Different Yarn Types Explained
Yarn / Fibre Types
There are differences between the staple fibre length, softness and texture of different wool or yarn types. There are loads of other types of animal and plant based yarns and fibres but a selection of more common ones are listed here. Staple length below refers to the length of the fibre, when pull apart. All yarn types are breathable and provide natural insulation.
Merino: Very soft, short staple wool from Merino sheep. It has a tight crimp and is best used for softer articles of clothing. Merino tends to pile and fuzz up. The Simply Merino is a harder wearing Merino yarn than Ultra Organic and keeps shape better, whereas the Ultra Organic is soft an fluffy, a bit floppier knitted up. Because merino is softer it can loose it’s shape more easily than other yarns, but can be pulled and blocked back into shape normally when drying flat.
Bluefaced Leicester: Bluefaced Leicester is a strong and hardwearing, but soft fibre. BFL is suitable for tougher items of clothing which get a lot of wear such as slippers, socks, rugs, outerwears, scarves, gloves, hats, etc. It doesn’t pile as easily as merino, but is still soft. It tends to soften with use once a garment has been knitted up. It takes dye readily with bold colouring and felts really well. You can purchase Bluefaced DK, Bluefaced Aran and Flames.
Alpaca / Baby Alpaca: Alpaca comes in either huacaya or suri types. Suri fibres are long and incredibly soft, wheras haucaya is woolier. Alpaca comes in lots of different natural colours ranging from white, blonds, browns and blacks. Typically alpaca for dyeing is white. Alpaca is about ten times warmer than wool as you can imagine, as the animals come from a high altititude where it can be very cold. The staple length of alpaca is long. It sheds fibres easily and is utra soft. It drapes wonderfully and has little memory for shape. It makes wonderful scarves, hats, warm jumpers, etc. It’s especially great for the colder months. Alpaca is available as Baby Aca Chunky, Baby Aca DK, and in various blended yarns.
Blends: Blends have the advantage of containing a number of different fibres, which gives added versatility and the postive features of each type of fibre can then be included. Blends include Merino Aca Silky (70% Merino, 20% Alpaca, 10% Silk), Baby Boo (60% Baby Alpaca, 30% Merino,
10% Bamboo), Aca Silky (80% Superfine Alpaca, 20% Silk) and Aca Merino (50% Superfine Alpaca, 50% Merino ), Tonal & Sparkles and Super Merino Silky.
Bamboo: Bamboo yarn is a short staple cellulose fibre or yarn that is hard wearing, sustainable and can be washed at high temperatures. It’s similar to cotton.
Cotton: Short stapled cellulose fibre or yarn that can be soft or hard. Hard wearing, machine washable at high temperatures. Commonly used for baby and child clothing, whether in knitted or fabric form and ideal for lightweight clothing for warmer weather.
Superwash: Superwash yarns have been chemically treated to ensure they do not felt during washing. Yarns and fibres such as Merino and BFL can be bought as superwash. You can order Super Merino, which is a DK weight superwash merino yarn.
Yarn weight refers to the thickness of the yarn. A thinner yarn per 100g will provide more length. The stitches per inch depends on needle size and your individual knitting tension, which may be tight or relaxed, so you can adjust needle size to get the correct sizing guage thata pattern calls for.
Fine: Baby, Sport
Needle Size – 2.5-4mm
Stitches per inch – 6 or 7
Wraps per inch – 12
Length per 100g (approx) – 375m
Light: DK or Light Worsted
Needle Size – 3.5-4.5mm
Stitches per inch – 5 or 6
Wraps per inch – 11
Length per 100g (approx) – 225m
Medium: Aran or Worsted
Needle Size – 4.5-5.5mm
Stitches per inch – 3 or 4
Wraps per inch – 8-9
Length per 100g (approx) – 166m
Medium: Chunky or Bulky
Needle Size – 5.5-8mm
Stitches per inch – 2 or 3
Wraps per inch – 7
Length per 100g (approx) – 100m
Medium: Super Chunky or Super Bulky
Needle Size – 6.5-10mm
Stitches per inch – 1 or 2
Wraps per inch – 5-6
Length per 100g (approx) – 67m
Yarn Ply or weight can either refer to the amount of strands of wool ply’d together to make the main strand or to weight.
In the US and when discussing handspun a ply refers to the number of strands of yarns ply’d together to make the string of yarn. Singles or 1 ply, 2 ply or 3 ply will produce more balanced handspun.
Rovings & Tops
There’s a bit of confusion between these terms because in the US the term Rovings is used to describe Tops in the UK. Rovings in the UK would refer to fibre Tops that have been split up into thinner lengths and often pre-drafted ready for spinning.