Yarns are packaged with paper ball bands or tags containing information to help you choose the most appropriate yarn for your projects. This information is critical, and its format varies, depending on the manufacturer. It’s a good idea to keep one of the tags in case you need extra yarn, and to keep as a reference.
Standard Label Information
Name of Yarn
Name of Manufacturer
Country of Origin – this is where the yarn was produced, and not necessarily where the fiber comes from.
Fiber Content – this indicates the percentage of each of the fibers that make up the yarn. By law, all textile products must contain fiber content information.
Weight – is the amount in grams or ounces. “Weight” is one of those confusing terms, because it can also refer to the yarn weight category, defined by the thickness of the yarn strand. The category is rarely printed on the ball band, and is denoted by its number from 0-7 (lace to jumbo).
Yarn Length – is the amount of yarn in yards and metres, that makes up one ball or hank. This is the actual length, not to be confused with the amount in grams/ounces. Yarn length is the number used to calculate the amount of a substitute yarn.
Recommended Gauge and Needle Size – the manufacturer’s recommendation for needle size and the approximate stitch and row gauge per inch. This recommendation should only serve as a guideline, and may not be the same as suggested in the pattern instructions that you are following. It’s always important that you make a test swatch to accurately measure gauge.
Colour Code and Dye Lot Numbers – these numbers are stamped onto the ball band; the colour code is the manufacturer’s number for a particular colour, and the dye lot refers to the colour batch number. Buy all your yarn in one dye lot, particularly for solid colours. Yarn is dyed in batches, so it’s not uncommon for the same colour to vary from one dye lot to another. When knitting a solid coloured item, you may notice an obvious line where a change in dye lots is made.
Care Instructions – describes how the finished project should be cleaned when made with the yarn. These are more commonly given by symbols versus text.
Other Information Found on Yarn Labels
Yarn Types – the meaning of the following yarn types is unclear: fingering, sock, sport, baby, and 4 ply yarn. Historically, these yarn types were used as the yarn “names”. Plies were often used to describe weight, because they were fairly uniform. Today, a single ply yarn can be a very fine lace or a bulky Icelandic wool. Regardless of the weight, all types can be a single or plied yarns. The following chart is helpful, and notice that in UK, Australia, and New Zealand, though not for all yarn manufacturers, plies have remained as yarn weights, even though the meaning is no longer clear. Note: The differences between Fingering, Sock, Baby and Sport are small – it’s most important to rely on your gauge when choosing the appropriate yarn for your project.
DK, Worsted, Aran – these terms are also yarn weights, commonly found on labels, particularly DK, which stands for “double knitting”. DK is a “light weight (3)” yarn and is popular. Worsted and aran are classified as “medium weight (4)”. “Aran” is slightly thicker than worsted.
Some labels, particularly yarns manufactured in Europe may show a rough guide as to how much yarn is required for different garments in average sizes for men, women, and children.
Crochet Gauge – you may also find a crochet gauge in single crochet (sc) and hook size for a 4in (10cm) square, along with the stockinette stitch gauge.
Flax/Linen – Flax is a food and fiber crop cultivated in cooler regions of the world. Textiles made from flax are known as “linen”. You will often see the term “linen” used on a yarn label, rather than “flax”. The collective term “linens” is generically used to describe bed and kitchen textiles, even those not made from flax.
Mercerized Cotton – Mercerization is a chemical finish used on cotton that adds luster, and improves its dyeing properties. Mercerized cotton is stronger than regular cotton, and less prone to shrinkage.
Superwash Wool – Superwash is a finishing process that alters the scale structure of wool, so that wool doesn’t shrink when machine washed. For felting projects, do not use superwash wool. Since the “felting” process shrinks wool to make a dense fabric, superwash wool won’t felt.
Bamboo Sourced Viscose – Bamboo fibers come from the pulp of bamboo grass. Bamboo yarn is manufactured by two different methods. One of these methods processes bamboo in the same manner as rayon (viscose) fiber, with chemicals and equipment used to make synthetic fibers. Manufacturers are now required to label these “rayon like” yarns with terminology such as “bamboo sourced viscose”.
The information contained on yarn labels is important in helping you choose the appropriate yarns for your projects. Some of this information must be adhered to, by the manufacturer, and there is the rare instance when a limited amount of information is written on the ball band.