Recently, I found a guide on ebay, written by a north American woman, concerning what 4 ply yarn means, and which is totally accurate by North American standards. However, please note UK's version of so-called 4 ply is by an unknown, and completely different standard. It is actually 3 ply, and it quite a bit lighter/ thinner that our North American 4 ply yarn. Therefore, when in Britain, please note the following if you are trying to purchase the actual 4 ply yarn of North American standards.
I am a 55 year old American woman, that has lived in the UK for nearly a decade as of January 2009. Several times I have tried to buy what Britain's refer to as 4 ply yarn, which always has 3 strands and it is much lighter/ thinner than our 4 ply in America. I have actually tried on many occasions to explain to the venders that sell yarn that their so-called 4 ply, is not actually 4 ply, but rather 3 ply. I have even gone as far as to show them that it only has 3 strands. Nonetheless, all I eve got from any of them was a blank look, or a shrug of their shoulders. :-) Eventually I finally gave up trying to find actual 4 ply yarn in the UK.
Therefore, please note, that in North America, 4 ply actually means 4ply [four strands of yarn twisted together]. Whereas in the UK, 4 ply actually mean that it is 3 ply [three strands of yarn twisted together. The British standards of 4 ply is not equivalent to the North American standards of 4 ply. The British 4ply, is, in fact, 3ply yarn, so it is lighter and thinner than actual 4 ply yarn. They tell me it is gauged by weight, but I really do not see how it can be correct, and be so completely different.
I have spent a lifetime making afghans for friends and family members. After moving to Britain, I wanted to make a little afghan for my little Grandson. So, unaware of the differences, found a shop going out of business that sold the 4 ply yarn. I was in a hurry, because it was 3pm, and the shop was getting ready to close. So I chose the colors, tossed them on the counter, into a bag, and brought them home. When I took them out to make the afghan for my Grandson's Birthday, I found that it was not the yarn I was used to using. It was way to thin to make anything akin to an afghan. Which are called throws in many parts of Britain. I was out of time, so I crocheted to Afghan, and was really disappointed at the results. It was way too thin. Since then, try as I might, I cannot find yarn of the same thickness here in the UK. They have a double yarn, but it is way too thick. A bit like having double 4 ply. :-)
My reasons for adding this story to this guide, are that I am still looking after almost 10 years, and now I have new grandchildren to crochet afghans for. So, if you know of a shop in the UK that sells the North American version of 4 ply yarn, or an American company that ships inexpensive 4 ply yarn to the UK. Then, will you please send me the information. I really miss the really neat thick and warm afghans I used to make. Thank you.