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How to Read Yarn Labels and Symbols

Yarn labels are packed with lots of useful information, but all those little symbols can be confusing if you don’t know what you’re looking for. This article will explain everything you need to know about reading yarn labels so that you can understand how to choose the best yarn for your next crochet or knitting project. I’ll show you how to find the fiber content, weight, gauge, and more!

overhead image of a back of a yarn label on a skein of cream super bulky yarn

All About Yarn

There are so many different types of yarn – different fibers, colors, thicknesses, and textures. There are certainly a lot of factors to consider when you go yarn shopping!

If you’re a knitter or crocheter, you know that it’s essential to use the right yarn for your project. Different types of yarn are meant for different kinds of projects, and it’s important to select the right one

Knowing how to read a yarn label makes the shopping process so much easier. It contains lots of helpful information about the fiber content, weight, gauge, and more!

New to crochet? Start with this How to Crochet beginner’s guide, and then brush up on the 6 basic crochet stitches for beginners.

How to Read a Yarn Label

Yarn labels, also called ball bands, provide important information that you’ll need to know in order to select the right yarn for your project.

Yarn labels will give you information like:

  • yarn weight category (light, medium, bulky)
  • yarn weight and yardage
  • fiber content, such as wool or cotton
  • suggested gauge for knitting and crochet
  • what size knitting needles or crochet hook to use
  • color and dye lot number 
  • laundry care

All this information is wrapped neatly around your little ball of yarn. 

two images of a yarn lable of light cream super bulky yarn

Parts of a Yarn Label

There are several important parts of a yarn label that you need to be aware of. In the following section, we’ll go through each piece step-by-step, and tell you how to find the information you need.

1. Brand Name and Yarn Name

The yarn brand and yarn name are usually at the top of the label. This information tells you the name of the company that manufactured the yarn and the specific name or number for that yarn.

2. Weight Category

The next important part of the label is the weight category. Yarn weight will tell you how thick or thin the yarn is. The standard yarn weight system classifies yarn into categories numbered from 0 to 7. The thinnest yarns are in the 0 : Laceweight category, and the thickest yarns are in the 7: Jumbo category.

Yarn Weight Categories

Here are the 7 yarn weight categories, according to the Craft Yarn Council Yarn Standards.

0: Lace weight. The thinnest yarn, typically used for delicate projects such as shawls.

1: Super Fine weight, also called Fingering yarn. A thin yarn often used for socks.

2: Fine weight, also known as Sport weight. Often used for baby clothes.

3: Light weight, also called DK (double knitting). Often used for lightweight sweaters.

4: Medium weight, also known as worsted weight. A versatile yarn that is neither too thin nor too thick, often used for sweaters.

5: Bulky weight, sometimes called chunky weight. A thicker yarn typically used for winter accessories such as hats and scarves.

6: Super bulky weight: A very thick yarn, typically used for accessories and home decor projects such as blankets.

7: Jumbo weight. The thickest yarns, often used for arm-knitting and other craft projects.

yarn weight symbols

3. Physical Weight

Next on the label, you’ll find the physical weight of the yarn, labeled in ounces or grams. The weight tells you the amount of yarn in each ball or skein.

Check the weight of the ball against the weight called for in the pattern, so you know that you have enough yarn for your project.

4. Yardage

Next to the weight, you’ll find the yardage. The yardage tells you the length of yarn in the ball or skein. Check the yardage in the ball against the yardage called for in the pattern to know many balls of yarn to buy for your project.

close up image of a yarn label

5. Gauge

The next part of the label is the gauge. Your knitting gauge or crochet gauge measures how many stitches and rows you will make in a given area – usually a 4 x 4 in. square.

Your gauge is very important to know because it will affect the size of your finished project. If your gauge is too loose, your project will be too big. If your gauge is too tight, then your project will be too small.

Yarn labels often indicate gauge with two square symbols – one with an illustration of knitting needles in the middle and one with an illustration of a crochet hook in the middle. These gauge squares pack a lot of information into a small space.

  • Size of the gauge swatch. There will be a number either above or below the square that tells you the width and height of the gauge swatch. It’s usually a 4 x 4 in (10 x 10 cm) square.
  • Gauge. There will be numbers at the bottom and right sides of the square that indicate how many stitches and rows you will be able to fit into the gauge swatch. In the knitting square, you’ll see something like 9 sts and 10 rows. In the crochet square, you’ll see something like 6 sc (single crochet) and 8 rows.
  • Recommended Knitting Needles and Crochet Hooks. Inside the squares, you’ll see some numbers and letters that indicate the recommended size of knitting needles or crochet hook to use with this particular yarn. For example, you may see something like 13 (9mm) in the knitting square. And in the crochet square, you might see something like N-13 (9 mm).

Note: The recommended needle size is just that – a recommendation. Different patterns will call for larger or smaller needles to make looser or denser fabric.

Likewise, your personal gauge will vary depending on the pattern and the needles you use. When in doubt, follow the pattern recommendation and make a gauge swatch.

Feel free to check out our crochet hook size chart or our knitting needle conversion chart for more information.

6. Fiber Content

Next is fiber content. This section will tell you what the yarn is made out of. The fiber content will also give you an idea of how the yarn will feel and behave. For example, wool yarn is going to be warm and durable. Cotton yarn will be breathable. And yarns with the label “superwash” have been specially treated to make them machine washable.

7. Color Name and Dye Lot

After that, the label will tell you the color of the yarn, and its dye lot (if applicable.)

The dye lot is the number assigned to a batch of yarn that has been dyed together. Different dye lots can vary slightly in color from batch to batch.

So, if you’re using more than one skein of yarn for your project, it’s important to make sure that they come from the same dye lot. That way, you’ll know all of your yarn will match.

The color and dye lot information is also important to know if you need to purchase more yarn of the same type at a later date.

8. Care Instructions

Last but not least, the label will also include washing instructions. It’s important to understand the best way to wash and dry your finished project so that it stays beautiful for yearns to come.

Most wool yarns are hand wash only, so you won’t want to put them in you washing machine or dryer.

Tip: When giving handmade items as a gift, it’s so helpful to include the care instructions for the yarn so that the recipient will know how to care for them.

Yarn Care Symbols

Some labels will also include laundering symbols.

laundry care symbols

Examples of Yarn Labels

Each yarn company’s yarn label has a slightly different layout. Here are few more examples of yarn labels, with each section labeled.

images of a yarn label for light teal cotton yarn

Here’s a label for Lily Sugar’n Cream yarn, which is a very popular cotton craft yarn.

labeled images of the information on a yarn label on mint fingering weight yarn

This is a label from KnitPicks (aka, WeCrochet). This yarn label is smaller and has less information. For example, it doesn’t have the gauge squares, but it does list the gauge information in written format.

labeled information on a small hang-tag style yarn label

Here’s an even smaller yarn label that came attached to a hank of yarn. All of the essential information is still there, it’s just organized a little differently.

What should you do with your yarn labels?

After choosing your yarn and bringing it home, what should you do with your yarn labels? Is it okay to just throw them away?

No, keep them! It’s just too easy to forget which yarn is which, especially if you have a sizable stash. But if you keep the labels, you’ll always have the important information about your yarn at hand. (Plus, some some companies even include a free pattern on the back of the yarn label.)

You can store your labels in a number of ways. Some people like to keep the labels attached to the gauge swatch they made at the beginning of their project. Other people like to save all of their labels in a notebook or binder, along with their project notes and sketches. This can be helpful if you need to purchase more yarn later on, or if you’re trying to replicate a previous project. 

Even More About Yarn

That’s it! Now you know everything you need to about reading a yarn label. By understanding the different parts of the label, you can be sure that you’re choosing the right yarn for your project.

For even more information about yarn, knitting, and crochet, be sure to check out these related articles:

pinterest image for how to read a yarn label with a background of a yarn label on cream superbulky yarn

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