Before you begin any knitting project, you’ll need to know how to read the yarn band label.
Believe it or not, this small piece of paper gives you A LOT of information. So, if you’re not familiar with how to read a yarn label, now’s the time to learn.
Here are a few examples of what your yarn label might look like.
In today’s knitting blog, I’ll talk about the different information you’ll find on a yarn band label. I’ll explain and decode the information step-by-step so you know how to read a yarn label. I’ll even include details about each one’s importance and what each means for you.
Table of Contents
- Different Types of Yarn Labels
- Information on Yarn Bands
Different Types of Yarn Labels
First, I should explain that there are several names associated with yarn band labels. You’ll hear it called a yarn band or a yarn ball band. It’s also referred to as a yarn wrap or, simply, a yarn label.
Why so many names?
The different names have to do with the way the yarn is packaged, marked, and sold. In other words, if it’s a yarn cake or in a ball shape, it’s called a ball band as it often encircles the yarn. If it’s a hank of yarn or a yarn skein, it’s usually a yarn wrap or a yarn label, depending on how it’s marked.
The image below shows you the different types of yarn shapes.
Call a yarn label what you like. Just know that different names exist and are used interchangeably. I just thought I’d mention them as I’ll be using the different names throughout this post.
The most important thing to know, though, is what a yarn label tells you.
Information on Yarn Bands
The yarn band label is, essentially, similar to the care label you find on your clothes, curtains, or bedding. It’s a guide on how to use your yarn.
First, here’s a list of the most common information you’ll find on a yarn wrap.
- Brand Name of Yarn
- Yarn Base Name
- Yarn Color or Shade
- Color Dye Lot #
- Fiber Content
- Ball Weight (Mass)
- Yarn Length
- Yarn Weight (Gauge)
- Knitting Needle or Crochet Hook Size
- Swatch Gauge Information
- Yarn Care Information
Now let’s talk about each item on the yarn label and why this information is important.
Brand Name of Yarn
Some yarn labels feature the brand name while others will feature the yarn base name. More on that in a minute.
As you look at different yarn labels, you’ll quickly learn that each brand provides different info. There’s no standard template for yarn labels so the presentation will vary between yarn brands, indie yarn dyers, and fiber artists.
Some yarn bands will contain all the pertinent details, while others will only contain some. You may have to do your own research to find what you need, but hopefully that won’t be the case.
Now, let’s discuss a brand’s yarn base name.
Yarn Base Name
More often than not, you’ll find the yarn base name featured more prominently than the yarn brand name. An example of this is shown below using Knit Picks Hawthorne kettle dyed yarn in Delphinium.
In short, a yarn base is the type of yarn fiber in a certain weight and twist that dye is applied to. These names are specific to that yarn brand and serve as an identifier to the hand dyer and to knitters alike.
Some yarn base names will refer to the type of fiber, like Patons Classic Wool. Other base names may refer to the number of yards in the skein, like Cascade 220, which has 220 yards. Still others will list their yarn bases in line with what they’re ideal for, like Malabrigo’s Sock line.
Essentially, yarn base names are a hand dyer’s choice and will vary from yarn to yarn. Speaking of a hand dyer’s choice, let’s talk about yarn color names.
Yarn Color Name
I know for many knitters, myself included, the yarn color is usually what sets the mood for a knitting project. It’s a really important part of the yarn label.
When looking at yarn, you’ll find solid colors and color shades, multi-colored yarns, and variegated yarn colorways. There are even undyed yarns in natural colors, but ALL are identifiable in some way.
One way you might find the yarn color written on the yarn band is with a name and a number associated with that color. Here’s an example showing Hobby Lobby’s I Love This Cotton yarn label.
Some brands, like Cascade Yarns and Berroco, will only include a color number, as shown in the examples below. To determine the color name, you’ll have to look at your invoice or search their website for details.
Other yarn brands, especially independent yarn dyers, won’t include color numbers on their yarn labels. This is because they dye and sell on a much smaller scale and have smaller inventories.
You’ll also find indie dyers tend to name their colorful yarns more creatively. This makes it easier to remember and identify your hand dyed yarn color. Still, as with all knitting and yarn, there’s also a downside you’ll need to prepare for.
Let’s dive deeper into this topic.
Yarn Color Dye Lot
In addition to the yarn color name or colorway number, you might also find a dye lot on the yarn labels. Let’s talk about what a dye lot means.
When yarn is dyed, it's done in certain quantities. Indie yarn dyers, for example, typically hand dye smaller batches of a yarn colorway at a time. With larger yarn brands and companies, they dye their yarns in bulk quantities, or lots. This brings with it the need to easily identify their dye sessions.
So, when you see a lot# on a yarn label, it’s telling you which batch it came from.
The dye lot is important because it’s what determines a better color match for your new knitting project. Using yarn from the same dye lot gives you the best chance to minimize obvious color changes that you didn’t plan for.
Still, buying from the same dye lot doesn’t guarantee a color match. Yes, the directions and ingredients may be the same, but anything hand dyed will always have slight variations to it.
Also, while you’re more likely to find a dye lots listed on the yarn labels of big brand yarn companies, that’s not always the case. Here’s one such example in lace weight Malabrigo yarn.
So, if you don’t have enough yarn, run out of yarn, or find no dye lot listed on your yarn band, here’s what you do.
First, take two yarn skeins of the same colorway. Now, wind the yarn into two separate yarn balls. Then, as you knit, switch yarn colors on alternate rows or rounds. Repeat this process over and over.
If there are any color differences between batches, alternating the yarn will better hide them. This method will also work on highly variegated yarn colorways, too.
Yarn Label Fiber Content
Another important detail you’ll find on your yarn band is the fiber content. This tells you what your knitting yarn is composed of and how it’s been treated.
The information on your yarn band might say it’s a natural merino wool or a superwash wool, an acrylic yarn, cotton, or a different type of fiber. Or your yarn label might say it’s a blend of multiple fibers, in which case it’ll give you the percentages of each fiber type.
Here’s one example using Universal Yarn’s Bamboo Pop Sock. The yarn label states that it’s a blend of three different types of fibers: 55% bamboo yarn, 37% cotton yarn, and 8% PBT. PBT is like Lycra and has a bit of stretch to it, which is what most sock yarns need.
Reading your yarn label’s fiber content is important for several different reasons. Firstly, it gives you a clue about how the yarn will behave on your knitting needles. For example, satin yarns are more slippery than other yarns. Maybe wood or bamboo knitting needles would be better for that project.
Secondly, knowing the fiber content will tell you what types of knitting projects its best suited for. For instance, if you want to knit a baby blanket, superwash wool or cotton yarn would be a good choice.
Thirdly, reading the fiber content will tell you WHO it’s best suited for. Say you want to knit socks for a friend but they’re allergic to wool. You’d then need to find a wool free sock yarn. In this case, Universal Yarn’s Bamboo Pop sock would be a great option. Shown here in Muscadine.
Now let’s talk about yarn ball weight.
Yarn Label Ball Weight
When you’re shopping for yarn, you’ll find it comes in a variety of weights and sizes. You can find micro skeins (10 grams), mini yarn skeins (20 grams), half skeins (50 grams), full skeins of yarn (100 grams), and above. For instance, Lion Brand’s Pound of Love yarn weighs one pound (454 grams) and their I Wanna Make a Blankie yarn weighs 800 grams. On yarn labels, these weights are given in grams and/or ounces.
These examples, with their varying weights and sizes, are to show that there’s no standard amount of yarn you’ll receive in any skein, hank, yarn cake, or ball. Their weights will also vary according to the fiber content’s densities.
The density of a fiber is really important when you’re planning a knitting project that requires multiple balls of yarn. We’ll talk about this next when we discuss yarn ball length.
Yarn Ball Length
If you want to know how many yards in your yarn, you’ll have to read the yarn wrap. This’ll give you a yarn’s length in yards and/or meters (yds/mtrs). These amounts are an approximation, though, as yarn is often weighed but rarely measured out when produced.
Believe it or not, the color of your yarn could affect the amount of yarn in a ball. Since yarn dyes have weight, deep dyed yarns may have slightly less yardage than lighter or undyed natural colors.
Something else to consider. Yarn balls in the same yarn weight class with the same total weight (100g/3.5 oz.) could provide different lengths of yarn. Let’s look at these examples.
Cascade 220 Worsted Weight Yarn and Patons Classic Wool both have weights of 3.5 oz. / 100g. Their lengths, though, are different. Cascade’s yarn label shows 220 yards, while Patons shows 210 yards. This gives you an estimated difference of 30 feet / 10 yards per ball.
What this all boils down to is this. Yarn ball weights should not be trusted when calculating for large knitting projects. It’s better to calculate yarn yardage rather than yarn weight. This is especially true when using yarn substitutes.
So, before you begin any big knitting project, read the yarn label and check the pattern first. Then, do the math, because no one likes playing yarn chicken.
Hate math? This yarn yardage calculator will do it for you.
Reading a Label’s Yarn Weight
When reading a label’s yarn weight, it’s talking about the density of the yarn. This refers to the number of plies that go into a strand of yarn, or how thick or thin a yarn is. I’m also talking about how the yarn is spun and the direction of the twist. In other words, yarn gauge, which is just another (complicated) way of talking about yarn weight.
When you read a yarn label, know that there are eight yarn weight categories. From thinnest to thickest, they are:
- Lace weight (0)
- Superfine (1) – Light fingering weight / Sock yarn.
- Fine (2) – Sport weight yarn.
- Light (3) – DK yarn or light worsted weight.
- Medium (4) – Worsted weight or Aran yarn.
- Bulky (5) – Chunky yarn.
- Super Bulky (6)
- Jumbo (7) – Giant yarn.
As with most details on a yarn label, there are no universal standards, even with yarn weight. There are just too many factors in play. Some of these factors include the yarn’s production process, its fiber content, and the fiber’s origin.
Another factor to consider is the yarn dye process, which could have an effect on a fiber’s gauge. For example, you may find that dark colored yarns have a thinner gauge than lighter or natural colors. In other words, if you were to knit a swatch, this would require more stitches per inch than a lighter color of the same brand. More on this coming up below.
So how do you read yarn weight on a yarn label? If the yarn weight is listed on the yarn band, you’ll see a yarn symbol and/or a written indicator, like the ones shown below.
If you cannot find the yarn weight listed on the yarn label, you may have to interpret the swatch gauge details instead.
Swatch Gauge or Tension Gauge
Some yarn labels may not state the yarn weight associated with that yarn. If it’s not included, you can usually find swatch gauge details that show you how to determine yarn weight. Let’s look at this yarn label from Manos del Uruguay, for example.
As you can see, the swatch gauge (tension gauge) details reads like this: 28-30 sts = 4”/10cm and knitting needle sizes US 1-3 /2.25-3mm.
This yarn label indicates how many stitches per inch for your gauge swatch, and how to read yarn weight though it might seem less obvious. To clarify, let’s look at the Knitting Stitches Per Inch Chart shown below.
The left hand column indicates the various yarn weights. The middle and far right columns indicate stitches per inch and per 4” respectively.
Based on the Manos del Uruguay Alegria yarn label and this chart, you can determine the yarn weight class is fingering weight/sock weight. This is because the stitches per inch fall within this weight category.
Something you can expect when reading a yarn label is for it to show you gauge in one, two, or four inch increments. It may also include stitch gauge AND row gauge for knitting and/or crochet.
As with all categories on the yarn band, swatch gauge is just a guide. You may or may not be able to achieve the gauge that’s listed, and it may or may not be the right gauge for this type of yarn. It’s simply a reference point to help get you started.
Knitting Needle or Crochet Hook Size
Most yarn bands will mention which knitting needle sizes to use for gauge. If crochet swatch gauge measurements are given, the yarn label will also list crochet hook size, too.
Yarn labels will often list a couple of knitting needle sizes for a gauge swatch. This is because gauge can vary for a number of reasons. Your knitting style, your knitting tension, the type and material of knitting needles you use, all of these can affect gauge. This is why knitting a gauge swatch is stressed so much.
Yarn Label Care
Your yarn band should include yarn care instructions and/or or yarn label symbols. You'll find that the symbols on a yarn label are much like the ones you’d find on your clothing or home goods. They tell you how to care for your yarn.
Some may say “hand wash only” or “machine washable”, at certain temperatures. Others, like some superwash yarns, can be washed in hot or cold water, and or even machine washed and dried.
For your own sake, read the yarn band BEFORE you start knitting. You’re about to put a lot of work into something you intend to use or to gift. Make sure you don’t end up wasting your time by ruining your work.
Yarn Label Extras
Now, when you read your yarn label, you may be pleasantly surprised by something you see.
For instance, some yarn brands include a free knitting pattern or a crochet pattern. Others, like Patons shows here, give you an estimate on how many balls of yarn you need to knit a sweater, a hat, and a scarf.
Some yarn labels might direct you to their website and/or to their Facebook or Instagram social media accounts. Once there you can learn more about the brand, their yarn, or maybe access even more patterns.
Better yet, you can often see what other knitters are making. That’s always the best part, in my opinion, because it inspires you AND tells you if you want to knit with that yarn.
So, take advantage of this information. It’s there for a reason.
That about wraps up (no pun intended) this article on reading a yarn label. As you can see from the length of this blog post, the yarn band may be small but it is mighty.
Did you learn something new? I'd love to hear about it! Take a minute and drop me a line below.