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What is the Difference Between Weaving and Knitting Yarns

  • 6 min read
Photo of yarns taken at the Thread Collective warehouse.
Photo of yarns taken at the Thread Collective warehouse.

In the ever-changing fashion industry, there are some constants and fabrics produced by weaving and knitting are two of those. With demand for these versatile fabrics ever increasing it is not surprising that many people have started knitting or weaving as hobbies. While the fabrics made from weaving and knitting might sometimes look similar, they carry many differences. In this article, we aim to help you get a better understanding of the difference between weaving and knitting yarns used in these unique processes.

Weaving versus Knitting

First, let's talk about the differences between weaving and knitting. These are both methods by which fibres are manipulated into fabric, which can turn into garments and many other useful items such as furniture coverings or even medical supplies such as bandages. Knitting, at the basic level, involves using needles to create connecting loops or stitches with a continuous strand of yarn. Weaving, however, requires a weaving loom, of which there are many varieties, which holds warp threads under tension as weft threads are interlaced at right angles to form cloth. Compared to knitting, the art of weaving is considered to be a much older craft, with some research indicating that it has existed since the Paleolithic era.

Photo of knitting and weaving yarns taken at the Thread Collective warehouse.
Photo of knitting and weaving yarns taken at the Thread Collective warehouse.

Other notable differences between the two techniques:

  • Knitting is a method of creating fabric, with knitting needles, using yarn in such a manner that the produced fabric appears to have loops that resemble rows of interlocking braids. the yarn can be manipulated so that various shapes can be knit so that items such as sweaters, bags, gloves, and much more can be created.
  • Weaving involves intermeshing two sets of yarns, warp and weft, at right angles and creating fabric out of them. The cloth is typically rectangular or square but can be cut and sewn easily into clothing items like jackets, shirts and dresses, as well as home items like sheets and upholstery coverings. Cloth can also be left intact to form wall hangings, scarves, tablecloths and more.
  • Weaving is typically more expensive than knitting. Because weaving often requires specialized equipment like weaving looms with weaving loom accessories, it tends to be more costly than knitting, which basically requires yarn, knitting needles, and a pair of scissors. However, please note it is possible to DIY simple looms for smaller projects.
  • Weaving produces stronger fabrics. Because the weft is woven through the warp threads, the entire surface of the fabric is covered with threads. This means that the fabric will be stronger than knitted fabric.
  • Woven fabric is typically inelastic unless woven with fibres that encourage stretch, such as spandex or lycra. Knit fabric, on the other hand, tends to stretch when tension is applied.

The Differences Between Weaving Yarns and Knitting Yarns

Knitting yarns and weaving yarns may look similar at first glance, but these yarns are not created equal. Yarns for knitting are designed to be soft, lofty, and stretchy. On the other hand, yarns for weaving are typically designed to be strong and durable without stretch. These yarn characteristics are achieved through fibre preparation and spinning.

Yarns in different sizes and colours (Photographer: Mel Poole | Source: Unsplash)
Yarns in different sizes and colours (Photographer: Mel Poole | Source: Unsplash)

1. Weaving and Knitting Yarns Have Different Sizing

This is probably one of the most confusing aspects for newcomers in the craft world. Weaving yarn sizes are categorized by fractions consisting of the size and the number of plies. For example, a Ne 8/4 cotton weaving yarn is a size 8 yarn with 4 plies. Weaving yarn sizes vary depending on the material. See this article on understanding yarn count in weaving to get a deeper look at this system.

Knitting yarn, on the other hand, is categorized using descriptions, which range from 0 (lace) to 7 (super bulky). Confusingly, knitting yarns can also be categorized into Chunky, Worsted, Sport, DK (Double Knit), Baby, Sock, Fingering, and Lace. You can view this article to gain a better understanding of knitting weight categorisation

2. Weaving Yarns are Typically Stronger than Knitting Yarns Under Pressure

In weaving, the warp yarn will be consistently under high tension, which is why it needs to be strong enough not to break easily during the weaving process. The yarn also needs to withstand the constant abrasion from the heddles as the shafts go up and down. Because of this, it is often not advisable to use knitting yarns for your warp. The warp yarn is the foundation of your weaving, so it should be strong. If you are unsure of the yarn you currently have, give it a good tug to test its strength. If it drifts apart easily, it is not suitable.

It is, however, possible to use any knitting or weaving yarn for weft. The weft yarn is what goes across the warp yarn. Wondering if you can use the knitting yarn you already have for weaving? You can be assured that you can use any type of yarn, or even roving, ribbon or fabric strips, for weft.

3. Knitting Yarns are Usually Elastic; Weaving Yarns are Not

Knitting yarns are more elastic because they are not spun as tightly. They have more energy and spring to them. Knitting yarns often use more stretchy or bouncy fibres, such as wool to create them. The stretchy characteristic of most knitting yarns makes them challenging to use for weaving. This is because when you wind a warp of knitting yarn on a warping board, the yarn will stretch out, and you will need to add extra yardage to your calculations. If you decide to use knitting yarn for warp, your weaving could change once it is no longer under tension. Obviously, that is going to be a problem. So, it is important that you take the time to create a sample so you can work out the shrinkage that may occur so you can accurately warp your loom with enough yardage for your project.

4. Weaving and Knitting Yarns are Packaged Differently

Weaving yarns are often sold on cones or spools, making them easier to wind a warp from. Meanwhile, knitting yarns are often sold in skeins, cakes, or balls.

5. Weaving and Knitting Yarns Have Visible Differences in Thickness

Knitting yarns are generally thicker than weaving yarns. Working with very fine yarn can be incredibly time consuming and pernickety for knitters, so they would often go for thicker yarns for practical reasons. Weaving looms, particularly multi-shaft looms, are great at accommodating finer yarns.

Can I Use Weaving Yarn for Knitting?

Yes, you can use just about any type of yarn for knitting. However, knitting yarns are often affordable, readily available, are softer and more pliable which can make them easier to work with than weaving yarns. Weaving yarns can be an excellent option for those wishing to knit something more structural, as some weaving yarns are either quite rigid or contain material to make them shapeable, such as stainless steel. They're also a good option to explore for those wishing to experiment with very fine knitting.

What are the Best Weaving and Knitting Yarns?

As previously mentioned, not all yarns are created equally to be used in both weaving and knitting. If you've checked out Thread Collective's massive collection of yarns, you might feel overwhelmed with choosing the best yarn for the project you are about to start.

Yarns in different colours (Photographer: Bea Marciniak | Source: Unsplash)
Yarns in different colours (Photographer: Bea Marciniak | Source: Unsplash)

If you’re following a pattern, we first recommend looking at what the designer recommends but if no recommendations are made or you’d like to experiment with a different yarn, we suggest the following options as a starting point:

Weaving Yarn Recommendations

Knitting Yarn Recommendations

Let Us Help You Find the Perfect Yarn

At Thread Collective, we carry a plethora of yarns that are not listed in the knitting category. However, that doesn't mean you can't knit with them. While we do not recommend some weaving yarns for the average knitter due to reasons like size, fibre content, and construction, there are yarns in our shop that can be used for both weaving and knitting.

Don't hesitate to send us a message with any questions you may have, and we will do our best to help you find the perfect yarn for you!

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