DK, worsted, cobweb, plied, single, wool, merino, bamboo...what does it all mean? I'm gonna breakdown some common yarn terms. It looks like a lot, but I promise, it's not that complicated!
Construction of yarn:
Yarn is a long, continuous length of interlocked fibers for use in textiles. Those fibers are combed and spun into a long string of yarn, usually either balled (which is what it sounds like) or in a hank (which are those weird twisted skeins usually hanging on the walls of your LYS). If the yarn is just spun and then it's ready to sell, it's a single, or a single ply. This means its not plied. "Ply" refers to how many singles are twisted together to create a plied yarn. For instance, a 3 ply yarn is three singles of yarn spun together. People often think that the number of plies determines the thickness of the yarn, but that's not true. You could spin 3 hairs and it would be incredibly thin yarn or you could spin 3 ropes are have a huge yarn. They would be very different weights of yarn but both would be 3 ply.
Weight of yarn:
Weight refers to the thickness of yarn. Really skinny yarn is a lighter weight and fat yarn is referred to as heavier. Most hanks or skeins of yarn in a LYS shop are sold in 100 gram skeins. 100 grams of fingering weight makes about 400 yards long while 100 grams of worsted weight makes only about 200 yards long. That's because worsted is about twice as thick and fingering so it goes about half as far. Picture play-dough. If you take a hunk of play-dough and rub it between your hands to make a snake, the longer the snake gets, the skinnier it gets. But it's the same mass or weight of dough. I hope that makes sense. The most common weights of yarn (smallest to biggest) are: cobweb, lace, fingering, sport, DK, worsted, bulky, and chunky.
Materials that make up the yarn:
Yarn can be made from all sorts of materials. Some of the common ones you'll hear about are merino (wool), alpaca, silk, cashmere, cotton, angora, linen, and acrylic. Bamboo is a relatively new and popular type of yarn. It's actually bamboo pulp spun into yarn. Some yarns, like sock yarn, have nylon spun into it to make it more stretchy and durable. Most everything sold at Craft Yarn Co is made of natural fibers, meaning things found in nature that can be spun into yarn. We do offer a small collection of synthetic fibers made of high quality acrylic that are very soft and reasonably priced.
The yarn that is best for you depends on the project you are making. Before you head to your LYS or start your online search, decide whether you need plied yarn, what weight you need, and what material best suits the finished project. Remember, there's a yarn out there for every pattern!