How to Read a Yarn Label

Just like reading the back of a pattern, reading the label on a ball of yarn can be a bit daunting. There’s a lot of information there! But reading a ball of yarn doesn't have to be confusing.

The photo above shows two examples of yarn labels. Let’s break it down bit by bit:

A.  Fibre content determines many properties of your yarn, including feel, how it should be cared for, pilling, and cost.  Generally a silk, linen, alpaca, or mohair will be more expensive than an acrylic or polyester yarn.  Wool is a very common yarn but beware that some people find wool very itchy and wool often requires special care.

B.  The weight and yardage are important.  Many patterns will indicate the amount of yarn required based on weight or yardage, so this will help make sure you have enough to finish your project.

C.  What size needles are recommended?  Generally, thicker needles are recommended for thicker yarns and vice versa.  The label on the left is a chunky yarn recommending 6mm knitting needles.  The label on the left is for a DK (double-knit) yarn recommending 3 to 4mm knitting needles or a size 3 to 6 US crochet hook.  Where a range of sizes is indicated, use the one that gives you the correct size when you create your tension swatch (see info on tension swatch below).

D.  The colour number may be self-explanatory, but what about the dyelot?  Yarn is dyed in batches, and not every batch will turn out exactly the same colour as the last.  If you need multiple balls of yarn for your project, it is best to make sure they are all from the same dye lot.

E.  Just like the label on a piece of clothing, care instructions are indicated on a yarn label.  If the symbol is not explained, there are many sources on line that will explain them for you.

F.  Here’s the best advice in this post:  Take the time to make a tension swatch!  On the label on the right there is a little grid with numbers indicated on each side.  This symbol indicates that if you knit 30 rows of 22 stitches each, the finished piece of knitting should measure 10cm (4”) by 10cm (4”).  An accurate tension swatch will help ensure that the completed project will be the right size.

G.  Here’s some other useful information.  The label on the right shows that a long sleeved sweater for a 40” chest will require 500 grams of yarn.  A scarf measuring 18cm (7”) by 150cm (5’) will require 250 grams of yarn and a toque will require approximately 100 grams of yarn (depending on the size).

H.  Many knitting and crochet pattern will describe the weight of yarn required.  The examples indicated here are “chunky”, “DK” and “Light”.  Other examples include “Lace”, “Superfine”, “Worsted”, “Sport”, “Medium”, “Bulky”, “Super Bulky” and “Jumbo”.

Hopefully this information will help you decipher your next ball of yarn!


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