[ Esther's Knitting Page ] [ Esther's Patterns & Articles ]

What Size Yarn Is This?

Copyright 1999 Esther S. Bozak. All rights reserved. This article may be copied and freely shared with others so long as it remains fully intact, including this copyright notice, and no profit is made from its distribution or use.
Scenario #1: You bought some luscious handspun yarn, but it came with no gauge or yardage information.

Scenario #2: You found some leftover yarn in your stash that you think would be perfect in your next project, but the ball bands are long gone and you don't remember what brand it is.

Scenario #3: You bought a bag of yarn at a garage sale. Once home, you discover that the yarn is from Europe, and the ball bands have no gauge or yardage information, just a yarn category you've never heard of before.

Scenario #4: You want to knit another sweater using your favorite pattern, but the yarn it calls for has been discontinued.

Sound familiar? Trying to find the right mix of pattern, yarn, and needles can often be a frustrating task. Unless one is using the exact yarn specified by a particular pattern, the search for a substitute yarn can be daunting; time-consuming, too, as one often ends up knitting numerous gauge swatches.

There is no way to avoid knitting at least one gauge swatch. However, the following chart, compiled from various sources, can help shorten the quest to determine what size category your yarn falls under. This is just a guide and not a definitive categorization of yarns by size. You may find yarns which fall in between the given yarn types. In such cases, use your best judgement and do some extra swatching.

                Typical          Yards/  Recommended
    Yarn Type    Gauge*  WPI**   Pound   Needle Size*** 
   -----------  -------  -----  -------  -----------
   Ultrafine      8+      18+    2600+      00-2 
   (Lace or     (32+)                       1.75-3mm
   Baby Wt.)                                    

   Fine           6-8     16    1900-2400   2-4 
   (Fingering   (24-32)                     3-3.5mm

   Light         5.5-6     14    1200-1800  4-6
   (Sport Wt.)  (22-24)                     3.5-4mm

   Medium         5.5     13    1100-1400   5-7
   (DK weight)   (22)                       3.75-4.5mm

   Heavy          4-5     12     900-1200   7-9
   (Worsted     (16-20)                     4.5-5.5mm 

   Bulky          3-4     10     600-800    10-11
                (12-16)                     5.75-8mm

   Very Bulky     2-3     8 or    400 or    13-15 
                 (8-12)   fewer    less     9-10mm

* The first number for any yarn category is sts/inch and the one in parentheses
  is sts/4 in (10 cm).

**  WPI stands for "Wraps Per Inch."

*** The first set of numbers for any yarn category is in comtemporary US sizes,
    and the second, metric sizing. 

Last Updated: July 31, 1999
Esther S. Bozak
URL: http://www.cs.oswego.edu/~ebozak/knit/esb-patterns/yarn-size.html