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Worsted Weight Yarn – A Complete Guide

You have probably heard about this widely popular yarn.

In this post, I share all the answers for the question – What is Worsted Weight Yarn? I also cover why and when to use it, how it’s made, and recommended needle sizes for this thicker weight yarn.

balls of multicolored yarn

Table of Contents

What Is It?

Worsted Weight yarn described as a best friend for knitters and crocheters. It is popular because it’s a medium weight yarn/thickness, easy to work with and knits up quickly without too much bulk.

Major yarn manufacturers Lion Brand and Bernat claim that this weight of yarn is their most popular yarn for knitting and crochet.

A versatile yarn weight for almost any knitted project and commonly used for beginner projects, as it’s an excellent choice when you’re first starting out.

According to The Craft Yarn Council of America’s Standard Yarn Weight System, this yarn weight is in the medium category and defined by the symbol number 4 on the packaging.

This yarn weight system is almost universally used by yarn companies, regardless of location in the world.

Also known by the names Afghan weight yarns, Aran weight yarns, and Aran chunky yarn.

The Craft Yarn Council has information available on all sorts of helpful tips, including more on the standard yarn weight system and the different yarn categories.

Often when shopping for this kind of yarn, you will find the number 4 symbol on the ball label. (Also known as the yarn label.)

It’s thicker than lace weight, fingering (super fine), DK Weight Yarn, Double Knitting, Baby, Sport yarn or 8ply yarn and thinner than Bulky weight yarn, Super Chunky or 12ply yarn weights.

Light worsted is another name for weight no. 3, more commonly known as DK or 8ply.

It comes in a multitude of amazing colors and the knitted fabric it creates is not too bulky. The stitch definition is clear and prominent using this weight of yarn.

Perfect for when you want your beautiful knitting skill to be showcased. Designers love using this yarn weight.

Why Use This Versatile Yarn?

Wanda at Silly Sheep Designs worsted weight multi-colored yarn
Wanda at Silly Sheep Designs worsted weight multi colored yarn. (Image used with permission.)
Follow @kalamandah for more yarn goodness.

People will use this yarn weight to test new techniques or stitches, as the beauty of this yarn is how it shows stitch definition.

If you are a beginner knitter, using a light shaded yarn is a good idea. It is so much simpler to see mistakes.

Use this weight of yarn to create any number of knitted projects and garments. One of the best things about this yarn weight is it is easily substituted.

Due it’s popularity, you’ll have plenty of substitution options to choose from! Yarn Manufacturers make it easy with an incredibly large range.

worsted weight yarns from Knit Picks
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Uses of This Popular Yarn

An unlimited number of knitting projects use this weight of yarn.

These items include afghans, sweaters, cardigans scarves, cowls, hats, gloves, mittens, dish cloths, sock patterns, baby blankets and bay items, home decors such as throws, cushion covers and toys.

There are no limitations to what type of worsted weight yarn you can knit with. With an economical price point and variety on offer, using this yarn for gifts is a great choice.

Here’s one easy accessories project to do with one skein. Learn To Knit A Headband pattern and tutorial by the talented Knitwear Designer Chandi of Expression Fiber Arts. Chandi’s video tutorial is very easy to follow and this is perfect for beginners.

What is it Made From?

They are often made from:

  • Cotton / synthetic blends
  • Wool (like Malabrigo’s Merino Worsted)
  • Alpaca (like Rowan Lima)
  • Acrylic (like Red Heart Super Saver, Cascade Cherub yarn, Caron’s Simply Soft)
  • Or wool / synthetic combinations.

The History

The yarn is named for the village of Worstead in Norfolk, England. As far back as the 12th century, this town was producing smooth, even yarn and was a hub for spinning fiber.

The term ‘worsted’ comes from a particular spinning method.

Wool Processing and Spinning: Worsted vs Woolen:

The word “worsted” does not always refer to a yarn weight. It can also refer to a technique of processing wool — the worsted method, as opposed to the woolen method.

The worsted process involves combing all the short hairs out of the fiber. The same length fibers are then spun to be parallel to each other, making a dense yarn.

What Needles To Use

Recommended Needle in Metric Needle Size Range = 4.5— 5.5 mm

Recommended Needle U.S. Needle Size Range = 7 to 9

Knit Gauge Range in Stockinette Stitch to 4″ – 16–20 sts

Lace knitting with this yarn requires going up several sizes. Use size 6.0mm to 8.0mm to create lacy openwork patterns.

If knitting socks, potholders or dish towels, which need a tighter knitting tension, go down several sizes to a 3.25 to 4.0 mm needle.

Of course, knitting needle size or hook can vary based on your knitting/crochet gauge. When size matters, it’s important to make a gauge swatch first before beginning a project.

Then you’re able to see what tension and sized fabric you create, and you can scale the knitting needle size up or down as necessary.

For more about knitting needles and checking your knitting gauge read our knitting needles guide.

If you also crochet the Craft Yarn Council guidelines recommends using crochet hooks in the 5.5–6.5 mm size range (I–9 to K–10 1/2.

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The Benefits

  • As mentioned before, it is a go to yarn for many knitters because worsted yarn has great stitch definition It is not too light or heavy, being a medium weight it will keep you warm and snug without bulk.
  • Being so widely available, worsted yarn is easier to use different brands in the one project. The thickness doesn’t vary too much between brands.
  • Great for those of you on a budget as the amount of knitted fabric you get is a more than if you choose bulky yarns. Meaning you won’t have to purchase as many balls.
  • Worsted weight is a fabulous choice for color work knitting. Stranding which is the technique used in Fair Isle patterns for example, allows for smooth and clean floats. Floats are the lengths of yarn that will lay nice and flat on the wrong side of the work.
  • One of the yarn weights that is quick to knit up
  • The durability and strength of the threads with this type of yarn means it will last the distance. Of course you will need to take proper care of your knitted garments to make sure of this.
  • Plenty of knitting patterns and kits are available using this yarn.

So there you have it. A versatile and durable medium weight yarn. Worsted weight yarn is perfect for knitting beginners.

Something I forgot? Or have a question? Leave a comment at the end.

About Jodie Morgan

Hi. I’m Jodie Morgan, owner and creator of Knit Like Granny. (Yes, I’m a real person :) ) Thanks for being here.

I created Knit Like Granny to help show 1,000,000 people the benefits of knitting & highlight alternatives to fast fashion.

I love knitting and have met so many other fabulous knitters through this site. I enjoy learning and helping others discover the joys of working with yarn.

Please say hello!

9 thoughts on “Worsted Weight Yarn – A Complete Guide”

  1. I have trouble finding yarn that behaves as worsted wt yarn used to. And it always errors to the skimpy skinny side. My guess is that manufacturers are going for yardage and count on most people knitting scarves and Afghans

    Reply
    • Hi Lynda. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. That would be disappointing. Have you found any worsted weight yarns that you love?

      Reply
    • Hi Karen. Thanks for your question. The Craft Yarn Council say that yarn labeled Aran and Worsted are the same weight. So you would be able to use Aran or Worsted weight yarn interchangeably. Sometimes you might find slight variations, so it is always best to do a swatch to check your gauge meets the pattern requirements. Cheers Jodie

      Reply
    • Hi Jacob, thanks for getting in touch. In the UK the equivalent yarn weight for Worsted Weight yarn is labeled as Aran. Cheers Jodie

      Reply
  2. Aran is 100% Wool & is itchy especially to my Grandchildren. What Yarn is good to sub for this that is soft to the feel in the Worsted Yarn. I have an Aran Knitting Pattern for a pullover Sweater my Grandaughter wants me knit. She is age 8 wears a size 7 USA sweaters . Question is would a size 26-28 inch Aran size be a good fit for her.

    Appreciate any advice you can give me. Thank you. Christina.

    Reply
    • Hi Christina. Thanks for your question. Acrylic worsted weight yarn (like Red Heart Super Saver, Cascade Cherub yarn, Caron’s Simply Soft) could be some options. Knit Picks has Brava Worsted Yarn that’s acrylic or Comfy Worsted that is 75% Pima cotton/25% Acrylic. I’d recommend doing a swatch for your pattern with any yarn substitution. Wash and block the swatch to ensure you are happy with the results before knitting the entire sweater.

      In regards to what size would be best for your grand daughter, I am no expert in this, so I will reach out to my readers and get back to you. Cheers Jodie

      Reply
    • Hi Christina. I asked on Ravelry for you, as there are so many knowledgeable and helpful knitters.
      Here are their responses:

      – I am knitting a cardigan for my 8 year old granddaughter. She is tiny and I don’t see her often so I work from measurements her parents send me. I am doing the size 26” chest – her actual chest measurement is only about 21”. I am having to knit the body and sleeve length considerably longer than the pattern states. I asked for the length from underarm to wrist and underarm to where she wants the bottom of the cardigan. It is a challenge getting her parents to find the time to measure her! I posted a tape measure to my granddaughter and she asked them to measure her and sent me the measurements herself.

      – Also of consideration is how rapidly she knits and how complex is the pattern? It’s July, so assuming that she lives in the Northern hemisphere, we have several months until she’d be able to wear it. Some of us have multiple projects going, which can influence the timing. Some aran knits are fairly simple, and especially if she’s using a heavier yarn, could work up fairly quickly. A complex pattern, worked in a lighter weight yarn could take quite a while. Can you encourage her to join Ravelry so that we can talk directly with her? Honestly, we don’t bite! And we love helping people.

      – If your reader can’t get an actual measurement to work from, the (US) Craft Yarn Council says a 26-28” chest measurement would be Child Size 8-10. But since kids grow so quickly at that age, erring on the side of slightly-bigger-than-current-measurements makes sense even if they can get her current (actual) measurement(s)…

      – also consider how long you want this sweater to fit. You might make it with a bit more positive ease and the sleeves and body a bit on the long side – or knit the sweater so the hem and cuff are worked downwards so you could lengthen if it needed. If she asked for it, she must like to wear your knitting and is probably going to wear it until it is way too small.

      – The best way to determine the size that will fit is to measure the recipient’s chest circumference. Also, arm length and body length from underarm to desired finished length, because these can usually be customized to the child’s body. My daughter is 7 and has a chest circumference of nearly 25”. I’d make the 26-28” size for her so it’s not skin tight.

      Hope these suggestions help you. Cheers Jodie

      Reply

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