Monday, December 18, 2017

Let's Talk About Weight

"How old are you?" is One of Those Questions, it's said, that one must never ask a lady.

Another is "How much do you weigh?"

But here at The Crafty Lady, weight is a subject that comes up all the time.  Never fear!  It's not your weight we're curious about.  It's the weight of the yarn you want to use for your project.


In this case, it's not even whether a ball or skein of yarn weighs 25, 50 or 100 grams.


In this case, the "weight" about which we're inquiring really refers to the thickness or thinness of the yarn.

Photo: "Katrinkles"
Hedgehog WPI tool
Once upon a time, yarn weight (thickness) used to be simpler.  It was based on how many Wraps Per Inch (WPI) a spinner got when she measured the yarn she'd spun, wrapped around a measuring stick.  Spinners still use this term, which is fine for hand-spun yarn, but not so translatable to commercially spun yarn -- especially synthetics.

Out of the spinning tradition in the UK and in Europe (especially Germany and Austria), arose terms for yarn thickness for every yarn from lace-weight to bulky.  Very fine yarn -- "cobweb" or "gossamer" or "singles" is 1-ply -- a single strand of spun yarn that runs at 40 WPI.  It's so fine that 100 grams can contain 800 metres or more!

Slightly heavier lace-weight yarn is two-ply -- two strands of spun yarn plied together.   Three-ply yarn -- also referred to as "light fingering", sock or baby yarn, has (you guessed it!) three strands of spun yarn plied together, but four-ply -- or simply "fingering" is also suitable for socks, baby garments, gloves, shawls, etc.

Photo: Sweet Pea & Friends
Farm Store
In recent years, the U.S.-based Craft Yarn Council developed a numbering system for yarn weights (thickness) that has (now) eight broad categories, from "0" (1-ply, lace-weight) to "7" -- a yarn so thick it has no "WPI" and is often also referred to as "roving".  This may or may not be accurate, as roving is actually yarn that's been bundled after carding, but hasn't been spun at all.

So.  Today, yarn weights are available in everything "from the sublime to the ridiculous" (as my late mother would've said)!  If you want instant gratification, knit something simple in a bulky yarn.  If you're a process knitter who revels in complexity, knit an ornate Estonian lace shawl.

But...what if you're a "fair to middlin'" person (another Mom-ism!)?  Well...there's a medium-weight yarn just for you.  It's #4 on the American identification system, but is also referred to as "worsted" or "afghan" yarn.  Traditionally it's a ten- or twelve-ply, measured at 9 to 12 WPI.

"Worsted" has its origin in spinning, where it remains a term for yarn spun in a particular way.  Knitters know it as a mid-weight yarn that is generally knit at 16-to-20 stitches in 4" (10 cm) on a 4.5 to 5.5 mm needle (US 7 to 9).  While it's terrific for afghans, it's also great for cardigans, pullovers and toques (that's Canadian for "beanie").  It'll do as well for scarves and mittens, and heavy socks (ideally worn with work boots or without shoes around the house) or slippers.

It makes for a classic sweater featuring wonderful stitch definition (ahhhhh....cables...).  If it's in super-wash wool, that's even better...

And that's our Super Special feature this week: beautiful, British pure (super-wash) wool...

Rowan Pure Wool Worsted
100 grams
100% Super-wash Wool
200 metres (219 yards)
Regular Price: $11.00
Sale Price: $2.75

*Written by Margaret, happy TCL employee who likes her wool -- and her weight -- "fair to middlin'"!  😉

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