Which yarns are DK yarns??

This morning, for the umpteenth time, I received a common question about DK yarns.  “DK” stands for “double knitting” – a name which often proves confusing.  I suspect it arose from the fact that two strands of fingering weight yarn held together give you about the same result as one strand of DK weight yarn.

Here’s today’s knitter’s question:

“Hello! Of your yarns which of them would be considered DK weight? Thank you in advance for your insight.”

I figured it was time for the Full Monty explanation.  My response:

For several reasons, that’s not as simple a question as it sounds.  But, it is one that I get fairly often.  So, today, I am going to give you a detailed answer – probably more than you bargained for – so that I can put it on my blog, too, and hopefully help the many  knitters with the same question about DK weight yarns.


First of all, as you can see here, even within the so-called industry standards, (to the extent that there are any), there’s some overlap between DK and Sport weight yarns:  http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/weight.html  But, let’s start by taking the Craft Yarn Council’s 21 – 24 stitches per 4″ DK range.


The next question becomes, “Is that the ball band’s gauge, or the finished item’s gauge?”, for the two are not necessarily the same. Typically, the ball band gauge is the gauge suggested (but never mandated) by the yarn manufacturer for a plain, stockinette stitch fabric that would be considered suitable for a sweater knit in that yarn.  The stitches knit at the ball band gauge should be neither compressed, nor loose.  But, by either focused intent, or by accident, your finished item’s gauge could be considerably different. (Reason #953 why we knit a gauge swatch before diving into our projects!)  Usually, you’ll want your finished (and swatched) gauge to match your pattern’s gauge, although plenty of knitters will intentionally knit at a tighter, or looser, gauge than a pattern suggests, to target an in-between size they have in mind.


Or not.  There are no rules here – only suggestions.


Not everything that we knit has the same drape. Lace, for instance, requires a more fluid drape than most any ball band gauge would suggest.  So, we usually need to knit lace at a looser-than-ball-band gauge (using a larger needle, ending up with fewer stitches per inch.) Items that we want to make especially warm &/or durable, like mittens, socks, hats, some bags and even some sweaters, are often intentionally knit at tighter-than-ball-band gauges (using a smaller needle, ending up with more stitches per inch), giving us compressed stitches, resulting in a more solid fabric with a stiffer drape.  And, of course, there’s always the simple matter of taste: One knitter’s “fluid” is another knitter’s “sloppy”.  One knitter’s “warm and cozy” is another knitter’s “stiff as a board”.


And then, as if things aren’t already complicated enough, sometimes, a yarn company might simply change its ball band gauge suggestion, without changing the yarn!  Dale did exactly that a few years ago with their Heilo and Falk yarns.  After decades of suggesting a gauge of 24 stitches per 4″ / 10cm for their Heilo “Sport weight” yarn – and, indeed, perennially marketing it as the premier “Sport” yarn – without changing the fiber, the yardage or the ball’s weight, when sweater fashions recently became more fluid, or “drapey”, (i.e., more profitable for all clothing manufacturers because they use less fiber per piece, but not necessarily what every knitter wants), Dale changed the ball band gauge on Heilo from 24 stitches per inch (classic Sport weight) to 22 stitches per inch (classic DK weight).  Falk, which has always been billed as Heilo’s same-weight equivalent, followed suit.  Some people prefer the new, more drapey suggested gauge for Heilo and Falk, but plenty of folks (me included) still stick with the old, tried-and-true sport weight gauge for sweaters in those two yarns.  “Knitter’s choice!”


Now, with that hopefully-not-too-confusing background, I’ll try to answer your question more directly:


The Dale* yarns I stock that show DK weight suggestions (i.e, 21 to 24 sts per 4″/10cm) on their ball bands are: Heilo, Falk, Lerke,Gullfasan and Eco Wool (just starting to stock the new Eco Wool. Eco Wool yarn page will be coming soon.)


The finer-than-DK Dale yarns I stock which could be knit at a looser-than-ball-band gauge, to work well for a lace pattern that has a DK gauge, would be: Alpakka, Baby Ull, Daletta, Eco Baby (coming soon), Lille Lerke, Terne & Vipe.


The heavier-than-DK Dale yarns I stock which could be knit at a tighter-than-ball-band gauge, for denser/ warmer / more durable fabric with a DK finished gauge, would be: Cotinga, Erle, Freestyle & Hegre.


*(I do stock some other yarns for kits for some of my designs, but it’s these Dale yarns which I do both kits in and sell a la carte.)


Hope that helps!  Have fun with your DK project!




Mary Ann

About twostrands

Knitting designer, retailer and instructor specializing in Fair Isle, Norwegian and Textured charted knitting design. Began Kidsknits.com in 2002. In 2018, shuttered Kidsknits and began MaryAnnStephens.com.
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