If you knit or crochet, you might have found yourself asking ‘What, exactly, is Aran yarn?’. If so you’re not alone. The different names for yarns and wools can be pretty confusing, especially when you factor in American terms as well as British ones, some of which are becoming interchangeable thanks to the internet.
What is Aran yarn?
Aran weight yarn is a medium-weight yarn. It doesn’t have to be made from wool, although original Aran Yarn is made from the wool of Galway sheep. Galway sheep are the only Irish native sheep and real Galway yarn delivers particularly good stitch definition in cable designs, excellent for textured work. Galway yarn is not very good for knits worn against the skin, being rough in texture, but when the sheep are inter-bred with Merinos the resulting wool is a lot softer.
Modern Aran yarn can be made from wool or acrylic, and the term ‘Aran’ is a British one, not American. Having said that, it’s interesting to take a look at the Craft Yarn Council’s standard yarn weight system, created by an organisation based in Texas, USA. It lists Aran weight yarn with worsted weight yarn in the medium weight category. Over here Aran weight is a common medium weight category, over there it’s most often called worsted. In reality, these days they tend to be interchangeable.
On the other hand Aran yarn actually weighs a tiny bit more than worsted yarn, which explains why some knitters and crocheters call Aran yarn ‘heavy worsted’.
How do you knit and crochet with Aran yarn?
If you want to use Aran yarn in a pattern that recommends either Aran or worsted, your swatching is incredibly important. You need to be very careful around the gauge of the pattern to guarantee meeting it. Even if the worsted weight yarn is only a tiny bit lighter than the Aran weight, your gauge could go wrong.
The best thing about Aran weight yarns is their incredible flexibility – you can use them for more or less any and every project, a reliable go-to yarn that won’t let you down. Just bear in mind that Aran weight yarn is probably the best of all when you want a heavier yarn that looks beautifully delicate.
Aran jumpers are not the same as Aran wool!
Aran yarn isn’t all about the famous Aran design. An Aran jumper isn’t the same as Aran weight wool. Aran weight is merely a weight. But Aran sweaters are named for the Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland, loved the world over because of their gorgeous cable designs. The patterns in traditional Aran sweaters revealed which clan made the sweater, instantly recognisable by the clans people. On the other hand knitting an Aran sweater with Aran weight yarn makes perfect sense – enjoy the experience!
Want to knit with Aran yarn?
Maybe you’d like to test-drive our beautiful Aran yarns, either 100% natural or a luxurious blend with our Shetland fibre. Here’s a link to our Aran yarn page.