Haaaave you read about needles? Confused yet? It gets better. Let’s choose the right yarn. Once you get started knitting it all starts to make sense.
Take a stroll down the yarn aisle at your local craft store. There’s a huge variety of yarns to choose from. Let’s put aside talk of the different colors, ’cause seriously ALL THE COLORS!!!
What should I call my yarn?
Be honest, you didn’t even know this was a thing, right?
If you want to blend seamlessly into to packs of herding knitters you gotta speak the lingo. Say this with me: Skein. Rhymes with keen. Now say Peachy Keen Skein. Now say that 5-times-fast.
A skein is a wound length of yarn with a center pull strand. Meaning you can pull both ends of the yarn, one from the around the outside of the skein and the other from the middle. The is different from a ball of yarn where one end is enclosed inside the ball and one one end is free.
I prefer winding my skeins into balls before I work with them. That completely personal preference.
How to Choose the Right Yarn – What is it made of??
Yarns are made from different materials. Most of the yarn you get in a craft store will be acrylic, meaning no natural fibers. However, a lot of commercial brands are coming out with acrylic / wool blends now. There are advantages to using natural fibers. And an entire group of knitters that won’t use acrylic yarns at all. If you’re a newbie don’t sweat the material. Natural fibers are more expensive than acrylic. If you want to knit a cashmere sweater, the yarn alone could cost more than simply buying a sweater at a store.
If you’re confused about what yarns are made of here’s a quick list. This is not exhaustive list by any means…I’ve seen a book on how to make yarn from dog yarn. No, I’m not kidding.
Wool yarn is made from sheep or goat fibers.
Cashmere is made from a specific goat – the cashmere goat.
Alpaca is a llama-like creature. Alpaca yarn is notoriously soft and beautiful.
Mohair yarn is made from the Angora goat.
Not be confused with Angora yarn, which is made from the Angora rabbit. Right? I know. But do me a favor, google “Angora Rabbit.” (pause here for Awww’s and Squeee’s).
Cotton yarn is made (obviously) from cotton.
Acrylic yarn is a man-made fibers. This is much like man-made fibers in most of the clothes we wear.
You can get acrylics and some wool at the big-box craft or fabric stores. Small local shops and online stores often carry the natural fiber yarns. Yarn label, like clothing labels, should indicate what the yarn is made of.
How To Choose the Right Yarn – Yarn Weight
Yarns have different sizes, called weights. The different weights correspond loosely to different needle sizes. I say loosely. You will always choose the size needles that work for your yarn, your project, and your knitting tension. You can see below, the thicker the yarn the larger the recommended needle. Pretty simple.
Read more about tension and gauge swatch here.
Yarn labels will indicated the yardage (or meters) and the weight of yarn in the skein. Fatter yarns will have less yardage per weight than skinnier yarns.
Commercially produced yarns and some specialty yarns will have a label on them that can help you decide what size needles to use. Here’s what to look for.
Look for the square icons on the yarn label.
The yarn weight is listed in the yarn icon. This weight can give you an idea of where you should start to pick a needle size. I created a handy needle size and yarn weight guide here for reference.
There is a square for knitting and one for crocheting. These are generally instructions for making a 4 in x 4 (10cm x10cm) in gauge swatch.
I’ll cover how to read the knitting square but the crochet instructions are read the same way.
Needle size is indicated (in US and mm). “S” indicates how many stitches to cast on to the needles. “R” is the number of rows you should stitch. Knit your gauge swatch and it should be approximately 4in x 4 in.
As you practice you’ll learn the types of yarns you like to work with. It is really personal preference and your own knitting style. Now go out there and practice! Grab the colors you like and start trying them on different needles.
If you want to know my tried and true method for choosing yarn, walk into the store and rub your face all over the yarns. Pick the ones that pass the face rub test! Ignore the people that stop and stare at you.
Hopefully now you feel a little more comfortable choosing yarn for you project. Or maybe you just want to adopt an angora rabbit? I can’t help you with rabbit rearing. Next step in your knitting saga it to get started. Let’s learn to cast on stitches!