Yarn is a long continuous length of interlocked fibres, suitable for use in the production of textiles, sewing, crocheting, knitting, weaving, embroidery, or ropemaking.[1] Thread is a type of yarn intended for sewing by hand or machine. Modern manufactured sewing threads may be finished with wax or other lubricants to withstand the stresses involved in sewing.[2] Embroidery threads are yarns specifically designed for needlework.


The word yarn comes from Middle English, from the Old English gearn, akin to Old High German's garn, "yarn", Dutch's "garen", Italian's chordē, "string", and Sanskrit's hira, "band".[1]


Yarn can be made from a number of natural or synthetic fibers. Many types of yarn are made differently though. There are two main types of yarn: spun and filament.


Cotton being slubbed

The most common plant fiber is cotton, which is typically[3] spun into fine yarn for mechanical weaving or knitting into cloth.

Cotton and Polyester are the most commonly spun fibers in the world. Cotton is grown throughout the world. After harvesting it is ginned and prepared for yarn spinning. Polyester is extruded from polymers derived from natural gas and oil. Synthetic fibers are generally extruded in continuous strands of gel-state materials. These strands are drawn (stretched), annealed (hardened), and cured to obtain properties desirable for later processing.

Synthetic fibers come in three basic forms: staple, tow, and filament. Staple is cut fibers, generally sold in lengths up to 120 mm. Tow is a continuous "rope" of fibers consisting of many filaments loosely joined side-to-side. Filament is a continuous strand consisting of anything from 1 filament to many. Synthetic fiber is most often measured in a weight per linear measurement basis, along with cut length. Denier and Dtex are the most common weight to length measures. Cut-length only applies to staple fiber.

Filament extrusion is sometimes referred to as "spinning" but most people equate spinning with spun yarn production.

Since yarn can be made from natural fibers, this means that it comes from plants or animals. Making yarn from animals does not harm the animals in any way. The most commonly spun animal fiber is wool harvested from sheep. In contrast, shearing sheep helps the sheep regulate their body temperature and avoid pests. For hand knitting and hobby knitting, wool and acrylic yarns are frequently used.

Other animal fibers used include alpaca, angora, mohair, llama, cashmere, and silk. More rarely, yarn may be spun from camel, yak, possum, musk ox, vicuña, cat, dog, wolf, rabbit, or bison hair, and even chinchilla as well as turkey or ostrich feathers. Natural fibers such as these have the advantage of being slightly elastic and very breathable, while trapping a great deal of air, making for some of the warmest fabrics in existence.

Other natural fibers that can be used for yarn include linen[4] and cotton.[5] These tend to be much less elastic, and retain less warmth than the animal-hair yarns, though they can be stronger in some cases. The finished product will also look rather different from the woolen yarns. Other plant fibers which can be spun include bamboo, hemp, maize, nettle, and soy fiber.

T-shirt yarn is a yarn made directly from t-shirts, and the fiber composition is determined by the material the t-shirt is made from.

Comparison of material properties

A fully restored Derby Doubler, winding a sliver lap ready for finisher carding at Quarry Bank Mill in the UK.

In general, natural fibers tend to require more careful handling than synthetics because they can shrink, felt, stain, shed, fade, stretch, wrinkle, or be eaten by moths more readily, unless special treatments such as mercerization or superwashing are performed to strengthen, fix color, or otherwise enhance the fiber's own properties.

Some types of protein yarns (i.e., hair, silk, feathers) may feel irritating to some people, causing sensations of contact dermatitis, hives, wheezing reactions. These reactions are likely a sensitivity to thicker and coarser fiber diameter or fiber ends.[6] In fact, contrary to popular belief, wool allergies are practically unknown. According to a study reviewing the evidence of wool as an allergen conducted by Acta Dermato-Venereologica[7] contemporary superfine or ultrafine Merino wool with their reduced fibre diameters do not provoke itch, are well tolerated and in fact benefit eczema management.[7] Further studies suggest that known allergens applied during textile processing are minimally present in wool garments today given current industry practices and are unlikely to lead to allergic reactions.[8]

When natural hair-type fibers are burned, they tend to singe and have a smell of burnt hair; this is because many, as human hair, are protein-derived. Cotton and viscose (rayon) yarns burn as a wick. Synthetic yarns generally tend to melt though some synthetics are inherently flame-retardant. Noting how an unidentified fiber strand burns and smells can assist in determining if it is natural or synthetic, and what the fiber content is.

Both synthetic and natural yarns can pill. Pilling is a function of fiber content, spinning method, twist, contiguous staple length, and fabric construction. Single ply yarns or using fibers like merino wool are known to pill more due to the fact that in the former, the single ply is not tight enough to securely retain all the fibers under abrasion, and the merino wool's short staple length allows the ends of the fibers to pop out of the twist more easily.

Yarns combining synthetic and natural fibers inherit the properties of each parent, according to the proportional composition. Synthetics are added to lower cost, increase durability, add unusual color or visual effects, provide machine washability and stain resistance, reduce heat retention or lighten garment weight.


A Spinning Jenny, spinning machine which was significant in the beginning of the Industrial Revolution
S- and Z-twist yarn

Spun yarn

Spun yarn is made by twisting staple fibres together to make a cohesive thread, or "single."[9] Twisting fibres into yarn in the process called spinning can be dated back to the Upper Paleolithic,[10] and yarn spinning was one of the first processes to be industrialized. Spun yarns are produced by placing a series of individual fibres or filaments together to form a continuous assembly of overlapping fibres, usually bound together by twist. Spun yarns may contain a single type of fibre, or be a blend of various types. Combining synthetic fibres (which can have high strength, lustre, and fire retardant qualities) with natural fibres (which have good water absorbency and skin comforting qualities) is very common. The most widely used blends are cotton-polyester and wool-acrylic fibre blends. Blends of different natural fibres are common too, especially with more expensive fibres such as alpaca, angora and cashmere.

Yarn is selected for different textiles based on the characteristics of the yarn fibres, such as warmth (wool), light weight (cotton or rayon), durability (nylon is added to sock yarn, for example), or softness (cashmere, alpaca).

Yarn is composed of twisted strands of fiber, which are known as plies when grouped together.[11] These strands of yarn are twisted together (plied) in the opposite direction to make a thicker yarn. Depending on the direction of this final twist, the yarn will have either s‑twist (the threads appear to go "up" to the left) or z‑twist (to the right). For a single ply yarn, the direction of the final twist is the same as its original twist. The twist direction of yarn can affect the final properties of the fabric, and combined use of the two twist directions can nullify skewing in knitted fabric.[12]

The mechanical integrity of yarn is derived from frictional contacts between its composing fibers. The science behind this was first studied by Galileo.[13]

Carded and combed yarn

Combed yarns are produced by adding another step of yarn spinning, namely combing, which aligns the fibres and removes the short fibres carried over from the previous step of carding. Combed yarn results in superior-quality fabrics. In comparison to carded yarns, this particular yarn is slightly more expensive, because the weaving in a long, consuming process. Combining separates small fibres from elongated fibres, in which this procedure makes the yarn softer and smoother.[14]

Hosiery yarn

Hosiery yarns are used in the manufacturing of Knitted fabrics. Since the knitted materials are more delicate than woven materials; hence hosiery yarns are made 'softer' with fewer twists per inch than their woven counterparts. Hosiery yarn comes from a separate spinning process, and is used with circular knitting machines to form fabric.[15][16]

Open-end yarn

Open-end yarn is produced by open-end spinning without a spindle. The method of spinning is different from ring spinning. In open-end yarn, there is no roving frame stage. Sliver from the card goes into the rotor, is spun into yarn directly. Open-end yarn can be produced from shorter fibers. Open-end yarns are different from ring yarns. Open-end yarns are limited to coarser counts.[17][18]

Novelty yarn

Novelty yarns or complex yarns are the yarns with special (fancy) effects introduced during spinning or plying. One example is Slub yarns; the slub effect means a yarn with thick and thin sections alternating regularly or irregularly. In a similar manner creating deliberate unevenness, Additions or injections of neps or metallic or synthetic fibers(along with natural fibers) in spinning creates beautiful yarns.

Filament yarn

Filament yarn consists of filament fibres (very long continuous fibres) either twisted together or only grouped together. Thicker monofilaments are typically used for industrial purposes rather than fabric production or decoration. Silk is a natural filament, and synthetic filament yarns are used to produce silk-like effects.

Texturized yarn

Texturized yarns are made by a process of air texturizing filament yarns (sometimes referred to as taslanizing), which combines multiple filament yarns into a yarn with some of the characteristics of spun yarns. They are synthetic continuous filaments that are modified to impart special texture and appearance. It was originally applied to synthetic fibers to reduce transparency, slipperiness and increase warmth, absorbency and makes the yarn more opaque. It was used to manufacture a variety of textile products: knitted underwear and outer wear, shape-retaining knitted suits, overcoats. They also were used in the production of artificial fur, carpets, blankets, etc.[19][20]


Yarn comes in many colors

Yarn may be used undyed, or may be coloured with natural or artificial dyes. Most yarns have a single uniform hue, but there is also a wide selection of variegated yarns:

  • Heathered or tweed: yarn with flecks of different coloured fibre
  • Ombre: variegated yarn with light and dark shades of a single hue
  • Multicolored: variegated yarn with two or more distinct hues (a "parrot colourway" might have green, yellow and red)
  • Self-striping: yarn dyed with lengths of colour that will automatically create stripes in a knitted or crocheted object
  • Marled: yarn made from strands of different-coloured yarn twisted together, sometimes in closely related hues
A comparison of yarn weights (thicknesses): the top skein is aran weight, suitable for knitting a thick sweater or hat. The manufacturer's recommended knitting gauge appears on the label: 5 to 7 stitches per inch using size 4.5 to 5.1 mm needles. The bottom skein is sock weight, specifically for knitting socks. Recommended gauge: 8 to 10 stitches per inch, using size 3.6 to 4.2 mm needles.
Spool of all purpose sewing thread, closeup shows texture of 2‑ply, Z‑twist, mercerized cotton with polyester core.
Yarn drying after being dyed in the early American tradition, at Conner Prairie living history museum.


Yarn quantities for handcrafts are usually measured and sold by weight in ounces (oz) or grams (g). Common sizes include 25g, 50g, and 100g skeins. Some companies also primarily measure in ounces with common sizes being three-ounce, four-ounce, six-ounce, and eight-ounce skeins. Textile measurements are taken at a standard temperature and humidity, because fibers can absorb moisture from the air. The actual length of the yarn contained in a ball or skein can vary due to the inherent heaviness of the fibre and the thickness of the strand; for instance, a 50 g skein of lace weight mohair may contain several hundred metres, while a 50 g skein of bulky wool may contain only 60 metres.

There are several thicknesses of craft yarn, referred to as weight. This is not to be confused with the measurement and weight listed above. The Craft Yarn Council of America is making an effort to promote a standardized industry system for measuring this, numbering the weights from 0 (finest) to 7 (thickest).[21] Each weight can be described by a number and name. Size 0 yarn is called Lace, size 1 is Super Fine, size 2 is Fine, size 3 is Light, size 4 is Medium, size 5 is Bulky, size 6 is Super Bulky, and size 7 is Jumbo.[22]

Each weight also has several common, unregulated terms associated with it. However, this naming convention is more descriptive than precise; fibre artists disagree about where on the continuum each lies, and the precise relationships between the sizes. These terms include, fingering, sport, double-knit (or DK), worsted, aran (or heavy worsted), bulky, super-bulky, and roving.[22]

Another measurement of yarn weight, often used by weavers, is wraps per inch (WPI). The yarn is wrapped snugly around a ruler and the number of wraps that fit in an inch are counted.

Labels on yarn for handicrafts often include information on gauge, which can also help determine yarn weight. Gauge, known in the UK as tension, is a measurement of how many stitches and rows are produced per inch or per cm on a specified size of knitting needle or crochet hook. The proposed standardization uses a four-by-four inch/ten-by-ten cm knitted stockinette or single crocheted square, with the resultant number of stitches across and rows high made by the suggested tools on the label to determine the gauge.

In Europe, textile engineers often use the unit tex, which is the weight in grams of a kilometre of yarn, or decitex, which is a finer measurement corresponding to the weight in grams of 10 km of yarn. Many other units have been used over time by different industries.

Yarn skeins

There are many different ways in which yarn is wound, including hanks, skeins, donut balls, cakes, cakes, and cones.


A hank[23] of yarn is a looped bundle of yarn,[24] similar to how wire is typically sold. The yarn is usually tied in 2 places directly opposite each other to keep the loops together and to keep them from tangling. Hanks are a preferred method of fastening yarn for many yarn sellers and yarn-dyers due to its ability to more widely display the qualities of the fiber.[24] It is often wound using a swift, a standing contraption that holds a yarn hank without obstruction and spins on a central axis to facilitate yarn ball winding[25] There are two subtypes of hanks: twisted and folded. A twisted hank is a hank that has been twisted into a rope braid. A folded hank is a hank that has been folded in half and wrapped in a label for retail purposes.[24]


Skeins are one of the most common types of yarn ball. Although skeins are technically described as yarn that has been wound into an oblong shape, the word "skein" is used generically to describe any ball of yarn.[24] Many large-scale yarn retailers like Lion brand and parent companies like Yarnspirations sell their yarn in skeins. Unlike other types of yarn balls, a skein allows you to access both ends of the yarn.[24] The yarn end in the inside of the skein is called a center pull.[24] One major complaint of center pull bullet skeins is that the inside yarn end is not easily found, and often is pulled out of the skein in a jumble of tangled yarn called "yarn barf." There are two types of skeins: a pull skein, which is more rectangular in shape, and a bullet skein, which is rounder.[24]


Yarn is used in multiple different clothing types and as a necessity for other things. It is commonly used when knitting beanies, gloves, weaving wool sweaters, cardigans, and jackets. Additionally, it can be used to make soft, warm wool socks. Besides using yarn for clothing attire purposes, it could also be used when doing arts and crafts such as making puppets, do-it-yourself pom poms, or as a decorative appliance. Moreover, you can make a lot more do-it-yourself projects with knitting yarn, like knitting a cup holder or a basket.

An assortment of different colored yarns.

Microscopic aspect of selected yarns

Below are the images taken by a digital USB microscope. These show how the yarn looks in different kinds of clothes when magnified.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Yarn". Merriam-Webster. Archived from the original on 2012-05-07. Retrieved 2012-05-25.
  2. ^ Kadolph, Sara J., ed.: Textiles, 10th edition, Pearson/Prentice-Hall, 2007,ISBN 0-13-118769-4, p. 203
  3. ^ "How yarn is made". Advameg. Archived from the original on 2007-06-16. Retrieved 2007-06-21.
  4. ^ Johnson, Ingrid; Cohen, Allen C.; Sarkar, Ajoy K. (2015-09-24). J.J. Pizzuto's Fabric Science: Studio Access Card. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. ISBN 9781628926583. Archived from the original on 2018-02-11.
  5. ^ Juracek, Judy A. (2000). Soft Surfaces: Visual Research for Artists, Architects, and Designers. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 9780393730333. Archived from the original on 2018-02-11.
  6. ^ Shakespeare, Margaret (September 30, 2015). "20 Things You Didn't Know About...Wool". Discover Magazine. Retrieved 2021-11-25.
  7. ^ a b Zallmann, M; Smith, P; Tang, M; Spelman, L; Cahill, J; Wortmann, G; Katelaris, C; Allen, K; Su, J (2017). "Debunking the Myth of Wool Allergy: Reviewing the Evidence for Immune and Non-immune Cutaneous Reactions". Acta Dermato Venereologica. 97 (8): 906–915. doi:10.2340/00015555-2655. PMID 28350041.
  8. ^ "Are you allergic to wool?". www.woolmark.com. Retrieved 2021-11-25.
  9. ^ Kadolph, Textiles, p. 197
  10. ^ Barber, Elizabeth Wayland, Women's Work:The First 20,000 Years, W. W. Norton, 1994, p. 44
  11. ^ Doran, David; Cather, Bob (2013-07-24). Construction Materials Reference Book. Routledge. ISBN 9781135139216. Archived from the original on 2018-02-11.
  12. ^ "How to Ply Yarn the Simple Way with this Expert Guide | Interweave". Interweave. 2016-11-18. Archived from the original on 2016-12-14. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  13. ^ Warren, Patrick B.; et al. (13 April 2018). "Why Clothes Don't Fall Apart: Tension Transmission in Staple Yarns". Physical Review Letters. 120 (15): 158001. arXiv:1804.07606. Bibcode:2018PhRvL.120o8001W. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.120.158001. PMID 29756870. S2CID 21727156.
  14. ^ American Home Economics Association. Textiles and Clothing Section (1970). Textile handbook. Internet Archive. Washington, American Home Economics Association. p. 30.
  15. ^ Wingate, Isabel Barnum (1979). Fairchild's dictionary of textiles. Internet Archive. New York : Fairchild Publications. p. 298. ISBN 978-0-87005-198-2.
  16. ^ "Hosiery Yarns and the Knitted Fabric". Journal of the Textile Institute Proceedings. 18 (3): P74–P75. 1927-03-01. doi:10.1080/19447012708665800. ISSN 1944-7019.
  17. ^ Wingate, Isabel Barnum (1979). Fairchild's dictionary of textiles. Internet Archive. New York : Fairchild Publications. p. 425. ISBN 978-0-87005-198-2.
  18. ^ Advances in yarn spinning technology. Alexander Lawrence. Cambridge: Woodhead Publishing Ltd. 2010. pp. 81-261–273-365. ISBN 978-0-85709-021-8. OCLC 798340806.CS1 maint: others (link)
  19. ^ "textile - Types of yarn". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-10-22.
  20. ^ "Moisture mobility in textured yarns and fabrics". Textile News, Apparel News, RMG News, Fashion Trends. 2013-12-12. Retrieved 2021-10-22.
  21. ^ "Standards and Guidelines for Crochet and Knitting - Welcome to the Craft Yarn Council". www.yarnstandards.com. Archived from the original on 2007-04-18.
  22. ^ a b "Standard Yarn Weight System | Welcome to the Craft Yarn Council". www.craftyarncouncil.com. Retrieved 2021-10-03.
  23. ^ "Definition of HANK". www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 2021-10-03.
  24. ^ a b c d e f g "Lisa's List: 12 Yarn Ball Types and How to Knit with Them". Interweave. 2017-02-23. Retrieved 2021-10-03.
  25. ^ "Hand Weaving Supplies from Weaving Today" (PDF). Handwoven. January–February 1985.

External links

Media files used on this page

Detailed close up of multi-coloured knitting stitches.jpg
Author/Creator: Brian Sawyer from Westford, MA, USA, Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0
Stockinette stitch knitting (detail of Image:556165_5691fcfdcb.jpg
Yarn weight comparison with variegated colours.jpg
Author/Creator: OttawaAC, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Two skeins of yarn, one aran weight, the second sock weight. Made by Noro in Japan. Variegated colours.
Fabric under microscope 4 (Jeans).jpg
Author/Creator: Ravi312, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
This picture is taken by digital microscope(100x magnification). This is enlarged view of yarn of jeans.
Author/Creator: Foto:Damast. User Damast on sv.wikipedia, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Spool of white thread.jpg
Author/Creator: No machine-readable author provided. Dmeranda assumed (based on copyright claims)., Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0

A spool of white all purpose thread for sewing. The spool is approximately 3cm in diameter and 3cm high, and contains 123m (135 yards) of thread which is about 0.2mm thick. The thread is a 2-ply construction with right-handed Z-twist, with each ply composed of 37% mercerized cotton wrapped around a 63% polyester monofilament core. Viewing in closeup shows the right-handed Z-twist as well as the tiny individual staples making up the cotton wrapping.

Taken with a Sony A100 camera using a Sony 2.8/100 Macro lens. Multiple lighting sources were used to show texture and sheen. Image has not been edited.
Author/Creator: Ravi312, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
This is a sweatshirt
Author/Creator: unknown, Licence: PD
Cloth Pencil Box.jpg
Author/Creator: Ravi312, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
This is a pencil box made of fabric
Fabric under microscope 2 (Cloth pencil box).jpg
Author/Creator: Ravi312, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
This picture is taken by digital microscope(100x magnification). This is enlarged view of yarn of cloth pencil box made.
Spinning jenny.jpg
(c) Markus Schweiß, CC-BY-SA-3.0
A Spinning Jenny, spinning machine which initiated the Industrial Revolution, model at the Museum of Early Industrialisation in Wuppertal (Germany).
Woolen Shawl.jpg
Author/Creator: Ravi312, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
This is a woolen shawl.
Author/Creator: Ravi312, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
This is dark blue color jeans
Author/Creator: unknown, Licence: CC BY 2.5
Swedish weaving.jpg
Author/Creator: User Damast on sv.wikipedia, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Detalj med en mönsterrapport upphämta. Detalj från denna bild
Garn fra Hillesvåg.jpg
Author/Creator: Joridma, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Garn fra Hillesvåg ullvarefabrikk.
Crochet sweden.jpg
Author/Creator: Elaine with Grey Cats from Mountain View, CA, USA, Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0
Mom sent some vintage linens to me after my great aunt's death. The work is by relatives in Sweden.
Restored primary level spinning machine at Quarry Bank Mill.jpg
(c) User:Black Stripe, CC-BY-SA-3.0
Restored primary level spinning machine at Quarry Bank Mill.
Fabric under microscope 1 (Track Pants).jpg
Author/Creator: Ravi312, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
This picture is taken by digital microscope(100x magnification). This is enlarged view of yarn of sweatshirt.
Caraz Market Lana.jpg
Author/Creator: AgainErick, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Wool at the market in Caraz/Huaylas/Ancash, Peru
Yarn twist S-Left Z-Right.png
"Twist" in spun yarns or ropes is often labeled S-twist or S-laid (for left-handed twist) and Z-twist or Z-laid (for right-handed twist), due to the respective left and right of the central sections of those two letters. To visually determine the handedness of the twist of a rope/yarn/etc, sight down a length of it; the direction of the twists as they progress away from you, left or right, reveals their handedness.
Fabric under microscope 3(Shawl).jpg
Author/Creator: Ravi312, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
This picture is taken by digital microscope(100x magnification). This is enlarged view of yarn of shawl.