Week 6: Putting It All Together- How to Read a Yarn Label

Greetings, knitters and crocheters! Welcome to the conclusion of our first ever blog series on Mastering Yarn. It’s been quite a journey and we’ve covered so much ground. Today we’ll bring everything together as we examine a yarn label using all of the information  we’ve covered so far!

Like almost everything about knitting and crochet, the way yarn is packaged and sold has changed significantly over the years. Today, every brand has its own way of organizing information about a yarn- which can make yarn shopping a bit confusing! Let’s break it down- when you read a yarn label, here’s what to look for:

  • Yarn name and brand
  • Weight and/or suggested gauge
  • Fiber content
  • Care instructions
  • Yardage/meterage
  • Ounces/grams
  • Color name/number and dyelot
  • Additional information

Each of these is marked on the ball band below. Imagine that you’ve picked up a ball of this yarn and are examining the label. Where would you find all of this information, and what would it tell you?


1. Yarn Name and Brand 

The first thing you’d notice about this label is the name of the yarn (Perfection) and the brand (Kraemer Yarns) taking front and center. Your experience will inform your judgement of certain brands and lines of yarn, so it’s good to take note. The name might also hint at other details about the yarn. For example, Cobasi is made of cotton (co), bamboo (ba), and silk (si); Classic Shades is dyed in self-shading colorways; and Big Wheel is a chunky weight. 

2. Fiber Content 

It would be hard to miss the fiber content written beneath the name of this yarn: “30% Domestic Merino, 70% Acrylic”. This information may be written anywhere on the label, but Federal Trade Commision regulations require that the fiber content is listed in full. For all the reasons we discussed in Week 3, pay close attention to the yarn’s fiber content.

3. Yarn Weight

Many brands are now using a common numbering system to designate yarn weight. The symbol is ball of yarn inscribed with a number between 1 and 7 to indicate the weight (the “4” here means worsted weight). Download the guidelines to this system as a PDF from Week 2, but remember- this system isn’t completely standardized! Brands vary in their use of these symbols. If you can’t locate one of these symbols, it’s time to look for a suggested gauge.

4. Suggested Gauge

As we all know, weight and gauge are not the same! However, if a yarn label provides a suggested gauge it’s probably a good indicator of the yarn’s weight. The suggested gauge is usually given over four inches, but sometimes over one inch; the ball band above provides both. Sometimes suggested gauge is accompanied by a symbol that looks like a tiny grid with the stitch gauge listed below it and the row gauge listed beside it. Again, the PDF from Week 2 can help. Just remember that the suggested gauge is NOT necessarily the gauge you’ll get for your project- it’s only there to help you figure out the yarn’s weight!

5. Care Instructions

Proper care of a yarn is essential to enjoying your knitted goods for a long time, so manufacturers usually suggest the best laundering methods. Sometimes they’re simply written out, as you can see above (“Machine Wash Gently, Tumble Dry”). But symbols are also frequently used to give care instructions. This useful Laundry Guide & Care Symbols PDF will help you decode these symbols. 

6. Ounces/Grams

Yarn is often packaged by the total weight of the skein- not to be confused with the weight (thickness) of the yarn! Skeins of 50 g (1.75 oz) and 100 g (3.5 oz) are common. However, yarn weight, fiber content, and yarn structure all factor into the weight of a skein, meaning that two skeins of the same weight can have hugely different yardages. It’s not completely reliable to purchase yarn for a project based on the total grams or ounces required, so is possible locate the yardage or meterage instead.

7. Yardage/ Meterage

It’s much safer to purchase yarn by the yardage rather than the weight! Yardage is pretty self-explanatory to US customers. But yarns packaged in countries that use metrics may only give the length of the skein in meters. Luckily the conversion is simple- 1 meter is equal to approximately 1.1 yards. So to convert meters to yarns, just add 10%!

8. Color Name/Number and Dyelot

Color names can be as straightforward or as vague, as conventional or as silly, as the manufacturer wants. For clarity, many manufacturers assign colors a unique number as well. It’s also crucial to check the dye lot number, which indicates in which batch a skein was dyed. Each dye lot is unique and can result in subtle (or not so sublte) differences in the color of the yarn, so when buying multiple skeins choose the same dye lot if possible!

9. Additional Information

Now that you’ve found all the essential information, you might want to check out the other information provided on the label. FTC regulations require the country of origin (we especially love the Kraemer yarn pictured above because it’s made in the USA!) If a brand uses organic materials, fair trade labor, or has other special qualities, they may list these details as well. yellowstonelabel

Here is an example of another ball band. Most of the information is visible here, though the small print didn’t scan well (we did our best!) Can you locate all of the information listed above on this ball band? What about those in your stash? Compare the way different brands lay out the information, the symbols they use, etc. With a little homework, you’ll find the perfect yarn for every project, every time!

Once again, thank you all so much for your enthusiasm and feedback during our first blog series! It has been a pleasure to write thanks to your support. Next week we’ll begin another adventure, so we’ll see then!


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cathy Jastram
    Sep 28, 2016 @ 09:43:34

    What a great blog – THANK YOU. I have been knitting for 60+ years and I am still learning so much from The Yarn Patch. What a difference it makes having enthusiastic experts for help along the way. My grandson spotted your shop three years ago while with his family on vacation and I am thrilled to have this connection with fun knitters.



  2. Gail
    Sep 28, 2016 @ 12:09:21

    This has been such a great blog and covered so many essentials that every knitter can learn and benefit from it. So nice to print out the PDFs and have them for a handy reference. I so appreciate you taking all the time to gather, write and scan all the pictures for us.
    You all are the best!



  3. Jackie Stonecipher
    Sep 30, 2016 @ 09:38:57

    Sheri, this blog series has been extremely helpful. Thank you for your tine and effort in writing them. I moved to Bowling Green, KY. a year ago to be nearer my family. We have a really nice yarn shop here, but I miss the Yarn Patch. Blessings, Jackie.



    • yarnpatch
      Sep 30, 2016 @ 15:32:09

      Hi Jackie! I can’t take the credit on this one! Emily is an amazing writer and has really done her research. Give her a little bit…and I’ll be working for her! I miss you my friend, and I hope KY is treating you well.



    • yarnpatch
      Sep 30, 2016 @ 16:46:51

      We miss you too, Jackie! But we’re glad you have a good local yarn shop. And thank you so much for continuing to be a part of our community! You’re always welcome here!



  4. Christine Reese
    Oct 01, 2016 @ 09:49:21

    Have enjoyed all of these interesting blogs, very insightful and useful information.
    Thank you Emily.



  5. Nancy
    Oct 06, 2016 @ 14:58:42

    Great series of articles. So much good information! Thanks!!



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