How to choose the right yarn size for the project
- Ignore the size on the label!
- Prepare for ounce-gram & yard-meter conversions
- Start a yarn journal
Finding the right yarn for a project can be confusing and frustrating. As frustrating as trying to find the right fit with clothing. Keep reading, this will change how you shop for yarn!
I had an epiphany about yarn sizes:
When the label says: Fingering, Worsted, Bulky etc… it’s the same as shopping for clothes and the label saying “S, M, L…” When I was buying yarn for a project, it could be totally wrong, too big or too small. That’s when it clicked, it’s just like clothes sizes that vary from brand to brand. Measurements are exact, sizes are not.
So here’s what to do, it’s not difficult, it’s just a new way of looking at yarn.
Ignore the yarn size on the label
Well, don’t ignore it completely. Think of it as a guide. You need to investigate the label for more information.
These are both labeled as DK yarns – BrooklynTweed Arbor has 132m (145yds) in 50grams, Drops Merino Extra Fine has 105m (115yds) in 50 grams. That will knit up differently! Both lovely, but they won’t knit up the same on the same needles.
Look for the weight and length of each skein.
Ounces to Grams & Yards to Meters
Though I live in the US, I have no local yarn shops near me and I buy a lot of yarn online. Etsy, small dyeing businesses, and UK based shops are my favorites.
I see a mix of 3.5oz skeins and 100g skeins. Guess what, that’s the same thing! And 437yds vs 400m, again it’s the same. Yarn weighed in Grams will show length in Meters. Yarn weighed in Ounces will show length in Yards.
Side note, if I had my way it would all be grams and meters because it’s just easier, but that’s for later in my yarn journal.
I have this app, Unit Converter, it’s free and easy to use. Or you can just google search and find a lot of resources to convert measurement types.
Start a Yarn Journal with size information
Organization is fun for me. Any excuse for another cute journal or a new list and I’m happy.
When I find a yarn I like or hear a glowing recommendation, I jot down notes in my yarn journal with not it’s label/class but with the weight and length of the skeins. Plus, of course, any fun notes and details about why it was worthy of remembering.
I keep my yarn journal consistent, logging everything in grams and meters, even if it’s an oz/yds company. This makes it much easier for me to look through and compare at a quick glance.
When I’ve got a new pattern to knit, I check my yarn journal and “shop” for the right yarn. The right yarn will be a close match to what the pattern recommends. Designers always tell you the yarn they used and sometimes add extra suggestions. You want to figure out your grams/meters for that yarn and then hunt for your own choice that is close to the same.
These are both listed as fingering weight. Regia Merino Yak is a standard 400m/100g while Drops Nord is 170m/50g or only 340m/100g if you get 2 balls.
My Field Day Hat pattern uses “fingering weight” yarn that is a hand-dyed MCN measuring 350m/100g. If I knit the hat with Regia Merino Yak and didn’t change needle size, I’d get a bigger hat.
Now my Sweet Tea Socks are perfect for that Regia ball you see here. There’s always a good use for every gorgeous yarn, it just takes some perfect pairing.
I try to be careful with the recommended yarns for patterns I publish. And I think it’s important to find options at various price points that will knit up the same. It worries me that someone will knit the Field Day pattern in a hand-dyed sock yarn that is 420m/100g and wonder why its smaller than they hoped. But that’s why I’m trying to offer some help here. Not expert advice, but previous bad shopper advice for sure!
Quick disclaimer for all you experienced knitters harrumphing, yes of course you can modify your gauge or add/remove a few stitches. That’s always your choice in knitting and those skills are built with time.
If you are determined to use a specific yarn that is not a match for the pattern recommendation, here’s what to do:
- If it’s a thinner yarn (longer for same weight) you may need to size up your needles to get gauge. The knit fabric will not be as tight or dense.
- If it’s a thicker yarn (shorter for same weight) you may need to size down your needles to get gauge. The knit fabric will be more dense.
That’s it – Yarn Weights Demystified!
The moral of this tale is don’t be fooled by size names. They aren’t consistent when we’re clothes shopping and they can trick you at the yarn shop too. Take it from me, I bought garment quantities in the way wrong yarn before I knew how to adjust patterns and it was very demoralizing, not to mention expensive.
Keep on Knitting! And yarn stashing, of course…