The weight of yarn refers to how thick or thin the yarn is and how many stitches would fit into an inch when knitted/crocheted. The categories are
* Fingering (0): The thinnest of yarns; 8 1/4 to 10 stitches in an inch on a size 000-1 needle; perfect for lace projects.
* Sock (1): 6 3/4 to 8 stitches in an inch on a size 1 to 3 needle; guess what? Perfect for socks! Also good for some lace shawls.
* Sport/Baby (2): 5 3/4 to 6 1/2 stitches in an inch on a size 3 to 5 needle; you got it--baby
* DK (3): 5 1/4 to 6 stitches in an inch on a size 5 to 7 needle; great for shawls and sweaters--used a lot in baby items too.
* Worsted (4): 4 to 5 stitches in an inch on a size 7 to 9 needle; the most common weight of yarn; great for sweaters and afghans.
* Chunky (5): 3 to 3 3/4 stitches in an inch on a size 9 to 11 needle; great for quick projects
* Bulky (6): 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 stitches in an inch on a size 11+ needle; also great for quick projects, but VERY warm
When you find a pattern you will see a Gauge section that says something like: 16 stitches over 4 inches in St st. To figure out the correct weight of yarn, divide 16/4 and you get 4 stitches in an inch. This is a Worsted weight yarn. Now you know what to look for in the store. (Keep in mind that you must make a swatch to figure out what needle size allows you to get the gauge, but the first step is the right weight of yarn.)
My current favorite yarns in these weights are...
* Fingering/Laceweight: Zephyr
* Sock: Koigu
* DK: Mermaid
* Worsted: Dreamweaver and Karabella Aurora 8
* Bulky/Chunky: Baby Alpaca Grande
What are you favorite yarns? Still find weights a mystery? Post a comment and I'll do my best to address it.
Bonus tip: If you double any of the weights, they equal the next higher weight. This can come in handy if you want a chunky yarn as most stores don't stock as many chunky options and they are more expensive per yard. You can double a Worsted yarn.
For all you crocheters out there, you can find the crochet breakdown at www.yarnstandards.com/weight.html.