When choosing yarn, you often look at the thickness of the strands. This thickness is what we refer to as yarn weight. (This is not the weight of the ball/skein of yarn). The US sometimes uses different names than UK and Europe. Yarn weights go from lace all the way up to super bulky.
If you want to learn even more – check out the Craft Yarn Council. They are trying to make it easier to understand yarn weights by using numbers and which needles you will likely use for each yarn.
Terms we use the most in describing yarn weights:
Ply: Plied yarns are yarns composed of two or more single yarns twisted together. When a spinner pulls fibers into a single thread, those threads are typically plied together. Sometimes they are plied with more threads to create a desired weight of yarn.
Lace is the thinnest weight of yarn. Depending on the lace yarn used, it can give an airy or lacy appearance to your work.
Fingering (sometimes called sock weight) is the next thinnest yarn weight and used in both plied and single ply yarns. It is one of the most common weights of yarns and is great for socks and other garments.
Sport weight is a medium thickness of yarn. You could make a variety of garments or even thicker socks with a sport weight yarn.
DK weight is a lighter medium weight yarn. DK stands for Double Knitting weight. It’s very popular for garments and we recommend using it for sweaters and shawls!
Worsted is the middle thickness of yarn weight. Great for beginners who are just learning as it’s easy to hold and work with and produces projects quickly.
Aran is a bit heavier than worsted weight yarn and not quite a bulky yarn – somewhere in between the two.
Bulky/Chunky yarns are thicker yarns than Worsted or Aran. Great for making hats, cowls and general quick knit projects!
Super Bulky/Jumbo is the thickest of yarns. These are the ultimate quick knits – great for holiday gifting!
Please take a look at the handy chart we made below in hopes of helping you understand yarn weights and corresponding needle sizes below.
And lastly, even though you bought the right yarn and needles for your pattern, you will want to do a swatch to check your gauge. A gauge swatch will ensure your project is the correct size – you should ALWAYS make a swatch to check for gauge!
How to Swatch:
Before you start – determine if your garment is knit flat or in the round. If knit flat, cast on the number of stitches (or a few more) that the pattern calls for in a 4-inch gauge swatch. Use the needles and yarn called for and if there is a certain stitch pattern, make sure to knit your swatch with that stitch. Knit for as many rows as the 4-inch gauge swatch calls for (or a few more).
If your project should be knit in the round, you will do the same as above (make sure to use a circular needle), and just keep sliding your yarn over to work from the left needle to the right. You will have strands hanging off the back of the swatch. This video by Very Pink Knits is super helpful!
I Finished My Swatch Now what?!
Then you should wash and block your swatch. How do you wash and dry your swatch? Exactly how you will wash and dry your sweater! More about blocking here.
You can use a gauge ruler or a regular ruler. Try not to use a tape measure – these aren’t always accurate. Measure horizontally and write down your stitch gauge. Then measure 2-3 more times in other areas of the swatch and write down your stitch gauge. Next, measure vertically and write down your row gauge. Measure 2-3 more times and write down row gauge. Average your stitch and row gauge. Avoid the borders (sometimes this area is not as accurate or is askew).
If My Gauge is Off…
Your swatch may have too many stitches or too few. If you are getting a swatch with too few stitches, you will need to go down a needle size. This will give you more stitches per inch.
If your swatch has too many stitches per inch, you will need to grab a larger needle so you will get less stitches. For both of the issues you will want to swatch again using the new needle you have chosen!