Looking for the best yarn for knitting your various projects? I cover all the different types of yarn. I’ve included pictures of the yarn types too. Enjoy exploring these different types of fiber for hobbies and crafts.
I reviewed, fact checked and updated this post on May 13, 2023.
Table Of Contents
- Wool Blend
The yarn images featuring balls of yarn, along with skeins and hanks, give you an idea of the texture and quality. Choosing yarn is such fun! The photos of yarn make you want to add more to your yarn stash! Just looking at these yarn balls makes me want to knit!
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 tips you have about the fibers you love.
In this post, I share the different types of yarn. For information on yarn weights, visit my guide here. There are so many, 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.
The types of fibers are wool, fleece, plant, and synthetic.
Types Of Yarn: Explore These Wonderful Plant & Animal Fiber Yarns
Scroll through and learn about the different fabric construction yarns! Most yarns get their source from animal fiber, though others are plant or synthetic-based. For beginners, I suggest a natural woolen blend yarn.
Here’s an excellent breakdown of the topic, or keep scrolling to see more.
Acrylic yarn is a human-made, synthetic fiber and is much cheaper than most natural fibers. You machine wash these yarns easily, and it’s color-fast and a great choice for amateur knitters.
Many acrylic yarns are worsted weight. It’s available in different yarn weights like Sport and DK (aka 8ply yarn). 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 like wool. Super bulky fibers made of this are yarn suitable for arm knitting.
Project Ideas – Perfect Yarn For Beginners
These yarns are perfect for beginners Knitters attempting their first projects like scarves or knitted squares. 100% acrylic is the type of yarn for yarn braids.
Acrylic yarns often have a sheen or slight halo. Some are quite shiny. These yarns have a reputation for not being soft. Many acrylic yarns are soft and manufacturing processes have changed over the years to create a softer feel.
- Moths, oils, chemicals, and sunlight don’t like your Acrylic yarn clothes! No more holes in your clothes!
- Heat melts this yarn, it can’t be ironed
- This yarn is perfect for multi-color yarn braids.
Alpaca Knitting Yarn
Alpaca yarns are a super warm fiber perfect for knitting sweaters. Alpacas are often mistaken for Llamas.
Alpaca is a natural fiber from the South-American Alpaca. There are two types of Alpaca yarn, Huacaya, and Suri. This yarn type is soft, almost silky, but it doesn’t hold its shape as well as wool.
It’s more expensive and luxurious than regular wool. I knitted a lace cowl from baby alpaca, and it was a delight to knit with and soft. Wearing the cowl was lovely as it didn’t feel itchy at all.
Unfortunately, I gathered up my laundry and placed it in the washing machine, unaware my cowl was also in the pile.
My cowl felted. It destroyed the feature of the lace pattern. Still soft but nothing like its former glory. A reminder to always check the yarn label for care instructions. An alpaca blend is a good choice for adding softness to a project.
Ideal For: Alpaca is soft and warmer than that from sheep. Those qualities make it ideal for knitted winter items.
- Alpaca fiber is water repellent
- It’s difficult to make it catch fire!
- They’re the cutest fiber-producing animals
The fiber comes from the Angora rabbit. To make it last longer and hold its shape better, an angora blend has other yarns like wool or acrylic. It molts, but it’s warm, cozy, and suitable for winter.
- Ideal For knits for winter.
- Fun Fact – It’s rare, as the rabbits require lots of care, and expensive.
Bamboo is a natural plant fiber. It wears well and is often considered having natural antibacterial properties. It feels soft and has a wonderful drape. Most Bamboo yarns are rayon.
To create rayon, bamboo wood pulp is chopped through a chemical process to separate the useable cellulose fibers. These are then turned into filament strands and then spun into yarn.
The surface of a finished bamboo yarn project can pill. It can also stretch, be careful when washing it. Bamboo yarn tends to split ,which is annoying.
- Ideal For: Knitted garments requiring drape. Bamboo yarn is breathable and cool. It’s perfect for summer garments such as summer tops and sweaters.
- Fun Fact: Bamboo is softer than silk when spun into yarn.
Bison fiber is a lightweight type of wool from the Bison animal. It’s durable, soft, non-shrinkable, and non-felting. It’s expensive, but for a good reason!
- Ideal For lace patterns and small accessories.
- Fun Fact – it’s hypoallergenic.
Cashmere is one of the softest. It comes from Cashmere Goats. The word Cashmere comes from the old spelling of the old State of Kashmir in South Asia.
This luxury yarn is among the softest types and woolliest on this list. It’s not as strong as sheep fiber, and it’s also expensive.
Why? 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.
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 about 4 ounces once processed. It takes the fibers collected from four goats to make a sweater. A knitting yarns made to be treasured. A cashmere blend usually has wool or acrylic in it.
Use To Create Soft Knitted Fabric
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.
It’s a velvety synthetic fiber that’s tricky to knit with. It has a wonderful feel, though! Ideal For baby blankets and cuddly knits.
- It’s made from a mixture of natural and synthetic fiber
- The feel is achieved with a special weave
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 with unique characteristics, some fine, some heavier. It doesn’t hold its shape, and your stitches won’t look as uniform. It has little elasticity and has an amazing range of colors.
Knitting or crocheting cotton creates lovely fabrics, a good choice for baby blankets. Summer projects knitted with a cotton and linen blend have a lovely drape.
To learn new knitting stitches, I have created lots of dishcloths using cotton yarn from different countries I have visited. They have been super fun to do.
The knitting practice gives me the confidence to take on bigger projects with interesting designs. The finished knitted dishcloths also made the perfect gifts to the wonderful people I’ve met.
- Cotton absorbs up to 27 times its weight in water! Watch out if you have a knitted cotton swimsuit!
- Cotton is the best yarn for amigurumi
Hemp, a newcomer to the knitting world, is a delightful natural fiber. Hemp softens after multiple washes.
It’s hard-wearing and has a great stitch definition. It’s strong and sturdy, but with flexibility. Certain hemp has an appearance like twine. Known for its use in macrame. It’s rough on your hands and the finished fabric won’t have an even texture. When blended with other yarns like wool or cotton, it adds strength.
- Ideal For: Boot socks, Fisherman type sweaters, coats, scrubbies and dishcloths.
- Fun Fact: Hemp plants produce 250% more fiber than cotton. Hemp is mildew resistant and was used for paper in the past.
Jute yarn, made from the fibers of the jute plant, offers a natural rustic charm and earthy texture. It’s known for its durability, making it suitable for home decor projects from trendy wall hangings to stylish tote bags and elegant table runners.
Llama fiber is a lightweight yarn that can create clothes and accessories. It has no natural oils or lanolin, which means it’s easy on your skin! The fibers also shrink very little when washed. Their fibers are also used to make rugs.
- Llamas are often confused with alpacas
- They’re super strong pack animals
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Linen is a luxurious yarn made from flax fibers. Linen garments keep you cool in hot weather because they’re highly absorbent. One of the world’s oldest textiles is linen.
- Ideal For – Summer knits or crochet patterns, lightweight tops, wraps, or shawls.
- Fun Fact – it comes from the flax plant.
Lurex is a registered trademark of the Lurex Company for metallic yarn fiber types. It’s a synthetic film vaporized with metallic aluminum, silver, or gold layers.
- Ideal For – Fun knits and adding a splash of bling to garments.
- Fun Fact – it looks super flashy.
Merino Wool Yarn – My Favorite Type For Beautiful Projects
Merino Wool Yarn is popular in extreme knitting. Knitting big chunky items. It also comes from sheep, but from a specific breed, called the Merino Sheep. Many top brands offer this kind of yarn.
This wool is unique because it’s soft and doesn’t cause allergic reactions. Merino Wool knitted fabric keeps its shape well when blocked. Merino pills, which is a little annoying.
If you use Merino wool, though, like Cascade Yarn – 100% Superwash Merino Wool, go for it! Roving is often used in full arm knitting. Merino wool varies in yarn thickness and is packaged as a skein.
Ideal for: Merino Wool is great for making winter woolies for that special someone. Perfect for knitted socks, a soft yarn for scarf, shawls, sweaters and a variety of baby clothes. Jumbo Merino Yarn is for extreme knitting.
Fun Fact: Merino fibers withstand being bent back on themselves 20,000 times without breaking! The yarn structure is impressive.
Metallic yarn is a synthetic yarn with a metallic appearance. It contains metal elements, which create its gloss and stability. (AKA alu-metallized polyester yarn.)
Ideal For accessories, shawls with pizazz and home décor.
Mohair Yarn: Soft & Light Type
Mohair is soft and made from the hair of the Angora Goat. It’s durable, resistant, and shiny. A Super Fine Weight Yarn. Not to be confused with the Angora Rabbit, which 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 types. A mohair blend usually has wool or alpaca.
Ideal For: Mohair is for summer and winter. Some people find the fabric 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 good yarn for dyeing!
Novelty Yarns – Various Types Of Yarn
Novelty Yarn comes in a variety of colors and textures and adds interest to a knitted garment. Yarns are made of synthetic fibers, these yarn blends. Novelty yarns provide texture and interest. They can vary in thickness or what else is known as yarn weight.
Common Novelty Yarns Categories:
- Bouclé: Loopy and bumpy. The loops are large or small.
- Thick-thin: A finished knitted item using this yarn has 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 adding interest to your knitted projects.
- Not So Fun Fact: Novelty yarns are difficult to knit with.
Many natural fibers can be mimicked with synthetic nylon yarn. Since silk became harder to obtain, nylon was created. Cheaper than natural fibers, it’s strong and stretchy. A nylon blend usually has wool in it.
- Ideal For – Nylon is great for adding durability to socks and lightweight accessories.
- Fun Fact – Nylon was one of the properties used for parachutes in WW2.
Organic yarn is produced free from chemicals. Animal fibers sourced from sheep with no synthetic inputs. The livestock has not been through dips, drenches, back lining, or antibiotics. The cleaning process of organic wool yarns includes using hot water and detergent.
Varying thickness suitable for bulky yarn and super bulky items, so they’re great for beginner knitters.
- Ideal for: Many organic yarns are from the Merino Sheep. This wool is excellent for winter knitted garments.
- Fun Fact: Organic Yarn means it comes from healthy, happy sheep, and it’s good for the environment.
Qiviut refers to the soft underwool beneath the longer outer wool of the muskox.
- Ideal for winter knits and warm garments.
- Fun Fact: The same word is used to describe the down feathers of birds in Inuinnaqtun.
It’s made from the synthetic fiber derived from natural plant cellulose. It’s cool, soft, and lightweight, like bamboo or linen. A rayon blend is commonly made with wool or cotton. It’s also known as viscose or tencel.
- Ideal For: tops, singlets, and summer knits.
- Fun Fact – it’s half natural, half synthetic.
It’s made from anything from rayon and nylon to cotton, but it looks and feels like a craft ribbon.
- Ideal For accessories like belts, bags, and headbands.
- Fun Fact – it twists and spins when being knitted.
Self Striping Yarns
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. They vary in yarn weight.
“Self-striping” yarn, also known as “painterly” yarn colors, change color as you knit or crochet. The result is a knitted project with stripes of color.
Depending on the self-striping yarn used, the color changes are subtle or bold. For example, some may knit up to look like a Fair Isle pattern. I loved knitting socks with wool/nylon blend with patterning.
When using this yarn, it looks like you’ve changed colors. The colorful striped effect comes from one continuous strand of yarn. Stitches and patterns work the colorways 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 have an appealing stripy effect. Takes the guesswork of whether colors go together when buying yarn on the internet.
- Some work is required to find patterns and stitches to suit the self-striping yarn you’ve chosen.
- When comparing prices, the self-striped yarn is more expensive than buying different solid color yarns.
- Lack of control of where the color changes fall. Sometimes the stripy look is 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.
- Fun Fact: Self-striping yarn is like magic. You never know how your project ends up!
There are different types of silk yarn – Reeled silk yarn and spun silk yarn. It’s easy to work with but slippery. Know what you’re doing before commencing a project with silk yarn.
Silk is one of the most expensive and lustrous fibers on our list. It’s strong, shiny, and has a lovely feel on the skin. It doesn’t have much stretch. There are some magical silk blends on the market, such as merino, silk, and cashmere.
- Ideal For: Strong, shiny, and cool, the perfect yarn for summer items.
- Fun Fact: Strong as steel in the tensile sense, silk is the strongest natural fiber known to humans!
Specialty Yarn Fiber Types
These create special looks in knitted items.
- Tweed: Has a main color, flecked with bits of fiber in different colors.
- Heather: Blended from 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 are any number of plies—two, three, four.
Ideal for: Adding texture and interest to your knitted projects.
Tweed: Flecks Of Colors
A yarn with multiple plies and accent colors. “True” tweed yarns are dyed in separate colors, then carded or spun with accent colors.
- Ideal For: knitted clothes, and accessories like cowls and socks.
- Fun Fact: It was originally called tweel.
Wool is great for winter garments. It’s warm, and it lasts a long time. A popular natural yarn fiber out there in the craft world. It’s itchy for people if they have allergies to kinds of wool. Wool is easily cleaned and keeps you warm even in the rain!
Variations & Types of Wool Yarn. There are four different options.
- Wool Type Fine
- Wool Type Medium
- Wool Type Long
- Wool Type Double – coated
Types of fine wool such as merino which yarn fibers are soft. Wool’s warmth is a praised characteristic by knitters. Pure new wool/virgin wool is made from animal fleece yarn fibers 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 to destroy the outer fuzzy layer of fibers.
Ideal for: Winter and Summer. It’s great for making scarves, sweaters, gloves, hats, socks, other clothes, blankets, an excellent yarn for baby blankets, and an afghan. Looking for the best sock yarn? Read more.
- 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.
- The fibers has natural fire extinguishing properties, hence why it’s included in fire blankets. Other different yarns don’t have this property.
Wool Blend Yarn Types
Wool Blend Yarns as the name suggests, are blended yarns of wool and other yarns. Blends include cotton and silk or synthetic. (Cotton acrylic yarn blend and Wool cotton blend yarn.) Wool manufacturers blend to combine the best features of each type of yarn included in the blend.
- Ideal for: cozy knitted items.
- Fun fact: 50% Wool and 50% Cotton Blend is a great wool blend because each has qualities complimenting the other.
Vicuña wool comes from South American camelids that live in the high alpine areas of Peru’s Andes mountains. Vicuñas produce a soft, light, cinnamon-colored wool.
- Ideal For: Small accessories or a luxury knitwear project.
- Fun Fact: It’s the most expensive yarn labels in the world. Even a small amount of these
Other Fiber Types
Here’s a list of other fiber types that aren’t as common, either because they’re not popular, or they’re a recent invention.
Guanaco (from the South American camelid), Ramie (from the reconstituted pulp of the plant of the same name), Soy (an industrial soybean byproduct), Banana (from the shredded banana plant), Corn (from the reconstituted fibers of the corn plant), and Milk Casein (from the leftover milk protein).
FAQs About The Types Of Yarns
What’s The Most Popular Kind Of Yarn?
According to Ravelry’s database, the most popular kind of yarn is wool. This is because of the 1,018,878 patterns on Ravelry, 19.3% (194,778) use wool as the suggested fiber! A further 18.4% (185,722) uses merino wool.
Knitting Patterns Published On Ravelry By Fiber Type: 2007-2022
The table is ordered by largest amount of patterns to smallest. (Note: This data was sourced from the advanced search function in the patterns section of Ravelry.)
Knit Patterns Published On Ravelry By Type Of Fiber
What Are Ply Yarns?
Ply yarns are a term used to describe the measurement of how many individual strands are twisted together to form a yarn. For example, 1 ply yarns are called single yarns. The classification of spun yarn is divided into single, multiple wound, plied, and cabled.
In conclusion, there are so many different types of yarns. I hope this article has helped you find out what materials are available to knitters. Using this guide, you should be able to find the right one for your project.
- Chattopadhyay, R. “Introduction: types of technical textile yarn.” In Technical Textile Yarns, pp. 3-55. Woodhead Publishing, 2010.
- Alagirusamy, R., and A. Das. “Conversion of fibre to yarn: an overview.” Textiles and fashion (2015): 159-189.
- Lily Chin’s knitting tips & tricks : shortcuts and techniques every knitter should know : Chin, Lily M : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive. (n.d.). Internet Archive. https://archive.org/details/isbn_9780307461056