A Knitting Yarn Buyer’s Guide: Types, Weights, and How to Choose It

How do you decide which yarn to use for your upcoming knitting project when there is a rainbow of yarn available? Beyond a cursory glance at the label, here’s everything you need to know.

Which kind of yarn is ideal for beginners?

Most beginners will begin with chunky wool yarns and large knitting needles. Yarn type has little effect on knitting difficulty, though novelty yarns can be difficult to work with. Wool is an inexpensive and widely available yarn that is simple to work with.

As a beginner, you can start with simple knitting patterns and the yarn recommended by the designer. After trying a few patterns, you can begin experimenting with yarn substitutions to see how different fiber types feel to knit with.

What is yarn? 

Yarn is a type of textile that is commonly made from animal fibers (sheep’s wool, mohair, angora), plant fibers (cotton, hemp, silk), or synthetic fibers (polyester, nylon, rayon). These interlocked fibers (known as plies) are spun into thicker strands.

Weight Categories

The number of plies (for example, single-ply vs. two-ply yarn) influences the drape, stitch definition, and overall feel of the yarn. The ply count is considered in the following categories:

Category 0: Lace (Approximately equal to 1 ply).

This is the lightest weight like fingering weight wool used to make doilies and other beautiful lace designs. As a result, treat it gently to avoid tangling or breaking.

Categories 1–3: Super Fine, Fine, and Light (Approximately equal to 2-5 ply).

This is appropriate for small items such as socks, gloves, hats, or baby and children’s clothing. Cast on and off with care. Fine yarn, in particular, is commonly referred to as “sport weight.”

Category 4: Medium (Approximately equivalent to 8–10 ply).

This weight, also known as “worsted,” is popular with knitters of all skill levels because it provides excellent stitch definition in sweaters, scarves, hats, and mittens. Chunky stitches knitted in this weight of traditional Aran yarn can increase the warmth of the fiber. You can now buy worsted yarns online.

Categories 5 and 6: Bulky and Super Bulky (Approximately equivalent to 12-14 ply).

This weight of material produces quick projects on large needles. Consider thick scarves, throws, and blankets. This type of yarn is suitable for both beginners and advanced knitters who want to create something unique with novel yarn—knit large, loose stitches for maximum loft. Unevenly spun yarn, such as boucle, chenille, or slubby yarn, will result in uneven knits and poor stitch definition.

Recognizing the Label

Each yarn has a label that includes the fiber content, weight, amount, care instructions, suggested needle size, gauge, and dye-lot number. You should get your yarns from a reputable store like Darn Yarn shop.

Fiber content

The material of yarn is often expressed as a percentage. (For instance, 90 percent merino wool, 5% alpaca, and 5% cashmere.)


The total thickness of the yarn is often expressed in wraps per inch (WPI). The ply count is also essential, ranging from the finest to the heaviest weights (usually between 1-ply and 14-ply). Currently, the categories in the United States vary according to these symbols.


The total length of the yarn is in yards and ounces.

Dye-lot Number 

It refers to the color of the yarn. When purchasing in multiples, make sure that the numbers match. Even if two balls of yarn appear to be the same color, the subtle difference in the final knitted garment can be seen.

Care Instructions

This section contains instructions on washing and drying your knitted garment.

Recommended needle and yarn gauge

The yarn gauge is determined by the number of stitches and rows worked. 

How to Pick the Right Yarn for Your Project

Finally, select the yarn best suited to your project. The instructions often recommend the appropriate yarn weight and needle size to use. Changing the yarn can significantly impact the final results of the pattern, so if you want to avoid a surprise result, use the suggested yarn or an exact substitute.


When knitting something off your design, consider whether you want it to be machine washable. Is it intended to keep you cool in hot weather or warm in cold weather? What are the item’s size and shape? A sturdy merino wool makes a good pair of winter mittens, while a loopy rosette scarf is made sumptuously soft with a luxurious material like mohair. It is entirely up to you to create the perfect knit item.

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