If you’re new to the world of knitting or crochet and you’re yet to allow yarn to steadily take over your home, one room at a time, you might be a little confused about the weights of yarn and how they impact a project, especially those with strange names like worsted yarn.
It kind of sounds like some sort of complex, ancient cheese-making process, doesn’t it? “Oh, yeah, I love a spot of worsted cheddar” — It fits! Yet, it very much belongs to yarn, and it’s really not all that complex at all.
The worsted label simply indicates a middle-weight yarn.
In the great family of yarn gauges, worsted yarn is sandwiched snugly in the middle.
At one end of the spectrum, you’ve got the heavyweight stuff, the Mike Tyson of yarn, if you will, and on the other, you’ve got the lace-like weights, and equidistant from these extremes, is worsted yarn.
“Worsted” Meaning & Etymology
The term “worsted” is derived from the Old English “Wurðestede”, which became Worstead, the name of a town in the non-metropolitan county of East Anglia, England.
The name underwent a transition to an adjective after the town became famous for the production of a particular type of yarn.
Traditionally, the word referred to a special method of spinning the yarn as well as a preliminary step that involved combing all the fibers before they hit the spinning wheel, thus creating a far more robust and smooth final product.
What Is Worsted Yarn Used For?
As worsted yarn sits in the Goldilocks zone between insanely chunky and insanely delicate, people often refer to it as all-purpose yarn. It’s suitable for the vast majority of projects.
The only things it’s not great for are those jumbo knot blankets that Lenny Kravitz likes to wear as scarfs, or exceedingly intricate things, such as summer wraps and textile art.
If you’re ever unsure what weight yarn you need for a project, chances are worsted weight is the right one for the job, so if in doubt, pick up some worsted weight yarn and get cracking!
What Gauge Number Corresponds With “Worsted”?
Those wacky crafters across the pond and beyond rarely refer to their yarns with descriptive language, favoring simple gauge numbering instead.
For instance, a European crocheter will ask the craft shop clerk for “number three yarn” rather than “DK weight yarn”.
So, just in case you ever take a nice trip abroad or fancy yourself something of an anglophile, you’ll need to know what number “worsted” corresponds to… 4.
Knowing this may also come in handy when purchasing yarn in the US, as it’s not uncommon for manufacturers to label their yarn numerically.
Sometimes, you may not even find a number, but don’t fret. In this scenario, you should keep your peepers peeled for the knitting gauge parameters, i.e. which is the range of stitches possible in a 4” sequence.
For worsted yarn, this will be 16–20 inches.
What Needle Sizes Should I Use For Worsted Weight Yarn?
Generally speaking, you’ll be using 7–9 size needles when working with worsted yarn, but this isn’t always a given as the specifics of the project as well as the type of worsted yarn you’re using will inform your decision.
For example, if you’re working on a delicate, open lacework project, you’re best off moving up to 6.0–8.0 mm needles, and for things like socks or dishcloths, you’ll need something more to the tune of a 3.25 or 4.0 mm needle in order to create the right amount of tension.
If in doubt, check the project instructions for a suggestion or consult the packaging of your worsted yarn. Deciding on needle size can be tricky to begin with, but as you become more adept at your craft, it becomes second nature.
How Many Meters/Yards Per 100g Of Worsted Yarn?
It’s difficult to give an exact answer to how many meters/yards of worsted yarn you’ll get per 100 grams, as it depends on the fiber content of the yarn in question.
However, generally speaking, you can expect anywhere between 170 and 240 yards in every 100g skein.
What Is The WPI Of Worsted Yarn?
WPI stands for “wraps per inch”, and, again, it varies between worsted yarns, but typically speaking, you’re looking at something like 9–12.
If you want to find out the WPI of your worsted yarn, grab a small ruler and continually wrap the yarn around it, keeping each wrap close to the previous one.
Count the wraps as you go until you hit the 1-inch mark on the ruler, and voilà… that’s your wraps per inch.
What Ply Is Worsted Yarn?
Fun fact… yarn weight has very little to do with yarn ply. In other words, worsted yarn doesn’t correspond with a singular ply-count. You can find single-ply worsted yarn, and you can find eight-ply worsted yarn — Grab whatever you need!
The difference between ply is the number of individual threads of yarn that make up a singular cumulative thread. One-ply is, as you’d expect, a single thread of yarn, while eight-ply is essentially a braid of eight individual threads.
But wait! Wouldn’t that mean yarns braided with a bunch of threads are no longer medium weight yarn? Nope.
The more threads are braided into a piece of worsted yarn, the thinner these threads are, so no matter how many threads are used, they’ll always create a worsted weight yarn.
Generally speaking, the higher the ply-count, the more robust the yarn is, so if you’re hoping to make something that’s going to stand the test of time, you’re best off choosing a stacked ply yarn.
For instance, if your project is going to see a lot of action, like a pair of gloves, the higher ply will keep them in good condition winter after winter.
As such a versatile material, you’ll become well acquainted with worsted yarn pretty quickly, and now you know exactly what it is and where it sits on the yarn weight spectrum, you’re a step closer to crafty perfection!