Whether you need cotton yarn for crocheting dishcloths or faux fur for knitting fashionable scarves, there’s a variety of yarn types available to match your needs. Synthetic yarns, such as acrylic are usually slightly elastic which make them ideal for beginners. Many synthetics are also available as basic worsted-weight yarns, which are suitable for most types of knitting or crochet projects.
More expensive wool and cotton blends tend to be a little trickier to use, while specialty yarns like boucle yarn have their own unique challenges. Still, the extra flair makes these specialty yarns highly popular. Whether you’re looking the best yarn for a project, or just looking for something new to try, the different types of yarn here offer you some great options. If terms like “worsted weight” or “boucle” have you shaking your head in confusion, check out our helpful buyer’s guide below.
Best Knitting Yarn:
For knitting as for crochet, its easiest to begin with basic worsted-weight yarns. For knitting, an even gauge is important, and standard 4-ply yarns make it simpler to keep the stitches even. Over time, though, it can be fun to try new textures or fibers. Acrylic or other synthetic fibers work well for most projects, but they can feel bland or coarse compared with special blends of wool or cotton or even mohair. Good yarn--like the brands on this list--should feel good and hold up to washing and use. In addition, while there are a wide selection of specialty yarns to choose from, these yarns are well known and should be relatively easy to use, so they shouldn't break or snag with a reasonable amount of care.
As the name suggests, Wool Ease yarn offers knitters a wool blend that is both easy to use and reasonably priced. Its made of a wool and acrylic blend, so its machine-washable. The yarn is also known for its warmth, and its a standard worsted-weight good for most garments or afghans. Read Full Review
This brand is a specialty blend of silk and bamboo. Its lighter than worsted-weight yarn and has an extra soft feel. The skeins are relatively small, with only 102 yards of yarn, but it gets high ratings and offers knitters a good selection of colors. Read Full Review
As a specialty brand, Cascade Alpaca Lace yarn is a lovely option. Its available in around 50 colors and has a very fine weight with a slight fuzziness. The yarn is ideal for delicate styles such as lacy shawls, and each skein has 437 yards of yarn. Read Full Review
Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino offers a fun blend of merino wool, acrylic and cashmere. The brand has a similar thread in worsted weight, but this version is a light-weight yarn and works well for projects that need a fine thread and a soft feel. The skeins are small, with 137 yards each. Read Full Review
Best Crochet Yarn:
Crochet demands very little other than a good hook and a sturdy thread, but high-quality thread means the difference between split threads and a beautiful product. While there are many great specialty brands, each of these yarns comes from a fairly standard brand and should be available in most yarn or craft stores. The yarns were selected primarily for their feel, their durability in standing up to washing or use, and their overall variety of uses. There is no universal yarn, but with this selection, you should be able to find something to fit just about any crochet project.
Caron Simply Soft yarn is one of the softest worsted-weight acrylic yarns available. It has a loose texture that needs a firm tension, but it works well for a variety of projects from afghans to scarves. The yarn comes in over 50 different colors. Read Full Review
Homespun yarn is a fairly standard blend of acrylic and polyester fiber with a special boucle texture. The yarn is bulkier than worsted weight, and it can be challenging to use with a tight tension, but it has an especially soft feel. It comes in large 6 oz. skeins in a selection of over 60 colors. Read Full Review
Baby yarn doesn't mean a yarn exclusively meant for baby blankets or sweaters, but rather a light-weight yarn. Softee Baby yarn is 100% acrylic and machine-washable, and it offers a good selection of solid and variegated pastels moderately-sized 4 or 5 oz. skeins. Read Full Review
Sugar n Cream is one of the most popular cotton yarns available. Its extra absorbent and works well for projects from washcloths to baby blankets. The yarn comes in small skeins that work well for one or two dishcloths, but its also available in 14 oz. cones for larger projects. Read Full Review
Best Yarn for Felting:
For most projects, knitters and crocheters want to avoid yarns that turn soft and fuzzy after washing. For felting, however, that type of yarn is the perfect material. Only animal fibers will felt, so start by finding a yarn that is at least 85% wool. For this list, for example, each of these yarns is 100% animal fiber. The yarns were selected primarily based on their felting qualities, their popularity among felters, and their availability. Most of these yarns are also a normal weight and ply, but you can also find special roving yarns--this style of yarn is only lightly twisted, and the fibers will almost melt together during the felting process. Finally, you will need to avoid the superwash versions of these yarns, since machine-washable wool is treated to prevent it from felting.
Afavorite among felters, the Lambs Pride yarn is a wool and mohair blend that comes in either worsted or bulky weight. Its available in almost a hundred different colors, though the brand warns that a few of the lighter colors might not work well for felting. Even better, its great quality wool for a moderate price. Read Full Review
Plymouth Galway Worsted yarn is a good, mid-range choice for both its color selection and its price, but it offers high-end quality. The yarn is made by a family-owned company, and is considered similar to Cascade 220, but some felters find it easier to use.
Read Full Review
Cascade 220 is a special yarn, made of 100% Peruvian Highland wool. Some people find it more difficult to use than other brands, but it has one of the largest color selections with over 150 shades to choose from. Read Full Review
One of the more standard brands available, Patons Classic Wool is a 100% wool, worsted-weight yarn. It comes in around fifty shades of variegated and solid colors. At 3.5 oz. and 210 yards, its a bit larger than some of the other skeins and comparable in price to the other brands. Read Full Review
A widely-available brand, Lion Brand yarn offers good quality at a fairly reasonable price. This yarn is a bit different from the other selections, since it is a loosely wrapped roving wool excellent for felting, and its a thick, chunky-weight yarn good for bulkier projects. Read Full Review
Yarn Buyer's Guide
While yarn is a very simple material made of fibers spun to create a long strand, describing it isn’t always so simple. Besides color, people tend to use certain terms to describe yarn’s weight, its texture, and even its source. This guide should help you understand the basic terms you will find on a package of yarn or listed within a set of instructions.
Natural vs. Synthetic
Many crafters prefer to work with natural fibers both for their texture and that they’re also a renewable resource. How the product will be used is another important consideration since cotton can be highly absorbent making it a good choice for washcloths or towels; keep in mind it’s also highly flammable and can be an allergen for some people.
Synthetic materials are generally less flammable but may melt if exposed to high temperatures. Ultimately, the best material will be one you’re most comfortable working with while meeting any requirements you have for your specific project.
For most projects, you want to avoid yarn that pills or turns fuzzy after you wash it. Felting yarn is different since felting intentionally mats the yarn fibers to create a solid block of material. Crafters have used a wide variety of yarns for felting, including synthetics, but loosely spun yarns made from animal fibers are generally the easiest to felt.
This is a rather broad term encompassing any unusual type of yarn, particularly when the fibers are spun to create a pattern or texture in the yarn. Boucle yarn and eyelash yarn are a couple of the most common types of specialty yarn, with tight loops or curls added to the former and long, loose strands threaded through the latter.
A skein is an individual package of yarn. Most instructions will list the number of skeins you need to complete the project. Be careful, though, because the amount of yarn in a skein varies widely. Using a different yarn or a different size of skein could mean you run out too soon.
Generally this describes how thick the yarn is. Using a yarn that’s too bulky or too fine can change the size of your project. Weight can also be measure in ply, as in 2-ply, 3-ply, or 4-ply yarn, but using standard yarn weight is considered a more reliable measurement.
In this system, yarn is divided into six categories. Crochet thread is the finest, followed by fingering-weight or sock yarn, then baby yarn and sport yarn. Light or light worsted yarn is a bit heavier, while medium weight is known as worsted weight. Bulky yarn is significantly heavier and good for thick projects like rugs, and as the name implies, super bulky is the heaviest yarn available.
Ply is an older standard for measuring yarn weight. A ply is a twisted strand of fibers that can either be used on its own as singles yarn or twisted again with other plys to form 2-ply, 4-ply, or even 8-ply yarn. The more plys a yarn has, the bulkier it will be, but not all plys are the same weight to start with. In the US, the Standard Yarn Weight System may give you a better idea of the yarn’s actual thickness.