The long continuous length of thread that we use for knitting, crochet or weaving, is called yarn and is made of various types of interlocked fibres.
Yarn types will fall into three categories;
- Thickness or grade of yarn – Often referred to as weight (but has nothing to do with the weight of ball or hank you buy).
- Yarn fibre – These can either be natural or man made fibres, such as wool, cotton, linen or acrylic.
- Yarn finish – Yarns made from natural fibres, especially wool, will either be scoured (finished) or unscoured (greasy).
Yarn thickness, weight or grade, varies from laceweight (fine) to chunky (thick) and there will be variations on a theme, Each thickness of yarn will require a certain size of needle, generally the finer the yarn, the thinner the needle.
As with needle sizing, there are differences between UK, US and European definitions and some yarns, especially the bulky or texturised yarns may fall between certain categories.
Most yarn “bands” will carry a needle size and tension guide but everbody’s knitting tension differs and for this reason, it is essential to knit a test swatch and compare it to the requirements of the pattern or the ball band on the yarn.
You will soon get used to how your tension compares to each type of yarn.
Yarn can be made from many types of natural fibre and include wool, cotton, linen, angora and cashmere.
Synthetic yarns are man made fibres and include, Nylon, Acrylic, Polyester and bamboo.
These fibres are then put together in a continual strand by spinning, twisting and grouping filaments or texturising.
Yarns made from natural animal fibres, such as wool, will also be split into two types;
- Finished or (scoured)– Nearly all hand knitting yarn is scoured or finished yarn. This has had the natural oils removed and gives a good idea of how the finished garment will feel.
It is usually available in balls or hanks of about 50 – 250g.
- Unfinished or greasy (Unscoured) – Professional machine knitters will usually use unscoured or greasy yarn. This has not been treated since the dying process and the natural oils in the fibres remain.
The finishing process is carried out by the knitter.
It is slightly harsher to knit with but much better for knitting machines as the strands will not readily split.
Unscoured yarn is usually available in 500g cones or larger and gives the skilled knitter the opportunity to determine the finished feel of the garment or item.