A common question I receive in my inbox is how to read a yarn label, or how to figure out which yarn you are supposed to use for a pattern. It can be tough when you’re learning to knit or crochet because there are so many options. On top of that, there can be differences within the same weight of yarn – so frustrating! Once you get some experience and try a variety of yarn, however, it becomes a lot easier.
In this post, I’ll show you some different yarn labels and what the info on them can tell you about the yarn. I’ll also give you some tips on how to choose yarn for your next project.
Leave a comment and let me know what you’re currently working on!
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Yards & Color
On the yarn label you should see the amount of yards and/or grams that are in one ball/skein. It should also have the color and lot number. If you buy two skeins of the same color but the lot # is different, they are from different dye batches and may not be exactly the same. It will definitely be noticeable if you use them for the same project, so try to choose skeins with the same lot number.
The label will tell you the fiber content of the yarn. The fiber will be things like wool, acrylic, alpaca, cotton, polyester, etc. Most fiber is a blend so it will tell you the percentage of each. Sock yarn is usually 75% superwash wool and 25% nylon.
Superwash wool is yarn that has been chemically treated to make it machine washable. This usually keeps it from felting, and I personally think it’s softer. I prefer to use superwash for these reasons, but some people don’t because it’s not considered sustainable or 100% “natural.” It depends on your preference when it comes to these things! Bottom line, if your wool is not superwash, you want to make sure to hand wash and air dry only.
Weight & Gauge
The label should have a number on it between 0 and 7. This indicates the weight (thickness) of the yarn. Click here for information about yarn weights from the Craft Yarn Council.
The label will also have suggested needle and hook sizes, and suggested gauge. These suggestions can be helpful if you’re going to make up a pattern with the yarn and will give you an idea of what needles/hooks would work best with the yarn. Gauge is different depending on the maker so be sure not to totally rely on it. What is gauge? Click here!
If you’re following a pattern, make sure to use the needle/hook size they designed the pattern with and check your gauge with the one provided in the pattern.
Sometimes the label provides care instructions like “hand wash only” or “machine wash cold” will little symbols you typically see on clothing tags.
Choosing yarn for a project
Let’s talk about how to choose yarn when you’re following a pattern. My advice is to at least try to use the same yarn they designed the pattern with. You will most likely get the best fit and achieve the right look. With that being said, sometimes you don’t want to or you simply can’t depending on where you live, budget, availability, etc.
So now you need to find another yarn that is comparable. Sometimes the designer will offer other suggestion in the pattern but not always. They should have the yarn weight listed but if they don’t, you can Google the yarn they used and figure it out. I have needed to do this only a few times. Using the same weight of yarn is non-negotiable. If a pattern is designed for weight 5 bulky yarn, you need to use weight 5 bulky yarn.
You can find another yarn a few different ways. You can go to a craft store and look through the yarn and find weight 5 bulky yarn that you like and want to use. You can get on your favorite yarn website like KnitPicks or Lion Brand and search for weight 5 bulky yarn. Another fun option is going to https://yarnsub.com/ and looking for similar yarn to the one in the pattern! You can also go to your local yarn store and ask for help, just keep in mind that their yarn may be more expensive.
The next thing to do is make a gauge swatch with the yarn you have chosen and compare it to the gauge swatch the designer made. You may need to change your needle/hook because not only can tension be different, but even yarn. Unfortunately, not all “weight 5 bulky yarn” is the exact same thickness. Sigh. So this makes gauge very important. Don’t skip this step!
Hope this helps!
If you have any questions that I didn’t answer in this post, feel free to leave a comment!