Yarn, a General Overview

Yarn, at it’s simplest form, a long and continuous length of interlocked fibers.

Though, in reality, yarn is so much more complicated than that.

To start with, yarn is usually measured and sold by the weight, rather than the length. This is because of the differences in the yarn thickness. An example of this is 50g of a lightweight lace yarn would be a few hundred meters in length, where are a 50g bulky weight yarn is only about 60 meters in length.

Any yarn can be classified into one of two fiber classes, natural and synthetic.  Synthetic fiber is an acrylic or polyester material. Natural fiber is either a plant-based or a protein-based fiber.

The most common plant-based fibers are cotton and linen. Other plant fibers include bamboo, hemp, maize, nettles and soy. All of these fibers tend to be less elastic and retain less warmth than protein fibers, though this is not always the case. These types of yarns are usually want is recommended for babies and hospitals as they are least likely to cause an allergic reaction.

Wool is the most common protein-based fiber. Other common protein fibers are alpaca, angora, mohair, llama, cashmere, and silk. Others, less commonly used in the main stream, are camel, yak, possum, musk ox, vicuna, car, dog, wolf, rabbit bison and chinchilla. Protein yarns are basically any yarn that is made from an animal (is hair, feathers, sill, etc.). These yarns have the advantage of being slightly elastic and very breathable, while at the same time, trapping a lot of air, making these among the warmest yarns available. There are more than a few protein based yarns that can cause an allergic reaction.

There is a type of yarn that can fall into either main category. It is call T-shirt yarn. The make-up of t-shirt yarn depends solely on the materials used to make the shirt.

Generally speaking, when it comes to crochet, knitting and weaving, acrylic and wool yarns are the most common. Here in the US, the biggest 4 suppliers of acrylic yarn are Red Heart Yarns, Lion Brand, Caron Yarn and Bernat, these can be found in any big box craft store and a few home good stores. Wool is usually found at the local yarn store, more commonly call LYS, or the can be found on-line. These tend to be done is small batches and usually dyed by hand. A brand called Lily Sugar ‘n Cream, a mainstream cotton brand, can by found is any Joann’s Fabric or Michaels craft store.

Yarns may be used either dyed or undyed. Dyed yarns are colored with either an artificial dyes or natural dyes. Outside of solid colored yarn, variegated yarns can fall under one of five categories:

  • Heathered/Tweed                                     
  • Ombre                                                         
  • Multicolored
  • Self-stripping
  • Marled

I’ll get more into this when I discuss novelty yarns in a later blog post.

Earlier, I discussed yarn types as a thickness. There are 9 official thicknesses that are generally the same between manufacturers. Here is a handy cart from http://www.lionbrand.com/yarn-by-weight that can explain it better than I can.

That’s it for now. My next post I’ll get more into the types of fibers, their descriptions as well as their most common uses.

Have a good day and stay safe everyone!



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