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How to Choose Yarn: What You Need to Know About Yarns

Yarn is important for crocheting, and choosing the right yarn for your project is half the battle! In this article,...

Yarn is important for crocheting, and choosing the right yarn for your project is half the battle! In this article, we'll go over the basics of yarn and what you should look for when choosing yarn for a novice crocheter!

 

Here's a catalog for your quick reference.
 
 
 
We will start with the material of yarn, yarn is composed of a variety of yarn fibers, and different yarn fibers have different characteristics, so you need to choose the yarn according to the specific project, Understanding the characteristics of the various yarn materials is beneficial to choose the most matching yarn to maximize the effect in the project.

Yarn Fibers

Yarn fibers can be divided into three main categories: natural, synthetic, and blended.
  • Natural fibers: including animal fibers and plant fibers.
    -Animal fibers: alpaca, cashmere, Merino wool, mohair, silk, Llama, etc.
    -Plant fibers: such as bamboo, beechwood fiber, cotton, and linen.
  • Synthetic fibers: such as Acrylic, Nylon, Polyester, etc.
Below is a table of some commonly used yarn fiber characteristics.
 
Yarn Types
Advantages
 Disadvantages
Natural Fiber
Wool
One of the most common types of yarn, with natural elasticity, warmth, durability, and breathability
Not friendly to people with wool allergies, washing is not recommended except for "superwash" and requires special care.
Merino Wool
One of the finest and softest types of wool, suitable for allergy sufferers.
 
Pilling can occur with frequent rubbing 
Alpaca
Warmer and softer than the first two types of wool, non-allergenic, and can be used for winter clothing and accessories.
May be more expensive than other yarns, pilling, less stretchy than regular wool
Cashmere
It is a high-end wool that is very soft, fluffy, and lightweight. 
More expensive than other types of wool 
Mohair
Also known as Angora goat hair, it is one of the high-quality raw materials for the manufacture of plush fabrics. It has good elasticity, pressure resistance, and special luster, the fiber surface is smooth, easy to wash, and can be used for the manufacture of jacquard blankets, shaggy coat tweed, and other high-gloss woolen fabrics. 
Prone to static electricity, tends to stick to the skin after washing
Silk
It's also a high-end, quality yarn that's soft with great sheen and drape for summer projects as well as intimate apparel. 
Slippery yarn, not newbie friendly
 
 
Cotton
A popular choice for crochet, it is soft, comfortable, breathable, and highly absorbent, and can be used in a wide range of applications.
Lack of elasticity, easy to wrinkle, no warmth 
Bamboo
It has natural anti-bacterial and anti-odor properties, has very good drape and luster, and is an environmentally friendly yarn 
 
Limited elasticity, needs special care to maintain its softness and shape
Linen
One of the first fibers to be spun. Tough, durable fiber that is breathable and absorbent 
 
Easy to wrinkle, easy to become soft and old in the wash
Synthetic Fiber
 
Acrylic
The main component is polyacrylonitrile, which is affordable and versatile and is often used as a substitute for natural fibers such as wool or cotton due to its strong and warming properties. 
 
Easy pilling, average breathability
Nylon
It is a strong fiber that is often blended with other fibers, such as wool, to add durability to projects 
Poor water absorption and dimensional stability 
  • Blended Fiber: It is the interweaving of different types of fibers together. Blended yarns can take full advantage of the benefits of different yarns. For example, in sock yarn, mixing a percentage of nylon with wool strengthens the wool and makes it more resistant to abrasion.

Also, there are some special yarns including chenille, terry yarn, eyelash yarn, and faux fur that are also very common on the market.

 

 

Then, let's talk about yarn weight. Yarn weight is an important indicator of yarn, and with a quick trip to the craft store, it's easy to see that yarns come in a wide range of thicknesses, and crochet projects are designed with a certain weight of yarn, so it's important to buy the right type of yarn. So what exactly is the concept of yarn weight? How do we choose yarn? We will answer all these questions for you.

Yarn weight

Yarn weight does not refer to its physical weight but to the thickness of the yarn. Different projects require different thicknesses of yarn, so it's important to know the yarn weight. The Craft Yarn Council has created a standard yarn weight system that divides yarn weight into several different categories with which to categorize their yarns.

Yarns are made by twisting (spinning) various fibers into threads, so another way of describing the weight of a yarn is the number of plies. The way in which the individual yarns are twisted (Z or S twist) and the number of individual yarns twisted together determines the weight of the final yarn; it is worth noting that the number of strands does not determine the thickness of the yarn and that some very thick yarns can be made up of only two plies (two plies of thick yarn). This way of describing yarn weight is mainly used in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, where yarn types range from 2 to 14 strands.

Below are the eight CYC yarn categories and their corresponding WPI, recommended needle, and crochet hook sizes combined with the number of plies and applicable projects.

CYC Category
Type of Yarns in Category
Ply
WPI
Needle Sizes
Hook Size
Applicable projects
Fingering
10-count
crochet
thread
1ply 2ply 3ply
30-40+
000 to 1
(1.5-2.25 mm)
Steel 1.6-1.4mm or 2.25 mm
(Steel 6, 7, 8 or B-1)
shawls, lightweight garments, and accessories
Sock, Fingering, Baby
4ply
14-30
1 to 3
(2.25-3.25 mm)
2.25 – 3.5 mm
(B-1 to E-4)
Light layers, socks
Sport,
Baby
5ply
12-18
3 to 5
(3.25-3.75 mm)
3.5 – 4.5 mm
(E-4 to 7)
Light sweater, baby items, accessories
DK, Light Worsted
8ply
11-15
5 to 7
(3.75-4.5 mm)
4.5 – 5.5 mm
(7 to I-9)
mittens, hats, shawls, socks, scarves, or sweaters
Worsted,
Afghan,
Aran
10ply
9-12
7 to 9
(4.5-5.5 mm)
5.5 – 6.5 mm
(I-9 to K-10 1⁄2)
garments, accessories, blankets, toys, home decor items, dishcloths
Chunky,
Craft,
Rug
12ply
6-9
9 to 11
(5.5-8 mm)
6.5 – 9 mm
(K-10 1⁄2 to M-13)
home decor projects like rugs and baskets, warm sweaters, accessories, cozy blankets
Super Bulky,
Roving
14ply
5-6
11 to 17
(8—12.75 mm)
9 – 15 mm
(M-13 to Q)
crafts, crochet blankets, home decor projects
Jumbo,
Roving
16ply
1-4
17 and larger
(12.75 mm and larger)
15 mm and larger
(Q and larger)
home decor like very bulky blankets, felting projects, wall art

 

In the CYC yarn weight categories, numbered from 0 to 7, there is an increasing trend in yarn weight, meaning that 0 is the lightest and thinnest yarn category in the system, while 7 is the heaviest and thickest. The weight of the yarn is known from the yarn label, but if the label is missing how do you determine the weight of the yarn used? This is where we need to know another piece of data - the WPI.

WPI is the number of wraps per inch, which is defined as the number of turns of yarn wrapped around something (such as a knitting needle, pencil, or aluminum crochet hook) over a one-inch length, and the number of wraps is compared to the table above to determine the weight category of the yarn. For this measurement, the yarn strands should be placed flat next to each other, gently touching each other, and not squeezed together. Note that this is not an exact measurement and your results will vary depending on how tightly the yarn is wrapped. But this is a good way to go in case the yarn label is missing!

WPI in crochet

 

Everything you want to know about yarn is available on a yarn label, so How to Read a Yarn Label? Let's use this label as an example:

 yarn labels

1. Weight Category: According to the CYC standard yarn weight system or the table above, it can be seen that the weight category is Medium(4).
 
2. Fiber Content 
 
3. Weight in Grams & Ounces: is the physical weight of the yarn
 
4. Yardage
It is the length of yarn (in meters and yards) that is used to determine how many balls of yarn need to be purchased, based on the number of yards required by the pattern being followed compared to the number of yards on the yarn label.
 
5. Suggested Knitting needle size & The Swatch Gauge
This instructs you to use 5mm (US size 8) knitting needles and the gauge sample measures 4 x 4 inches (that's 10 x 10 centimeters) The numbers at the bottom of the square and on the right side indicate that it takes 20 stitches and 26 rows to make this gauge sample.
It's worth noting that making gauge samples is not required but important, especially in projects where the sizes have to match, and it can affect the outcome of your project. If your gauge is too loose, your project will be too big. If your gauge is too tight, your project will be too small, so you will need to increase or decrease the hook size until your gauge matches.
 
6. Suggested Crochet Hooks Size & The Swatch Gauge
As above, you are instructed to crochet 16 rows of 15 Sc (single crochet) each using a 5.5mm (I/9) crochet hook to complete a 4 x 4 inch (10 x 10 cm) gauge sample.
 
7. Care Instructions
Following is a list of symbols that most frequently appear on yarn labels. If you come across a different symbol, check out the ISO or ASTM websites.
8. Color Name & Number
9.Dye Lot(Not shown above)
*Why is it important to keep your yarn labels?
It can be easy to mix up yarns when you have a lot of them, plus it's not uncommon to lose interest in a crochet pattern for a while or have to interrupt because you're too busy while crocheting, so it's a good idea to keep your yarn labels or take a photo of them in case you need to make a yarn substitution.

 

How to choose yarn for beginners

  1. Project: Kindly decide the project you are going to crochet first, this is the first step to choosing yarn, the yarn should always be decided according to your project.
     
     
  2. Material: Choose a yarn based on the characteristics you want your crocheted item to have. For example, if you want to crochet an absorbent and hard-wearing rag, cotton yarn will be your best choice, while if you want a soft and skin-friendly scarf, try mohair. Be aware that some people may be allergic to wool, so ask about allergies if you're crocheting for someone else. Other yarn fiber characteristics can be found in the table above.
     
     
  3. Weight: Yarns that are too fine can be difficult to see stitches, while yarns that are too thick can be difficult to control, so it is best for beginners to use medium-weight yarns, which are classified as category 4 or 5 on the yarn label. In addition, plied yarns (made by twisting two or more single yarns together) have better stretch, and abrasion resistance, and are more tangle-resistant, which makes them easier for beginners to control, and it is better to try to avoid single-knitted yarns, which are prone to unraveling.
     
     
  4. Color: Although textured yarns are beautiful, this is harder for beginners to see stitches, so to not frustrate your confidence try to choose a lighter, brighter solid color yarn. If the project requires you to buy multiple balls of yarn, they should be of the same dye lot; generally, yarns from the same dye lot will have much less color variation than others.
For a quick introduction to crochet, the easiest way to get started is to choose a kit with a pattern and matching tools as well as a beginner's tutorial, which you can browse through on our website if interested.

 

And finally, for newbies who are just starting out, you may often get confused about yarn. After all, there is a lot to learn about, so hopefully this article will help you solve some of the puzzles!

 

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