Yarn Weight Glossary

This listing of yarn is included because sometimes there is confusion when patterns ask for a particular yarn type.  British patterns often use terms which are different from American terms.  Designations like 3-ply or 4-ply are misleading because a ply is not a particular size.  The plies indicate the number of strands spun together to create the yarn.  A worsted weight yarn may be designed using only one large ply.  In this case, the effect is a homespun, country look.  A sport weight may be made from 6 or 8 very skinny plies or strands and still be medium weight.  The following are the standard terms we use:

Baby Yarn

A fine yarn worked on small needles, U.S. 1,2, or 3, to give about 7 stitches per inch.  British baby yarns may be labeled 2-ply, 3-ply, or 4-ply, and in this case the reference is to the actual number of plies.  We think of these British baby yarns as small, smaller, and very fine, indeed.  An American baby yarn is about the equivalent of British 3-ply.

Fingering Weight

A small yarn the size of a fine baby yarn.  Usually worked on small needles, U.S. 1, 2, or 3, to achieve a gauge of about 7 stitches per inch.

Sock Yarn

About the same as fingering weight.  Makes a lightweight sock.

Jumper Weight 

A British term for a lightweight yarn to be knit on a size U.S. 3 or 4 needle.  This is a weight often specified for stranded Fair Isle sweaters.

Sport Yarn 

Indicates a medium weight yarn.  Some knitters still call this “3-ply”, but it may have more or less than 3 plies.  It generally produces about 6 stitches per inch and uses a U.S. needle size 4 or 5.

D.K. or Double Knitting

This is a British designation used for some yarns from England.  It refers to a size of yarn.  It is very close to a sport weight, but slightly heavier.  The gauge is about 5 1/2 stitches per inch and is usually knit on a U.S. 6 needle.

Worsted Weight

This is what is often considered ordinary knitting yarn.  Some still think of it as “4-ply”.  A worsted weight need not have four plies.  The most common gauge is 5 stitches per inch on a size 7 or 8 needle.  Some worsted may give a gauge of 4 or 4 1/2 stitches per inch and be knit on a 8 or 9.  We consider these “heavy worsteds”.  Worsted weight is the size of yarn most commonly used for afghans.

Aran Weight

A British designation that means a worsted or heavy worsted weight yarn.

Chunky Yarns

These yarns are larger yet than worsted.  They are worked on large needles, generally size 10 or larger.  Some would call all yarns with a gauge larger than 4 stitches per inch bulky.

Bulky Yarns

These yarns are larger yet than aran or chunky.  They are worked on large needles with a US size of 10 or greater.  Generally, they are used for heavy sweaters, and afghans.  Gauge is less than 3 stitches per inch.  Bulky yarns have a large size range including super bulky.