Understanding Yarn Weight & How to Read a Yarn Label

When you hear the term yarn weight you may think it has to do with how heavy a yarn is. But actually, yarn weight refers to the thickness of the yarn. It is an essential factor to consider when choosing yarn for a knitting or crochet project, as it determines the drape, texture and overall appearance of the finished item. Yarn weights are classified into different categories, each with its own characteristics and recommended uses. The Craft Yarn Council has established a standardized yarn weight system that is commonly used in the crafting community.

Standard Yarn Weight Categories

Lace yarn clip art

Lace Weight, also known as Fingering Weight is ideal for lacy projects such as doilies and shawls. Recommended US sizes: 000-1.

super fine 1 yarn clip art

Super Fine Weight, also known as: Fingering, Sock or Baby Weight is ideal for lightweight garments and accessories such as socks, gloves and baby clothes. Recommended US needle sizes: 1-3.

Fine yarn 2 clip art

Fine Weight, also known as Sport Weight is ideal for baby clothes. Recommended US needle sizes: 3-5.

Light yarn weight 3

Light Weight, also known as DK (double knitting) Weight, ideal for summer clothing (light weight sweaters and tank tops). Recommended US needle sizes: 5-7.

medium yarn weight 4

Medium Weight, also known as Worsted or Aran Weight, is the most popular weight as it is suited for almost any project (sweaters, hats, scarves, afghans). Recommended US needle sizes: 7-9.

Yarn clip art Bulky

Bulky Weight, also known as Chunky Weight is ideal for hats, scarves, sweaters and blankets. Recommended US needle sizes: 9-11.

Yarn clip art super bulky

Super Bulky Weight, also known as Roving Weight is ideal for cozy cowl, scarf or blanket. Recommended US needle sizes: 11-17.

Jumbo Yarn 7 clip art

Jumbo Weight. Ideal for blankets and rugs. Recommended US needle sizes: 17 and larger. Can also be knitted using your fingers/arms.

Substituting Yarn – Consider Yarn Weight

If you want to substitute a different yarn than what your pattern calls for, you’ll want to make sure to choose a yarn that has the same weight as the one that is called for in the pattern. Let’s say you’re making a winter hat and your pattern calls for Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick yarn. This yarn is 80% acrylic and 20% wool. However, you are allergic to wool and therefore you cannot use this yarn. In order to substitute a different yarn, you will want to choose one that is the same weight. The Wool-Ease Thick & Quick has a yarn weight of 6 Super Bulky. So a good yarn to substitute with would be their Hometown yarn (100% acrylic), because it also has a yarn weight of 6 Super Bulky.

How to Read A Yarn Label

As I have only learned to knit and not crochet, I am going to focus on the label as it refers to knitting, however every yarn label will feature information for both knitting and crocheting. There is a lot of info on a yarn label. Some of it is intuitive, like what it’s made of (100% acrylic), washing instructions and the net weight of the skein. We are going to cover the stuff that’s not so intuitive, the pictures, symbols and numbers that probably have you going huh?

While every brand of yarn will give you the information you need in order to properly knit or crochet your project, the order of these items on the label may be different, but all the info will be there.

yarn label showing yarn weight, knitting needle size, crochet needle size, info relative to gauge, total yards and oz. of the skein

Yarn Weight (yellow arrow)

This shows you what weight category your yarn falls into. In this case it is a Super Bulky 6 yarn.

Yardage (green arrow)

This shows you the length of yarn (in yards) contained in the skein. Knowing how much yarn is in the skein is helpful for ensuring you have enough yarn to complete your project.

Knitting Needle Size (red arrow)

When knitting, you use 2 needles whereas crochet uses one needle. So when you see the picture showing 2 needles in a box, you know all the numbers in that box correspond to knitting. The box with one needle corresponds to crochet.

If you look at the top of the knitting needle box you see “13 (9 mm)”. This means for this yarn, the manufacturer recommends using US size 13 (also known as 9 mm) knitting needles. This is just a recommendation though. You can use needles that are larger or smaller to make your knitting either more loose or more dense.

Gauge Swatch (red & purple arrows):

Within the same box as the knitting needles (red arrow), you’ll find numbers related to a gauge swatch. The number on the bottom (9 S) stands for 9 Stitches. The number on the right (12 R) stands for 12 Rows. Next to the purple arrow you see it says 4 in x 4 in.

Here’s what these numbers mean. When you knit 9 Stitches across for 12 Rows, the size of that knitted fabric should end up being 4 inches x 4 inches.

If you knit 9 Stitches across for 12 Rows and it ends up measuring 5 in. x 5 in. that means your stitches take up more room than “normal”, meaning you knit your stitches more on the loose side. If it ends up measuring 3 in. x 3 in. that means your stitches take up less room because you knit your stitches on the tighter side.

grey knitted pumpkin with a cinnamon stick for a stem

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Why Gauge Matters

Why does this matter? Well, it may or may not. It depends on what you are knitting. If you are knitting something like a scarf or a blanket where you don’t mind if it ends up being several inches larger or smaller than expected, then gauge doesn’t matter. But if you’re knitting something like a hat or sweater where you do need the size to be pretty spot-on, then gauge matters.

Let’s use a sweater pattern for an example. The pattern says to cast on 60 stitches to create a sweater with a circumference of 20 inches. If you knit your stitches looser than “normal”, your 60 stitches will result in a circumference larger than 20 inches. Your sweater will be too big. If you knit your stitches tighter than “normal”, your sweater will be smaller than 20 inches and hence too small.

How to “Fix” your Gauge

So what do you do if you’ve knit the gauge swatch and the size doesn’t match the gauge listed in the pattern? Well, you have a few options.

  • If your stitch count is off, you can change out your needle size:
    • If you ended up with more stitches than the gauge called for, use a larger needle.
    • If you ended up with fewer stitches, use a smaller needle.
  • If your row count is off, you can change out the type of needle used:
    • Needles come in aluminum, plastic, bamboo, etc. Each type of material has a different surface tension which can affect your row gauge.
  • If you have tried a different size needle and/or different type of needle and that is not fixing your problem, you can try either a thicker or thinner weight yarn.
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Author: Nicole Bolin