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The Ultimate Beginner's Guide To Worsted Weight Yarn

Worsted weight yarn is the holy grail of yarn in the knitting community. It’s popular with both beginner and experienced knitters and crocheters alike. This is thanks to its versatility when it comes to thickness and how easy it is to work with.

As a result, it’s the perfect type of yarn to work with - far more than any other type of yarn! You can make just about anything with it, from hats to jumpers, to scarves or even blankets.

But what exactly is it and what does it mean for yarn to be worsted?

Worsted wool gets its name from the place it originated from; a small village situated in Norfolk, UK, called Worstead. Back in the 12th century, Worstead and two other towns were used as manufacturing centres for wool.

Around this time, there were new breeds of sheep that were being introduced to the country. These sheep had much longer wool (known today as long-staple wool) than other breeds, which meant that a different method of weaving had to be used.

Instead of fusing both the long and the short fibres through a set of metal combs, a process known as carding, the wool was instead washed and then the short fibres were separated in a process called gilling, leaving only the longer fibres behind and ready to be used for spinning. This left behind a yarn that was sturdier but easier to work with.

Today, the Craft Yarn Council defines worsted yarn as number 4 on the Standard Yarn Weight System. This puts it into the medium category, making it heavier than fine types of yarn and lighter than bulky types of yarn.

Depending on where you’re from, you might also know it as Afghan, Aran or 10 ply yarn.

But what is all this talk about weights in yarn?

You might already be aware that yarn can come in many different forms. This is something you’ll find especially true when starting out with knitting or crocheting, that not all yarn is created equal.

Weight in the context of knitting vocabulary refers to the thickness of the yarn, rather than how much it weighs in a literal sense. It’s used to identify the type of wool that you’re potentially going to be using in a pattern. For example, depending on whether you want to knit socks or a rug, you might need to use a certain type of yarn which in this context, is called yarn weight.

Which brings us to the next question -> How exactly is yarn measured?

You can easily measure yarn by counting how many wraps there are within an inch (~2.50 cm), also known as Wraps Per Count (WPI). You count the WPI in stitches, which you will see written on patterns as sts.

To do this, you take the yarn by a strand and wrap it around the pencil, ensuring that the strands are tight but aren’t overlapping with each other. Next, you measure it using either a measuring tape or a ruler to determine how many wraps there are within an inch.

This is where the Standard Yarn Weight System comes into effect. In total, there are 7 different size categories that yarn can fall into.

Let’s take a look at the guide below to help you get started. Feel free to look back on this guide whenever you’re feeling stuck!

STANDARD YARN WEIGHT CHART

Now that you have an idea of how to count yarn weight and how to identify it, you’re going to need to know what type of needle to use for the type of yarn.

Depending on where you’re from, you might know the needles as different names. Let’s take a look at another guide below. Again, if you’re feeling stuck then please feel free to refer to this guide for help!

RECOMMENDED NEEDLES ACCORDING TO YARN WEIGHT

TYPE

METRIC

US

0 - LACE

1.5 - 2.25mm

000 - 1

1 - SUPER FINE

2.25 - 3.25mm

1 - 3

2 - FINE

3.25mm - 3.75mm

3 - 5

3 - LIGHT

3.75mm - 4.5mm

5 - 7

4 - MEDIUM

4.5mm - 5.5mm

7 - 9

5 - BULKY

5.5mm - 8mm

9 - 11

6 - SUPER BULKY

8mm - 12.75mm

11 - 17

7 - JUMBO

12.75mm and larger

17 and larger

 
RECOMMENDED HOOKS ACCORDING TO YARN WEIGHT

TYPE

METRIC

US

0 - LACE

Steel 1.6–1.4 mm
Regular hook 2.25 mm

Steel 6, 7, 8
Regular hook B–1

1 - SUPER FINE

2.25— 3.5 mm

Bto E4

2 - FINE

3.5—4.5 mm

E4 to E7

3 - LIGHT

4.5—5.5 mm

E7 to I–9

4 - MEDIUM

5.5—6.5 mm

I–9 to K–10 1⁄2

5 - BULKY

6.5—mm

K–10 1⁄2 to M–13

6 - SUPER BULKY

9—15 mm

M–13 to Q

7 - JUMBO

15 mm and larger

and larger


Using the above methods can be very effective when it comes to figuring out what type of yarn to use in any future projects. It’s also a very helpful way to identify any mystery yarn you may have on your hands.
 

Back onto the topic of worsted weight yarn, we can now see that it’s the true middle ground of yarn. It’s medium in thickness, meaning you can use it in just about anything making it an excellent starter wool. We can also see that it uses 4.5mm - 5.5mm sized needles, making it easy to work with because the needles aren’t too thin or too wide. Truly the holy grail of yarn, indeed.

As you gain more and more experience with knitting, you might come to discover that some seasoned knitters have their own preferences of yarn and needle sizes that they swear by. It’s important to note that this is based on their personal style and it might not work for you initially.

By learning the rules of yarn weight and how to measure it, you’re setting yourself up for an excellent starting point that will surely benefit you on your knitting journey. 

This is also why we are recommending worsted weight yarn with so much passion, because it’s the most reliable and the most versatile choice that there is.

Stay tuned for more knitting knowledge!