We keep a herd of alpacas, and we make their lovely, soft, warm fleeces into wool, which we sell in our online wool shop. Our 4-ply yarns are extra-popular, being so versatile. In our world ‘ply’ is a familiar thing. We understand the different weights and thicknesses, and it helps us make the most gorgeous knitted items. How about you? Do you understand the whole ply and weight thing? Here’s some insight for you.
About 4-ply yarn
4 ply yarn – also called 4-ply wool – is extremely strong, made from four strands of pre-spun wool that have been combined, pulled together to create a single yarn. You can see why it’s so strong – one ply is pretty tough, but when you merge four one-ply strands, each twisted for strength, the result is remarkably durable. Pull it and see if you can break it – we bet you can’t.
You might expect 4 ply yarns to be really thick. And in the past they were. But contemporary wool-making methods mean modern 4 ply yarn is actually surprisingly fine, which means it’s an extremely versatile wool, used to knit and crochet most things. In fact, 4-ply wool is particularly good for making baby clothes, because of its excellent insulating properties. A four-ply baby will always be lovely and cosy!
There’s a huge variety of 4 ply wool out there, some made from natural fibres like sheep or alpaca wool, others synthetic polymers like acrylic, nylon and polyamide. Then there’s Viscose, a natural fabric made from plant fibres. They’re all washable in a machine, so are convenient and practical. But let’s face it… none of them are as glorious, as soft, as lovely and natural as real wool. And that’s why our 4 ply alpaca yarn, made from natural fibres, is such a popular buy.
You can also buy silk 4 ply, believe it or not, for making beautifully crocheted shawls, or angora for super-soft jumpers and cardis. Linen yarn knits up into a deliciously cool top and is wonderful for knitting or crocheting intricate items. And, of course, you can use 4 ply yarn to knit home décor accessories like throws, cushion covers and bed covers.
Yarn weight conversions – UK, US and Australia
It’s handy to know the different classifications of yarn by weight, especially if you’ve found some wool from abroad you want to knit or crochet with. Here’s some information about what the different plys are called overseas.
UK 1 ply / single yarn = US Laceweight or Australian 2 ply
UK 2 ply = US Fingering or Australian 3 ply
UK 3 ply = US Sock or Australian 3 ply
UK 4 ply = US Sport or Australian 5 ply
UK DK = US DK/Light worsted or Australian 8 ply
UK Aran = US Worsted or Australian 10 ply
UK Chunky = US Bulky or Australian 12 ply
UK Super Chunky = US Super Bulky or Australian 14 ply
Why don’t they have a 4 ply in Australia? Or 9, 11 or 13? We have no idea! Do you?
The difference between yarn ply and yarn weight
You’d think yarn ply would be closely connected with yarn weight. But the connection isn’t that simple. When most of us knitted with ordinary wool, back in the olden days, ply and weight enjoyed a sensible relationship, one you could guess at. A ply was always a consistent size. A two-ply yarn was always more delicate than an eight ply, for example. These days a four-ply yarn can be heavy or medium weight, and single yarns with just the one thread can be anything from super thin to super chunky… and anything in between.
The old definitions of yarn weight as a particular ply are disappearing fast. The Craft Yarn Council of America, for example, now uses a very simple Standard Yarn Weight System so everyone on the planet can understand exactly how thick or thin a strand of yarn is. The scale goes from one to six, with one the finest yarn and six the chunkiest.
4 simple tips for UK knitters and crocheters
If you see a pattern that demands a certain ply of yarn, you’re probably looking at UK standards
Aran yarn is not usually specified by ply, usually a worsted or medium-weight yarn
Two-ply yarn generally means a super-fine yarn
Four-ply yarn is lightweight, also called DK or double knitting yarn
Inspired? Take a look at our glorious alpaca 4 ply yarns and see what you fancy knitting next!