The Complete Guide to Yarn Labels

Yarn labels provide essential information for selecting the right yarn for your project and caring for your finished item.

There is some necessary information on most yarn labels that will be of interest to you.
Brand & Yarn Name

The brand and yarn name are essential pieces of information that help you identify the specific yarn you are using or purchasing.
The brand
refers to the company that manufactures or distributes the yarn. Some well-known yarn brands include Lion Brand, Red Heart, Cascade Yarns, and Malabrigo. The brand name is usually prominently displayed on the yarn label, often accompanied by the brand logo.
The yarn name is the specific product line or type of yarn within the brand's offerings. Each yarn name typically has its unique blend of fibers, thickness, and texture. For example, within the Lion Brand family, you might find yarn names like "Wool-Ease," "Homespun," or "Mandala."
When selecting yarn for a knitting or crochet project, it's essential to pay attention to both the brand and yarn name since this information will help you find the appropriate yarn for your project. It's also useful when comparing yarns or looking for suitable substitutes, as the brand and yarn name can provide clues about the yarn's quality, fiber content, and other characteristics.

How To Read A Yarn Label: A Complete Guide For Crafters
Yardage/Meterage & Skein Weight
The yardage (or meterage) and skein weight provide important information about the length and weight of the yarn, which can help you determine how much yarn you'll need for your knitting or crochet project.
Yardage/Meterage refers to the length of the yarn in yards, while meterage refers to the length in meters. Yarn labels typically include both measurements, as they cater to users in different countries. The yardage or meterage information helps you estimate how many skeins of yarn you'll need to complete a project based on the pattern's requirements.
The skein weight indicates the weight of the yarn in either grams or ounces (sometimes both). This measurement can help you assess how much yarn you have on hand and compare different yarns when looking for suitable substitutes. Keep in mind that skein weight and yarn weight (a term used to describe the thickness of the yarn) are not the same thing.
To find the yardage/meterage and skein weight on a yarn label, look for numbers accompanied by units of measurement, such as "yards," "meters," "grams," or "ounces." This information is often displayed near the fiber content or care instructions on the label.
Yarn Weight And Gauge
The yarn weight and gauge are crucial pieces of information that help you determine if the yarn is suitable for your knitting or crochet project.
Yarn weight refers to the thickness or diameter of the yarn, which is classified into categories ranging from very fine to very thick. The Craft Yarn Council has established a standardized system of yarn weight categories, which are:
  1. Super Fine (e.g., sock, fingering, or baby weight)
  2. Fine (e.g., sport or baby weight)
  3. Light (e.g., DK or light worsted weight)
  4. Medium (e.g., worsted, afghan, or Aran weight)
  5. Bulky (e.g., chunky, craft, or rug weight)
  6. Super Bulky (e.g., roving or super chunky weight)
  7. Jumbo (e.g., jumbo or roving weight)
On the yarn label, the yarn weight is usually indicated by a number (1-7) inside a small yarn skein symbol or by a descriptive term such as "worsted" or "bulky."
Gauge refers to the number of stitches and rows per inch (or per 4 inches/10 cm) that you can achieve using the recommended needle or hook size for the specific yarn. Gauge is important because it helps ensure that your finished project has the correct size and fit. On the yarn label, the gauge information is typically displayed in a small square or rectangle that includes illustrations of knitting needles or crochet hooks and two sets of numbers. The first number represents the number of stitches per inch (or per 4 inches/10 cm), and the second number represents the number of rows per inch (or per 4 inches/10 cm).
When selecting yarn for your knitting or crochet project, it's crucial to consider both the yarn weight and gauge to ensure that your finished project will have the desired size, drape, and appearance. Additionally, it's always a good idea to create a gauge swatch before starting your project to make any necessary adjustments to your needle or hook size to match the pattern's required gauge.

How to read a yarn label.
Recommended Needle Size

On a yarn label, the recommended needle size is an essential piece of information that helps you achieve the correct gauge and create a successful knitting or crochet project. The recommended needle size is provided as a guideline based on the yarn weight and is the needle size that most knitters or crocheters will need to use to achieve the specified gauge.
The recommended needle size is usually displayed in both millimeters (mm) and US sizes, catering to knitters and crocheters from different countries. For example, you might see "US 8 / 5 mm" on a label, which means that the recommended knitting needle size is US size 8 or 5 millimeters in diameter.
When you start a new project, it's a good idea to use the recommended needle size as a starting point. However, individual knitting or crochet tension can vary, so it's essential to create a gauge swatch to ensure that your gauge matches the pattern's gauge. If your gauge is different from the pattern's gauge, you may need to adjust your needle size accordingly, regardless of the recommended needle size on the yarn label.
In addition to the recommended needle size, some yarn labels also provide information about the recommended crochet hook size. Similar to the knitting needle size, the crochet hook size is displayed in both millimeters and US or UK sizes (e.g., "US H-8 / 5 mm" or "UK 6 / 5 mm").
Keep in mind that the recommended needle and crochet hook sizes are guidelines, and the most important factor in achieving the correct gauge and a successful project is to create a gauge swatch and adjust your needle or hook size as needed.
Common Types Of Fibers
Yarn labels provide information about the fiber content of the yarn, which is important to consider when selecting yarn for a knitting or crochet project. Different fibers have unique characteristics that can affect the drape, warmth, durability, and care requirements of your finished project. Here are some common types of fibers you may find on yarn labels:
  1. Wool: Wool is a natural fiber obtained from sheep. It is warm, breathable, and has excellent elasticity and stitch definition. Wool is also available in various types, such as Merino, which is known for its softness and warmth.
  2. Cotton: Cotton is a natural fiber derived from the cotton plant. It is soft, breathable, and absorbent, making it suitable for warm-weather garments and household items like dishcloths. Cotton yarns typically have less elasticity than wool, which can affect the drape and stretch of your finished project.
  3. Acrylic: Acrylic is a synthetic fiber that is lightweight, affordable, and easy to care for since it is often machine washable and dryable. Acrylic yarns are available in a wide range of colors and textures, making them a popular choice for various projects, from garments to home accessories.
  4. Nylon: Nylon is a synthetic fiber known for its strength and durability. It is often blended with other fibers like wool or acrylic to add durability and stretch, making it a common choice for sock yarns.
  5. Alpaca: Alpaca is a natural fiber obtained from alpacas. It is soft, warm, and lightweight, with excellent drape and a luxurious feel. Alpaca yarns can be more expensive than other fibers but are well-suited for garments and accessories that require warmth without added bulk.
  6. Silk: Silk is a natural fiber produced by silkworms. It is known for its luxurious feel, lustrous sheen, and excellent drape. Silk yarns can be expensive and delicate, making them more suitable for special occasion garments and accessories or for blending with other fibers.
  7. Linen: Linen is a natural fiber derived from the flax plant. It is strong, breathable, and has a crisp texture, making it ideal for warm-weather garments and home accessories. Linen yarns soften with use and washing, giving your finished project a beautiful drape and feel over time.
  8. Bamboo: Bamboo is a natural fiber made from the bamboo plant. It is soft, silky, and breathable, with excellent drape and moisture-wicking properties. Bamboo yarns are often blended with other fibers like cotton or silk to enhance their texture and durability.
These are just a few of the common types of fibers you may find on yarn labels. Many yarns are also available as blends, combining two or more fibers to create yarn with a unique balance of characteristics, such as warmth, drape, durability, and ease of care. Always check the fiber content on the yarn label to ensure you are selecting the most suitable yarn for your project's needs.
Yarn Ply
The term "ply" refers to the number of individual strands or threads that are twisted together to form the yarn. The ply can provide insight into the yarn's thickness, texture, and strength. Here's what you need to know about yarn ply:
Single Ply: A single ply yarn is made from one strand of fiber that has been spun into a continuous thread. Single ply yarns can be delicate and may have a tendency to pill or break easily. They are often used for lightweight or delicate projects such as lace shawls.
Two-Ply (2-ply) and Higher: Yarns with two or more plies are created by twisting multiple strands of fiber together. More plies generally result in a stronger, more durable yarn with better stitch definition. The number of plies does not always directly correlate with the yarn's thickness or weight, as it depends on the thickness of the individual strands.
In the past, the ply system was used to indicate the yarn's thickness, with higher ply numbers representing thicker yarns. However, this system has become less relevant as modern yarn production has introduced a wide variety of yarn thicknesses that don't necessarily correspond to the number of plies.
Today, the yarn weight system established by the Craft Yarn Council is more commonly used to categorize yarn thicknesses. This system uses a numerical scale (1-7) and descriptive terms (e.g., "worsted" or "bulky") to indicate the yarn's thickness. You'll typically find the yarn weight information on the label, along with other details such as yardage, fiber content, and recommended needle size.
While the ply information may still be listed on some yarn labels, it is generally less critical for determining the yarn's suitability for a specific project. Instead, focus on the yarn weight, gauge, and recommended needle size to ensure that your project will have the desired size, drape, and appearance.

Colorway and dye lot
A colorway refers to the specific combination of colors used to dye a yarn. Yarn manufacturers often create multiple colorways for each type of yarn they produce. On a yarn label, the colorway is typically indicated by a name or a number, which helps customers identify and select the desired color scheme for their knitting or crochet project.
Yarn colorways can be created in various ways, including:
  1. Solid colors: These colorways feature a single, uniform color throughout the yarn.
  2. Variegated colors: These colorways have multiple colors that are applied randomly along the length of the yarn, creating a more unpredictable and unique pattern in the finished project.
  3. Gradient or ombre colors: These colorways transition from one color to another gradually, either by blending the colors or by changing the color saturation.
  4. Self-striping colors: These colorways are designed to create distinct stripes when knitted or crocheted, usually by alternating between two or more colors in a specific sequence.
A dye lot refers to a batch of yarn that has been dyed together in the same container or vat using the same dye mixture. The dye lot number, which is usually printed on the yarn label, helps ensure that all the skeins of yarn in that particular lot have consistent coloration.
Slight variations in color can occur during the dyeing process due to factors such as temperature, dye concentration, or the specific dyeing technique used. As a result, yarn from different dye lots may have subtle differences in color, even if they belong to the same colorway.
When working on a knitting or crochet project that requires multiple skeins of yarn, it's essential to use yarn from the same dye lot to maintain color consistency throughout the project. If you need to purchase additional yarn for a project already in progress, try to find skeins with the same dye lot number as the ones you've been using. If that's not possible, it's recommended to alternate skeins from different dye lots every few rows to help blend and minimize the appearance of color differences.
To find the dye lot number on a yarn label, look for a printed or stamped number, often accompanied by the words "dye lot" or "lot." Some yarn manufacturers may also use a combination of letters and numbers to indicate the dye lot.

Care Instructions, Care Symbols

Yarn labels typically include care instructions for the finished knitted or crocheted item made from the yarn. These instructions are important to follow to maintain the appearance, shape, and durability of your project. Care instructions may vary depending on the fiber content and characteristics of the yarn.
Yarn labels typically include care instructions for the finished knitted or crocheted item made from the yarn.
Here are some common care symbols and instructions you may find on a yarn label:
  1. Washing: Washing instructions indicate the recommended water temperature and washing method. A hand inside a basin symbolizes hand washing, while a machine inside a basin represents machine washing. A number inside the basin indicates the maximum water temperature in degrees Celsius (e.g., 30, 40, or 60). A crossed-out basin symbol means the item should not be washed.
  2. Bleaching: A triangle symbolizes bleaching instructions. An empty triangle means that bleaching is allowed, while a triangle with diagonal lines or a crossed-out triangle indicates that bleaching is not recommended.
  3. Drying: Drying instructions are represented by a square symbol. A circle inside the square means the item can be tumble dried, while a crossed-out circle inside the square indicates that tumble drying is not recommended. A horizontal or vertical line inside the square represents the item should be dried flat or on a clothesline, respectively.
  4. Ironing: Ironing instructions are denoted by an iron symbol. A number of dots inside the iron represent the recommended ironing temperature: one dot for low, two dots for medium, and three dots for high. A crossed-out iron symbol means the item should not be ironed.
  5. Dry Cleaning: A circle symbolizes dry cleaning instructions. A letter inside the circle (e.g., "P" or "F") represents the type of dry cleaning solvent that can be used. A crossed-out circle means the item should not be dry cleaned.
Incorrect washing methods or temperatures may cause your item to shrink, felt, or lose its shape. By adhering to the washing symbols on the yarn label, you can help ensure your handmade items stay beautiful and wearable for years to come.

Yarn labels contain important information about the yarn, so it's a good idea to save your yarn labels, even after you've started or completed a project, as they can be useful in various ways. 

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