Unraveling a Yarn Label

Whether packaged in a neat little ball, a long, log-like pull-skein, or a twisted skein or hank, all yarns come with a label that gives you valuable information about the yarn. All the information you need to choose the right yarn can be found in one small space.

Yarn labels typically include most, if not all, of the following information:

  • Article number: This is a code that the manufacturer uses to keep track of different products, and you won't always find an article number on a ball of yarn.
  • Brand name: This is the name of the yarn. For example, "Silk Purse" or "Regia 4ply."
  • Care instructions: Is easy care important to the project? If so, look for yarns labeled "Superwash" or that give care instructions that allow for machine wash and dry. More delicate yarns will tell you to hand wash or dry clean to prevent shrinking.
  • Color name and number: A particular yarn color is given a name or a number (or sometimes both) by the manufacturer.
  • Company name and logo: The manufacturer's name and logo will be prominently displayed on the label. Note that this should not be confused with the brand name of the yarn.
  • Dye lot number: Yarns that have been machine or hand dyed will include an identifying number that relates to the batch, or lot, in which the yarn was dyed. When a project requires more than one skein or ball of yarn, be sure to purchase yarn from the same dye lot if you want the colors to match perfectly. Yarns from different dye lots can have subtle (or not-so-subtle) variations in color that could have you seeing stripes.
  • Gauge: The suggested gauge, or number of stitches that fit in 4 inches, is often given on the label. Sometimes only a gauge in knitting is provided. Knitted gauge is given generically, such as "20 sts = 4 inches," and does not relate to the crochet gauge at all. More often than not, though, both knit and crochet gauges are given. For crochet, look for any crochet stitch abbreviation, usually "sc" (single crochet), or a small picture of a crochet hook next to a number.
  • Manufacturer's address: The yarn manufacturer's address is sometimes provided. It can be helpful if you need to find another source for its yarns. Increasingly, the manufacturer's Web site is being added, which can be a great resource for yarn information and sometimes free patterns.
  • Ply: Occasionally, a yarn label will provide ply information, such as 2 ply, 4 ply, or 12 ply, which means the number of strands that are twisted together to create the yarn. The number of plies does not correspond to the crochet gauge or the yarn weight. For example, it's possible to have a super-thick 2-ply or a super-thin 12-ply yarn.
  • Recommended hook size: When a crocheted gauge is given, a recommended hook size to obtain that gauge is also provided. You may need a different size hook to obtain the same gauge as the ball band or for the gauge provided in the pattern.
  • Weight: The physical weight of the ball or skein of yarn will be listed. This may be in grams or ounces or both, depending on the country of origin.
  • Yardage: The length of the yarn will be given in yards and/or meters depending
    on the country of origin. Don't be tempted to buy by weight only. Different types of yarn, even at the same thickness, contain vastly different yards per gram or ounce, and you don't want to run short.
  • Fiber content: By law, every commercially available yarn must include a detailed description of its fiber content. For example, you may see "100% merino wool" or blends such as "65% acrylic, 15% nylon, 15% elasten, 5% cotton."
  • Yarn-weight symbol: Many yarn companies are beginning to include this symbol, handy for yarn substitution, provided your pattern also includes the symbol.
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