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How to Read Yarn Labels

Learning to crochet can be a bit like learning a foreign language. There are abbreviations for stitches, new vocabulary words (anyone else struggle to pronounce skein?), and even cryptic symbols on your yarn’s label that all have an important meaning. Today I’d like to help you crack the code of those yarn labels.

Like most beginners do, there is nothing wrong with browsing the aisles of yarn in the store and picking something purely because you love the color or texture. We crafters are visual, tactile creatures and these things speak to us! But learning to read yarn labels and understand all the information they hold will serve you well as you deepen your crochet skills.

Why Bother with Yarn Labels?

Taking the time to read yarn labels helps you choose a yarn that works for the project you have in mind. Not all yarns work for all projects. Reading yarn labels also helps you better predict the outcome of your hard work. All yarn labels should tell you: the yarn’s weight, the yardage in the skein, recommended hook or needle sizes, care instructions, the yarn material or fiber type, and the yarn color and dye lot. Let’s break these down one by one.

Yarn Weight

A yarn’s weight refers to its thickness, and is measured on a scale from 0-7. The finest yarns are labeled 0 and those labeled 7 are the thickest. One of the reasons that crochet is so versatile is because of yarn weight. You can crochet delicate earrings from thread or a thick, cozy blanket from bulky yarn. You might use the same stitches but with changes in hook size and yarn weight, the results can be drastically different!

Most yarn labels have a little icon with a number showing the yarn’s weight. The chart below describes each yarn weight in more detail, including some common terms used with each yarn weight.

Chart of yarn weight symbols

Yardage/Weight

Yarn labels also tell you the amount of yarn in the skein, usually shown in yards, but also sometimes in grams or ounces. If you’re following a specific crochet pattern, it will tell you the amount of yarn needed. You can use this to figure out how many skeins you need to buy to complete the pattern.

Hook/Needle Size

When you read yarn labels, you’ll notice an icon with a crochet hook and another with knitting needles. Yarn companies work up gauge swatches and suggest hook and needle sizes accordingly. If you’re following a pattern from the yarn label or want to match their gauge swatch, their recommendation may be important to you. Otherwise, you’ll likely follow the hook size and gauge recommendations in the pattern you’re following. As you gain more experience, you’ll come to know which hook sizes work best with different yarns and for your intended purposes.

Care Instructions

You know those little laundry icons on clothing labels? Yarn labels have them too! This is very helpful when thinking about your project. Making a baby blanket? Look for the icons that tell you the yarn will be machine washable! In general, you want to make sure that the care needs of the yarn match the practical use of the item you’re making.

Material/Fiber Type

Yarn is made from so many sources these days. Cotton, wool, acrylic, bamboo – the list goes on and on! Different fibers behave differently, so understanding a yarn’s fiber makeup is key to getting the result you want. Check out this blog post by Michigan Fine Yarns for more information about different yarn fibers and their strengths and weaknesses.

Color/Dye Lot

When yarn companies dye big batches of yarn, they keep track with dye lot numbers. Luckily for us, these numbers are also printed on yarn labels. Why does this matter? Well let’s say you’re making a big blanket that will use 10 skeins of blue yarn. Dye lots can have slight variations in color, and you don’t want those differences to show up in your work. Using skeins all from the same dye lot ensures your project will have uniform color throughout.

Graphic showing the different parts of a yarn label
Here’s one example of a yarn label with all its important information. The only thing not visible is the color name and dye lot, which is on the other side of the label.

And that about covers it! Do you feel more confident about your ability to read yarn labels? I hope so! If you learned something new, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. And make sure and save this post for reference for your next project!

If you’d like to explore more crochet resources, check these out.

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All rights reserved. Designed and written by Jennifer Percival.  This pattern is property of Crochet to Play.  The written pattern and images are for personal use only.  Please do not redistribute, transfer, or sell the pattern or images, in part or in whole. Thank you.

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