About Knitting Machines...        
A place for Knitting Machine Enthusiasts 
                                                                                                        UPDATE DECEMBER, 2013

A place for Knitting Machine Enthusiasts to find out about Knitting Machines, Yarns or Anything that has to do with Machine Knitting

Yarn Thickness or Weight


How it Works...

Yarn information is a really tough subject and can be very confusing because certain terms such as the term "Worsted" can mean different things to different people or different cultures.  Certain terms can only be used with certain fibers, other terms can be interchangeable and yarn counts as far as plies (how many yarns are twisted together) can be different numbers in different countries and also with different yarn fibers.   Sheesh!  Is your head spinning yet? I will try to explain what I know with my limited knowledge and experience.  This area, textiles, people go to school for in order to major in the subject and there is volumes of information on this subject, so if something is amiss with my information on this page any help in correcting it would be appreciated.


Basically, yarn thickness or fineness is the gauge or circumference “around” the yarn strand.  There is a standard to follow by the "Craft Yarn Council" here  in the USA to make things easier and they have a "Standard Yarn  Weight System". For you to be able to judge what yarns you want to use for your knitting machines and projects directly relates to how thick your yarn of choice is.   Knitting machine gauge will let you know how thick or thin the yarn can be to successfully knit on your knitting machine.  There is a yarn comparison chart that will give you a snapshot of the different gauges and compare different yarns to each other as far as thickness or thinness.

To understand which yarn thickness works best with which knitting machine as far as gauge and what the yarn is best suited to knit, as in garments, you can find a snapshot view of this under "Yarn and Knitting Machines".

OK Here we go.....

Basically we look at how much yarn lengthwise is produced by spinning one (1) pound of raw fiber.  First a few facts:

-One Pound of acrylic generally produces 500 yards

-One Pound of cotton or spun silk makes 840 yards

-Wool is 256 yards per pound and British Worsted Wool is 560 yards per pound

-Linen 300 yards per pound                                                       

Yarn count is determined by how many times the yarn is spun and how many plies or strands are twisted together that are in the final product.  Generally, the thinner the yarn the higher the number.

But which number???

               BRITISH v. USA    

In the USA 3/2 means size then plies.  In Great Britain 3/2 is plies then thickness

Caution should be taken when looking at plies as all it actually/should mean is how many STRANDS are TWISTED together to make ONE strand, which is used in the final calculation.  For instance, 4ply cotton is a different thickness than 4 ply Linen.  PLY IS JUST HOW MANY STRANDS are in the yarn.  Each number has a different meaning but do not confuse ply with always being the same, it is different from yarn to yarn.  Below is a picture of plied yarn, see the twists in the yarn strand?  That means that there is 2 or more yarn strands twisted together.


To make things easier for you here is a list of "British" terms for yarn thickness stated in "PLY", and their equivalent.  They usually use the term "PLY" with a number before it and not terms like DK Weight or Baby Weight.  Also, each time you add a stand of yarn and twist them together to make 1 strand it increases the thickness.

Weight          British Ply               Other Term
 2/32             1 strand is 1 PLY       each strand added increase ply, 2 ply etc...
 2/30             1 strand is 2 PLY       each strand added increase ply, 3 ply etc...
 2/28             2 strand is 3 PLY       each strand added increase ply, 4 ply etc...
 2/24             2 strand is 3 PLY       each strand added increase ply
                     4 strand is  DK         Double Knit
 2/20             2 strand is 4 PLY
                     3 strand is DK
 2/16             Actual 2 PLY on its own, 1 strand
                     2 strands 4 PLY
                     3 strands DK
 2/14             1 strand 2 PLY
                     2 strands 4 PLY
 2/12             1 strand 3 PLY
                     2 strands DK
 2/10             4 PLY



3/2 Linen = 3 is the number of plies twisted together to make one strand

              = 2 is the number of times the yarn has been spun, which is twice

So Linen is 300 yards per pound spun twice = 600 yards AND then three stands are twisted together so the thickness is then learned by dividing the final spin, 600 yards, by the plies for thickness and/or, how many yarns are twisted together to create the final yarn, which is 3, so it is 200 yards per pound or really thick yarn.

BUT, as you can see, 2/20 varies greatly from yarn to yarn.

2/20’s COTTON

8400 yard per pound

2/20 LINEN

3000 yards per pound

2/20 WOOL

2560 yards per pound


  To make things even more confusing, you will need to change around the numbers for cotton.  Always use the standard of 840 yards per spin.  So, 3/2 cotton is 3 x 840 = 2520 yards per pound and then divide by the number 2 for plying 2 strands together to make 1 strand which changes the thickness to 1,260 yards per pound.

TIDBIT: My personal preference with cotton is gassed and/or mercerized, even though more expensive, the wear and tear on the processed cotton stands up better and looks new longer.  They are treatments that take out the stretch and fuzziness so that the cotton looks really good with a little bit of sheen to it.  I love Egyptian cotton and in my opinion Egyptian mercerized and gassed the best against pilling, but also the most expensive.  But, if you are going through all the trouble in making something by hand, why not use the best products.

In general these thicknesses work best with the following machines, there is an area "Yarn and Knitting Machines" that has a chart showing what gauge yarn works best with which machine gauge and what the yarn is best suited to knit, what type of garment, in more detail.

  Meters/100 grams


Knitting Machine


8400 – 2750

Double Bed Jacquard

Fine Gauge Machine

Punch Lace

500 – 250

2500 – 1300

Standard Machine

Mid Gauge Machine

Double Bed Bulky Machine

200 -100

1000 – 500

Bulky Machine

Below is a conversion chart for the metric equivalent of US information that you will find on yarn depending where it is bought.  Most of the time, you will see metric information and balls will usually come in 50 or 100 grams.  Usually, yarn is sold by weight, NOT length so it is important to understand what you are buying in weight to figure out how much you need for the project.  In this category I have added two pages of charts, one page has information about how much yarn you would need to knit a sweater with different yarn weights and sweater sizes, the other is a general project chart that will estimate how much yarn you need for different projects such as mittens, socks, hats, scarfs and so on.

1 oz

28 grams

1 pound

454 grams about ½ a kilo

1 kilo

2.2 pounds

100 grams

3.5 oz

50 grams

1.75 oz

you need to remember that yarn from different manufacturers can also vary so it is important to know what kind of yarn you are buying and who from.  The example below shows how different wool types can vary.  Take note that the chart below uses "ply" to describe yarn thickness which I have cautioned you about, just stay away from ply as a term for yarn thickness and it will make things a lot easier.



Other name



Baby or 3-ply



Baby or 3-ply



4-ply or fingering



4-ply or fingering



DK to Worsted







on WOOL and the word "WORSTED"

“Worsted” Wool actually does not have anything to do with weight, it means that the yarn has been treated in such a way that all fibers are parallel. Worsted Wool is usually used in suits and fine garments as it is a soft and a really nice wool fiber.  I know this makes things more complicated but some manufacturers use this when defining and describing their yarn.  For all accounts remember it is a higher grade yarn than other wool yarns even though it is commonly used by people to describe a yarn weight rather than a yarn type.  I do not rely on this term and and look to other types of terms when looking at wool yarn in order to figuring out what weight it is.  Kind off the same thing as "ply". 

BUT, when you do come upon this term it means that the wool is 560 yards per pound and is a British term, double worsted off course would be 1,120 yards per pound.  If this is incorrect please email me the correct definition but this is what I could find out.  I am confused by this term so I look to the actual yards per pound or meters per 100 grams to define the yarn thickness.

           AN EXPLANATION of WPI, or Wraps per Inch
Wraps per inch, or WPI, is the number of strands that can lie next to each other on a ruler in an area of one (1) inch with no gaps.  That number dictates what yarn thickness you have.  It is a very easy way to figure out what weight yarn you have.  When wrapping the yarn around the ruler, make sure that you do not wrap tightly but also make sure there are no gaps and use a regular wooden ruler.  There is a download "Yarn Comparison Chart"  which has WPI and it's equivalents with other yarn numbering systems.

                                         FINGERING = 23+
                                       SOCK/BABY = 19-22
                               SPORT/BABY/LIGHT DK = 15-18
                       DK/DOUBLEKNIT/LIGHT WORSTED = 12-14
                                       WORSTED/ARAN = 9-11
                               CHUNKY/HEAVY WORSTED = 7-8

What is Nm?

Nm is weight - it is Grams divided by yards x (times) 545. 

50 grams = 200 yards, this information, weight and length, is on the label:

200 ÷ 50 = 4
4 x 545 = 2180 yards per pound which is fingering weight,


If it is 3 ply, then you divide that number by three, 2180 ÷ 3 = x,  which is 726 yards per pound or heavy weight.

This number states how many meters or yards of yarn will come from 1 gram of weight, so for example a single ply of 1/28 yarn will give 28 metres per gram whilst 2/28s will give half that because it is twice as thick.

PLY has NOTHING to do with weight, just how many times the yarn is spun on itself, 8 ply could still be a light weight yarn.

Here is yet another way of looking at Nm that I found:

One nm equals 1,000 meters of yarn per kilogram (1,000 m/kg), no matter what (whether it’s wool or bamboo — it’s a constant). This equals 50 meters per 50 grams. A 1/8 nm yarn (usually just called “1/8,” without the nm) tells you that the yarn has been spun 8 times longer than the standard, and is therefore finer. You will get 8,000 meters per kilogram if your yarn is a “1/8.”  This standard means that a 1 Nm yarn will contain 1,000 meters per kilogram, or 50 meters per 50 grams.

The first number in the name, or the “1” in “1/8” indicates the number of plies in the yarn (remember what I said about plies?). A “1/8” yarn has one ply, a “2/8” yarn has 2 plies, etc.

Here’s where it gets tricky: a “2/8” yarn indicates the yarn was spun to 8,000 meters per kilogram, but then plied into a two-ply yarn. The finished yarn will therefore measure 4,000 meters per kilogram. A “3/8” yarn will have 2,666 meters/kilogram, or 8000 divided by 3.

How does the general numeric system compare to the CYCA chart? From thick to thin:

  • 4/8 yarn yields 1,120 yards per pound and is closest to what hand knitters consider a DK weight yarn.
  • 3/8 yarn yields 1,490 yards per pound, or “sport weight” yarn. Similar to a DK weight, but slightly thinner.
  • 2/8 yarn yields 2,240 yards per pound, for a fingering weight yarn.
  • 2/18 yarn yields 5,040 yards per pound, and is considered lace weight.
  • 2/20 yarn yields 5,600 yards per pound, and is also considered lace weight. The difference between 2/18 and 2/20 is slight for a hand knitter, akin to the difference between 4/8 and 3/8

              - 2/24 yarn yields 5,960 yards per pound, and again, is considered laceweight.

On thing to remember about "LACE-WEIGHT YARN" is that there are different variations now, from a feather weight lace yarn to a thicker light weight and then plain lace-weight.  Ask your dealer or store about how they categorize the lace-weight yarn as it can make a difference.  The Yarn Craft Council of America recently has actually changed their yarn weight definitions to accommodate the difference.  They now have a Zero Weight (0) and a 6 "Bulky - Roving" weight.


It is also good to remember that Lace Weight Yarns are usually hand knitted or crocheted on larger needles and with a knitting machine certain stitches may be knitted at a looser tension to create lacy, openwork patterns. Accordingly, a gauge range is difficult to determine. Always follow the gauge stated in your pattern.

        0 - ZERO        Fingering/Feather Weight            33 - 40 stitches/4"

    Super Fine:    
        1 - ONE          Sock/Fingering/Baby Weight        27 - 32 stitches/4"

        2 - TWO         Sport/Baby Weight                     23 - 26 stitches/4"

        3 - THREE       DK Weight                                 20 - 24 stitches/4"

        4 - FOUR        Aran Weight                               18 - 19 stitches/4"

        5 - FIVE         Bulky Weight, RUG & CHUNKY      9 - 12 stitches/4"
                                            Hard to use for machine knitting
    Extra Thick:
        6 - SIX           Super Bulky Weight & Roving (thick  thin) 8  stitches/4"
                                            Not recommended for machine knitting


Next we will discuss DENIER and Tex.  Tex is more likely to be used in Canada and Europe, while Denier remains more common in the United States.  I find these counts confusing but will do my best explaining them.

What is Denier? 

This system in used to number continuous filament yarns, EG: silk and man-made yarns such as rayon and fun fur. The length is a fixed number and the weight will vary on the type of yarn which is then measured in deniers.

The denier count of a yarn = weight in grams per 9000 meters.

The thicker the yarn, the higher the denier number becomes.

Most synthetic yarns other than glass, raw and thrown silk yarns are sized by the metric and denier systems.  But reeled silk is sold by weight.

The metric yarn number is the weight in grams of a 450-meter length of the yarn divided by 0.05, or, another way of saying the same thing, what is the weight of a 9000-meter length of yarn.

SIDE NOTE ON SILK:  Spun silk yarn, which is made from leftovers after filament silk has been produced, is numbered by different systems in the United States and the United Kingdom, one like that used for cotton. The smaller the number, the heavier the yarn.  Unlike cotton, the count in a fraction describes the finished yarn, not the plies.  Below is a picture of 100% silk yarn, it is just amazing when it comes to shine and vibrant color.


What is Tex?

Tex is a unit of measure for the lenght density of fibers and is defined as the mass in grams per 1000 meters. The unit code is "Tex". The most commonly used unit is actually the decitex, abbreviated dtex, which is the mass in grams per 10,000 meters. When measuring objects that consist of multiple fibers the term "filament tex" is sometimes used, referring to the weight in grams per 10,000 meters of a single filament.
Tex is used for measuring fiber size in many products, including cigarette filters, optical cable, yarn, and fabric.

The Tex system is also based on the fixed length system, ie: Weight per unit length. The Tex count represents the weight in grams per 1 kilometer (1000 meters) of yarn. For example, a yarn numbered 10 Tex weighs 10 grams per kilometer. The Tex number increases with the size of the yarn.

Tex (g/km)

Yield (yards/#)

















The yarns are labeled according to an international code. The yarn count number is followed by the word  "Tex". The term "folded" is used in preference to "plied" yarn when two or more yarns are twisted together, and the direction of the twist is included in the formation, which is also important but I do not understand it well enough to talk about it.

E.g.: R 20 Tex/ 2 S – two threads of 10 Tex are folded in an "S" direction, therefore the resultant count (R) will be 20 Tex because the weight is exactly doubled.


Yarn Count or INDIRECT System is usually used with traditional natural fibers and is based on the weight of the yarn per pound by how many hanks, balls etc…  Different fibers have different lengths.  THIS YARN COUNT SYSTEM IS MOST COMMON WITH YARNS.  If you want to get technical I have included yarn conversion charts in this section to help you convert this information numerically from one system to another. 

Metric count, Nm, is how many meters of yarn in 1 kilo and usually used for synthetic yarn but I also use it for any yarn.  For all FIXED WEIGHT SYSTEMS, the LOWER the number the THICKER the yarn.

DIRECT count systems, Tex and Denier, the HIGHER the number the THICKER the yarn.  Tex is mostly used and it is based on the weight in grams per 1000 meters of yarn.  Denier on the other hand is on weight of the yarn in grams per 9000 meters of yarn.  This is used in many industries including carpeting, upholstery, tire manufacture and not so much with yarn or textiles for garments but can be used with blended filament yarn and microfiber.   The Direct Systems explain final yarn information.

Fixed Weight, Indirect, Count = HIGHER the number THINNER the yarn

Fixed Length, Direct, Tex = HIGHER the number THICKER the yarn

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