What is Yarn Ply?

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

The right kind of yarn is essential for any knitting or crocheting project, since the wrong yarn for a particular pattern will usually make it either difficult or impossible to get the correct results. One of the factors to consider when choosing yarn is the ply. Essentially, yarn ply refers to the number of strands that make up the yarn. During the manufacturing process, different strands are twisted together. If a crafter untwists these strands, she can see how many plies make up the thread. For example, two-ply yarn has two separate strands, while and three-ply yarn has three.

A higher ply yarn will show more definition in a cable knit pattern.
A higher ply yarn will show more definition in a cable knit pattern.

A good rule of thumb is that yarn with a higher ply count results in more stitch definition. So, if a knitter wants to see cables and texture in her final project, higher ply yarn is a good choice. People who like a rustic, cozy, or homespun effect may want to choose yarn with a lower ply count. In addition, a lower ply count often blends different colors together, resulting in a very pretty watercolor effect.

The ply in yarn appears as a twist.
The ply in yarn appears as a twist.

One advantage of working with a higher ply yarn is that the act of twisting strands together can help to correct the tendency of the yarn to slant as it is being worked with. When knitting with a lower ply, a crafter might notice that her stitches look more like a lopsided check mark than the neat "V" shape she expected. If the yarn is extremely unbalanced, the entire swatch may even seem to tilt to one direction.

Another factor to consider when choosing the yarn ply for a project is durability. Generally, yarn with a higher ply count is more durable. The process used to create the plies keeps the fibers tightly wound together. As a result, projects are less likely to pill, shed, or wear thin when washed.

It might seem like yarn ply would be directly related to yarn weight, but a yarn with four plies is not necessarily thicker than one with only two. If the individual strands are very thin, even having several strands twisted together might not result in a very thick yarn. One simple way to measure the weight of yarn is to wrap it around a ruler, then count the number of wraps per inch (2.54 cm). Yarn weight is also listed on the label, ranging from 1 (super fine) to 6 (super bulky).

A yarn's ply is the number of strands used to make up that yarn.
A yarn's ply is the number of strands used to make up that yarn.
Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

Dana holds a B.A. in journalism and mass communication from the University of Iowa. She has loved being part of the wiseGEEK team ever since discovering the joys of freelance writing after her son was born. Dana also hones her writing skills by contributing articles to various blogs, as well as creating sales copy and content for e-courses.

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Discussion Comments


If you crochet with 2 strands of 2 ply yarn will it work up the same as 4 ply?


Does it say on the yarn how many plys it is. I could not find it.


@KaBoom - I think that's a pretty common mistake for new knitters. I know when I started knitting, I just picked a yarn at random for a project instead of tailoring it to what I wanted to do. Now I pay a lot closer attention, let me tell you!

I have to admit that I do favor yarns with more plies though. As the article said, they look a lot nicer and the stitch definition is always better. The only time I might use a single ply yarn is if I wanted to felt my final product.


As the article said, you definitely have to tailor your yarn to your project. When I was a new knitter, I tried to make a cabled sweater using single ply yarn. There was very little stitch definition and I ended up hating the final product!


@sunnySkys - That's true, so I've always found it very interesting that in the United Kingdom, they don't use the same system to tell the weight of a yarn that we do here. Instead, they refer to it by ply! So what we call a fingering weight yarn here in the US is called a 4 ply yarn in the United Kingdom.

However, I imagine some yarns that are called 4 ply in the UK actually have more or less than 4 plies! It's a very confusing system, I think. I like the US way of naming yarn weight much better!


It is true that you can't necessarily tell what the weight of a yarn is from how many plies it has. You could have a very thin yarn made from six very, very thin plies of yarn. Or, you could have a thick yarn that is made from a single ply! As the article said, it's definitely not a precise way to tell what weight a yarn is.

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