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Video:Knitting Basics: Yarn Weight and Type

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Knitting yarn comes in all different weights and materials, all great for different projects. This video will provide you with a quick guide to the different types and weights of yarn.See Transcript

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Transcript:Knitting Basics: Yarn Weight and Type

Hi, I'm Jennifer Hoag from the Northeast Fiber Arts Center in Williston, Vermont. I'm here for About.com today and would like to talk to you about yarn weights and styles. 

Yarn Types: Synthetic

So there are three basic types of yarn: yarn can be spun from synthetic fibers, from natural fibers and from man-made fibers. The most common synthetic fiber that we work with is acrylic. The benefits to acrylic are that it's a little less expensive also it's completely easy to care for. You can throw it in the washing machine and the dryer and for that reason it's a very popular type of yarn to use for children and baby knits.

Yarn Types: Natural

The alternative within the natural fiber category is you can either get yarns that are spun from animal fibers or from plant-based fibers. So the most common one that we think of when we talk about natural fibers is wool. And wool is really nice in that it has this natural elasticity and memory. Wool therefore holds its shape really well, you can stretch it out as you pull it over your head or onto your foot and it springs right back into shape.

I'd like to talk a bit about cotton. Which is probably the most typical plant-based natural fiber that you're familiar with. Cotton can be very soft and it is machine washable so it's a very common choice of yarn for baby and children's garments. 

Yarn Types: Man-Made

The last category of fibers that yarn can be spun from are those that are considered man-made. These man-made fibers start with a natural fiber, usually plant-based, but then they're manipulated by man through a series of chemicals to alter the actual structure of the molecule. And that creates things like bamboo and also rayon, that I'm sure you've heard of. These fibers tend to have a lovely drape and hand, but like cotton and linen and hemp, they don't have the resiliency and elasticity of wool. 

Measuring Yarn Sizes

So in addition to yarns being made out of many different fibers, yarns also come in a lot of different sizes. There are several nomenclatures that are used among knitters to talk about yarn weights and sizes. The newest basically categorizes yarns in categories from zero to five. But it's not as widely used these days, so I would like to refer to the more traditional standards and ways that we talk about yarns. 

Yarn Sizes: Lace Weight

The first would be what's called a lace weight. This is an example of a lace weight yarn. You can see how very fine it is. And it is best suited to knitting delicate lace for shawls and scarves. 

Yarn Sizes: Sock Weight

The next larger size of yarn is often referred to as a sock weight yarn. Typically, the sock yarn also has some nylon spun in with it, because the nylon makes the sock wear a little more durably.

Yarn Sizes: Fingering Weight

The next larger size of yarn that we typically work with is sometimes referred to as a fingering weight yarn. This is a really popular type of yarn for doing Fair Isle color work, when you're working with a lot of different colors -- because that usually makes the fabric denser -- but if you work with a fine weight yarn like this, you can create all the color without adding the density.

Yarn Sizes: Sport Weight

The next larger size that we typically work with is called a sport weight yarn. This makes a really nice weight for an indoor sweater.

Yarn Sizes: Worsted

Probably the most common category of yarn that we knit with today is called the worsted category. The worsted category is a large one, it's probably one that's most commonly used for sweaters and it's nice for accessories like hats and also wristlets.

Yarn Sizes: Bulky

The next larger size of yarn that we often knit with is called a bulky gauge yarn. A bulky gauge yarn is one that knits at about three and a half stitches to the inch and usually using a ten, maybe a ten and a half size needle.

Yarn Sizes: Chunky

And then lastly we have what are called chunky yarns. They produce very heavy fabric, fabric that might be good for hats, maybe a cowl. 

So you can see that there's a large range of gauges of yarn that we work with but there are a lot of choices to pick from. Thanks for watching. To learn more, please visit us on the web at About.com.

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