How to Choose Wool or Yarn - A Beginners Guide

Posted by Avril Stringer on

You have bought a pattern, you have your needles, you go to buy the wool or yarn but it is no longer available OR, you would just like a different wool or colour.  This is a common scenario but you can easily find alternatives which will work well with your pattern.  Of course, if in doubt, just ask for some help in the Thread Counter shop.

How to choose wool?

Your pattern will tell you what materials you need to make your project.  Many patterns come from manufacturers of the yarn and they want you to buy their yarn.  Independent pattern designers sometimes recommend a particular yarn or they will say you need a particular type of yarn, such as DK (double knitting) or chunky.  The pattern will also tell you the size of needles to use - in the UK, these are normally sized in mm.

how to choose wool

In this example, we can see what wool is required in this pattern as well as the size of needles.  The needle size (5mm) gives us a clue as to the thickness of the yarn needed.  The smaller the needles, the finer the yarn; the bigger the needles, the thicker the yarn.  We can also search for the yarn online.  Unless the pattern is very old, we should be able to find information about the yarn.  This will include the type of yarn and the recommended needle size to use. 

Different yarns are often described using different terms, but they will fit into 7 categories.  The US and UK have slightly different categories.

how to choose wool or yarn
Now you have the type of yarn you need and the needle size, it's time to go shopping.  You will look for a yarn that is similar to the yarn needed for the pattern.

How much wool do I need?

If you are buying the exact, same yarn as the pattern says, then you would buy that amount.  Take care to check how much is needed for your particular size, as a bigger garment size normally requires more.

In the earlier example, I need 10 balls of Lion Brand Wool-ease yarn.  Luckily, this is still available and I can just buy this.  But if I want a different yarn, how many balls do I need? 

how to choose wool or yarn

First of all, look at the original yarn.  There will always be information about the weight and length.  In this case, 1 ball of 85g wool is 180m long.  My project calls for 10 balls, therefore I need 1800m altogether.  It is also described in the description as "worsted" yarn in Category 4, Medium.

I then shop for worsted yarn.  When I find something I like, I look at the label which will tell me how much wool is in a ball.  In this real-life example, there are 350m to a ball.  I divide 1800m by 350m to get 5.14.  I need just over 5 balls, so I buy 6 balls and will have some left over. 

In this particular project, I bought a slightly thicker wool than needed.  I would need to be careful with the gauge (number of stitches to a 10cm square) and may have to use a different needle size in order that my finished project measures what it is supposed to.  This is important when creating garments.  However, in this case, I was knitting a blanket and size was not so important.  I did, however, knit a swatch of the design to check it looked nice on the yarn I bought. 

I hope this gives you the information you need to choose the wool you need for your project, even if it is not available.  If you are new to knitting, ask in the shop for some assistance until you get the hang of it. 


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