What on earth is sport weight yarn, and what the heck should I knit with it?

In the last few years, there’s one type of yarn that’s been popping up more and more, and which, I’ll admit, baffled the crap out of me at first.

And that, as you may expect, is a sport weight.

But from my initial position of bafflement and “well, that just seems a bit pointless” I have come to utterly adore sport weight yarn. I properly, properly love it, for a few reasons that I’ll explain. And if I do my job properly, hopefully I’ll convince you too.

But before I get all “you should love and adore sport weight and knit with it all the time”, I realise I should probably explain a bit more about what it actually is.

So let’s take it right back to the basics, shall we?

What actually is a sport weight yarn?

Simply put, sport weight is a yarn that’s a bit thicker than a 4ply, but thinner than a DK.

You’ll be able to spot it a few ways:

  • It’ll have somewhere around 300m per 100g (DK is around 200m per 100g, and 4ply is 360-420ish per 100g. So yes, that’s in the middle.)
  • It’ll tell you to use a needle somewhere in the 3mm to 4mm range.
  • If you Google it, it’ll probably declare itself to be a sport weight somewhere in the description. And it might even say that on the ball band.

Where on earth has this sport weight thing come from?

If you’re talking literally, then yarn companies all over the place are making sport weight yarns these days. But if you’re talking more in the “where has this new trend emerged from?” kind of way, then sport weight as a concept comes from America.

Now, back in ye olden times (which according to my son is any time before 2010) people tended to knit patterns from companies and designers that were based near-ish them.

But these days, with so many patterns available online, people are knitting stuff from all over the place.

And so sport weight is making its way around the globe. In much the way that Truman and co hoped democracy would in the mid-20th century.

What kind of things can you knit with a sport weight?

Oh man, there are so many things. When knitted up, it makes a lovely lightweight fabric that lends itself particularly well to autumn and spring time sweaters.

You know, the kind of thing that gives you a bit of warmth but not a load of bulk. Or that’s great for layering with a coat and still being able to move your arms.

A WIP hat using Kambgarn

You can also use sport weight for hats, and cowls, and scarves, and mittens, and shawls, and even socks if you really fancied it. But seriously, it just makes such a damn good sweater.

Where can I find patterns for sport weight yarn?

Now, this is where I’m going to go a bit rogue. Because yes, I could tell you to go to Ravelry and filter by sport weight, or I could list some great sport weight patterns (which I will do in a bit, fear not).

But one of the reasons I utterly adore a sport weight is that its position in between a 4ply and a DK makes it incredibly versatile, and a possibility for so many, many patterns.

How so? Well, you can be a bit sneaky and use a sport weight for patterns that are written for a 4ply or for a DK, as well as with patterns written specifically for sport weight yarn. If you use it for a 4ply pattern, you’ll get a slightly denser, more structured fabric. And if you use it for a DK pattern, then you’ll get something a bit lighter and drapier.

You just need to make sure that you can get the gauge for your pattern using your chosen sport weight yarn. If you’re using a 4ply pattern then you might need to go down a needle size to get gauge, and if you’re using a DK pattern then you might need to go up a needle size.

Want to know a bit more about all this? Helpfully, I’ve written a whole blog about going rogue with yarn weights, which gives you a load more detail.

That’s lovely, but can you tell me about some good sport weight yarns?

Oh, of course I can. Of COURSE I can.

Probably my very favourite sport weight is Kambgarn; it comes in an amazing range of colours, is lovely and soft, and is sold in 50g balls so you don’t end up buying a whole big skein when you just need a little bit to complete your project.

I’ve also recently used and very much enjoyed Rosy Green Wool’s Cheeky Merino Joy. In a brilliant case of nominative determinism, it really is a joy of a yarn to use. Really soft, gorgeous colours, and certified organic.

If hand dyed yarn is your weakness, then I clocked the other day that Birdstreet Yarn have not one but two sport weight bases these days. There’s a super wash merino, and then an extremely special looking alpaca silk base. I have a well documented weakness for their colours, so this was a very dangerous discovery for me.

And finally, if you’re after a summer sport weight then you’ll struggle to do better than Kelbourne Woollens Mojave. It’s a cotton and linen yarn which I used for my Day Off Badge tee, and it is a corker.

What about those great patterns for sport weight yarn that you promised?

As you might expect for something that comes from America, a lot of sport weight patterns are from American designers.

Jacqueline Cieslak’s Ursina pullover (Ravelry link) has options for sport or worsted weight.

I’ve just knitted Jessie Mae’s Gr8 Gingham Raglan, which was magnificent to make, and is very lovely to wear.

My Gr8 Gingham Raglan, featuring Rosy Green Wool’s Cheeky Merino Joy

Isabelle Kraemer’s Aldous is a classic sweater that would look incredible in some of the bright colours of Kambgarn.

And, even though it technically calls for a DK and not a sport weight, I’m making a Semper Sweater by the Knit Purl Girl because it’s just the perfect simple sweater to use my La Bien Aimee sport weight fade set on.

See. I told you I love me a sport weight.

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