Do you remember high school chemistry? Remember when you had to MEMORIZE the periodic table of elements? I’m getting PTSD even know as I think about it. Well, that’s how I felt the first time I flipped over a ball of yarn to see what the label said. It all just looked like a gibberish mess of numbers and symbols. Reading a yarn label can be confusing and intimidating. I’m going to help you learn how to read a yarn label so you never have to feel that way again.
If you’d rather watch than read, I cover everything you need to know about how to read a yarn label in a video tutorial further on in this post.
I’ve also created a free printable quick reference postcard so you can have this info handy when you’re at the store. You can download and print it, or just pull it up on your phone so it’ll be ready when you need it! Find it in the Quick Reference Guide section of the resource library.
Why does it matter?
Your pattern tells you exactly what yarn to use for the project, so why does knowing what the label means even matter? Well, what if you show up at the yarn shop and see a skein of yarn you love 100 times more? You are about to invest time, money, and physical and emotional energy into this project – you better darn well LOVE the fiber you’re using. But how do you know the project will turn out right if you switch up the yarn?
This is why knowing how to read a yarn label matters.
And once you figure it out, it really does become intuitive.
There are 6 important things to interpret from a yarn label. There may be more than that, but here are the 6 you will use every time.
1) CYC WEIGHT
The Craft Yarn Council (CYC) has created a standard “weight” system that specifies the thickness of yarn on a scale from 0 (Lace) to 7 (Jumbo). The thicker the yarn, the bigger the number. If you want to switch up a yarn for your pattern, this is the component you want to match. If you switch up the yarn weight, your finished project will be a different size than the pattern specifies.
For everything you need to know about yarn weights, check out this article which also has a printable quick reference guide for you.
2) PHYSICAL WEIGHT
This is the physical weight (in ounces and/or grams) of the yarn ball, skein or hank. I rarely use this piece of information, but it’s there if you need it.
The length of the ball of yarn will be given in yards and/or meters. This is another really helpful piece of information if you’re choosing a different yarn than your pattern calls for – you can match yardage just in case.
4) CARE INSTRUCTIONS
It can be easy to forget to pay attention to the laundering and care instructions, but you probably want to take note of this! If you’re making a mop cover, you want to be sure it can be washed, right? Sometimes the yarn label only has the symbols with no written interpretation, so it can be helpful to memorize the main symbols or pull up a guide when you’re headed to the store.
The gauge information gives you the recommended hook or needle size to use with the yarn. It will also usually give you the number of stitches and rows it will make with that recommended hook size in a 4-inch square. If you use a larger hook, your project will be larger. If you use a smaller hook, your project will be smaller.
The fiber content tells you what the yarn is made of, whether it’s 100% or a blend.
Other information on the label:
- Country of origin
- Yarn color and dye lot – the color of the yarn varies slightly between dye lots – especially with natural yarns. Be sure you get enough yarn for your project from the same dye lot. Believe me, I’ve learned the hard way with this one! I always play it safe and buy more than I think I’ll need. I return any unused yarn after I’m done with my project.
- Company information
- Certifications, if any – I buy only sustainable yarns and many of them carry certifications that tell me about how the fiber was grown and processed. A few of those certifications include: Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Global Recycled Standard (GRS), Recycled Claim Standard (RCS), and OEKO-TEX certified (tested for harmful substances).
- Ply – the number of individual strands twisted together to make the yarn
I hope you now feel confident about how to read a yarn label. Don’t forget to grab your free printable How to Read a Yarn Label quick reference card before you head to the store next time! You’ll be prepared to find the perfect kind of yarn for your next project.