What is yarn ? 28 different types of Yarns

Definition of yarn and the different types of yarn and their suitability for various projects in knitting, crocheting, weaving, and other textile crafts.

Yarn is the basic element with which a fabric is made of. Yarn is made by grouping or twisting together several strands of fibers to make a continuous length of interlocked fibers. This grouping or twisting is achieved by a process called spinning.

Fibers that make the yarn can be natural or  synthetic or a blend of both. The most commonly used natural fiber is cotton. Some other natural fibers are jute, linen bamboo, silk, wool, and angora. Among the synthetic fibers, polyester is the most widely used one.

The yarns are woven or knitted together to make fabric. The yarns or threads are also used in crocheting, knitting, embroidery, and for making rope. Some fabrics like chiffon can be made of multiple types of yarns – like silk chiffon, polyester chiffon.

Different types of yarns

Yarns according to the type of fibers

Yarns can be grouped into two main categories based on the type of fibers – natural or synthetic. Natural fibers are again divided into two groups namely cellulose fiber and protein fiber.

Yarn from Cellulose fibers

Cellulose fiber comes from plants and the most commonly used cellulose fiber is cotton. Other sources of cellulose fiber are jute, bamboo, hemp, flax, sisal, etc

Yarn from Protein fibers

Protein fibers are sourced from insects and animals. The most famous of them are wool (from animals) and silk (from insect larvae ). Some other sources are goats, alpacas, llamas, rabbits, etc.

Synthetic fibers

Synthetic fibers are polymers found in natural gas or by-products of petroleum. They are made from acrylic or polyester or nylon.

Nylon yarns are also called Polyamide yarns. Nylon yarn, often blended with other fibers, is known for its durability and resistance to wear and tear, making it suitable for projects like bags and rugs.

Blended yarns

Nowadays, natural and synthetic yarns are spun together to get the best characteristics of both. Blended yarns consist of two or more type of Fibers. Blending combines the desirable qualities of different Fibers. Thus you have many blends like cotton and polyester where you get the softness of cotton and longevity of polyester. Blended yarns can be made of spun yarns or filament yarns or a mixture of both.

Linen yarns

There are two main types of linen yarn called Tow and Line. Tow linen yarn is spun from short fibers and is rather coarse in nature but has greater absorbency. Line linen is made up of longer fibers about 15 inches in length, so it is smoother. They are soft, shiny and a common example of fabric made from this yarn is fine table linen. Other linen yarns are wet spun linen and dry spun linen. 

Woolen and Worsted yarns

Woolen yarns are made of carded yarns and are fuzzy and bulky. Eg: tweed. Worsted yarns are spun from fibers that have been combed; they are lightweight; these yarns are used for knitting. Eg: gabardine.

Yarns which Stretch

A stretch yarn is very important to make fabrics that stretch like stretch denim, stretch lace. Stretch of the fabric depends on the type of yarn as well as the construction. When yarns are interlooped as in knitting it results in a stretchy fabric, whereas when yarn is woven there is not much stretch.

There are three types of stretch yarns. Bare elastic Yarns, Covered Elastic Yarns, Core spun Yarns.

Bare Elastic Yarns

These yarns are made up of monofilament spandex fiber. They are widely used in power stretch fabrics. As such Spandex is high stretch but not very strong. It is usually mixed with other yarns to make fabric with stretch. The usual combinations are cotton-spandex, acrylic-spandex, Polyester-spandex. The spandex yarn/bare elastic yarn is used to make spandex core-spun yarn, spandex twisted yarn and spandex covered yarn

Covered Elastic yarns

These yarns are made up of monofilaments that are covered with a spun or filament yarn in a spiral manner They are commonly used in power stretch fabrics which need more powerful shape control.

Core-Spun yarns

These yarns have a spandex core and staple fibers are spun around the spandex core, resulting in a stretchy and smooth yarn (depending on the outer fiber, usually natural fibers). They are used in comfort stretch fabrics. Also called Corespun spandex yarns. It is not as strong as other stretchy yarns.

Yarns according to the way fibers are grouped

Single yarn

This yarn is made from a number of staple fibers

Double yarn

This yarn is made by keeping 2 single yarns as one.(Also called ply yarn)

Cabled yarn

This yarn is amde by twisting together more than one doubled yarn (ply yarn). Also called Cord yarn.

Yarns according to the size of the fibers

Spun yarn

Fibers that are short in length are called staple fibers. Most natural Fibers except silk exist in staple form. These short fibers are first laid parallel and alternately and pull and twist to make a single thread. The process is called spinning and the resulting yarns are called spun yarns. Spun yarns can be natural or synthetic

Filament yarns

Fibers that are longer in length measured in kilometers like silk or synthetic fibers are twisted together or grouped to make filament yarns. Most filament yarns are lightly or low twisted to retain the smoothness and the lustrous of the surface. But sometimes they are tightly twisted to add some special characteristics like that of crepe. But generally they are smoother and lustrous than spun yarns.

Filament yarns can be made of a single filament or many filaments called monofilament yarn or multifilament yarns.

Sometimes, filament fibers are cut into short uniform lengths to match the staple fibers and both are spun together to create blended yarns.

Monofilament yarn

Also known as mono yarn, it is a single relatively thicker continuous strand of synthetic fiber. It is stiffer and less flexible than a multi-filament. Examples are transparent sewing thread, bristles of a toothbrush, filter fabrics, and fishing lines.

Multifilament yarn

It is made from multiple filament fibers. These fibers are very long and need little or no twisting to hold them together. They offer greater flexibility. They make supple soft fabrics like lining fabrics.

Microfilament yarn

Also known as micro deniers, these are made of micro synthetic Fibers which are finer than one denier or having a diameter of fewer than 10 micrometers. They are very soft, drapable, resist wrinkles and durable, and are difficult to distinguish from silk. Polyester and polyamides are the most common sources of micro Fibers. Sometimes synthetic Fibers are spun together with natural fibers like wool, cotton, or viscose to produce blends.

Core spun Yarn

In this a spun yarn and filament yarn are combined together – this results in the yarn getting the advantages of both the yarns.

Yarns according to the process involved in making the fibers

Carded Yarn

Staple Fibers are carded and formed into the thick rope of loose fiber called sliver. This sliver is spun to make carded yarn and fabrics made of carded yarns are called carded broadcloth.

Combed yarn

If the sliver is sent to a combing unit where they are put in a parallel position and later spun to make yarns, they are called combed yarn. Fabrics made of combed yarn are better, smoother, and stronger and are called combed broadcloth. Combed broad clothes are expensive than carded broadcloth.

Mercerized yarn

This is a yarn which has undergone chemical processes to increase its luster, color retention and durability.

Yarns based on the way fibers are twisted together

In this, single filaments or strands of fibers are twisted and this twist can be measured by the number of twists per unit length. Thus we have none or very low, low, average and high twists.

Filament yarns used for very smooth and fluid fabrics have no twists. Bulky sweaters have low twists. Most of the woven fabrics have average twists. Crepe fabric and Chiffon are made of tightly twisted yarns.

This classification is based on the direction of the twist. Depending on the direction of the final twist, yarns are divided into “S” twists and “Z” twists.

S Twist yarns

If the Fibers are twisted in the clockwise direction (spirals run upwards to the left) it is  “S” twist yarn

Z Twist yarns

If the fibers are twisted in the counterclockwise direction (spirals run upwards to the right) , it is “Z” twist yarn.

If a yarn is untwisted and is separated into two or finer yarns, it is called a ply yarn. Therefore a ply yarn is made up of two or more single yarns. 

Ply yarn

Ply yarn is made by twisting 2 or more yarn together. Depending on the number of single yarns used for twisting, they are called two-ply yarns, three-ply yarns and so forth. A 2-Ply yarn is made up of 2 strands twisted together to make one. A single strand is called a single ply.When single yarn  is untwisted and comes apart, it is called a single spun yarn.

Speciality Yarns

Textured yarns

Sometimes filament yarns are modified or altered with heating and cooling to give entirely new properties like a bulked up look and feel. Such yarns are called textured yarns.

There are three main categories of textured yarn. Stretch textured, bulk textured, and Set textured. Stretch textured yarn is made mainly from nylon. Examples of stretch textured fabrics are leotards, stretch hosiery, stretch ski pants, etc.

Bulk textured yarns have low or minimal stretch. They are relatively bulky and are mainly used in carpets.

Set textured yarns are yarns removed of their stretch quality. Textured stretch yarns are wound into spools under moderate tension and additional heat setting is given to completely take out the stretch.

Novelty yarns

Also called fancy yarns, they have deliberate irregularities in the form of knots, curls, bumps on their surface. They may be variegated, furry, slubbed, flocked, heathered and uneven. Fabrics using novelty yarns have decorative surface textures.

Chenille yarns

Chenille yarns have a soft pile protruding from the surface but are soft and supple. They are mostly made of cotton, wool, rayon or nylon.

Metallic yarns

Normally the cross-section of any yarn, round or elliptical except the metallic yarns. They are flat and ribbon-like. Metallic yarns are rarely used for functional purposes. They are commonly used for decorative purposes.

Questions about yarns

What kinds of materials make for soft yarn? What is the softest yarn fiber?

Merino Wool, Alpaca, and Cashmere are soft wool fibers that make very soft yarns. Other soft yarns are bamboo and silk.

Vicuna is the softest yarn fiber in the world. It is made from the undercoat of the vicuña, a small camelid that is native to the Andes Mountains.

What are the different types of specialty yarn?

Chenille Yarn: Chenille yarn has a velvety texture.
Bouclé Yarn: Bouclé yarn has loops that create a textured, bumpy surface.
Eyelash Yarn: Eyelash yarn features strands that resemble eyelashes.
Tweed Yarn: Tweed yarn contains small, colored flecks.
Variegated Yarn: Variegated yarn features color changes within the strand.

What are the different types of yarn for knitting?

Fingering weight yarn : This is the lightest weight of yarn, with a typical gauge of 5.5-6 stitches per inch on US size 2 (2.75mm) needles. Fingering weight yarn is often used for lace knitting, shawls, and other delicate projects.

Sport weight yarn: This is slightly heavier than fingering weight, with a typical gauge of 4.5-5 stitches per inch on US size 3 (3.25mm) needles. Sport weight yarn is a good choice for sweaters, hats, and other lightweight garments.

Worsted weight yarn: This is a versatile medium-weight yarn, with a typical gauge of 4-4.5 stitches per inch on US size 4 (4.0mm) needles. Worsted weight yarn can be used for a wide range of projects, including sweaters, blankets, and accessories.

Bulky weight yarn: This is a thick yarn, with a typical gauge of 2.5-3 stitches per inch on US size 6 (4.5mm) needles. Bulky weight yarn is great for quick-knit projects and cozy items, such as scarves, hats, and sweaters.

Super bulky weight yarn: This is the thickest weight of yarn, with a typical gauge of 1.5-2 stitches per inch on US size 8 (5.0mm) needles. Super bulky weight yarn is perfect for chunky scarves and blankets.

Novelty Yarn : Specialty yarns like chenille, bouclé, and eyelash yarn. Used when you want a special texture.

Read more about yarns used for knitting

What is the most eco-friendly yarn choice?

Bamboo and organic cotton are considered eco-friendly yarn options. They are made from sustainable, renewable resources. They have a lower environmental impact compared to some other fibers.

What is the best yarn for knitting for a beginner to start with?

Worsted weight acrylic yarn is a popular choice among beginners because it’s affordable, widely available, and easy to work with. It’s forgiving and doesn’t require special care

Which yarns are vegan-friendly?

Synthetic yarns like acrylic, bamboo, and soy are vegan-friendly, as they don’t involve animal fibers. Additionally, there are specialty yarns made from plant-based sources that are also vegan.

What is the warmest yarn fiber for winter projects?

Merino wool, Shetland wool, Cashmere, Mohair and Alpaca wool are the most popular choices when it comes to winter projects. They are all very soft with excellent insulating properties, making them ideal for cold-weather projects.

Which are the best yarns for crochet?

Cotton yarn is a favorite for crocheting dishcloths, amigurumi, and lightweight garments. It provides excellent stitch definition and is easy to work with.

Acrylic yarn is suitable for crocheting blankets, hats, and scarves. It’s soft and comes in a wide range of colors.

Bamboo and Silk Blends can add a luxurious feel to crochet projects. They are often used for lacy shawls and delicate accessories.

Which are the best yarns for weaving?

The most popularly used yarns are cotton, linen, wool and silk.

Wool yarn is used for weaving due to its elasticity, texture, and warmth. It’s used to create rugs, tapestries, and clothing fabrics.

Linen yarn is known for its strength and durability. It is used for weaving table linens, towels, and summer clothing.

Silk yarn is often used for creating fine textiles like scarves, shawls, and decorative items.

Cotton yarn is commonly used in rigid heddle and floor loom weaving for making towels, placemats, and lightweight fabrics.

Related post : What is denier?; What is Textile?; The best qualities of fabric; Buying tips for fabrics

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.