Last week, I shared my excitement over an adorable hat pattern for babies and kids that uses worsted weight yarn. A reader wrote in to ask what "worsted weight" means. Yarn weights (and their associated jargon) are one of the many confusing things that can be off-putting to beginning knitters so, here, dear reader, a guide.
Broadly speaking, yarn comes in many thicknesses, usually referred to as "weights". You can see a nice chart summarizing these weights here, but a picture is worth a thousand words.
From left: The thinnest yarn, fingering, is basically thread. Baby/sport yarn is slightly thicker, worsted weight is right in the middle, followed by bulky and the intuitively named jumbo, which is big and puffy.
The yarn weight has big implications for the finished product and the time it takes to knit because it is closely related to gauge (the number of stitches per inch): knit 12 stitches with a bulky yarn, and you will have already knit four inches, whereas 12 stitches with a very thin yarn may only result in an inch of knitting.
Worsted weight is the workhorse of yarns. It is not delicate, but it is also not too thick, making it perfect for spring and fall. It comes in lots of inexpensive, washable varieties perfect for everything from Christmas balls to kids' sweaters.
Here are a couple of my favorite Idle Hands worsted weight projects:
Writing about worsted weight made me wonder where it got its funny name. According to wikipedia, the name derives from Worstead, a village in the English county of Norfolk.
So there you have it. Happy knitting!