All you need to know about yarn weights

Christelle ABC's knitting, Knitting Leave a Comment

If you have read the article on how to read a yarn label, you certainly wanted to go further and understand all the names on yarn weights: fingering, lace, Nm etc.

Let’s go ahead and dive into the technique.

First of all, we are talking about yarn weights: but what is yarn numbering system?

This article will enlighten you on the different yarn weights present on the market and their names according to the countries.

During the process of creating my own yarn brand, I had to immerse myself in the technical terms of industrial mills and understand what yarn numbering system was.
You are going to tell me, what the point of knowing this is?

In some online stores, such as Colourmart, which supplies wholesale yarns from the textile industry – cashmere here I am – the yarns are classified according to a yarn numbering system. Not according to their weight or utility or needles sizes needed to knit them.

Yarn numbering system

The yarn numbering system indicates the size of a thread, so it gives you the ratio between the weight (here we speak of a kilo) and the length of the thread. So the more meterage per kilo, the thinner the yarn will be and the higher the yarn numbering system will be. The unit used to indicate this yarn numbering system is Nm or metric number (this is not the only one but the more common here).

The metric number

This metric number will indicate the amount of yarn (meterage) per kilogram of yarn. So for example, you can find a number such as Nm28 which will mean that you have 28000 meters of yarn per kilo.

Let’s go a little further if you don’t mind.

Let’s decipher what these numbers mean.
  • Nm means metric number so you’ll know we refer to an amount of yarn per kilo.
  • Then, the second number gives you the meterage, so we get in our example 28000 m (or 28 kms) of a single thread of yarn.
  • And the very first number talks about the number of times the yarn is plied (so in this case it’s a two ply yarn).

So litteraly, we get a 14000 m per kilo two ply yarn.

Indeed, we have to divide the second number by the first to obtain the quantity of the final thread.

Thus, in knitting language, you will get a 1400 m / 100 g skein, a lace yarn!

If you want to know more, click here!

Let’s talk about yarn weights you’ll find online or in a local yarn store

Yarn weight

This is where things get complicated because depending on where the yarn is produced, the weight names will be different.

In Europe, especially in French speaking LYS, you will simply find a mention of the needles size needed. Sometimes some utiliy is mentioned: e.g. baby clothes yarn, sock yarn, lace yarn, etc.

But you will also find mention of appellations such as superfine, fine, light, medium, thick etc. Very clear designations that only require you to look at the label and check the needles sites to make sure it’s what you’re looking for.

The same is not true for US and UK yarn brands; and with Ravelry, these references tend to extend to the French-speaking knitting world.

Let’s get some clarity.

Here are the names you can find on the threads you buy online and even in LYS: fingering, lace, worsted, aran, DK etc. It is enough to confuse anybody, isn’t it?

Let’s go through each size of yarn in English.
The finest
  • Cobweb: cobweb means spider’s web. I think the term speaks for itself, it is a very fine lace yarn (often more than 1400 m per 100 g) especially used to make Shetland or Orenburg shawls. Those shawls are also named wedding ring shawls.
  • Lace: Lace skeins weight is usually 700 to 800 m per 100 g and worked with needles sizes from 2 to 3.5 mm. It is generally used for airy lace shawls but sometimes also for knitting summer tops.
The thin ones, my favorite.
  • Light fingering: this yarn is an in-between : between lace and fingering yarns. The skeins are usually a little over 400 m long. These are the yarns that are mostly used to make socks or mittens.
  • Fingering: Fingering yarn can be compared to baby clothes yarn which is worked with 3 – 4 mm needles. This is my favourite yarn for sweaters and shawls; neither too thick nor too warm and with just the right texture. The skeins are between 360 and 400 meters per 100g.
Those rather dedicated to sweaters
  • Sport: Sport yanr is this one that lies between fingering and DK. It is a little less common on the market than DK but it is lighter, it is often worked with 4 mm needles. It’d be perfect for sweaters. The skeins are generally 280 to 300 m per 100 g.
  • DK: The meaning of DK is double knit; there was a time when spinning mills did not have the technical ability to spin yarns thicker than fingering. So they would double the thread to get a thicker one. So if you don’t have a DK yarn in your stash, you can knit two fingering ones hold together to get the same result. A skein is usually 200 m / 100 g. And is worked with 4 – 4.5 mm needles.
The biggest
  • Worsted: This yarn is worked with 4.5 or 5 mm needles. It is much thicker and a skein contains about 150 to 180 m of wire per 100g.
  • Aran: This is not a different category, but another name for worsted yarn. Some will say it is different, others will tell you it is not. Personally, I’ve never seen the difference between worsted and aran skeins. And as its name suggests, it is perfect for Aran sweaters – these gorgeous Irish sweaters!
Very big wools
  • Bulky: a thicker yarn than this one which can be knitted with 5.5 mm or 6 mm needles and sometimes even more, like for a quick knit hat. I don’t recommend it for a sweater unless you live in Iceland and go out at -20°C only wearing your sweater!
  • Chunky: in this category are all the yarns thicker than the bulky ones, the ones we’d knit with stakes! From 8 to 15 mm or even 20 mm. I must confess that I never work with this kind of yarn, the needles being difficult to handle.
In conclusion,

Here are in a few words, some names for the yarn weight available on the market. There is still a lot to be said about yarn, wool and even their names, but it will be for other publications!

If you have additional questions or suggestions, please feel free to share them below in the comments section.

See you soon,


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