With so much knitting yarn to choose from, how do you know which one is right for your project?
Completely synthetic, acrylic yarn is easy to dye, so it comes in a variety of colors and striped patterns. Most knitters learn how to knit using acrylic yarn because it is cheap, but then move on to higher quality, natural yarns. Many choose to make baby blankets, hats and booties out of acrylic yarn because it is machine washable and dryable.
Cotton yarn is another favorite yarn used for baby blankets because it is washable, does not stretch and is soft. Cotton is lightweight and great for knitting summer accessories. If you are concerned about the environmental impact of manufacturing knitting yarn or the number of pesticides used in growing cotton, it is very easy to purchase yarn made from organic cotton.
Wool yarn is probably the most versatile of all knitting yarns. You can make everything from scarves and sweaters to electronic accessory holders out of wool yarn. Wool is generally more expensive than acrylic, but still in the low-to-moderate price range. The only drawback to wool is that it is generally not machine washable. Check labels for washing instructions, especially when using knitting yarns made from animal hair.
Don’t let the fact that this yarn is made from goat hair discourage you from using it. Mohair makes lovely sweaters, scarves and other types of clothing, but it can be itchy and shouldn’t be used in a project that will be worn in direct contact with your skin. Mohair makes a fuzzy, textured weave and can be combined with other yarns for a unique project.
Made from rabbit hair, angora yarn is as soft and fluffy as the animal. Angora is very expensive, tends to shed and is not machine washable. Many knitters believe that angora’s beauty and softness outweigh its other drawbacks.
This type of yarn comes from alpacas, which are animals that resemble llamas. Alpaca and wool are often used interchangeably and have many of the same qualities. Alpaca yarn is more expensive, warmer and often a higher quality. In addition, alpaca fiber is hypoallergenic, which is good news for knitters allergic to wool and other animal fiber.
This type of yarn is usually made from polyester or a similar synthetic fiber. It looks like a main strand of thread with shorter strands coming off of it. Eyelash yarn is decorative, fun and usually brightly colored. When you use eyelash yarn, your particular stitches are hard to see underneath all of the fluff. It can also be difficult to work with because the hanging pieces catch on your knitting needles. Projects made with eyelash yarn usually don’t have a lot of substance or bulk. When you knit with eyelash yarn, try to knit it with a simple acrylic or wool yarn as a base. Hold the two yarns together and knit as if they are one.
Though flat like any other type of ribbon, this type of yarn is made specifically for knitting, and the texture is quite different from decorative ribbons. Ribbon yarns can be made from any number of materials, but they are usually synthetic in origin. Knitting with ribbon yarn for the first time is a strange experience because of the yarn’s flatness. Ribbon yarn is best used for decorative trim or for scarves, but not for primary garments like sweaters.
If you want to knit socks, buying sock yarn is always a safe bet. It is made with a thin enough gauge that your stitches won’t feel lumpy on your feet. You can also machine wash and dry sock yarn without doing any damage to your creations. If you can’t find sock yarn you like, or you want to get creative with your knitted socks, choose a yarn that has some synthetic content (like acrylic or nylon) for stretch. Cotton and wool blends work well for socks. Cotton tends to be lighter and more breathable, and wool will keep your feet warm in the winter.
How you will use, wear and care for your finished project all determine what type of yarn is best. The weight of the yarn is also an important factor in the project’s success. Fingering weight yarn is the thinnest possible weight, and is used only for delicate knitting projects like making lace. Sport weight (also notated as DK) is lightweight and used for socks and thin garments. Worsted weight yarn is the most common, and can be used for anything you want to make (including winter wear). Bulky yarn is the heaviest and is used for thick sweaters and blankets, as well as fine art projects.