, it is necessary to take into account a few other factors when purchasing the best type of yarn for your project.
- The season - For Summer, look for cotton or lightweight natural fiber yarns. These will breathe and be cooler to wear. For Winter, use wool or warmer wool blends for maximum comfort and warmth.
- Softness - For garments that will be next to the skin, such as a sweater, make sure the type of yarn used is not scratchy.
- Color - There are an endless array of yarn colors and mixes. Choose what makes you happy.
- Price - Acrylic is one of the cheapest types of yarn.
Types of Yarn - FAQs
What is the most common type of yarn?
If you walk into any shop selling yarn, you will see that wool yarn followed by acrylic is the most common type of yarn found on their shelves. Within those categories, there will be different thicknesses, colors, designs, and endless variations of these.
What yarn is used for knitting?
The most common yarns used for knitting are made from wool or acrylic. For beginner knitters, smoother yarns are easier and less likely to split or catch.
What is the most common yarn size for crochet?
In the US, the most common yarn size for crochet is a worsted weight yarn. It is equivalent to a size 4. DK weight or 8-ply yarn is also very popular
Types of Yarn - In Conclusion
If you are following a crochet or knitting pattern they will usually recommend specific types of yarn for the project. Sometimes that yarn is unavailable. If you use your knowledge of yarn types and weights, it is easy to find a suitable substitute.
You should always make a tension swatch, though, to be sure your garment will turn out the right size. You are all set to make your list of exactly what you need to start your great yarn project! Beware! You are soon to become addicted!
Remember that crocheting is a bit like becoming a magician....you mumble to yourself and waggle a stick around and no one else has a clue how you did it!
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