For knitters, yarn is a very complex topic! There is a lot to know, but we will begin with the basics.
Regardless of yarn weight, construction and fibre content, knit with something beautiful and you will enjoy the process!
Yarn Weight ::: from skinny to superfat
Some yarns are heavier (thicker) and some are lighter (thinner). This means that they will knit up to make comparatively thicker or thinner fabrics. Generally, the thicker the yarn, the bigger the needles you will use with it.
Yarn Construction :::
The design of yarns is a complex science, but there are a few things that are practically relevant to the knitted fabric.
Single ply yarns are made from a single twist of fiber. They are often soft and pillowy. Because they don’t have a lot of structure, the resulting fabric can have problems with pilling or shedding, but often it’s worth it for the effect!
Plied yarns are made from two or more single plies twisted together. They can be more durable. They have a different look when knit up, but it all depends on the specifics of the fiber, number of plies, and how tightly spun they are… Make a swatch and see what you think.
Chainette yarns are made up of smaller plies or yarns which are made into a tiny chain or i-cord (at a very small scale). They produce a different effect when knitted up, because you see the texture of the knitted stitches, and then the finer texture of the fabric of the yarn itself.
Yarn Fibre Content ::: baa baa black sheep, bunnies and bamboo
Yarns are made from a WIDE variety of materials. Often fibres are blended to combine their qualities in one yarn. Sheep’s wool is a traditional and fabulous fibre for knitting yarns. In the ‘animal fibres’ category there are also yarns made from alpaca (very warm, dense, hairy), cashmere (the buttery soft undercoat of goats living in very cold places), angora (from the fluffy bunnies), silk (from the worms), and some (slightly mad) people even collect their dog’s hair to spin into yarn… although I wouldn’t want to be nearby when that sweater gets rained on!
Plant and artificial fibres are also spun into yarn, and combined with animal fibres to create blends. For example nylon and/or bamboo are often included in sock yarns to add strength and shine.
Yarn Put-Up ::: balls, hanks, and yummy yarn cakes!
‘Put up’ is the form in which yarn is presented for sale.
Yarn is often sold in balls – it’s easy to knit from a ball – just take the ball band off, find the end, and get started.
Yarn is more and more commonly sold in hanks (often called skeins) – a hank is a big loop of yarn, which is twisted upon itself. In order to work with this yarn, you have to wind it into a ball, or a cake. Some yarn shops will wind a hank into a cake when you purchase it, otherwise you have to wind it at home using a ball winder and swift, or simply winding it into a ball by hand.
A ‘cake’ of yarn is created when you use a ball-winder and swift to wind a hank of yarn into a usable form. It’s just like a ball, but is satisfyingly uniform, with a flat top and bottom.
The Bottom Line ::: knit with beautiful yarns that you love
Budgets are different, but in the end knitting takes a long time. We recommend you knit with quality natural fibres, because your time and your creative work is worth it. If you work with beautiful materials you will enjoy the process and create exquisite knits.
This tutorial is part of The Simple Collection – a learn to knit series by Alexa and Emily. With clear tutorials and 8 new free patterns, the collection is perfect for beginners, learners, and experienced knitters who love modern and simple designs. Want to hear more? Get our email updates and we will let you know as new free patterns and tutorials are released!
Simple Collection Designs by Tin Can Knits: