At today’s knitting group, someone asked what “DK” meant. Although she’s a long time yarnaholic like the rest of us, she’s never really learned about the differences in yarn and how they can affect a project. That inspired me to start a weekly lexicon for those who may not necessarily be new to the craft, but are new to the terminology. This week, let’s talk about weight.
Weight is another way to refer to a yarn’s thickness. It is highly variable, depending on the manufacturer. The most standardized way to determine a yarn’s thickness is WPI, or Wraps Per Inch. To determine the WPI, take a ruler, or anything you can make a one inch measurement on, and wrap your yarn around it. Count how many lines of yarn you see between one inch. Easy, right? Now it doesn’t matter who makes the yarn, you can easily ensure you’re using the same weight of yarn called for in a particular pattern.
Starting with the lightest weight:
Cobweb: 40 or more WPI, about 1200 yards per 50 gram skein
Cobweb is often used for shawls and other lace projects. It is super-fine, sometimes thinner than sewing thread. NEVER try to wind cobweb weight yarn without a yarn swift, trust me.
Lace: 36 to 40 WPI, about 440 yards per 50 gram skein
Lace is also used for shawls and other lace projects, but can also be used for colorwork if you want to keep the thickness of your final project manageable.
Fingering: 24 to 30 WPI, around 220 yards per 50 gram skein
Fingering, also known as sock yarn, is most often used for…socks! It’s also popular for baby items, fingerless mittens, and gloves. It’s easy to work cables in fingering, too.
Sport: 18 to 24 WPI, around 120 yards per 50 gram skein
Sport is popular for socks, baby items, hats, gloves, and colorwork. It’s also great for summer weight tops and sweaters.
Double Knitting, or DK: 12 to 18 WPI, about 120 yards per 50 gram skein
DK is perfect for, well, double knitting! DK and Sport are often interchanged, so be sure to compare the WPI of your chosen yarn with the WPI of the yarn recommended for your project.
Worsted: 10 to 12 WPI, around 110 yards per 50 gram skein
You may hear the term “worsted weight” a lot, as that is what most big box store acrylic yarn is, particularly Caron Simply Soft, Red Heart Super Saver, Lily Sugar ‘N Cream, and much of the Lion Brand line. Worsted is the go-to yarn for many items, particularly sweaters, slippers, and bags. It is the workhorse of yarn craft. Anything from slippers to afghans, hats, gloves, baby items, bags, scarves…anything you can knit, you can knit with worsted (and yes, I do mean lace!).
Bulky: Less than 8 WPI, around 60 yards per 50 gram skein (although most often sold in 100 gram skeins)
Bulky is great for rugs, heavy jackets, and bags. It’s also great for felting, as with felting, projects need to be knitted larger so that when it shrinks, it is the right size. Larger yarn means fewer stitches, and since you’re felting it anyway, who cares?
Chunky: Less than 6 WPI, around 50 yards per 50 gram skein
Chunky is also known as super-bulky, and is also good for rugs, heavy jackets, and bags.
Don’t think that this will save you from making a gauge swatch, though! If you’re making a fitted item, swatch, swatch, swatch. But if you are making a blanket and don’t mind if it’s a bit off, or like the pattern but want your product to be much larger (or smaller), knowing the weight of your yarn vs. the recommended yarn weight will help. Personally, I love shawls, but spending a month or more to make a lace shawl isn’t always do-able, particularly if it’s a gift. Switch over to worsted weight and a larger needle or hook, make fewer repetitions, and finish a whole lot faster!
Weight isn’t the only factor in determining how your finished fabric will look and feel, but it is definitely important. Hook/needle size, tension, and the yarn itself will all play a role, but weight is the first thing to consider when trying to figure out how your chosen yarn will compare to the recommended yarn.
Enjoy and remember, “Knit through everything!”