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What is Worsted Weight Yarn?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Worsted weight yarn is a medium width, smooth yarn that is used for a wide range of knitting projects, especially sweaters, hats, and throws. This yarn is very popular with beginning knitters since it is easy to work with, and crafters can follow their stitches and patterns very easily when using it. It also yields smooth, warm end products with a hefty feel to them. Most knitting stores stock a range of these yarns, and people can also order a specifically desired yarn from a yarn company or spin their own.

The "weight" of yarn reflects how fine it is. Some yarns are extremely fine, such as the yarns used to make lace patterns and socks; these slender yarns may seem incredibly delicate, but they are actually quite sturdy once they are knitted or crocheted into a finished piece. Lightweight yarn is naturally physically lighter, since the strand of yarn is so fine, and products made with light yarns tend to be fine and lightweight as well. On the other end of the spectrum, chunky yarns are heavy, with a gauge of only a few stitches to the inch (2.5 cm), and they are used more in things like decorative scarves, hats, and jackets.

Worsted weight yarn falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, with a gauge of 16-20 stitches for every 4 inches (10 cm), depending on the size of the knitting needles or crochet hook used. This yarn is generally very easy to handle and work with, since it is smooth and it is of a width that feels very right in the hand. The smoothness of the yarn works very well for patterned knitting projects, since features like ribbing and cables really stand out when executed in worsted weight.

The yarn is named for the village of Worstead in Norfolk, England. As far back as the 12th century, this town was producing smooth, even yarn. The manufacturing process involves two important steps that contribute to the smoothness and tensile strength of the yarn. The first is the selection of long fibers, and the second is the combing of these fibers to make them straight and parallel. During the spinning process, the yarn is handled carefully to ensure that the fibers stay straight, which keeps the finished yarn very smooth.

Many yarn companies produce worsted weight yarn in both natural and artificial fibers, and a range of colors are available. While this yarn is an enduring favorite with beginners, many experienced knitters also work with it on a regular basis, since this yarn is so versatile.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By strawCake — On Dec 21, 2012

@Monika - I'm not sure what fingering weight stands for, but I know double knit refers to the system of naming yarn by plies. Double knit is twice the amount of plies as 4 ply yarn, which used to be the standard knitting weight. Hence, the term double knit.

By Monika — On Dec 20, 2012

I've been knitting for quite a few years, and I've never been able to figure out why yarn is called worsted weight, double knit, or fingering weight. Calling yarn baby yarn makes a little more sense, because it's clearly meant to be used on projects for babies. However, the other yarn weight names seem to be totally arbitrary.

Now that I know it was named after the place it originated, the term worsted weight makes a lot more sense. Now if I could just find out what all the other ones stand for, I'll be a happy camper.

By Ted41 — On Dec 20, 2012

@Pharoah - Worsted weight acrylic Red Heart yarn is my favorite yarn to recommend to beginners. The acrylic is really soft, machine washable, and (best of all) cheap. A lot of beginning knitters get really put off by the price of the expensive yarn, so I like to start them out with the more affordable stuff.

By Pharoah — On Dec 19, 2012

@anon30489 - The Worstead festival sounds awesome. I bet they feature worsted weight yarn pretty prominently in the festival, right? As a knitter I always love to go to knitting related festivals. If I'm ever in the UK, I will definitely make an effort to make it to Worstead.

Anyway, the article is completely right that worsted weight yarn and yarn patterns are the best for beginner knitters. Almost all beginner knitting books recommend getting worsted weight yarn and size 8 needles for your first project, which is usually a scarf. In fact, my very first knitting project was a scarf made with worsted weight yarn.

By anon294464 — On Oct 01, 2012

I am trying to find fuzzy yellow worsted yarn, but can't find any.

By anon163801 — On Mar 29, 2011

where can I buy worsted weight yarn in south africa?

By anon112487 — On Sep 20, 2010

Does anyone know the equivalent of worsted weight yarn in French?

By anon93003 — On Jul 01, 2010

Is this yarn washable?

By anon55896 — On Dec 10, 2009

I live near Worstead in Norfolk, England - I think you'd be hard pushed to actually buy any yarn there now, but It's well worth a visit to the Church and local hostelries! For British knitters, I've found US Worsted Weight Yarn patterns knit up well in British Double Knit!

By anon55120 — On Dec 04, 2009

How come no one in England knows what it is? I asked in so many shops after reading the name in my crochet guide and no one heard of it! It seemed like only in the US did people know what it was! And i cannot for the life of me find anywhere to buy it locally to me! I feel a trip to Worstead is in order!

By anon34790 — On Jun 28, 2009

Yes! Thank you for the information... Very useful, indeed. All the other websites tell you what kind of yarn it is, but never where the name came from. I love little tidbits like this! And if I get the chance, I think I will visit Worstead in the summer.

By anon30489 — On Apr 20, 2009

I live in Worstead, the place where the yarn was named after. If you live in Norfolk or England and you can come to Worstead during the summer, we have a worstead festival and it's a really nice place to go.

By anon23676 — On Dec 30, 2008

Thank you for a great explanation about worsted weight yarn. I really could not ever find anyone that could give me such a simple description until now!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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