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If you have ever considered knitting a vintage pattern you may yourself confused over the required yarn.  Terms such as “fingering” and “worsted” can be enough to cause you to give up on your project before you begin.

It is true that some brands and types of wool which were common in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s are now extremely difficult to find.  But with a little effort you can find modern alternatives and substitutes.

First of all here are some common yarn weights and terms:

USAUKAustralia & NZ
Lace2 ply2 ply
Sock or Fingering3 ply3 ply
Fingering4 ply4 ply
SportSome double knitting yarns5 ply
Light WorstedDouble knitting8 ply
WorstedAran10 ply
ChunkyBulky16 ply
BulkyChunky20 ply

Now we have the different yarns listed on the chart we will go through them and their general uses as well as the needles and hooks required:

LACE or 2 ply.  As you have probably guessed this is super light weight wool and therefore ideal for intricate projects.  Generally speaking you will be using small needles and hooks with this type of yarn.

Knitting needle sizes used are: 1.25mm – 3.0mm. The usual crochet hook sizes used are: 0.75-3.0mm.  

Brands which produce this weight:





SOCK or 3 ply.  Good for baby items such as shawls, blankets and some toys.

Knitting needles used are generally: 2.0mm – 3.5mm.  Crochet hooks: 2.25-3.5mm.  Good quality ones can also be purchased cheaply by clicking on the link picture above.

Brands which produce this weight:





DOUBLE KNITTING  or LIGHT WORSTED or 8 ply: Usually known as “DK”.  Probably one of the most widely available and popular yarns.  It’s quick to knit up and cost effective.  You can knit a huge variety of projects with DK including clothes , toys and dog clothes.

You can use almost any size needles or hooks but most patterns using DK will instruct you to use knitting needles from size 3.5mm-4.5mm.  Crochet hook sizes: 3.5-4.5mm.  Also available by clicking on the link above.

Brands which produce this weight:

Too many to list.

WORSTED or ARAN or 10 ply: Knits up quickly.  Ideal for knitting sweaters, cardigans etc.

Very easy to get hold of since most suppliers stock it at reasonable prices.

Knitting needle sizes used are often: 3.75mm-4.5mm or sometimes bigger for chunky projects.  Crochet hook sizes: 5.5mm-6.5mm.  Also available from suggested link above.

Suggested brand:

Kollage yarns.

CHUNKY or BULKY or 16 ply: Great for knitting with larger needles.  Knits up quickly. Perfect choice for rugs!  Knitting needle sizes often used with this yarn are: 5.5mm-8.0mm.  Crochet hook sizes: 6.5mm-9.0mm.  Also available by clicking link above.

CHUNKY or BULKY or 20 ply:  This stuff is super chunky and knits up very very quickly as you can imagine.  Good for rugs and bed shawls.  Knitting needle sizes: 8.0mm and above. Crochet hook sizes: 9.0mm and above.  Also available by clicking link above.

TIP: You can try substituting yarns or adapting what you have in some cases.  For example: 

Worsted, aran or (10 ply) used double  = chunky or bulky (20 ply).

4ply used double = DK.

A WORD OF CAUTION: When playing around with yarn weight and substituting or adapting be sure to check your tension since it can make a big difference to your work.