If you’re wondering, “what’s worsted weight yarn?” then you’ve come to the right place!
Yarns come in many shapes and sizes. They can be as thin as a cobweb (like a lace-weight) and as thick as a soda can (like jumbo yarn for arm knitting).
Worsted weight yarn is a medium weight yarn that sits in the middle of the yarn weight family. It’s thicker than sock and sport weight and thinner than bulky weight yarn.
Its medium thickness means that it’s great for knitting sweaters, hats, scarves, mittens, blankets and beyond!
Because worsted yarn is so “knittable,” I think of it as an all-purpose yarn. When in doubt, grab a worsted weight.
And get this!
I’m not the only one who believes this.
According to large-scale yarn manufacturers Lion Brand and Bernat, their most popular yarn weight for knitting and crochet is – you guessed it! – worsted weight yarn.
Within the yarn weight family, think of worsted yarn like the popular middle child – the Kim Kardashian of yarn weights, if you will.
Worsted Weight Yarn Comparison
Because yarns come in so many different sizes, the Craft Yarn Council (CYC) created a standardised yarn weight system to bring unity and order to the yarn world.
This system is widely adopted among crafters, yarn manufacturers, designers and publishers, so consider it the gold standard for categorising yarn weights.
Each yarn weight is assigned a number, beginning with lace weight at 0 and going up to jumbo yarn at 7.
In the UK and Europe, yarn weights are more often referred to by their numbers. For instance, a French knitter may talk about a “number three yarn” instead of a “DK weight.”
In North America, yarns are often referred to by their descriptive names, like a “worsted yarn” instead of a “number four yarn.”
Under this system, worsted yarn is considered a medium weight number four yarn with a knitting gauge of 16-20 stitches for every four inches of knitting.
When shopping for worsted yarn, look for the word, “worsted” or a prominent number four on the yarn label.
If both are absent, check the knitting gauge to see if it falls within 16-20 stitches for four inches of knitting.
To make matters slightly more complicated, worsted weight yarn is also sometimes called “Afghan” or “Aran” weight.
What Needles to Use for Worsted Yarn
The needle size for worsted yarn varies depending on the project.
In general, a 4.5 to 5.5 mm (US 7-9) needle will produce a firm yet pliable fabric. I would consider this the “standard” fabric – neither tight nor loose, but just right.
For lace knitting with worsted yarn, it’s recommended to go up several sizes to a 6.0 to 8.0 mm needle for open lacework.
If knitting socks, potholders or dish towels, which need a tighter tension, go down several sizes to a 3.25 to 4.0 mm needle for a stiff and sturdy fabric.
These are general guidelines. Your best bet is to look to the yarn label, which should provide a “recommended needle size” for knitting “standard” fabric.
From there, go up or down a needle size (or sizes) to get the exact knitting tension for your project.
A Word About Worsted Yarn and Plies
The best way to understand yarn plies is through a visual:
You can think of plies as super thin mini yarns that are spun together to make a larger strand of yarn.
When three plies are spun together, the resulting yarn is called a three-ply yarn.
If two plies are spun together, the result is a two-ply yarn.
Even one ply of yarn can be twisted to create a single-ply yarn.
Yarns can be made up of as many as eight plies of yarn! Eight-ply yarns are often called a “cabled yarn” since the eight plies are braided into a smooth cable.
Worsted yarns come in a variety of plies – from one-ply to eight-plies.
When thinking about plies, the general rule is that the more plies of yarn, the less likely the yarn will pill and break.
Twisting plies together gives the resulting yarn strength and body.
A single-ply yarn can be easily broken if you pull of each end hard enough. However, if you twist two single-plies together, the resulting two-ply yarn will be a lot harder to tear apart.
So, when choosing a worsted weight yarn, consider what your final project will be.
If you plan to knit a cushy cowl, a single-ply is an excellent choice.
However, if you’re knitting a pair of hard-wearing mittens, consider a three or four-ply yarn.
My Favourite Worsted Weight Yarns
What discussion on yarns would be complete without some yarn eye candy?
Here are a handful of my absolute favourite worsted yarns. Some are a lofty single plies while others are a hefty four-ply.