Looking for the best yarn for knitting your various projects? I cover all the different types of yarn. I’ve included pictures of them as well.
The yarn images featuring balls of yarn, along with skeins and hanks, give you some idea of the texture and quality.
Choosing yarn is such fun! The photos of yarn will make you want to add more to your yarn stash! Just looking at these yarn balls makes me want to knit!
I explain the categories in the yarn weights family and share the types of yarn for knitting with pictures. With each, I explain what knitting projects best suit.
As always, if I forgot anything, please let me know down in the comments. I would love you to share any tips you have about the fibers you love.🙂
In this post, I share the different types of yarn and yarn weights.
There are so many types of yarn, whether they’re from an animal or a plant. The textures of each and how they knit up vary.
I often hear knitters say when they look at yarn and hold it, it speaks to them. The yarn inspires project ideas and fires up the desire to get something knitted.
Enjoy getting to know some of these different types of fiber.
Table of Contents
- Types of Yarn
- Organic Yarn
- Cotton Yarn
- Silk Yarn
- Self-Striping Yarn
- Hemp Yarn
- Bamboo Yarn
- Acrylic Yarn
- Novelty Yarns
- Specialty Yarns
- Wool Blend Yarns
- Yarn Weights
- Reading a Yarn Label
- Choosing the Right Yarn for a Pattern
- Things to Consider When Shopping for Yarn
Wonderful Fibers To Explore
Wool yarn is great for winter garments. It’s very warm, and it lasts a long time. An extremely popular natural yarn fiber out there in the craft world.
It can be slightly itchy for some people if they have allergies to kinds of wool. Wool can be easily cleaned and keeps you warm even in the rain!
Types of Wool Yarn:
There are 4 different types. Wool Type Fine, Wool Type Medium, Wool Type Long and Wool Type Double – coated. Types of fine wool yarn such as merino are wonderfully soft.
Pure new wool/virgin wool is made directly from animal fleece and not recycled from existing wool garments.
Shetland wool comes from the small and hardy native sheep of Scotland’s Shetland Islands. Icelandic wool is a rustic, soft yarn ball. Washable wool is treated chemically or electronically to destroy the outer fuzzy layer of fibers.
Ideal for: Winter and Summer. It’s great for making scarves, sweaters, gloves, hats, socks and other clothes.
- Wool has many great properties, but one of the best is it keeps you cool in even the hottest of climates.
- Every major league baseball contains wool grown at a small mill in Massachusetts.
- Wool has natural fire extinguishing properties, hence why it’s included in fire blankets. Other different types of yarn don’t have this property.
Learn About Types of Yarn
Cashmere is one of the softest wool and yarn types around. It comes from the Cashmere Goats and several other types of goats. The word Cashmere comes from the old spelling of the old State of Kashmir in South Asia.
This yarn is among the softest and woolliest on this list. Something to consider is it’s not as strong as sheep fiber, and it is also quite expensive.
Why is it so expensive, I hear you ask?
Cashmere Goats shed their undercoat once a year. The undercoat is closer to the skin and must be separated from the outer hair. It comes from the animals mid-side and back, not their bellies.
Unlike sheep who are shorn, the goat’s undercoat is combed and collected, which is labor-intensive. The yield of fiber from one goat is only about 4 ounces once it is processed.
Typically it takes the fibers collected from four goats to make a sweater.
Ideal For: It’s soft and not itchy, so it’s ideal for knitting clothing. (Jumpers, socks, gloves, etc.)
- Cashmere fiber is six times finer compared to human hair.
- 60% of the world’s cashmere is produced in China, Mongolia, and Tibet.
Alpaca is a super warm fiber perfect for knitting sweaters.
Alpaca is natural wool from the South-American Alpaca. There are two types of Alpaca yarn, Huacaya and Suri. It is quite soft, almost silky, but it doesn’t hold its shape as well as wool does.
It’s usually a little more expensive and luxurious than regular wool.
I knitted a lace cowl from baby alpaca wool, and it was a delight to knit with. Wearing the cowl was lovely as it didn’t feel itchy at all.
Unfortunately, one day, I gathered up my laundry and placed it in the washing machine, unaware my cowl was also in the pile. You can imagine the rest. My cowl was completely felted. Still soft but nothing like it’s former glory.
Ideal For: As mentioned before, Alpaca is soft and a little warmer than wool. Those such qualities make it ideal for knitted winter items.
- Did you know Alpaca fiber is water repellent?
- It’s also difficult to make it catch fire!
- They are some of the cutest fiber-producing animals.
Merino Wool Yarn is very popular in extreme knitting. Knitting big chunky items. It also comes from sheep, but only from a specific breed, called the Merino Sheep.
This wool is special because it’s very soft and doesn’t cause allergic reactions. Merino Wool knitted fabric keeps its shape well when blocked. Merino can create little fuzzballs known as ‘pilling,’ which can be a little annoying.
If you have a chance to use Merino wool, though, such as Cascade Yarn – 100% Superwash Merino Wool, go for it!
Ideal for: Merino Wool is great for making winter woolies for that special someone. Jumbo Merino Yarn is the type for extreme knitting.
- Merino Wool fibers can withstand being bent back on themselves 20,000 times without breaking!
Organic yarn is produced from wool free from chemicals. Sourced from sheep with no synthetic inputs. The livestock has not been through dips, drenches, back lining, or antibiotics.
Cleaning process of Organic wool yarns includes using only hot water and detergent.
Ideal for: Many organic yarns are from the Merino Sheep. This wool is excellent for winter knitted garments.
- Organic Yarn means it comes from healthy, happy sheep, and it’s good for the environment.
Cotton comes from the cotton plant. It’s grown in warm climates, the biggest producers being India, the USA, and China.
It’s light, breathable, and strong. There are different types of cotton yarn, some fine, some heavier. It doesn’t hold its shape when blocking that well, and your stitches won’t look as uniform.
To learn new knitting stitches, I have been creating lots of dishcloths using cotton yarn from different countries I have visited.
They have been super fun to do, and the knitting practice gives me confidence to take on bigger projects with interesting designs.
The finished knitted dishcloths also made the perfect gifts to the wonderful people I have met on my travels.
- Cotton can absorb up to 27 times its weight in water! Watch out next time if you have a knitted cotton swimsuit!
There are different types of silk yarn – Reeled silk yarn and spun silk yarn. It’s quite easy to work with, but very slippery. Make sure you know what you’re doing before commencing a project with silk yarn.
Silk is the most expensive and lustrous fiber on our list. It’s quite strong, shiny, and has a lovely feel on the skin. There are some magical silk blends on the market, such as merino, silk, and cashmere.
Ideal For: Strong, shiny, and relatively cool, this makes it the perfect yarn for summer items.
- Strong as steel in the tensile sense, silk is the strongest natural fiber known to humans!
Hemp, a relative newcomer to the knitting world, is a delightful natural fiber. Hemp is surprisingly soft to the touch. It’s hard wearing and has great stitch definition. Most commonly known for its use in macrame.
Ideal For: Boot socks, Fisherman type sweaters, coats, scrubbies
- Hemp plants can produce 250% more fiber than cotton.
Bamboo is a natural fiber. It wears well and is often considered to have natural antibacterial properties. It feels very soft and has a wonderful drape.
Ideal For: Knitted garments requiring drape. As bamboo yarn is quite breathable and cool, it’s perfect for summer tops and sweaters.
- Bamboo can be softer than silk when spun into yarn.
Acrylic yarn is a human-made, synthetic fiber, and much cheaper than most natural fibers. This yarn washes easily, is color-fast, and is a great choice for amateur knitters. Many acrylic yarns are worsted weight.
Different types of Sashay Yarn and Caron yarn are types of acrylic yarn. Once you’ve gained a bit more experience, though, it’s better to use natural fibers.
Ideal for: Beginners Knitters attempting their first projects like scarves. 100% acrylic is the type of yarn for yarn braids.
- Moths, oils, chemicals, and sunlight don’t like your Acrylic yarn clothes! No more holes in your clothes!
- This yarn is perfect for multi-color yarn braids.
Novelty Yarn comes in a variety of colors and textures and adds interest to a knitted garment. Made of synthetic fibers, these yarn blends, novelty yarns provide texture and interest.
Common types of Novelty Yarns:
- Bouclé: Loopy and bumpy.
- Chenille: Velvety and smooth, can be tricky to knit with.
- Thick-thin: A finished knitted item using this yarn will have thick and thin sections, which gives a bumpy look.
- Faux fur: Super Fluffy fiber strands on a strong base thread of nylon. The finished knitted item looks like faux fur.
- Railroad ribbon: As the name suggests, this yarn has tiny “tracks” of fiber strung between two parallel strands of thread.
Ideal For: Great for adding interest and texture to your knitted projects
Types of Polyester Yarn: Polyester Yarn is in wool/cotton/and blends of yarn. Many novelty yarns and bulky yarns are polyester yarns.
Glow in the dark: Companies over the years have made this yarn and then stopped making it. You can create your own, and there are methods published on the internet.
Types of Ribbon Yarn: Ribbon yarn, a novelty yarn, can be made from various materials. Anything from rayon and nylon to cotton, but it looks and feels like craft ribbon.
Ideal For: Ribbon yarn is excellent for accessories like belts and headbands, even bags. Be warned; Ribbon Yarn loves to twist and spin when being knitted.
Not so Fun Fact:
- Novelty yarns are difficult to knit with.
Mohair is beautifully soft and made from the hair of the Angora Goat. It’s durable, resistant, and shiny. This is not to be confused with the Angora Rabbit, which the wool Angora wool comes from.
Mohair has excellent insulating and moisture evaporation properties. It is a season all-rounder. Mohair is a luxury fiber, making it more expensive than ordinary wool.
Ideal For: Mohair can be for summer and winter. Some people find it to be itchy.
- Did you know Mohair Fiber’s nickname is Diamond Fiber? This is due to its high luster and sheen.
- Mohair is a very good yarn for dyeing!
Self Striping Yarn
Self-striping yarns have multiple colors spun together in unique ways for different effects. The manufacturing process for dyeing yarns has evolved, so the yarn is dyed in patterns.
“Self-striping” yarn, also known as “painterly” yarn colors, gradually change color as you knit or crochet. The end result is a knitted project with stripes of color.
Depending on the self-striping yarn used, the color changes can be subtle or bold. For example, some may knit up to look like a Fair Isle pattern.
When using this yarn, it looks as though you’ve changed colors, but the colorful striped effect comes from one continuous strand of yarn.
Of course, different stitches and patterns are going to make the colorways work up differently.
Using this type of yarn has advantages and disadvantages.
- Excellent choice of yarn for beginners who want to knit up colorful projects.
- No need to have multiple changes of colored yarn as the colors are in the one strand.
- Each Yarn has been dyed with colors that go together and will have an appealing stripy effect. Takes the guesswork of whether or not colors will go together when buying yarn on the internet.
- Some work will be required to find patterns and stitches that suit the self-striping yarn you’ve chosen.
- When comparing prices, the self-striped yarn can be more expensive than buying different solid color yarns.
- Lack of control of where the color changes fall. Sometimes the stripy look can be neat or uneven. Just be prepared to be surprised!
Ideal For: Self-striping yarns knit up colorful fun socks, scarves, cowls, afghans, beanie hats, and sweaters.
- Self-striping yarn is like magic. You never know exactly how your project will end up!
These create special looks in knitted items:
Novelty Yarn comes in a variety of colors and textures and adds interest to a knitted garment. Mostly made of synthetic yarn blends, novelty yarns provide texture and interest.
Tweed: Has a main color, flecked with bits of fiber in different colors.
Heather: Blended from a number of different-colored or dyed fleeces, and then spun.
Marled fabric ragg: Marled yarns are formed by twisting together plies of different colors. The result is a single strand with multiple colors winding around one another.
Marled yarns can be any number of plies—two, three, four, etc.
Ideal for: Adding texture and interest to your knitted projects.
- One Speciality Yarn, called Eyelash, is a polyester yarn resembling eyelashes!
Wool Blend Yarns
Wool Blend Yarns as the name suggests, are blended yarns of wool and other yarns. Blends include cotton and silk or synthetic. For example, cotton acrylic yarn blend and Wool cotton blend yarn.
Wool manufacturers blend for many reasons but mainly to combine the best features of each type of yarn included in the blend.
Ideal for: cozy knitted items
- 50% Wool and 50% Cotton Blend is a great wool blend because each has qualities complimenting the other.
Yarn Weights and Yarn Types Go Hand in Hand
Yarns are made from many different fibers and come in different thicknesses, otherwise known as Yarn Weights.
Jumbo Yarn, a relatively new member of the Yarn family, is very thick and used in Arm knitting.
The other end of the scale is Lace yarn, which is one of the thinnest yarns you can find. Often used for delicate shawls with lace pattern.
Checking the right Yarn weight for a knitted project is important.
The thickness of the yarn determines the dimensions and look of the final result.
Here is a chart explaining Yarn Weights and Category Names.
Meet The Yarn Weight Categories For The USA And The equivalents For The UK and AUS/NZ:
Number #0 on the chart, Lace weight is the lightest, thinnest type of Yarn. Used in lace knitting patterns, such as shawls and scarves.
UK- 1 Ply
AUS/NZ- 2 Ply
Also known as Thread, Cobweb, Light Fingering Yarn
Number #1 on the chart, Superfine yarn, includes sock and fingering yarn. Also commonly used for shawls, this weight is slightly thicker than lace. If you want your stitches to be fine, this is the weight to go for.
This yarn weight is often used to make socks, hats, and mittens. People who have determination and time could make a sweater knit from super fine yarn; the results are gorgeous.
UK – 3 Ply and 4 Ply
AUS/NZ – 3 Ply and 4 Ply
Number #2 of the chart, Fine yarn (sometimes confused with lightweight yarn, which is slightly thicker,) includes sport and baby weight yarn.
A great all-rounder yarn for projects such as hats, socks, scarves, cardigans, and sweaters.
UK – 5 Ply
AUS/NZ – 5 Ply
Number #3 on the chart, DK weight, and light worsted yarns are within this category. This type of yarn is great for sock knitting.
UK – DK
AUS/NZ – 8 Ply
Number #4 on the chart, this type of yarn includes worsted and aran. It is popular with beginner knitters and is suitable for many knitted projects.
UK – Worsted/Aran
AUS/NZ – 10 Ply
Number #5 on the chart, chunky yarns and rug yarns fall into this category. Excellent for knitting up a project quickly. As the name suggests, the end result is bulky and chunky but makes for a cozy scarf or cowl.
UK – Bulky
AUS/NZ – 12 Ply
Number #6 on the chart, Super bulky yarns makes knitting up a hat super fast! They make for very warm and have a bulky look.
UK – Super Chunky
AUS/NZ – 16 Ply +
Number #7 on the chart, the Jumbo category is a relative newcomer to the Craft Yarn Council Chart. Jumbo and Roving yarns fall in this category. Popular choice for arm knitting scarves, blankets, and home decor.
UK – Jumbo
AUS/NZ – Jumbo
What Does Ply Mean?
When you see the terms 2 ply, 4 ply, 8 ply, etc., it simply means 2 or more single strands have been twisted together.
To ply yarn, individual singles are spun together with the twist worked in the opposite direction from how the singles were spun.
The number relating to ply doesn’t determine how thick the yarn is. You can have a very bulky two-ply yarn or an extremely thin four-ply yarn, depending on the thickness of the single strands.
Choosing the Right Yarn for a Pattern
Patterns almost always include the brand, weight, and color of yarn, as well as the size of knitting needle used.
If you want to use a different brand of yarn, it is important to choose the same type of fiber and weight of yarn used in the pattern.
If you choose to use a different type of fiber, consider the end result may look and feel different than the pattern.
Always make a swatch with the yarn and needle you plan to use for the pattern before starting to make sure you are knitting the correct gauge.
Some people knit tighter than others, so the gauge can vary from person to person.
Adjust your needle size according to your gauge.
Patterns will also tell you the yardage or grams of yarn used for a project. Always buy more yarn than a pattern suggests in case of mistakes, knots, or gauge issues,
Understanding the Label
Each ball of yarn has a ball band (the label), which states everything you need to know. Including the fiber content, weight, amount, care instructions, suggested needle size, gauge, and dye-lot number.
Fiber content: This is the material used and is often in percentages. (For example, 90% merino wool, 5% silk, and 5% cashmere.)
Yarn Weight: This is the total thickness of yarn, often measured in wraps per inch (WPI). The ply count also factors into it and ranges from the finest to the heaviest weights (usually between 1-ply and 14-ply).
Currently, in the United States, the categories range in accordance with the symbols numbered from 1-7 in the Standard Yarn Weight System.
Amount and weight of the ball: This is the total length of yarn, measured in yards and ounces or meters and grams.
Care instructions: This provides the necessary information on how to wash (by hand or machine and the temperature settings to use) and dry your knitted garment (whether it is to be air dried or tumble dried).
Also, if the fabric is suitable to dry clean or iron.
Suggested needle size and gauge: Yarn gauge is specified by the number of stitches and rows within a 4×4 inch or 10cmx10cm swatch. (Remember, it’s always important to check your yarn gauge.)
This will determine whether you have to go up a needle size or down a needle size.
Dye-lot number: This refers to the color of yarn. When buying more than one ball, be sure the numbers match.
Even when balls of yarn appear to be the same shade to your eye, the differences in color can show up in the final knitted fabric.
Things to Consider When Shopping for Yarn
- What season is it?
- What will this knit be used for?
- What functions will it have?
Fibers and Texture
- How often will I use this item?
- Is the knitted project for a baby? Therefore the fiber needs to be soft.
- What sort of care will it need? Will I want to wash this item frequently?
- What color will best suit the person the knitted project is intended for?
- What color will match your home decor if knitting rugs or throws?
Budget and Price
- How much do you want to spend?
- Weigh the options between luxury yarn versus cheap yarns.
- What are you going to knit? A sweater with the most expensive yarn would be very pricey!
Knitters should enjoy the yarn they interact with. A project takes time, patience, and everything from the color, to the weight, texture are essential components to a successful and beautiful handmade project.
The whole point of choosing the right yarn is to make wonderful handcrafted items for yourself, family, friends, and other loved ones. Using yarns you like is vital and makes better crafts!
In conclusion, there are so many different types of yarns you can use.
I hope this article has been helpful in finding out what materials are available to knitters. Using this guide, you should be able to find the right one for your project. All the best in your knitting projects!