Walking into a store to buy yarn can be a little overwhelming.
There’s so much in terms of variety that choosing the right one for your project can take a bit of research, and sometimes even trial and error. It’s always useful to know a bit about the different types of yarn, so we’ve put together a quick list of the ones most commonly used in both knitting and crochet.
Firstly, when choosing yarns, it’s important to look at the texture. As a beginner, it’s probably best to stick with a smooth yarn; it will be easier to see your stitches and to handle while you work. You’ll also want to choose a lighter coloured yarn, again because it’s easier to see the stitches as you work.
Different yarns have different textures - LollyKnit, Flickr
Next we look at the fibres. Yarn is made from fibres, either natural, synthetic, or a mixture of both. Here are the most common types:
Acrylic By far the most popular with beginners, acrylic yarns are largely inexpensive and widely available. It doesn’t stretch and is machine washable, but there is a big difference in quality depending on the price. Cheap acrylic yarns can be scratchy and rough. But while soft acrylic yarns are smooth and easier to work with, they also have a tendency to fray.
Wool Wool yarn is a natural fibre. It can be scratchy and not as smooth as acrylic yarns, but is resilient and stretchable. It’s also more expensive and some people may experience allergic reactions.
Cotton Cotton is stiff and inelastic, so your stitches and patterns will be more defined, and the fibres will not fray. But the stiffness can also make cotton hard to work with, especially when making scarves or toys. Mercerised cotton is a softer and glossier option. It is also machine-washable.
Cotton-Acrylic Blend - Breibeest, Flickr
Once you’ve decided what kind of texture and fibre you’re after, you should also check the weight. The weight of the yarn refers to the thickness, which will also help you decide what size hook you should use for your project. Combining the right weight with the right hook or needle will get you the correct tension.
Crochet Australia provides a handy conversion table for both crocheting and knitting:
Yarn weight conversion USA to Australia
Worsted weight yarn is the most commonly used yarn weight. It’s a medium, 10-12ply weight, and is the one most patterns will fall back on.
Most patterns will tell you which yarn weight and hook or needle size is best. The easiest thing to do is to follow the recommendation, but if you want to substitute yarns, it is important to adjust the number of stitches in each row to accommodate for the difference in tension. This also applies to using American patterns.
Yarn labels will also suggest hook and needle sizes - ShimmerGreen, Flickr
It’s good to get a feel for all the different kinds of yarn available in your local store, so you can find the one you prefer. So take some time to explore and experiment, and find which yarn works best for you.
Creative Style Hub is one of the biggest online hubs for craft knowledge. They have all the latest news on suppliers, classes, markets, guilds, and retreats for all sorts of crafts in Australia and New Zealand. This should be your first point of call when beginning any sort of crafty endeavour for the first time.