Yarn and spun Yarn

Yarn is a long continuous length of interlocked fibres, suitable for use in the production of textiles, sewing, crocheting, knitting, weaving, embroidery and rope making. Thread is a type of yarn intended for sewing by hand or machine. Modern manufactured sewing threads may be finished with wax or other lubricants to withstand the stresses involved in sewing. Embroidery threads are yarns specifically designed for hand or machine embroidery.


Spun yarn is made by twisting or otherwise bonding staple fibres together to make a cohesive thread, or "single." Twisting fibres into yarn in the process called spinning can be dated back to the Upper Palaeolithic, and yarn spinning was one of the very first processes to be industrialized. Spun yarns may contain a single type of fibre, or be a blend of various types. Combining synthetic fibres which can have high strength, lustre, and fire retardant qualities with natural fibres which have good water absorbency and skin comforting qualities is very rare. The most widely used blends are cotton-polyester and wool-acrylic fibre blends. Blends of different natural fibres are common too, especially with more expensive fibres such as alpaca, angora and cashmere. Bamboo yarn is a less expensive type that is a recent innovation.

Yarns are selected for different textiles based on the characteristics of the yarn fibres, such as warmth wool, light weight cotton or bamboo, durability nylon is added to sock yarn, for example, or softness cashmere, alpaca. Acrylic yarn is the least expensive.

Yarns are made up of a number of singles, which are known as plies when grouped together. These singles of yarn are twisted together plied in the opposite direction to make a thicker yarn. Depending on the s-z twist direction of this final twist, the yarn will s z twistbe known as s-twist or z-twist. For a single, the direction of the final twist is the same as its original twist.

Filament yarn consists of filament fibres very long continuous fibres either twisted together or only grouped together. Thicker monofilaments are typically used for industrial purposes rather than fabric production or decoration. Silk is a natural filament, and synthetic filament yarns are used to produce silk-like effects.

Texturized yarns are made by a process of air texturizing sometimes referred to as taslanizing, which combines multiple filament yarns into a yarn with some of the characteristics of spun yarns.

Yarn comes in many colours

Yarn may be used undyed, or may be coloured with natural or artificial dyes. Most yarns have a single uniform hue, but there is also a wide selection of variegated yarns:

Heathered or tweed: yarn with flecks of different coloured fibre

Ombre: variegated yarn with light and dark shades of a single hue

Multi-coloured: variegated yarn with two or more distinct hues a "parrot colour way" might have green, yellow and red

Self-striping: yarn dyed with lengths of colour that will automatically create stripes in a knitted or crocheted object

Marled: yarn made from strands of different-coloured yarn twisted together, sometimes in closely related hues


A comparison of yarn weights thicknesses: the top skein is aran weight, suitable for knitting a thick sweater or hat. The manufacturer's recommended knitting gauge appears on the label: 8 to 10 stitches per inch using size 4.5 to 5.1 mm needles. The bottom skein is sock weight, specifically for knitting socks. Recommended gauge: 5 to 7 stitches per inch, using size 3.6 to 4.2 mm needles. These yarns are manufactured in Japan and have variegated colours in a random-dyed pattern.

Yarn quantities are usually measured by weight in ounces or grams. In the United States, Canada and Europe, balls of yarn for handcrafts are sold by weight. Common sizes include 25g, 50g, and 100g skeins. Some companies also primarily measure in ounces with common sizes being three-ounce, four-ounce, six-ounce, and eight-ounce skeins. These measurements are taken at a standard temperature and humidity, because yarn can absorb moisture from the air. The actual length of the yarn contained in a ball or skein can vary due to the inherent heaviness of the fibre and the thickness of the strand; for instance, a 50 g skein of lace weight mohair may contain several hundred metres, while a 50g skein of bulky wool may contain only 60 metres.

There are several thicknesses of yarn, also referred to as weight. This is not to be confused with the measurement and/or weight listed above. The Craft Yarn Council of America is making an effort to promote a standardized industry system for measuring this, numbering the weights from 1 finest to 6 heaviest. Some of the names for the various weights of yarn from finest to thickest are called lace, fingering, sport, double-knit or DK, worsted, aran or heavy worsted, bulky, and super-bulky. This naming convention is more descriptive than precise; fibre artists disagree about where on the continuum each lies, and the precise relationships between the sizes

A more precise measurement of yarn weight, often used by weavers, is wraps per inch wpi. The yarn is wrapped snugly around a ruler and the number of wraps that fit in an inch are then counted.

Labels on yarn for handicrafts often include information on gauge, known in the UK as tension, which is a measurement of how many stitches and rows are produced per inch or per cm on a specified size of knitting needle or crochet hook. The proposed standardization uses a four-by-four inch/ten-by-ten cm knitted or crocheted square, with the resultant number of stitches across and rows high made by the suggested tools on the label to determine the gauge.

In Europe textile engineers often use the unit tex, which is the weight in grams of a kilometre of yarn, or decitex, which is a finer measurement corresponding to the weight in grams of 10 km of yarn. Many other units have been used over time by different industries.

Some yarn retail stores try to help the customer choose yarn by attaching a sample knitted square to the shelf holding each display of a particular weight of yarn, sometimes provided by the manufacturer. These samples are knit in the industry standard four-by-four inch / ten-by-ten centimetre gauge. Samples help the buyer by showing them the texture and thickness of the finished knit fabric.

Yarn size

This is not an exact guide. Depending on the exact yarn weight and the gauge of the knitter or crocheter and how tight or loose the yarn is held .The gauge listed below can vary from person to person. For this reason it is important to check the gauge of the pattern being used to be sure so the finished project is the desired size. Most patterns have a listed gauge to create an item of the size(s) indicated in the pattern.


Category name                       Description                Crochet gauge             Hook size            


Lace                  fingering, crochet 10-count thread      33 - 40 sts             1.5mm - 2.25 mm                    


Super fine                 sock, fingering, baby                  21 - 32 sts             2.25mm - 3.5 mm           


Fine                          sport, baby                                16 - 20 sts             3.5mm - 4.5 mm                


Light                    DK, light worsted                             12 - 17 sts             4.5mm - 5.5 mm                


Medium                 worsted, Afghan, Aran                    11 - 14 sts              5.5mm - 6.5 mm                


Bulky                    chunky, craft, rug                           8 - 11 sts                 6.5mm - 9 mm                


Super Bulky                  bulky, roving                           5 - 9 sts                 9mm larger          


Common terms used to describe knitting and crochet yarn properties.


Term                                    Description


Absorbency                                    The ability of a fibre to hold water, determines sweat absorption and suitability for warm                                                                 weather wear.


Breathability                                    How readily air passes through the fibre.


Dye ability                                       How well the fibre accepts and holds colour.


Hand/Handle                                  Tactile description: softness, resiliency, etc.


Loft                                                  The amount of air between fibres.


Resiliency elasticity                     The tendency of a fibre to resume its original shape after stretching.


Thickness                                       The diameter of the fiber in micrometres.

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