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What is Worsted Weight Yarn? The Most Versatile Yarn for Knitting

Check out this helpful guide if you want to learn more about worsted yarn or discover a worsted weight yarn equivalent.

By: Kathryn Abrams, Editor, AllFreeKnitting.com
What is Worsted Weight Yarn The Most Versatile Yarn for Knitting

If you know even the slightest bit about knitting or crochet, you’re most likely familiar with worsted weight yarn. Also known as ‘afghan,’ ‘aran,’ or simply ‘medium,’ this seemingly do-it-all weight of yarn can be used for a variety of projects.

According to the standard yarn weight system devised by the Craft Yarn Council of America, worsted weight yarn is a medium-weight yarn - heavier than DK, sport weight, baby weight, and fingering, but lighter than chunky and bulky.

When all other yarns fail you, it’s nice to know you can turn to worsted - the medium-weight powerhouse, often labeled with a prominent number 4 on the packaging - to see you through a tough spot.

This yarn is easy to work with and knits up quickly without too much bulk.

But exactly what is worsted weight yarn and why is it almost every yarn enthusiast’s old standby? We break it down for you below.

History of Worsted Weight Yarn

According to Ashley Little in her craftsy.com article, “Your Yarn BFF: Get to Know Worsted Weight Yarn,” worsted yarn is named for Worstead, a village in the English county of Norfolk. In the 12th century, Worstead was a hub for manufacturing yarn and cloth.

Although Worstead is no longer the worsted-fiber manufacturing giant it once was, the yarn still bears its name today. In fact, the term ‘worsted’ is derived from a particular spinning method.

Worsted wool comes from sheep with really long wool. These sheep generally live in more easily accessible, lush pastures, as opposed to sheep that do best in harsher environments.

According to Leimomi Oakes of thedreamstress.com in her article, "Terminology: What’s the difference between worsted & woolen wool fabrics?" the essential feature of worsted yarn is the straight, parallel fibers that come from these sheep.

Back in the day, long, fine staple wool was spun to create worsted yarn; today, other long fibers are also used.

Because worsted wool is made from long fibers which all lie parallel, the natural crimp of the wool is removed forming a very tight, hard yarn when spun. There is little space between the fibers, so when woven into fabric, worsted fabric has a tighter, harder, shinier finish and can make a finer, lighter-weight fabric.

Worsted wool (long staple) fabric is most often used in the making of tailored garments such as suits, as opposed to woolen wool (short staple), which is used for knitted items such as sweaters.

Knit and Purl Dishcloths

Worsted Weight Yarn Equivalent

Yarn weights are confusing enough if you stick to one system, but when you throw in different geographical locations and substitutions, it’s a whole other ballgame.

Using the American Standard Yarn Weight System as a baseline, worsted (US) is slightly thinner than aran (UK). Both are approximately equal to 10ply (AU/NZ).

Keep in mind yarn weight refers to the thickness of the thread, not the weight of the ball or even of the thread itself.

In terms of gauge, worsted weight yarn is approximately 16-20 stitches per 4in/10cm on 4.5-5.5mm needles.

Since the term ‘worsted’ refers to the particular spinning method, it is possible to find worsted-spun DK yarn. However, this is relatively rare unless you’re buying hand spun yarn.

Be sure to check out the infographic below to see other yarn weights and categories you will encounter as you knit.

Click here to download a PDF of the Yarn Weights Chart you see below.

Yarn Weights Chart

What is Worsted Weight Yarn Used For?

The beauty of worsted weight yarn is its versatility. More specifically, if you’re trying out a new technique or stitch, using a worsted weight yarn will help you see clear stitch definition.

It will also be easy to spot mistakes if you use a light colored yarn, so worsted weight yarn is often recommended for beginner knitters.

The good news is you can use this weight of yarn for a wide variety of knitted projects and garments. It can work well for both cool weather and warm weather garments.

Worsted weight yarn is easily substituted for another yarn in the same category, so you will have plenty of substitution options to choose from if need be.

From hats to baby cardigans to scarves, worsted weight yarn can really do it all. With so many patterns to choose from, the hardest part will be knowing where to start. However, you simply can’t go wrong with this medium-weight powerhouse.

As knit designer Gretchen Tracy from ballstothewallsknits.com explains:

"Worsted weight yarn is my go-to when I want to make something that both knits up quickly and still preserves the stitch definition that characterizes lighter weight yarns."

Be sure to check out the video below to learn how to knit the garter stitch - a great stitch for beginners to master - using worsted weight yarn.

Benefits of Worsted Yarn

As you’ve probably already gathered, worsted yarn has a wide variety of excellent benefits.

* Knitters will love working with this fiber due to its clear stitch definition and ease of use – the yarn is neither too bulky nor too thin.

* The tight construction and medium weight allows you to easily work simple stitches such as stockinette or more advanced techniques such as cables and lace.

* If you’re on a budget, you can often get more finished knit fabric from a skein of worsted weight yarn than other weights such as bulky or super bulky. In other words, it’s possible you won’t need to buy as much yarn in order to complete your project.

* Since worsted yarn is often devoid of extra touches such as fur or sequins, you can usually complete the pattern in a timely manner and catch mistakes more easily.

Still need convincing? Check out what knit and crochet teacher Bronislava of handmade-rukodelky.blogspot.com has to say:

"As an educator, when I teach new students to knit and crochet I use the worsted (or even thicker) yarns. I believe that from a dexterity point of view the thicker yarns and bigger knitting needles or hooks are better for beginners.

Then, of course, another benefit is that winter sweaters hand knitted with worsted yarns can be warm - just imagine yourself hiking in the forest wearing the coolest looking design made by you from a lovely thick wool and breathing crispy air. I see that as a benefit.

What about warm thick socks on your feet while sitting by the fireplace with hot cocoa? Baby blankets and afghans made from worsted yarns are not too heavy or light, and therefore one wrapped in such a blanket doesn't feel either too hot or too cold. I could go on and on with many other benefits of worsted yarns."

 

Dusty Rose Cable Hat

Worsted Yarn Weight Options

If you’re interested in colorwork knitting, worsted yarn is a wonderful choice.

* The stranding in Fair Isle and other styles is clean and the yarn lays nicely on the wrong side of the work, so you won’t need to worry about any snafus when working up your pattern.

* Worsted weight yarn is also ideal for those worried about available color choices or being limited by a certain brand of yarn. The majority of worsted weight yarns are similar from brand to brand, so you can easily choose a yarn from multiple companies and work them into a single project. As long as the fibers and weights are similar, mixing and matching brands will open up your color choices.

* Are you intent on adding more bulk to worsted weight yarn? The easiest solution is using more than one strand at a time. This technique is also a nice way to add color to a project. Two strands used at once will create a cozy sweater and three strands used at once will make a bulky scarf.

* The fiber construction of worsted yarn makes it strong and durable so it will stand up to normal wear. As long as you properly care for your knitted items, the garments you knit with worsted weight yarn should stand the test of time.

Fair Isle Market Knit Bag Pattern

Free Knitting Patterns for Worsted Weight Yarn

The versatility and functionality of worsted weight yarn is undeniable. This yarn is ideal for almost any type of knitting pattern and fiber enthusiasts of all skill levels can’t get enough.

As knit and crochet designer Heidi Gustad of handsoccupied.com explains:

"If you had to choose a single yarn weight to work with for the rest of your life, worsted weight yarn is ideal. There is such a range of worsted weight yarn to choose from, no matter your budget or skill level! Grab some worsted weight yarn in your favorite color to whip up your new favorite sweater or afghan."

There are so many wonderful patterns to choose from and so many beautiful designs to create with the medium-weight all-star. Now that you know all about worsted weight yarn, it’s time to put your knowledge to use.

Grab your needles and a few skeins of worsted yarn and embark on your next knitting adventure! This resourceful fiber will not let you down.

If you’re looking for a pattern using worsted weight yarn, be sure to check out the free knitting patterns below. We’ve done the legwork for you and rounded up the best of the best:

* Rock Candy Knit Blanket Pattern
* Classic Ribbed Knit Hat Pattern
* Bargello Sweater Knitting Pattern
* Skye Striped Shawl Pattern
* Minty Fresh Leg Warmers
* Adorable Snowman Pot Holder
* Easy Cranberry Shawl
* Warm and Cozy Garter Ridge Scarf
* High Style Knit Cowl
* Carrara Knit Jacket
* Antennae Baby Hat
* Tranquility Shawl
 

Pom Pom Newborn Hat

Why do you love working with worsted weight yarn?

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It's my favorite kind of yarn, I can do every shapes, especial in hats, amigurumis, clothing for photo prom, gifts

Worsted weight is a versatile yarn for all sorts of projects especially chartity projects.I always have it on hand in many colours and many projecton the go at once.

I started to knit when I was 5 years old. Now that I am retired, it is my favorite occupation. Worsted yarn and so easy to knit. I am used to fingering yarn and love it but it takes for ever to finish a project. With bigger yarn, I can still make beautiful garments in much less time. I will never have enough yarn. Do no repeat this to my husband! (lol)

exactly which yarn(s) di d you use for dark forest scarf?

I just love it. works up fast and looks and feels warm.

I like Worsted Yarn because it is moves easy and results in more uniform stitching.

...it makes creating a sweater on smaller needles more uniform for me

it is the perfect size for most of my projects, not too thin or too thick! it works up quickly and easily!

I use worsted weight yarn for most of my projects. It's easy to use - not fiddly like lace or fingering and not heavy like bulky. Perfect.

wow

I like when I use worsted weight yarn because you knit with about a size 8 needles and I like the middle size of needles, not too small or too big.

Worsted is easy to work with, my stitches come out nice and even. It is not to heavy and not so light that it takes forever working with thinner needles. Worsted is my kind of yarn.

It's a beautiful yarn and the look of finished project lasts forever.

to me worsted weight yarn is my go to yarn great for almost all my projects which are usually charity knitting, such as lap blankets, blankets, scarfs, shawls etc

nice yarn for all projects

It's so easy to work with. One brand has "super saver" skeins that I love! So many wonderful colors. Never enough room for it all. Worsted is like a family member that I've used for decades.

I love it soooooooooo much it is the Yarn I use 95% of the time. Just love it!!!

It always looks nice when finished and there are so many colors to choose from. You can also easily use two different colors together if you want something bulkier. I like that it looks good even after washing.

nice

I like to use worsted weight yarn for my charity knitting.

Worsted weight yarn is very easy to crochet with and the finished items always look very good.

J aime vraiment travailler de mes main

Nice Patterns , love the yarn.

I love the way it knits up the stitches look uniformed and knits up like it was professionally machine knifed.

I love worsted weight yarn because it so versatile, comes in a ln abundance of colors and is machine washable. I use it frequently for projects for my 3 year old and being able to toss it in the washer makes like so much easier.

It is the easiest weight for me to work with. Plus I like the way the stitches look when finished.

I love working with this yarn in knits up so quickly, at the moment I am knitting a blanket poncho which is turning out beautiful and the pattern really stands out with the worsted weight yarn )

It's the perfect weight for all my charity projects, hats, mittens, scarves and prayer shawls and bapitsmal blankets. I also use it for loom hats, using a double strand. Great way to use up stash.

Messy Bun hats, best weight and quickest way to work them

It's the perfect weight for my arthritic hands. The fine stuff is hard to handle and the heavier weights tire my fingers too quickly.

It is warm when crocheted into a blanket, shawl, hat, sweater, scarf or any other outer wear for winter in warmer climates like Florida.

Yarn just keeps getting better all the time....thanks

I like the look of the finished product (the size of the stitches, etc)

Worsted Weight is very easy to handle for someone new to knitting, especially when I get sore hands.

Worsted yarn knits up fast, holds up well to wear and tear and is readily available - all pluses in my book!

It's so easy to knit with.

I'm very New to knitting and love the idea of a yarn for many projects

Great for all kinds of projects.

Grandma only used worsted wool...

As a kid, worsted weight was the yarn I learned to knit with. I have knit hundreds of mittens, slippers, scarves, afghans, sweaters, hats and crafts with worsted weight yarn. I love worsted weight wool and cotton the best.

Great yarn to use for any project!!!

worsted weight is my go-to yarn. it works up quickly but not too bulky like heavier yarn does.

worsted weight is warm for my winter knitting needs

Love this yarn for its ease of use and practicality of care.

Love this yarn, it is my go too

I love the versatility of worsted weight yarn. Simple stitches flow quickly off my needles, but a good cable pattern also looks beautiful. Can't go wrong with ww yarn!

I love worsted yarn. Have been knitting for over 50 yrs and started with what we called real Aran. It was heavy and didn't wash well so i've happily replaced it with worsted several yrs ago.

Having made over 500 afghans using worsted weight yarn, I guess you'd say it's my GO TO yarn for almost all projects!

Thanks for the great history lesson and explanation! Worsted weight is my go-to yarn, but also enjoy lighter yarns to change things up every now and then.

worsted weight is so versatile. I love it.

I absolutely love worsted weight yarn have been using it for 50 years.

I was taught on worsted weight yarn. Thankfully its very versatile, I find the lesser weight yarns uninviting, unless its the colors or pattern.

nice

Tried this craft? What did you think?

I like going back and forth between projects, and when knitting on small needles gets my hands hurting some worsted knitting always gives them a break. Plus, I don't want to spend three months making a sweater.

I am all about the instant gratification! Worsted weight is the best thing for so many things, and makes up oh so quickly!

Worsted weight yarn is great for numerous types of things. I have made literally 100's of things over 50 years with it, from sweaters to hats, afghans, scarves, pillows, tote bags, butterflies, rugs, etc. Nice to work with and to wear.

nice I want to win

I love making wreaths baby blankets

I make pillows for the whole family. That means lots of colors. I enjoy deciding on a different stitch for each one.

I make CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS for my family plus afghans, mostly baby, toys for my great grand children and enjoy during it all.

I find worsted weight yarn useful for so many projects. I have made afghans, toques, cocoons, scarfs, wash cloths and many other articles. It doesn't fray and fibers don't poke out everywhere making your work look sloppy. You can see your stitches easily even when you are using more than one strand. Many colors are available and patterns often come with the yarn. It is easy to find in many stores that aren't yarn shops. I am a fan.

Worsted yarn is great for making hats for cemo patients!

I love knitting with worsted weight yarn...SO MANY beautiful colors!!!

It lends itself to so many different project and can be found in so many different textures and colors, plus easy to work with.

I love worsted weight all my crafting. Certainly for knitting hats and crocheting blankets, but also for kids crafts and wreaths and plastic canvas projects too.

I love knitting and crocheting with worsted yarn, as it works up quickly. It is also great when your vision is deteriorating as mine is.

I don't knit but I crochet. I love worsted yarn it is so versatile you can make anything with it. It also is the easiest to keep your tension just right. Most if not all my projects are made with worsted yarn except when I make baby sets. I am a fan lol. Good Luck Everyone !

use this yarn a lot . made baby afghans,mittens and scarfs,hats with it then give it away for charities.

nice I want to win

I like it because it is so versatile and it knits up quick.

Worsted weight is my fave and great for all the hats , scarves, dishcloths and baby blankets I knit up! It's a quick knit without the bulkiness of anything higher!

Love using worsted for afghans scarves. Warmth structure without the weight of a bulky or chunky yarn.

Worsted weight is perfect for winter clothing and afghans. Its not too thin or too thick and easy to work with

Excellent article!! I love working with worsted because it turns out a very nice product.

It's just a wonderfully good "all round" yarn, suitable to knit or crochet everything AND it goes for miles (or so it seems anyway). Usually its the perfect yarn when the urge to knit takes over and the budget isn't looking to good,

I guess it's like the 3 bears beds, Aran is just too bulky, 4 ply is too thin but worsted weight is just right.

Worsted weight yarn is readily available, relatively inexpensive, comes in a wide variety of colors, and makes up fairly quickly. I like is for all of these reasons. Oh, and it feels pretty good in the hands, is easy to hang on to when hands aren't working well, and shows patterns well. Need I say more?

Yarn is a passion.

Never to much yarn of any kind. Can find a projet for each

I love that it comes in a myriad of variations, from wool to silk to acrylic and more!

Love the worsted weight yarns... we uses it for our prayer shawls, baby blankets, chemo caps, scarves hats that we make and give away serving the Yarn Ministry "From These Hands" at church. Our "go to" yarn!

It's perfect for amigurumi both knit and crochet and very easily found in my area

Worsted weight is a fave for afghans.

I adore worsted weight am dismayed by the plethora of patterns recently for bulky and super bulky yarn. Worsted weight is the BEST for my scarves, caps, etc... stitches are well-defined and the pieces keep their shapes well. As much as I enjoy making baby items with lightweight yarn, my go-to yarn is worsted weight.

I use worsted weight yarn as I knit twiddle muffs for dementia patients as it is easy to work with.

Worsted weight is great for hats and mittens, which is what I make a lot of to send to family up north.

Love to crochet use worsted yarn especially light wt for scarf gloves and afghans! And the color selection is great!

As I age ,arthritis in my fingers hampers using smaller needles or ones over size 8-9.I'm much happier and able to knit well and good results from worsted yarn.

I like worsted yarn because it has a huge variety of colors to choose from and can be used for just about any project.

Worsted weight wool or cotton are my usual yarns. Worsted weight yarn is super easy to work with and can be used for almost anything. Even stitches come with ease.

So easy to work with. Consistent stitches.

I love how it feels on my hand, it is not too thin or to heavy, just the right feel. It is also soft. So the whole knitting experience is very comfortable, no struggles as with very fine or thick yarns.

I love worsted weight yarn because I can make anything with it and it will turn out good from any size

Worsted is my go-to yarn!

I love worsted weight yarn because it is the most versatile yarn there is. There is not many things that can't be made with this yarn, not to mention it is easier to knit or crochet than finer or bulkier yarns. My all time go to for most projects!

wow nice

I love working with worsted yarn because I have arthritis in my baby fingers and cannot hold finer yarns properly. Baby blankets are my favorite and I use two strands together. Thanks for the opportunity to enter this contest.

I use a lot of worsted weight wool. Sweaters, hats, blankets etc and especially gloves keeps your hands warm in cold weather and you can pick up keys etc while wearing them.

I love worsted weight yarn for all it's versatility and that it can be used to make almost everything

I like the versatility.

I love to use worsted weight yarn because of the variety of patterns available for its weight but most of all, for stitch definition.

I love how you can use worsted yarn for so many different projects.

i love how versatile worsted is. so many types of patterns can use or call for this weight that it seems like a must keep in the house for all knitters/crocheters. i seem to never be able to keep enough for all the projects i have going.

Worsted weight is my go to yarn. It works for so many different types of projects.

I love using worsted weight yarn because it is perfect for the animal lovies I make to donate. There is a large variety of colors that attracts a child's eye. Also good for a lot of imaginational characters.

I love worsted weight yarn. Many colors. Inexpensive.

worsted is my go to yarn for most blanket projects

Worsted weight yarn is the most common type of yarn to work with, and makes lovely crochet objects.

Worsted weight yarn is very versatile and practical.It can be incorporated into many knitting projects and other pro

I am so grateful to have a resource for answering the questions I have about yarn, stitches, and methods of knitting. I have referred to the information offered many times. I also appreciate the patterns and fitting suggestions. If I need a particular pattern, I know right where to turn. Thanks for being available and informative. Connie Sparks

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