Everything you need to know about double knitting weight yarn. How to identify it, what it means, and what to knit with it.
So, I assume you went to a store saw a beautiful skein or your pattern calls for a specific yarn. And, now you are wondering what is double knitting yarn exactly? What does it mean? And how do you identify it?
Well, you came to the right place, because this post is all about this very popular and common yarn weight. But I’ll not only talk about the definition or what ply double knitting yarn is, but I’ll also show you what to knit with it as well.
So, let’s dive right into it!
Double knitting weight yarn: definition
Double knitting yarn is defined as an 8-ply thread that has between 11-14 wraps per inch resulting in around 200-250 meters per 100 grams. The recommended needle size is 3.75 – 4.5 mm to achieve a gauge range in stockinette stitches of between 21-24 stitches per 4 inches. You’ll often find it abbreviated to DK. Some companies also call it light worsted. In the US, this specific yarn weight is sometimes labeled with “size 3” or “light”.
It has to be noted that this is a more or less arbitrary definition by the Texas bases craft yarn council. In Europe & Australia, these yarns are mostly just sold as 8-ply yarns. To add to the confusion, you will often find yarn companies labeling yarn as “DK” that does not meet all these criteria and may not even have 8 plies.
How to check if your yarn is DK weight?
Now, maybe you misplaced the label, or you’ve inherited some mystery yarn. So, if you want to find out if your yarn is a double knitting weight yarn, you have two choices. But first, you can quickly check if your yarn has 8-plies. So, just pick one end apart and count.
Wraps per inches method
Pick up a pencil or a larger knitting needle (or any other uniformly sized cylinder) and wrap your yarn around it. Wrap as closely as possible without overlapping and without overstretching the yarn. Hold and wrap it lightly.
Then measure out one inch (2.5 cm), and count how many wraps per inch you get. If it falls within the 11-14 wpi category, your yarn is probably DK weight. If you have a slender flat ruler, you can do your wraps directly around it.
Knitting a swatch
As an alternative, you can also pick up a 4mm needle, cast on 34 stitches, knit stockinette stitch across a couple of rows, and check if you can get a row gauge of 21-24 stitches per 4 inches/10 cm without your fabric looking either too dense or too loose.
Why is it called dk weight yarn?
It is called double knitting yarn because it is twice as thick as fingering weight yarn. In the early 20th century, the latter was a very popular yarn weight (primarily used for socks). And by spinning or holding two 4-ply threads together, you created a yarn that was twice as thick, ie. double the weight. Even today, some knitters will knit a project with two strands of sock yarn held together for projects that need to be a little bit thicker/warmer.
It has nothing whatsoever to do with double knitting. The technique neither requires nor is related to the yarn at all, even though you will find many websites claiming the opposite. Unlike fingering (which derives from the French words “fine grain”) there is, at least to my knowledge and research, no deeper etymological story to uncover here. It’s just a random name that stuck with people in English-speaking countries.
Or you believe my alternative theory: It is a name that some malicious soul invented to confuse beginners for generations to come. And in fact, that’s only half-joking because the term probably was invented by the yarn industry to fill the space between sport-weight and worsted. After all, if your machines can only spin one thickness of singles, it IS an easy way to create a new product quite easily.
However, it has to be noted that as late as 1915 Double Knitting yarn was thought to be a curiosity (source) and was “only” a thick 4-ply fingering.
What can you knit with dk weight yarn?
By definition double knitting yarn is 8-ply and that makes it a very sturdy and resilient yarn that is perfectly suitable for all kinds of projects that need to withstand a bit more wear and tear (do note, however: that the general characteristics of the fiber apply. A DK alpaca yarn will behave quite differently than standard sheep wool or say yak yarn).
DK yarns will typically pill a lot less as well, and the high ply also ensures that it will have a nice stitch definition, though it might give you a couple of problems when trying to knit ribbings as the high twist will make the stitches roll out to the sides leaving your rib stitches white open.
What makes a DK yarn weight also very attractive is the fact that an 8-ply yarn will be much lighter than a corresponding single yarn. So, if you want to knit a scarf that you don’t plan to wear during winter in Siberia, a DK yarn can be a good choice.
Typically, most double knitting yarns are NOT suitable for socks, though. That has nothing to do with spinning and more with the fact that they are often not superwash and/or a blend with synthetic fiber for added durability (but if the yarn label says it does, go ahead!).
So, double knitting weight yarn is perfect for a light sweater or hat, some medium warm mittens, or a nice shawl that will keep you warm on a spring day or an autumn walk.
Personally, I also like the fact that it’s a perfect balance between being relatively fast to finish (you knit with 4.00 mm needles after all), and not too hot. Sure, size 10 needles & chunky yarn will be much faster to knit with but the resulting fabric often is too warm.
So, if you don’t freeze easily (or let’s be blunt, sweat a bit more easily) or you don’t live in a region where your winters are super cold, double knitting weight yarn could be perfect for your winter garments.