Yarn ply and yarn weight can be a bit confusing even for experienced knitters, especially since there is no international standard name and system to measure yarn weight.
What is known as “bulky” in one country may be called “chunky” or “12 ply” in another, so it’s no wonder that most knitters are confused about what 12 ply yarn means. Generally, if you are looking for a thick, bulky yarn, searching for 12-ply yarn is a good start.
But what is the best 12-ply yarn? When choosing any yarn, it’s important to consider the material and yarn weight that would be ideal for your project. Most 12-ply yarns are thicker, size 5 (bulky) yarns and many are available as acrylic blends, but you can choose thinner options made of other materials to suit your needs.
In this article, we will walk you through some common definitions of yarn ply and yarn weight and help you find the best 12-ply yarn for your project.
Picking the Right 12-Ply Yarn
To help you choose the best yarn for your needs, whether it’s a 12-ply or not, there’s some things you’ll want to know about yarn. Considering the yarn weight, ply, gauge and material with your intended project in mind will help you find the best yarn.
Yarn weight tells knitters and crocheters about the thickness of a specific yarn. Regardless of how heavy a skein of yarn is, the yarn weight will always tell you how fine or thick a yarn is.
The yarn weight will help you decide what needle/hook size to use for your project to help you achieve the desired effect or pattern.
The thinnest yarn you can purchase on the market is a very fine or lace weight yarn. You usually use 1-2 mm needles to knit with this yarn. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you will have extra bulky yarn, which will need needles size 10 mm or bigger. The thicker the yarn, the bigger the recommended needles will be.
Of course, when you increase the yarn weight and needle size, your stitches will look more defined, and your project will take quicker to finish. For beginners, this is a huge advantage since you can practice your stitches and finish a blanket or scarf after a short time.
Many 12-ply yarns have thicker yarn weights, often size 5 or 6 (“bulky/chunky” or “super bulky/chunky”). However, that is not necessarily always the case, as we’ll get into in the next section.
Yarn ply is where it gets a bit confusing.
Yarn ply tells you how many individual strands (“plies”) are twisted together to create a single strand of yarn. For example, a 4-ply yarn means there are four strands twisted together.
Back in the day, when yarn plies used to have the same thickness regardless of the material, yarn ply used to indicate yarn weight. The more plies a yarn had, the thicker it was. So you can imagine that a single-ply yarn would be a very fine yarn, while 12-ply yarn would be a very chunky yarn.
Well, that’s no longer the case. Now that the manufacturing process can create plies of any and every thickness, yarn can be single-ply and be chunky weight, and a 12-ply yarn can be DK (medium weight).
Generally, 12-ply yarns indicate Aran/worsted, chunky/bulky, and super chunky/bulky weight yarn. These yarn weights will need needle sizes of anywhere from 7 to 11+ or hook sizes I-9 to M-13+, depending on the weight, the pattern, and your gauge.
If your pattern calls for a 12-ply yarn with a specific needle size, always check the gauge before you start knitting your project.
The gauge indicates how many stitches and how many rows you need to knit in order to achieve a certain size. Gauge is measured after washing and blocking.
For example, the pattern might say, “20 stitches and 16 rows will give you a 4 x 4″ square.” You should then knit and block a swatch with these exact numbers of stitches and rows to see if you have the right final measurements.
Achieving the right gauge will help your final project obtain the right size as indicated in the pattern. If not, your project may end up looking smaller or bigger than the intended size in the pattern.
When you buy yarn, you can find the recommended needle/hook size size printed on the label. If you want your stitches to look tighter, you can use a smaller set of needles. On the other hand, if you want your stitches to look looser, increase the size of your needles to get the desired effect.
When it comes to picking your 12-ply yarn, knowing where your own gauge tends to lie can help you. Within yarn weights there’s a little room for variation. So if you know your stitches tend to be quite small, for example, you may pick a slightly thicker 5 (bulky) yarn rather than a 5 that runs a little small.
Last but certainly not least, the material you choose affects how your work turns out.
Each material has different characteristics, and there are numerous blends of materials to get specific sets of characteristics that are all suited toward different needs and desired results.
Do you want something natural (cotton, linen, hemp, alpaca, wool, etc.) or are the benefits of a specific synthetic (acrylic, polyester, polyamide, etc.) or semisynthetic (rayon, viscose, etc.) yarn worth it?
Alpaca and wool are known for being warm, fuzzy, and fairly waterproof. Cotton and linen are airy and breathable. Rayon and viscose are the kings of drape. Acrylic and polyester are durable, easy to wash, and can be manufactured to have a variety of properties.
An exhaustive list of each fiber’s characteristics isn’t possible here, but it’s worth checking the recommended material for your pattern. You can also consider the general characteristics of your final project.
The 7 Best 12-Ply Yarns
If you are set on buying a 12-ply yarn for your next project, let’s take a look at some of the best offers on the market:
|1.||Lion Brand Woolspun Yarn||Size 5; 80% acrylic, 20% wool|
|2.||Premier Yarns Serenity Chunky Yarn||Size 5; 100% acrylic|
|3.||Phildar Phil Amboise Wool Blend Yarn||Size 5; 35% wool, 34% polyamide, 31% acrylic|
|4.||Red Heart Super Saver Chunky Yarn||Size 5; 100% acrylic|
|5.||Patons Classic Wool Roving Yarn||Size 5; 100% Merino wool|
|6.||Bernat Roving Yarn||Size 5; 80% acrylic, 20% wool|
|7.||Bernat Blanket Yarn||Size 6; 100% polyester|
Let’s look at each brand a little more closely so you can pick the best for your next project. Happy stitching!
1. Lion Brand Woolspun Yarn
This Lion’s Pride Woolspun is one of the most highly recommended 12-ply yarn on the market. The yarn is a size 5/bulky yarn, which means that it will work best with U.S. needles sizes 9 to 11 or hooks K to M.
Thanks to its sophisticated construction, the yarn knits up beautifully, creating pronounced stitches, perfect for knitting cables and diamonds or crocheting shells and puffs.
This yarn comes in a wide range of 24 colors, which means that you have plenty of options for your next project. If you are looking for something perfect for colorwork, this is definitely the type of yarn you should consider because it will show your pattern really well.
This yarn is a blend of 80 percent acrylic and 20 percent wool, combining all the great characteristics of both of these materials. You will find that it is quite smooth and strong while still retaining the softness and fluffiness of the wool.
Since the yarn is 80 percent acrylic, you can expect that it is quite easy to care for. It is machine washable, and you can even put it in the dryer. Make sure to use cool water and keep the dryer heat low to prevent any unwanted shrinkage.
Overall, we love the look of this yarn and how low-maintenance it is. If you are looking for a great option for your next pattern, this yarn is an option worth considering.
2. Premier Yarns Serenity Chunky Yarn
This chunky option from Premier Yarns is also a low-maintenance and affordable chunky yarn option. Although this yarn is 100 percent acrylic, it resembles the look and of wool, even with some white fibers poking through, adding extra coziness to the mix.
This size 5/bulky yarn comes in six color options. You can mix and match or even purchase several skeins in the same dye lot to make a sweater or scarf. Trust us when we say that it takes no effort at all to knit with this chunky yarn; you will have a finished sweater in no time.
Since this material is synthetic, it is also very low maintenance. It is machine-washable, and you can even put it in the dryer without having to worry about shrinkage. It feels really soft against the skin, and the material is designed to resist fades or tears, so this is definitely a worthwhile investment.
3. Phildar Phil Amboise Wool Blend Yarn
This fuzzy yarn from Phildar is a great 12-ply yarn if you want a warm, cozy look for a winter garment. This yarn can even add some unique texture to your home if you are making a blanket or pillowcase.
The yarn weight is 5/bulky. With those larger needle and hook sizes, your piece will be finished in no time at all. Once it is knitted into a pattern, it will look like the fuzzy texture of a sheep’s coat, which is extra cozy for those breezy winter days.
This yarn comes in 11 different colors for you to choose from, ranging from pastel to some bright primary colors. We don’t recommend mixing these colors in the same project because it may look too busy with all the fuzz. If you are making one big blanket or cardigan, make sure to check the dye lot to achieve a uniform look.
The fiber content is 35 percent wool, 34 percent polyamide, and 31 percent acrylic. You can expect this yarn to be super warm and soft but still quite durable and low maintenance thanks to its synthetic components.
When caring for this yarn, make sure to wash it separately, otherwise, the fibers may shed on the rest of your laundry. This yarn is machine washable in cool water. You should air dry your garments because the polyamide may not react well with the heat of a dryer.
4. Red Heart Super Saver Chunky Yarn
This chunky yarn from Red Heart is an amazing and affordable option if you are looking for bulky yarn. The yarn is made from 100 percent acrylic, although you wouldn’t be able to tell thanks to its softness. It feels amazing against your skin and would make wonderful sweaters and blankets.
When knitted, this yarn drapes really well. There are a few color options for you to choose from, whether you’d like to knit a plain sweater or create a colorful patterned blanket. If you are purchasing several skeins of the same color, you won’t have to worry about dye lot because the color quality is consistent across different lots.
The yarn weight is 5/bulky, and we recommend using slightly bigger needles/hooks with this yarn. Thanks to its bulkiness, you can knit a finished project in no time.
Because this yarn is acrylic, you won’t have to worry too much about maintenance. The yarn is machine washable, and you can even put it in the dryer. It won’t shrink too much under high heat, and the yarn can even soften a bit after washing.
5. Patons Classic Wool Roving Yarn
This beautiful Patons Classic Wool Roving Yarn is technically a single-ply yarn. However, the yarn weight is classified as 5/bulky, with a recommended needle size of 6 mm, so it should still be considered a viable substitute for 12-ply yarn in some patterns.
The yarn is made from 100 percent Merino wool. Its lush texture and luxurious feel are another reason to give it a try. This yarn has one of the best qualities that you can find on the market, knitting up beautifully cozy garments. Since it is made from 100 percent natural material, you can expect it to be very soft and kind to your skin.
The yarn comes in a wide range of colors, from subdued natural colors to bright, impressive ones. As wool roving, this yarn knits up beautifully, enhancing any stitches and patterns that you pick.
Since the yarn is so luxurious, we recommend a simple pattern with plain stitches so you can enjoy the look and feel of this merino wool. This yarn would make a really cozy blanket or sweater, something you’d like to snuggle up to all day.
Of course, caring for wool is always tricky. You will need to hand wash your garment in cool water, and air dry it flat on a piece of towel. When you care for your wool garment the right way, you can enjoy its coziness for years to come.
6. Bernat Roving Yarn
This Bernat Roving Yarn is another great option if you are looking for a yarn that will let your stitches shine through. With this bulky yarn, you can expect to make some really cozy sweaters, hats, or scarves.
The fiber content is 80 percent acrylic and 20 percent wool. As you can imagine, this yarn will have the durability of acrylic and the softness of the wool. This yarn would make great clothing items because of how soft and smooth it feels against your skin.
The yarn comes in several colors, with a beautiful natural wool look. You can mix and match the colors to create your pattern or purchase several skeins in the same dye lot to knit a beautiful garment with one solid color.
The yarn weight is 5/bulky, recommended for 6.5 mm knitting needles or bigger. This is a perfect size for knitting scarves and sweaters, especially if you are a complete beginner because you can easily see the stitches that you are knitting, and you can finish your garment in a short time.
Again, we have to be honest and say this is not a true 12-ply; it appears to be single-ply. But just like the above roving-style yarn, this option from Bernat will function beautifully in the right chunky sweater or scarf pattern. You may want to give it a chance.
Since this yarn has some wool content, hand washing is recommended. You can expect some shrinkage after the first wash, but as long as you avoid the high heat of the dryer, you should be able to maintain the look and feel of this wool for a long while.
7. Bernat Blanket Yarn
This Bernat Blanket Yarn is oh-so-soft. Technically, it is a single-ply yarn, but in terms of yarn weight, it is size 6/super bulky, which means that you will need to use larger needles and hooks with it.
If you are looking for a super bulky yarn to knit up a beautifully soft blanket, this is the one for you. Since it is a chunky yarn, you can expect to have a finished blanket in a very short time.
The composition is 100 percent polyester. It feels surprisingly soft against your skin; you won’t be able to stop touching the yarn. As a blanket yarn, it is designed for maximum comfort, allowing you to snuggle with your handmade blanket all day.
Although this yarn is quite plain, you don’t have to use a complicated pattern to knit your blanket. Using simple knit and purl stitches is enough since the yarn allows the stitches to look quite pronounced, creating a great texture with only a few simple stitches.
Thanks to the synthetic composition, this yarn can be machine washed and dried. We love how low maintenance it is – it won’t lose its looks and softness even after a few washes.