Knitting Yarn

Choosing the Best Knitting Yarn

The choice of knitting yarns on offer in this day and age is mind-boggling. It can be confusing trying to pick the right yarn for your project, so here is a quick guide to help you choose one of the essential part of your knitting supplies.

The two main elements to consider when choosing yarn are the material and the weight.

Knitting Yarn Material

The first step is deciding what kind of material you want to knit with.


Cotton is a fairly lightweight fibre that comes in a huge array of colours. It is machine-washable and hardwearing. Very few people are allergic to cotton and it is soft to touch so it is often chosen for knitting baby clothes. It also shows up knitting textures very well.

On the downside, cotton becomes very heavy when wet and the colour often bleeds when washed. In addition, cotton is very inelastic and this can cause hand strain for some knitters.

If you come across mercerized cotton, this is a shinier yarn than standard cotton and it is also slightly stronger.


Wool is the most popular material to knit with. The reasons for this include the fact it is elastic and easy to work with.

The main drawback with wool is that some people find it itchy to wear or are allergic to the dust that wool can carry.

You generally need to wash wool with care, because if you don’t your wonderful item will soon shrink and become felted. However, you can now buy washable wool that has been treated to allow machine washing.


There is a general trend towards natural fibres but acrylic yarn still sells well because it is usually the cheapest yarn available and very few people are allergic to it. Acrylic can also be machine-washed and is moth proof.

Some people find acrylic “sticky” to work with and it is also prone to pilling. Acrylic is not as warm as wool and can lose its shape.

Many knitters choose to compromise and work with an acrylic mix yarn eg acrylic/cotton or acrylic/wool. A mix is also a good place to start if you are just learning how to knit.

Despite its faults, don’t forget that acrylic yarns are perfect for knitting for charity. In fact, some projects even specify that you knit with acrylic!


Yarn made from silk has a wonderful sheen. It is expensive but a good choice if you want to give your piece a luxurious feel.

A particularly wonderful type of silk is recycled silk. This is often made from recycled sari silk and women in India and Nepal hand spin it. This allows the women a way to earn money and so it is a worthwhile yarn to consider if you haven’t thought about knitting for charity.

Once you have chosen your knitting yarn material the next thing to consider is what weight is suitable for the project you are planning.

Knitting Yarn Weight

At first, I found weight one of the most confusing aspects of choosing yarn. The main reason for this is that different countries and different manufacturers use different terms to describe yarn.

This little summary will help you out.

Super Fine / Fingering / 3ply / 4ply / 5ply

This very lightweight yarn is used for baby items and socks. It suits needles sized 0-3 US (or 2 to 3.25 mm)

Fine / Sport / 8ply

This is another popular yarn for delicate items such as baby wear. This type of yarn requires needles sized 4-6 US (or 3.5 to 4mm)

DK / Light

DK yarn is suitable for a variety of items such as lightweight sweaters. The suggested needle size is 3-6 US (or 3.25 to 4mm)

Medium / Worsted / Aran / 10ply

This yarn is the ideal weight for numerous projects and continues to be the most popular weight for knitting. You will need needles sized 6-9 US (or 4 to 5.5mm)

Bulky / Chunky / 13ply

Bulky yarn is thicker than usual so you can knit garments very quickly with it. It suits needle sizes 10-11 US (or 6 to 8mm)

Super Bulky / 14ply

As you would expect Super Bulky Yarn is very thick and heavy. This requires the larger needle sizes from 11 US (or 8mm) upwards

Ball Band Instructions

knitting yarn label

Don’t miss the important information found on the paper band that most yarns come with. The band will give details such as:

* Fibre content

* Weight of ball

* Colour and dye lot

* Washing and Ironing recommendations

* Appropriate tension and needle size Remember to buy all the yarn you need for a project at the same time so it comes from the same dye lot. There is nothing more frustrating than running out of wool half way through a project and then finding that the new lot of wool you have bought is a slightly different shade!

Whichever yarn you choose, make sure you love it because that way you can be sure you will be proud of your knitted piece.