Yarn is at the heart of every knitting project. Wool, acrylic, silk, cashmere, bamboo... they all have pluses and minuses. Understanding yarn, gauge, fibers, plies, and the entire process of producing yarn will help you become a better knitter.

Definition: Aran

A medium-thick weight of yarn. Aran-weight yarn knits up at a gauge of 4 sts/in. (16 sts/4 cm). Aran is thinner than Chunky and thicker than Worsted.

Definition: Bobbin

A length of (leftover) yarn coiled into a self-contained figure-8. In a center-pull bobbin, you pull the working yarn from the center.

Definition: Center-Pull Ball

The form which a ball of yarn has when it is wound to enable you to pull the working yarn from the center.

Definition: Chunky

A bulky thickness of yarn. Chunky-weight yarn (also called Bulky) knits up at a gauge of 3.5 sts/in. (14 sts/4 cm). Chunky is thinner than Super-Bulky and thicker than Aran.

Definition: Colorway

Any individual color-combination of a line of multicolor yarns.

Definition: DK

A medium weight of yarn – just thinner than Worsted.

Gauge on size US 6 needles: 5.5 sts/in.

 

Definition: Dye Lot

The batch that a ball of yarn was dyed in. Yarns of the same color and the same dye lot will look more similar to each other than yarns of the same color but of different dye lots.

Definition: Fingering

A fine thickness of yarn. Fingering-weight yarn (also called Sock) knits up at a gauge of 7 sts/in (28 sts/4 cm). Fingering is thinner than Sport and thicker than Lace.

Definition: Hank

The shape that yarn is twisted into to make it compact for dyeing and displaying. Hanks must be wound into balls before you can knit with them. Most people incorrectly use the word “skein” for yarn in this shape. I recommend you do the same (unless you’re writing a blog post or something where people will call you out).

Definition: Heathered

A style of yarn dyeing that incorporates tiny flecks or section of lighter shades into the main color of the yarn. Heather-dyed yarns have a soft, weathered look, like stonewashed denim.

Definition: Highly Variegated

Multicolor yarns that change color every few stitches. The frequent color changes break up the different colors and distribute them more or less evenly throughout the finished piece. Misti Alpaca is one company famous for making highly variegated yarn.

Definition: Kettle-Dyed

A style of yarn dyeing

Definition: Lace

A very fine weight of yarn. Use size 0-9 needles to create cobweb-like lace patterns.

Gauge of laceweight yarn on size US 0 needles is 9 sts/in.

Definition: Pull From the Center

Work from the yarn that is coming out the of the middle of the ball. Pulling from the center means the ball of yarn won’t roll around.

Definition: Pull From the Outside

Work from the yarn that is coming from the outside of the skein. Pulling from the outside may cause the ball of yarn to roll around.

Definition: Self-Striping

Yarn dyed so that stripes of color form as you knit.

Definition: Semi-Solid

The yarn is dyed one main color, with visible variations in intensity of color.

Definition: Skein

A ball of yarn. The term “skein” is often used erroneously to mean “hank,” while “ball” is a more common word for a skein.

Definition: Sport

A medium-fine weight of yarn. Between fingering-weight and DK weight.
Gauge of sport-weight yarn on size US 4 needles: 6 sts/in.

Definition: Super-Bulky

A very bulky weight of yarn.

Super-bulky yarn knits up on size US 13-15 needles at a gauge of 2.5 sts/in.

Definition: Tail

In knitting, the word “tail” can refer to two things.
1) A tail is any end of yarn sticking out after you finish a project. Tails must be woven in to prevent unraveling. Whenever cutting a piece of yarn, always leave at least a 6-in. (15 cm) tail so that you can weave it in later. This type of tail is also called an “end.”
2) In doing any kind of long-tail cast-on, the tail is the strand of yarn coming from your needle that is not the working yarn.

Definition: Variegated

Multicolor yarn dyed to create splotches or areas of color in the finished piece.

Definition: Weight

The official thickness category a yarn falls into. E.g. worsted weight and bulky weight are two standard thicknesses (weights) of yarn. NB: A yarn’s weight in this sense isn’t directly related to its actual physical weight in ounces or grams. That has more to do with the density of the yarn.

Definition: Working Yarn

The yarn you are knitting with, i.e., the strand of yarn coming from the ball.

Definition: Worsted

A medium thickness of yarn, worsted is thinner than Aran and thicker than DK.

Worsted-weight yarn knits up at a gauge of 5 sts/in. (20 sts/4 cm) on size US 7 needles.


Blog Post: Jared Flood Interview: Inside Brooklyn Tweed & Shelter

Jared Flood Sepia HeadshotBy Liat Gat – Founder / Knitting for Men, Liat Interviews Others, Yarn / January 20, 2012 / 316 Comments

Welcome to a world of pure American wool and gorgeous photography: Meet Jared Flood. The man behind Brooklyn Tweed scarf shares inspiration, design advice, and how he the developed unique color-palettes behind his new Shelter and Loft yarns.

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Blog Post: Journey to the Birthplace of Malabrigo Yarns

Antonio with ladder on roof of Malabrigo factory uruguayBy Liat Gat – Founder / Liat Interviews Others, World Travels, Yarn / November 19, 2013 / 165 Comments

Come in to the Wonderland that is the Malabrigo Yarn headquarters in Uruguay. In this feature-length article, I share the colorful experience of a tour through the factory with Malabrigo’s co-creator, Antonio.

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Blog Post: Exclusive Video Tour Inside The Malabrigo Factory In Uruguay

By Liat Gat – Founder / Liat Interviews Others, World Travels, Yarn / August 11, 2012 / 158 Comments

Seeing is believing! In this exclusive video tour, you get to see inside the incredibly special world of Malabrigo Yarns and their factory in Uruguay.

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Blog Post: For Perfectionist Knitters Only: How To Knit a Gauge Swatch In a Hurry

Tiny Swatch How to Knit a Swatch in a Hurry lightenedBy Liat Gat – Founder / Basic Knitting Techniques, Gauge, Yarn / November 4, 2011 / 30 Comments

Are you the kind of knitter who thinks you “should” knit a gauge swatch — and hardly ever does? You may be suffering from swatch perfectionism – when you believe swatches have to be perfect. Here’s how to overcome perfectionism and make a perfectly good swatch – FAST.

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Blog Post: How To Hand-Wind Yarn From A Skein

By Liat Gat – Founder / World Travels, Yarn / June 16, 2011 / 16 Comments

If you buy a hank (sometimes called “skein”) of yarn and they don’t wind it into a ball for you at the store, you’ll need to do it at home. IF you don’t have a swift or ball-winder, here’s how to do it by hand.

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Blog Post: How to Hand Wind A Center-Pull Ball or Bobbin

Cat eating red yarn ballBy Liat Gat – Founder / Yarn / January 4, 2011 / 10 Comments

To keep your yarn remnants orderly, wind them into a center-pull ball, or bobbin. These nifty little packets of yarn do not roll around like balls of yarn do. They simply dispense the yarn from the inside of the bobbin without coming undone.

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Blog Post: How To Read A Knitting Pattern: Substituting Yarn Fiber and Weight

Gray Malabrigo Chunky skein square cropBy Liat Gat – Founder / Reading Knitting Patterns, Yarn / December 14, 2010 / 6 Comments

Don’t let not having the exact yarn called for in a pattern stop you from knitting that pattern! Here’s how to understand the yarn requirements of a pattern, and make substitutions in yarn brands, weight, and fiber.

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Guest Blog Post: How to Calculate How Many Yards of Leftover Yarn You Have

Yarn on scale sm squareBy Mary Claire Phillips – KnitFreedom Knitting Expert / Yarn / October 24, 2020 / No Comments

Have some leftover yarn and a kitchen scale? Here’s a helpful guide showing how to calculate how many yards of leftover yarn you have.

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Yarn Illustration: Yarn Weights and Thicknesses ACTUAL SIZE Comparison Chart – With WPI

Yarn Weights and Thicknesses ACTUAL SIZE Comparison Chart sm

See all yarn weights from laceweight to super-bulky in ACTUAL SIZE – next to a US quarter dollar for reference. Gauges based on Ravelry WPI information.


Yarn Abbreviations

CC – Contrasting Color
DC – Dark color
LC – Light color
MC – Main Color
WPI – Wraps per inch


Free and Premium Videos

How to Hand-Wind Yarn From a Skein

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How to Hand-Wind Yarn From a Skein
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How to Join a New Ball of Yarn/Change Colors and Make Stripes

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How to Join a New Ball of Yarn/Change Colors and Make Stripes
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Video Tour Inside The Malabrigo Yarn Factory

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Video Tour Inside The Malabrigo Yarn Factory
Video Tour Inside The Malabrigo Yarn Factory - vimeo Video

Last week I fulfilled a dream that seemed almost impossible — I visited the Malabrigo Yarn factory in Montevideo, Uruguay. I interviewed Malabrigo owner Antonio for almost four hours and recorded everything, as he told me details, secret histories, and funny stories behind the yarns, the names, the colors, and the sheep.


Let Yarn Flow Through Your Fingers

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Find the End of Your Yarn

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Selecting Yarn for Beginner Projects

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How to Switch to a Second Ball of Yarn

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Switching Colors and Carrying Yarn

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Recommended Yarn: Hand Dyed Bulky by Blue Sky Alpacas

Blue Sky Alpacas Hand Dyed Bulky Jasmine Super Bulky Yarn square sm

Now discontinued, this gorgeous super-bulky yarn was my go-to for luxurious, quick-knit projects. Perfect for the Double-Knit Heart Scarf or Bulky Cabled Legwarmers with Buttons.

Buy Hand Dyed Bulky online


Recommended Yarn: Malabrigo Chunky by Malabrigo Yarns

Gray Malabrigo Chunky skein square crop

My favorite chunky yarn for felting (and for creating knitting videos). You’ve seen Malabrigo Chunky yarn in almost every KnitFreedom video for a good reason: it’s soft, has beautiful colors, and is reasonably priced. Perfect for the Fair-Isle Felted Bag.

Buy Malabrigo Chunky online


Recommended Yarn: Malabrigo Rasta by Malabrigo Yarn

Blue-green-purple Malabrigo Rasta

My favorite yarn for my one-skein Super-Bulky Toe-Up Socks. This yarn is very soft and warm, and comes in a beautiful range of tranquil colors.

Buy Malabrigo Rasta online


Recommended Yarn: Malabrigo Twist by Malabrigo Yarns

A green skein of Malabrigo Twist yarn (037 Lettuce)

My favorite yarn of all time. Aran-weight. Now discontinued, but you can still find it by Googling.

Buy Malabrigo Twist online


Recommended Yarn: Wool-Ease Thick n’ Quick Yarn by Lion Brand

Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick n Quick Yarn Natural square

Thick, inexpensive yarn is perfect for learning to knit your first scarf. Wool-Ease is a great brand to start out with, and you can buy it at Michael’s or Wal-Mart. Three skeins (balls) is plenty to make a long scarf including fringe.

Buy Wool-Ease Thick n’ Quick Yarn online


Recommended Notion: Ball Winder by Craft Destiny

Ball Winder

A ball winder winds your yarn hank into a center-pull ball so you can knit from it easily. It’s best to buy a swift as well to hold open and turn the yarn while you wind.

Tip: Don’t wind too fast and furious, you’ll stretch your yarn and wind the ball too tight. Slow and even does it.

Buy Ball Winder online


Recommended Notion: Kitchen Scale by Nicewell

Nicewell Food Scale thumbnail square crop

A kitchen scale is a great tool for weighing your yarn if you need to split your yarn ball into two for two-at-a-time knitting.

To divide your yarn in half, first wind your yarn into a ball from the hank.

Then, weigh the yarn ball on the kitchen scale and make a note of the total weight in grams and calculate what would be half that weight. Then, leaving the yarn on the kitchen scale, begin to wind, stopping when the yarn weighs half what it used to. Cut your yarn and wind the remaining half into a ball.

Buy Kitchen Scale online


Recommended Notion: Swift by cuteDIY

Swift

If you’re going to wind yarn at home, a swift makes your task much easier. The swift opens and holds the yarn on a spinning carousel for you to then wind the yarn into a ball using a ball winder.

Buy Swift online


Recommended Book: The Knitter’s Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes

Knitters Book of Yarn Clara Parkes book cover

This book will teach you to become what Clara Parkes, of Knitter’s Review, calls a yarn whisperer.

After reading this book and trying one of the 40 gorgeous patterns, you’ll have a deep understanding of what yarn to choose for which project, and why.

What’s more, you’ll gain an appreciation for the varied industries that work together to provide us all with beautiful yarn.

Buy The Knitter’s Book of Yarn online


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