Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Demystifying Yarn Weights & Suggested Gauge

Have you ever wondered how the suggested gauge or weight of a particular yarn is determined? We often get questions from knitters who are confused about the roles that both yarn weight and gauge play in their project. Today we will cover both of these topics in depth so that you have a better understanding of how yar

Yarn weight refers to the thickness or diameter of the yarn that you are using. Generally, yarn weight is measured in either yards per pound (ypp) or wraps per inch (wpi). One of these two measurements will define the weight of your yarn - usually classified as lace weight, fingering, sport, DK, worsted, aran or bulky.

If you are trying to determine the weight of a specific yarn, the easiest way to use a WPI tool. This handy gadget allows you to wrap your yarn around it in a 1 inch measurement, allowing you to count how many wraps fit into an inch.

Note: For an accurate wrap count, ’be sure not to wrap your yarn too tightly or loosely around the WPI tool. If you’re interested in learning the knitty gritty details, Craftsy has an excellent post on how to measure WPI.



Gauge is related to yarn weight, but is slightly different. Gauge is determined by a combination of what weight you’re using and what size needles you’re using and is ratio of stitches (or rows) per inch.

Here’s the key difference: yarn will always be a certain weight (thickness) no matter how you knit (or crochet) it, however you can use any yarn at practically any gauge.

For example, you can knit fingering weight yarn on US #0 or US #1 needles and get a dense gauge (8 stitches/inch) which is appropriate for sturdy socks. However, you can also knit that same fingering weight yarn on US #6 or US #8 needles to create a more open fabric, with fewer stitches per inch, for something like a lacy shawl.

So you can always determine the correct yarn weight by how many wraps per inch, but you can’t always guess a yarn weight from a given gauge.

Ready for a few more complications? Yarn ball bands often come with a suggested gauge. This means that for the average knitter, if you use that particular yarn with the recommended needle size, you should get approximately that gauge when you knit or crochet with it. From there, the Craft Yarn Council of America extrapolates this average gauge to a yarn weight.

However, knitting tension can vary widely: some knitters knit tightly and others more loosely, and a lot of factors can affect the resulting gauge. So even though certain yarns may have similar average gauges, they may not actually be the same weight OR you may get a different average gauge with any given yarn than is suggested. This is why using gauge to determine your yarn weight is more problematic and often incorrect.


Ok, let’s try and apply all of this information using a skein of our own Himalayan Summit yarn. As you can see on the ball band, we classify Himalayan Summit as a fingering weight yarn and suggest that it knits up at an average gauge of 6 stitches/inch on US #3-5 needles.


First, using that Craftsy tutorial, let’s check the weight. Based on our WPI tool, Himalayan Summit comes in at approximately 14 wraps per inch placing it within the range of fingering weight yarn.
Now let’s try knitting the yarn at a variety of gauges.


You can see that when we knit Himalayan Summit on small needles (US #0), we get more stitches per inch than the average gauge given and create a very dense fabric.


If we go up a few needle sizes (US #3) we get closer to the suggested gauge, which creates a more drapey fabric.


If we go up a few more needle sizes (US #6) we get fewer stitches per inch, which creates a fabric with lots more space, where you can see the room between stitches.


All of the above have been knit with the same fingering weight yarn but produce very different gauges!


We hope this has cleared up some of the confusion surrounding yarn weights and gauge. If you have further questions or would like to share your projects with us, please follow us at @bijoubasinranch or tag your photos with #bijoubasinranch.

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