If you have spent any time shopping online for crochet yarn or walking the aisles of a yarn store, you are fully aware of the vast array of yarn choices available.
In this article, we’ll look at the many different types of yarn available to crocheters, from dye techniques to spin styles and finally fiber types.
Dyeing yarn has progressed immensely in recent years. Now, instead of just solids and variegated yarn colors, we also have the options like speckled and self-striping.
One of my favorite dye techniques is a self-striping yarn. Unlike traditional variegated yarns, which feature short runs of each color, a self-striping yarn features longer runs of the colors to form stripes instead of color-pooling.
Lion Brand Mandala is one of the most popular self-striping yarns.
Like the self-striping, ombre yarns gently transition from one shade of color to a deeper or lighter shade of the same color. Popular choices for ombre yarns include Lion Brand Mandala Ombre and Scheepjes Whirls.
I can’t get enough of speckled yarn! This yarn is dyed a single solid color with an array of tiny specks of color sprinkled across the top.
This technique is especially popular with independent dyers and can be difficult to produce in large batches. A great choice for a speckled yarn is WeCrochet’s Hawthorne.
While a solid dyed yarn possesses a consistent color throughout the skein, semi-solid has slightly more variety. Still a single color, the dye is unevenly distributed to create more depth in the stitches.
Scheepjes Stone Washed is a fantastic example of this dye technique.
This unique dye technique is used to create patterns in the finished crocheted fabric. By simply crocheting a consistent pattern, the yarn itself forms a plaid finish. Check out this color pooling yarn by Mary Maxim.
I’m not talking about dance moves! I’m talking about how the fibers are spun to create different types of yarn.
From the rustic thick and thin yarn to the mercerized cotton, the different ways yarn is spun can affect the quality of the finished product.
Mercerized cotton is technically a thread. It is very tightly spun to create a strong, even, and consistent feel. It is often used for lace items like doilies, bedspreads, or curtains.
Aunt Lydia’s Classic Crochet Thread is one of the most popular mercerized cotton crochet threads on the market.
A loosely spun yarn often feels softer than a tightly wound yarn. However, don’t let the softness fool you! While the loosely spun yarns are beautiful and soft, they don’t hold up well over time.
Loosely spun wool will felt quickly and loosely spun acrylic pills and falls apart. This yarn is best for items that won’t be frequently used. They also tend to be very splitty. Red Heart Unforgettable is a common example of this type of yarn.
The tighter the yarn is spun, the stronger it is. However, with that strength comes less softness.
Tighter spun yarns are great for blankets that need to last a long time. Since blankets are not worn next to the skin, sacrificing a little softness for strength is a good choice. Most yarns fall into this category, but a beautiful example of this is the Chroma Twist Worsted.
Also read: What is worsted weight yarn?
This popular style of yarn is also very unstable. Roving takes loosely spun to the extreme.
Not only does this yarn look like spun marshmallows, but it also melts in a similar fashion. It pills and falls apart very quickly and is better suited for felting than crocheting.
Tahki Yarns Highland Roving on Lovecrafts is a fantastic example.
Ok, t-shirt yarn technically isn’t spun. It’s a long knitted tube that is used for crocheting. Usually made with cotton jersey, this yarn is fantastic for home wears like baskets. Paintbox offers a beautiful recycled t-shirt yarn.
Also, not technically spun, chainette yarn is, essentially, a long knitted chain of yarn. This yarn gives a beautiful stitch definition to your crochet stitches. Check out Lindy Chain for an example of this style of yarn.
Different fibers are better suited to different projects.
Some yarns are soft, some firm, some bounce, and stretch. Depending on the quality of the fabric you want to produce, choosing the right fiber can add the perfect touch to your finished project.
There are 3 main fiber types used in crochet:
- Synthetic fibers
- Animal fibers
- Plant fibers
Synthetic yarns are cheaper to produce than natural fibers. They are also beneficial for those with allergies to natural fibers. Synthetic fibers are also a great alternative to wool for those who practice a vegan lifestyle.
As the most popular synthetic yarn, most major yarn brands produce some form of acrylic yarn.
Some are softer than others. But keep in mind, the softer the acrylic yarn, the faster it will pill. Acrylic is a form of plastic, so avoid using it for items that come in contact with high heat. For high-quality acrylic, check out Mary Maxim Starlette.
Polyester is often found in yarns with a unique texture, like WeCrochet’s Fable Fur or Bernat Blanket yarns. It has less bounce and stretch than acrylic but works well for items that need to be soft and cozy, like blankets, oversized sweaters, and plushies.
Nylon isn’t often found alone in yarn but is generally blended with other fibers to create a more stable, long-wearing material. Lion Brand Rebound is one of the few yarns I found that features nylon alone.
Rayon is a plant-derived synthetic fiber, usually created from the tiniest bits of cotton that cannot be spun into yarn. This makes the yarn more sustainable and earth-friendly. It mimics cotton but is softer and with more drape. Check out Lion Brand Truboo for quality rayon yarn.
Tencel is formed from the same process as rayon but uses bamboo instead of cotton particles. It is also extremely soft, shiny, and with excellent drape. Ice Yarns offers a beautiful Tencel yarn.
Viscose is another name for rayon.
Polyamide is another name for nylon.
Animal fibers are used for projects that need to provide warmth. Since the animal fibers are harvested from sheep, alpaca, llama, even sometimes rabbits, crocheters with allergies need to choose with caution.
Harvested from sheep, wool is the most popular animal fiber to be spun into yarn. While some types of wool can be scratchy, like Leicester, it is very durable.
I recommend using superwash merino wool for items you want to wear next to your skin since it is soft and easy to care for. Check out WeCrochet’s Swish DK for an affordable superwash merino yarn.
Alpaca is known for its incredible softness, especially baby alpaca. This yarn is excellent for sweaters and hats since it is warm but breathable. I recently crocheted a sweater with WeCrochet’s Alpaca Cloud.
Angora is harvested from an angora rabbit. It is defined by incredible softness. The yarn is extremely light and airy but still warm. Check out this gorgeous example of Angora yarn on Amazon.
Not to be confused with angora, mohair is harvested from angora goats instead of angora sheep.
These soft, lightweight fibers are often blended with wool or held together with a wool yarn to add extra coziness to sweaters, hats, and mittens. Berroco offers a beautiful array of mohair yarns.
Cashmere wool is derived from the hair of pashmina goats. This warm fiber has been used for centuries to make yarn, textiles, and clothing for centuries. Lovecraft offers a wide range of colors in the Lang Yarns Cashmere Premium.
This delicate and luxurious fiber is derived from the protein fibers in silkworm cocoons. Silk yarns and silk-blend yarns tend to be very slippery, so grab a wooden hook to help you maintain your tension while you work with this beautiful fiber.
We Crochet offers the Luminance Silk yarn in a gorgeous array of colors.
When summer is hot, I pull out my plant fibers to keep my hands busy but not too warm! Plant fibers are also popular for home decor items, as well.
The most commonly used plant fiber, cotton, can be spun roughly or finely. Rough cotton yarns, like Lily’s Sugars and Cream, are used for washcloths, kitchen towels, or rugs.
Softer yarns, like Comfy Cotton, are used for blankets, face scrubbies, or summer wearables.
Bamboo yarn is often lighter weight than cotton with more shine. This yarn can be used for wearables and home decor. Try Premier Bamboo if you want to make something with this fiber.
Linen tends to be a little rougher than cotton or bamboo, but since the fibers are longer, they add durability when blended with cotton. Linen by itself is quite rough. Lindy Chain by WeCrochet is a gorgeous chainette style linen yarn.
A rough fiber is generally used to make twine and ropes; hemp is a sturdy fiber. While hemp is often used for macrame, it is also a popular fiber to make crocheted baskets and rugs. Cascade Yarns offers a hemp/wool blend yarn that is both sturdy and warm.
Craft raffia is difficult to crochet with due to the shortness of the fibers, but Wool and the Gang makes a raffia yarn that is perfect for crocheting summer hats.
Many of these fibers are blended to add strength, like adding nylon to wool creates a warm, sturdy fiber that won’t wear out as quickly.
When you understand the strengths and weaknesses of the different fibers, you can make an educated decision about which one is right for the project you have in mind.
Pick the Right Yarn for Your Projects
With the wide range of dye techniques, spin types, and fibers available, you can always find the perfect yarn for your next project.
By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of popular fiber types, you can better know which yarn will be best.
Which yarn will you work with next?