Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What’s in a name?

Have you ever wondered where they got those crazy yarn weight names?  Worsted weight??  Who came up with that?  I think they should have named it Bested weight.  And DK – how do you figure that??  I’ve been wondering the same things, so I set out to get to the bottom of this.  Easier said than done, my friends!    Here’s what I found:
First of all, the standardized yarn weighting system (found here:  doesn’t necessarily refer to how much the yarn actually weighs, but rather the thickness of the yarns within each category.  The thickness is determined by wrapping the yarn evenly (with each strand being butted up next to each other – not overlapping) around some kind of gizmo and then measuring an inch of this and counting the number of yarn strands it takes to make up an inch.  Hence the term; Wraps per inch or WPI.
A few yarn weights are pretty self-explanatory, and I think we can all figure out that Lace is a very thin yarn and Bulky/Chunky is a very thick yarn.  And then there is the Granddaddy of them all:  Super Bulky.  Let’s move on to the not so obvious ones.
Worsted was named for the village of Worstead in Norfolk, England. As far back as the 12th century, this town was the leader in producing smooth, even yarn.  Pretty much the only kind of yarn back then, and these guys had the manufacturing process down pat!   This involved two important steps which contributed to the smoothness and tensile strength of the yarn. The first was the selection of long fibers, and the second was the combing of these fibers to make them straight and parallel. During the spinning process, worsted weight yarn was handled carefully to ensure that the fibers stay straight, which kept the finished yarn very smooth.  Of course, times have changed, and  worsted weight yarns can come in all sorts of textures and fibers.   Worsted is right in the middle of the thickness scale, being thinner than Bulky/Chunky but thicker than DK.
DK stands for "double knitting."  The term "double knitting" originates from Great Britain and refers to a weight of yarn commonly used there.   DK yarn is thinner than worsted weight yarn, but thicker than sport weight yarn.  The reason it’s called Double Knitting weight is it's actually double fingering-weight.  Meaning, if you held 2 strands of fingering weight yarns together, they should equal  1 strand of DK weight.
The name given to sport weight yarn has nothing to do with athletics, but rather is named after women's sportswear because the thickness of the finished pieces is similar to fabric used to create casual women's wear.  A Sport weight yarn is thicker than Fingering but thinner than DK.
This brings us to  Fingering weight.  I’m sorry to say I haven’t a clue as to why it’s called that, and Google truly let me down this time!  Maybe whoever came up with this wacky name won’t fess up to his (or her!) reasoning.  I can tell you that it is also called sock yarn (Gold star for everyone who guessed that this yarn picked up its extra moniker because it’s the appropriate thickness for making socks!).  Fingering/Sock yarn is thicker than Lace weight but thinner than Sport weight.
So there you have it!  If you happen to know why Fingering is so named, please speak up!  We need to know!

1 comment:

  1. Someone on Reddit found this
    It explains the etymology of fingering weight