An animated 3D sheep standing in front a pile of yarn skeins, the yarn is as high as the sheep

A Comprehensive Guide to Yarn Types: Materials, Weights, and Uses

Yarn is a long continuous length of interlocked fibers suitable for textiles, sewing, crocheting, knitting, weaving, or embroidery. It is composed of natural or synthetic fibers or a combination of both. This guide will delve into the world of yarn and explore the available types, their characteristics, and their suitability for different projects.

Materials 

3D animated shhep in front of a pile of huge yarn skeins.

 Yarn is made from various materials, each with unique properties and characteristics. 

 The most common materials used for yarn production include:

Natural Yarn Types

  1. Wool: Wool yarn is made from the hair of sheep and other animals, such as alpaca, llama, and angora. It is a natural, renewable, biodegradable fiber with excellent insulating properties. Wool yarn is soft, springy, and warm, making it suitable for various projects, including sweaters, hats, scarves, and blankets. However, it can shrink and feel when washed in hot water, and it cannot be very pleasant to some people's skin.
  2. Cotton: Cotton yarn is made from the fibers of the cotton plant. It is a natural, breathable, and hypoallergenic fiber with a smooth and soft texture. Cotton yarn is lightweight, absorbent, and cool, making it ideal for summer garments, dishcloths, and washcloths. However, it is less stretchy than wool or synthetic fibers and may wrinkle or lose shape when wet.
  3. Silk: Silk yarn is made from the protein fibers produced by silkworms to build their cocoons. It is a natural, lustrous, and luxurious fiber with a smooth and silky feel. Silk yarn is strong, elegant, and drapey, making it suitable for shawls, scarves, and formal wear. However, it is expensive, delicate, and requires special care to maintain its quality.
  4. Linen: Linen yarn is made from the fibers of the flax plant. It is a natural, strong, absorbent fiber with a cool and crisp feel. Linen yarn is durable, lightweight, and summery, making it suitable for towels, placemats, and summer garments. However, it tends to wrinkle easily, becoming softer and supple with age and use.
  5. Bamboo: Bamboo yarn is made from the fibers of the bamboo plant. It is a natural, sustainable, and hypoallergenic fiber with a soft and silky feel. Bamboo yarn is breathable, moisture-wicking, and antibacterial, making it suitable for summer garments and baby clothes. However, it may not be as strong or durable as other fibers.
  6. Hemp: Hemp yarn is made from the fibers of the hemp plant. It is a natural, sustainable, durable fiber with a rough and rustic texture. Hemp yarn is strong, absorbent, and antimicrobial, making it suitable for bags, ropes, and home decor. However, it may be prone to shrinkage and require special care when washing.
  7. Soy: Soy yarn is made from the protein fibers extracted from soybeans. It is a natural, renewable, and biodegradable fiber with a soft and silky feel. Soy yarn is breathable, moisture-wicking, and hypoallergenic, making it suitable for baby clothes and summer garments. However, it may not be as strong or durable as other fibers.
  8. Alpaca: Alpaca yarn is made from alpaca fibers, a South American camelid species. It is a natural, soft, and luxurious fiber with a silky feel. Alpaca yarn is warm, hypoallergenic, and strong, making it suitable for various projects, including sweaters, hats, and scarves.
  9. Mohair: Mohair yarn is made from the hair of the Angora goat. It is a natural, lustrous, and silky fiber with a soft and fluffy texture. Mohair yarn is lightweight, warm, and durable, making it suitable for shawls, scarves, and sweaters. However, it can be prone to shedding and may require special care when washing.
  10. Tencel: Tencel yarn is made from wood pulp fibers produced through a closed-loop process that conserves resources and reduces pollution. It is a natural, sustainable, soft fiber with a smooth and silky feel. In addition, Tencel yarn is absorbent, breathable, and hypoallergenic, making it suitable for various projects, including tops, dresses, and bedding.
  11. Merino wool: Merino wool yarn is made from the hair of Merino sheep, a breed known for its fine and soft fibers. It is a natural, renewable, biodegradable fiber with excellent insulating properties. In addition, Merino wool yarn is soft, moisture-wicking, and thermoregulating, making it suitable for various projects, including base layers, socks, and sweaters.
  12. Cashmere: Cashmere yarn is made from the fine and soft fibers that grow under the outer hairs of Cashmere goats. It is a natural, soft, and luxurious fiber with excellent insulating properties. Cashmere yarn is warm, lightweight, and breathable, making it suitable for various projects, including sweaters, scarves, and hats. However, it can be expensive and may require special care when washing.

 Recommended Crochet Supplies

Synthetic Yarn Types:

Synthetic yarns are made from manufactured fibers, such as acrylic, nylon, polyester, and rayon. They are usually cheaper and more durable than natural fibers and come in various colors and textures. Synthetic yarns are suitable for various projects, including blankets, afghans, and children's clothes. However, they may not be as breathable or biodegradable as natural fibers.

  1. Acrylic: Acrylic yarn is made from a synthetic polyacrylonitrile polymer. It is a lightweight, soft, affordable fiber often used as a substitute for wool. Acrylic yarn is easy to care for but may not be as breathable or warm as natural fibers.
  2. Nylon: Nylon yarn is made from synthetic polyamide polymer. It is a strong, elastic, and durable fiber often used to make socks, stockings, and other hosiery products. Nylon yarn is easy to care for but may not be as breathable or soft as some natural fibers.
  3. Polyester: Polyester yarn is made from a polyethylene terephthalate synthetic polymer. It is a strong, durable, and wrinkle-resistant fiber often used to make garments, bedding, and upholstery. Polyester yarn is easy to care for but may not be as breathable or soft as some natural fibers.
  4. Rayon: Rayon yarn is made from a synthetic polymer called cellulose. It is a soft, drapey, absorbent fiber often used to make garments, such as dresses and blouses. Rayon yarn is easy to care for, but it may need to be stronger and more durable than some other fibers. 
    Many skeins of pastel colored yarn, animated 3D
  5. Spandex: Spandex yarn is made from a synthetic polyurethane polymer. It is a stretchy and elastic fiber often used to create stretchy and form-fitting garments, such as leggings, swimsuits, and sports bras. However, it may not be as breathable or durable as some natural fibers.
  6. Modacrylic: Modacrylic yarn is made from a modified version of a synthetic polymer. It is a soft, lightweight, affordable fiber often used to make wigs, costumes, and theater backdrops. Modacrylic yarn is easy to care for but may not be as breathable or warm as some natural fibers.
  7. Olefin: Olefin yarn is made from a synthetic polyolefin polymer. It is a strong, lightweight, and moisture-resistant fiber often used to make outdoor and performance garments, such as rain jackets and ski suits. Olefin yarn is easy to care for, but it may be more soft and comfortable than some other fibers.
  8. Polypropylene: Polypropylene yarn is made from synthetic polypropylene polymer. It is a strong, lightweight, moisture-resistant fiber often used to make ropes, nets, and other industrial products. However, it may be more soft and comfortable than some other fibers.
  9. Viscose: Viscose yarn is made from a synthetic cellulose polymer. It is a soft, drapey, absorbent fiber often used to make garments, such as dresses and blouses. Viscose yarn is easy to care for, but it may need to be stronger and more durable than some other fibers.
  10. Lurex: Lurex yarn is made from a synthetic fiber called metallic fiber, which is coated with a thin layer of metal, such as gold or silver. It is a sparkly and eye-catching fiber that is often used to add a touch of glamour to garments and accessories. Lurex yarn is easy to care for, but it may need to be stronger and more durable than some other fibers.

 

Weights

Yarn is classified according to its weight, which refers to the thickness of the strands and the number of strands per unit length. The yarn weight determines the number of stitches per inch, the size of the needles or hook, and the drape and texture of the fabric. 

 See my Guide to Yarn Weights

The most common yarn weights are:

  1. Lace: Lace yarn is the thinnest and most delicate type of yarn, with a gauge of 32-42 stitches per 4 inches. It is suitable for intricate and delicate projects, such as lace shawls, doilies, and fine scarves. Lace yarn is usually made from fine natural or synthetic fibers and requires small needles or hooks, such as sizes 0-2.
  2. Fingering: Fingering yarn is a thin and smooth yarn with a gauge of 27-32 stitches per 4 inches. It is suitable for lightweight and close-fitting projects, such as socks, shawls, and baby garments. Fingering yarn is usually made from wool, cotton, silk, or synthetic fibers. It requires small needles or hooks, such as sizes 2-4.
  3. Sport: Sport yarn is medium-weight with a gauge of 23-26 stitches per 4 inches. It is suitable for lightweight and versatile projects, such as sweaters, hats, and baby blankets. Sport yarn is usually made from wool, cotton, silk, or synthetic fibers. It requires medium-sized needles or hooks, such as sizes 4-6.
  4. DK (Double Knitting): DK yarn is a light and smooth yarn with a gauge of 21-24 stitches per 4 inches. DK yarn is usually made from wool, cotton, silk, or synthetic fibers. It requires medium-sized needles or hooks, such as sizes 4-7. 
    Yarn weight scale, animated 3D
  5. Worsted: Worsted yarn is a medium-weight, smooth yarn with a gauge of 16-20 stitches per 4 inches. It is suitable for sturdy and classic projects like sweaters and scarves. Worsted yarn is usually made from wool, cotton, silk, or synthetic fibers. Medium to large needles or hooks, such as sizes 7-9, is suitable.
  6. Bulky: Bulky yarn is a thick and chunky yarn with a gauge of 12-15 stitches per 4 inches. It is suitable for quick and cozy projects, such as blankets, hats, and scarves. Bulky yarn is usually made from wool, cotton, silk, or synthetic fibers and requires large needles or hooks, such as sizes 9-11.
  7. Super Bulky: Super bulky yarn is the thickest and coarsest type of yarn, with a gauge of 6-8 stitches per 4 inches. It is suitable for fast and bold projects, such as blankets, rugs, and cowls. Super bulky yarn is usually made from wool, cotton, silk, or synthetic fibers. It requires extra-large needles or hooks, such as size 11 and up.

 

Uses

See my article on Easy Crochet Ideas

Yarn is used for many projects, depending on the materials, weights, and colors. Here are some examples of the most common uses of yarn:

  • Knitting: Knitting is a craft that involves creating fabric by interlocking loops of yarn using two needles. Knitting can be used to make a variety of garments, accessories, and home decor items, such as sweaters, hats, scarves, socks, blankets, and cushion covers. Knitting requires yarn with good drapes, elasticity, and stitch definition, such as wool, cotton, silk, or synthetic fibers.
  • Crocheting: Crocheting is a craft that involves creating fabric by interlocking loops of yarn using a single hook. Crocheting can be used to make a variety of garments, accessories, and home decor items, such as shawls, afghans, hats, bags, and toys. Crocheting requires yarn with good drape, elasticity, and stitch definition, such as wool, cotton, silk, or synthetic fibers.¬†
Funny 3D Pixar styled crocheted monsters

 

Compared to other crafts, such as painting, drawing, sculpture, and woodworking, yarn crafts have some unique characteristics and benefits:

  • Flexibility: Yarn crafts are flexible in materials, sizes, and shapes. They can be made from a wide range of yarns, such as wool, cotton, silk, or synthetics, and can be adjusted to fit different body types and preferences. Yarn crafts can be as small as a pair of socks or as large as a blanket and can be shaped into squares, circles, triangles, or any other form.
  • Portability: Yarn crafts are portable and can be taken anywhere, requiring only a small amount of space and minimal equipment. They can be worked on while traveling, watching TV, or waiting in line and easily stored and transported in a bag or suitcase.
  • Socialization: Yarn crafts can allow socialization and interaction with others with the same interest. They can be done in groups, such as at yarn stores, craft fairs, or online communities, and can foster friendships, support, and exchange of ideas.

 

Fun Facts

Here are some fun facts about yarn and yarn crafts:

  1. The oldest piece of yarn, dating back to 36,000 years ago, was found in a cave in France and was made from plant fibers.
  2. The longest piece of yarn, measuring over 18,000 miles, was created in 2012 by a group of women in Peru using traditional Andean techniques.
  3.  Knitting was originally a male-dominated craft, as it was considered a practical skill for making clothing and equipment.
  4.  Crocheting was originally called hook knitting; and was popularized in the 19th century by Irish and Scottish lacemakers.
  5.  Weaving was originally done by hand using a frame or a loom, but it is now mostly done by machine.
  6.  Embroidery was originally used for functional purposes, such as marking ownership or signaling status. Still, it is now mostly done for decorative purposes. 
    Funny 3d Animated crocheted figure smiling

Unknown Facts

Here are some unknown facts about yarn and yarn crafts:

  1.  Yarn can be made from various materials, including unusual sources, such as milk, bamboo, soy, and banana.
  2. Yarn can be dyed using natural or artificial colors and hand-dyed or machine-dyed.
  3. Yarn can be textured or manipulated in various ways, such as plied, cabled, bouclé, or felted, to create different effects and textures.
  4. Yarn crafts can be used for therapeutic purposes, such as stress relief, cognitive stimulation, and hand-eye coordination.
  5.  Yarn crafts can be used for charitable purposes, such as knitting hats for cancer patients, crocheting blankets for the homeless, and weaving rugs for animal shelters.

Conclusion

In conclusion, yarn is a versatile and essential material for many crafts, such as knitting, crocheting, weaving, and embroidery. Yarn comes in different materials, weights, and colors and can be used for various projects, depending on the desired characteristics and effects. In addition, yarn crafts provide flexibility, portability, socialization, and therapeutic benefits. They can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels.

Do You Know all the Crochet Abbreviations and Terms?

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

See my Patterns

Have a look at all my amazing patterns.

GO TO SHOP