When you’re inspired by a knitted or crocheted item and want to make your own, it’s easy to do – just go get the yarn! The
beauty of knitting and crocheting is that it is so easy to get started and crank out some really amazing things. However, what happens when you know you want to crochet an afghan, but you aren’t sure what the difference is between DK or Aran? What is the difference between chunky and bulky? What exactly is worsted? Are fingering and lace weight similar? These are all questions that we ask ourselves once in a while, standing in the yarn aisle. I will admit, as will most yarn addicts, to
purchasing a metric ton of yarn without having a project in mind, and then realizing that I don’t even like to make things in that weight of yarn. But …it was so pretty.
Let’s prevent the addiction from spreading, and break down what yarn weights mean, and what projects they’re generally used for. Keep in mind that if you want to crochet an afghan in lace weight yarn – I will absolutely not judge you. In fact, it’s like eating a whole wheel of cheese. I’ll just be super impressed. You do you! But, if you’re like me and didn’t know what the heck Aran weight was for a good year after starting knitting – well, then this is for you! I’ve included a handy-dandy graph down below, but I’ll explain them in more detail for you.
BONUS: I’ll even let you know which sizes of needles to use (general use – always adjust for your gauge)!
Lace and Super Fine Weight Yarn
Lace weight yarns are typically used for open, airy things like shawls or doilies. Lace weight includes #10 crochet thread and some fingering yarns. You will see the yarn symbol with number “0” on lace weight yarns. Lace yarn is usually worked on 1.5-2.25 mm knitting needles, or 000-1, in US sizing. Crochet hooks for this weight are often steel, and steel hooks are sized differently from regular hooks. The higher the number of a steel hook, the smaller the hook, which is the reverse of regular hook sizing. Crochet hook sizes for this weight in yarn range from a steel 1.6-1.4 mm to a regular hook of 2.25. In US sizes, that’s a steel 6,7,or 8, or a regular hook B-1.
When you’re gauging lace weight yarns, it’s more difficult due to the often openwork and lacy articles made with smaller yarns. However, if you want to make absolutely sure your gauge is on point (hah! pun!), then you’ll average about 33-40 stitches per 4 inches in stockinette, and approximately 32-42 double crochets per 4 inches.
Superfine yarn is a size step up from lace weight, and is noted on yarn sleeves as a number “1”. The yarns falling into this category are baby, fingering, and sock weight. This type of yarn is also used in lacy, airy pieces, but is also used in socks, baby items, or shawls. Knitting needles for this yarn will be 2.25-3.25 mm, or US sizes 1-3. Crochet hook sizes will be 2.25-3.5 mm, or US sizes B1-E4. If you’re knitting in stockinette, your gauge should be around 27-32 stitches per 4 inches, and your crochet gauge should be around 21-32 single crochets.
Fine and Lightweight Yarns
Fine weight yarns are noted by a number “2” on the yarn sleeve. The yarns in this category are baby and sport weight. Fine weight yarns work best for like socks, wraps, sweaters (the more delicate kind!) and other accessories. It can also be used for lightweight or lacy afghans.
Needle sizes for fine yarns range between 3.25-3.75 mm, or US size 3-5. Crochet hook sizes range from 3.5-4.5 mm, or E4-7 in US sizes. Your gauge should be between 23-26 stitches per 4 inches in stockinette, or 16-20 single crochet stitches.
Lightweight is the next step up from fine yarns. They are marked by a number “3” on the yarn sleeve, and include DK and light worsted yarns. This yarn is used for lightweight garments (like thinner shirts) or heavier baby items, like thicker baby blankets. The recommended needle sizes for lightweight yarns are 3.75-4.5 mm, or US size 5-7. Crochet hook sizes range from 4.5-5.5 mm or US sizes 7 to I-9. Your gauges should be about 21-24 stitches per 4 inches in stockinette, or 12-17 single crochet stitches.
Medium and Bulky Yarns
Next we have the medium weight yarns, which include worsted, afghan, and aran. These yarns are the most commonly used, and are very easy to work with. You’ll find number “4” on the yarn sleeve. They are my recommendation for beginning knit and crochet artists – as they are easier to see while working, and are used in a wide variety of projects.
They are ideal for afghans, scarves, or projects like dishcloths. Your needle sizes for this yarn will be 4.5-5.5 mm, or US size 7-9. Crochet hook sizes will range from 5.5-6.5 mm, or US sizes I-9 to K-10.5. Guage with this yarn will generally be around 16-20 stockinette stitches per 4 inches, or 11-14 single crochet stitches per 4 inches.
Bulky yarns are number “5” on the yarn sleeve, and include chunky, craft, or rug yarns. This yarn is about twice as thick as worsted weight. It works up very quickly when using large needles or hooks and is perfect for sweaters, scarves, rugs, or throw blankets. Needles for this yarn will be 5.5-8 mm, or US size 9-11. Crochet hooks will be 6.5-9 mm, or US size K 10.5 to M-13. Your gauges will be around 12-15 stockinette stitches per 4 inches, or 8-11 single crochets per 4 inches.
Super Bulky and Jumbo Yarns
Super bulky yarns are size “6” on the yarn sleeve. Both it and Jumbo can also be called “roving”. Super bulky works up v
ery quickly and is most often used for scarves, cowls, and hats. Needle sizes for this yarn range from 8-12.75 mm, or US sizes 11-17. Crochet hooks range from 9-15 mm, or US sizes M-13 to Q. Your gauges with this yarn will be between 7-11 stitches in stockinette, or 7-9 stitches in single crochet.
Jumbo yarn is the thickest yarn weight, and it was added to the classifications in 2014 to accommodate the super thick yarns that began to appear on the market. It is great for arm knitting, and works up very quickly. It’s used in larger blankets, footstools, scarves, or afghans. The needle sizes for this yarn are 12.75 mm or larger, and 17 and larger in US sizes. Crochet hook sizes are 15 mm or larger, or US size Q or larger. You can also use your arms! Your gauges will be 6 stockinette stitches or fewer per 4 inches, or 6 single crochets or fewer per 4 inches.
WHEW. So Many Yarns – So Many Projects!
This is a lot of information, but I hope it helps you decide which weight and needle to use on your next project. Keep in mind that you can always make changes, as long as you understand the sizing differences and adjust for those. You can totally make an afghan out of laceweight or jumbo – but you’re going to have different gauges, need different needles, and require different stitch counts.
As always, please leave me a comment below, with questions, or a story about that time you just couldn’t pass up a beautiful skein – even though you had absolutely nothing to use it for!! The graph below is the Standard Yarn Weight system, and is from the Craft Yarn council’s website at www.yarnstandards.com.