Yarn is divided into weights. Heavy, worsted weight, sport weight etc…this is how you’ll find them categorized in a yarn shop. But, what does it mean?
It simply means how thin or thick they are. In other words, their correct gauge. Gauge is: How many stitches per inch. Here’s the breakdown from thin to thick:
Fingering: (aka baby yarn) 7-9 stitches per inch.
Sport: 6 stitches per inch
Double Knitting: (aka DK - not as common, but needs to be mentioned.) 5.5 stitches per inch.
Worsted: 5 stitches per inch
Heavy: 4 stitches per inch
Bulky: 3 stitches per inch
Super Bulky: 2-2.5 stitches per inch.
What all this means is…these gauges are where these specific yarns will look their best. Example: If you knit a bulky weight yarn on tiny needles (well, first, your fingers would cramp terribly!) but the end result would be rather bulletproof. On the other extreme…knitting a fingering weight yarn on big huge needles would result in something rather net like. All knitters knit differently…some tight, some loose. So needle size to obtain the proper gauge will vary from knitter to knitter. All patterns give you the specific gauge for that particular pattern. This needs to be accurate to achieve the proper size. A pattern will also give you a suggested needle size. Play around with it until it’s right. By doing this you’ll save lots of time and heartache. We all have our horror stories….
Gauge = number of stitches per inch. If a pattern tells you to cast on 100 stitches for the back of a sweater, and it calls for a gauge of 5 sts per inch. Then: 100 ÷ 5 = 20. 20 inches. If your gauge was off…even by half an inch…then: 100 ÷ 5.5 = 18.8 inches or if the gauge was off the other way, 100 ÷ 4.5 = 22 inches. Remember this measurement is just for the back, so the entire sweater size would be off by up to 4 inches! In other words…gauge is important.
Ply is how many strands are twisted together to create yarn. There are 1 ply bulky weights, and 4 ply sport weights. Generally, the more ply…the stronger the yarn.
There are so many different types of knitting needles today. Work with what you like…but here are a few suggestions.
Wooden needles are nice, but tend to be slow. So wood works well with slick yarns. Slow yarns, such as cotton and thick synthetics, work best with fast needles, such as Teflon coated aluminum. Play around with them, and you’ll find your favorite combinations.