One of the intentions I set for this new year was to address some of the crochet fundamentals. Not in terms of fundamental stitches, but in terms of the basic knowledge surrounding the craft.
I’m taking about the kind of stuff that once you know it, you forget there was a time that you didn’t!
I am a self taught crocheter and learned a lot of this stuff by osmosis, with experience and often by accident, chancing on a game changing facebook post or insta caption (then often felt like an idiot for not already knowing it – is that just me?).
So this year I want to take some time to explicitly address some of those items that many see as a given, but others aren’t aware of.
I have recently written a posts about how to choose yarn for your project and an explanation of drape in an effort to start addressing some of these building blocks, but today I’m going back further to the foundations.
I’m going to take a look at what you can learn from the ball band on your yarn.
Essentially, I see the ball band / yarn wrap as a combination of the care label that you see on most fabric based products (clothes, curtains, table cloths etc.) and an instruction manual on how to use your yarn.
I will walk you through what each piece of information means and how you can use it.
You can also find a YouTube video discussing your yarn name here
Below is a picture of some typical yarn wraps. Different brands organise the information differently, some use both sides, some just the outside, but the same basic information should always be available … somewhere!
Once you start drilling down you see that this is a wealth of information! So lets dig in and look at it all!
Typical information found on a yarn ball band
1 Brand and Name of Yarn
This speaks for itself I hope! What I would say is that different brands and styles of yarn have differing amounts of information on their ball bands. The majority of information I address here should be present but will often be laid out differently so if you’re working with a new-to-you brand, it may take you a while to get used to where to look on the label!
2. Colour or Shade
The terms colour, colourway and shade are used interchangably between brands. The colour is typically represented by a shade number, a name or both.
Some brands will only have a colour number, I wonder if this is a hangover from when yarn was more commonly sold wholesale to fabric manufacturers and the processes in the mills have not changed.
Other brands may just have a name (although there is usually a number associated with it somewhere!). Names can vary from a simple ‘light pink’ to something infinitely creative – check out indie dyers if you want some interesting colourway names!!
3. Dye Lot
When yarn is dyed, whether it is in an insdustrial manufacturing plant, or a on an indie dyer’s kitchen stove, it is done so in batches or ‘lots’.
Although dyers may follow the same instructions and use the same ingredients each time they dye a specific colour, the results can vary slightly. This is why each batch created is given a dye, represented by a number.
If you’re making one project using several skeins of the same colour yarn, it’s always worth checking they were coloured together in the same dye lot, that way you are more likely to get consistency between balls. It may be hard to notice any difference when the yarn is balled up, but you will notice when you see that one sleeve of your sweater differs slightly in colour from the rest!
4. Fibre Content
This simply tells you what your yarn is made from. If it is a blend it will have the relative content (e.g. 70% merino, 30% nylon).
The fibre content will tell you a lot about how the yarn will behave and how it should be looked after (you can read more about this in the ‘what yarn should I use?” blog post).
Fibre content is also useful in case of allergies.
5. Ball Weight
This is the dry weight of the specific ball. Largely this is given in grams, although in the US they will often also give the weight in oz because they use a combination of the imperial (Pounds, ounces, inches, yards etc.) and metric (grams, kilos, centimetres, metres etc.) measuring systems.
Ball weights are not always standard. They usually differ depending on the fibre content and quality and can come in balls as small as 10g up to 400g for lightweight up to worsted weight yarns! Or, if you’re working with those super chunky yarns used for arm knitting or giant blankets, you start moving into measurements in kilos!!!
6. Ball Length
This is the length, usually given in metres and or yards, of yarn that your specific ball contains.
If you’re working on a pattern where the amount of yarn is given in weight and you are using a different yarn to that specified, always check the meterage requirements so you can make sure you get your quantities right.
A 100g ball of one yarn may be 250m, but 100g of another yarn (of the same yarn class) may only be 200m so it is worth taking the time to compare – no one likes to loose at yarn chicken!!
On top of this, it’s worth noting that the weights and lengths included in each ball may be subject so some variation, depending on the manufacturing process!
7. Yarn Weight / Yarn Class
For example, laceweight, double kit, aran, worsted, chunky etc etc.
Like so many things in the yarn world, there are no universal terms for yarn weights and there is variation within the same weight classes, just to make things harder!
The weight class should really be used as a guide only. I’ve used 4ply which is thicker than dk and vice versa! I prefer to see yarn weights as broader categories. There is variation within each category and they often overlap!
The nature of different fibres and the variation in yarn construction and manufacturing across the globe means that it’s hard to create a universal standard for weight categories. And to be honest, I’m not sure I would want one – I love exploring they ways different yarns behave (though I appreciate there is some frustration involved in this too!).
This variance is just another reason why gauge is so important!
8. Hook or needle size
Most ball bands will come with a recommendation of what knitting needle size you should use. They are getting better at adding crochet hook size too, but knitting seems, as always, to be the default.
Some will list one size only and others will list a range.
I would stress here that this is a recommendation. There are many factors which influence the choice of crochet hook size (including fibre, tension, stitch pattern, type of project etc.) so it’s totally fine to deviate from this guide!
9. Tension / Gauge
Most balls bands will give a tension guide. Again, this is focused more towards knitting. They give the number of stitches and rows you can achieve in a 10cm square of knit stitch using their recommended needles.
As a crocheter I rarely look at this as it’s largely meaningless, but it can serve as a marker as to what kind of crochet tension you could expect. Although for me, the yarn weight class and hook size give me more of an idea!
10. Care instructions
This is one of those items that is included to varying levels of detail, but, for me is incredibly useful.
Most yarn ball bands include the same kind of care instructions as the off the peg clothes in your wardrobe will contain. This makes so much sense given the purpose of yarn is to create something which you will wear or use in some other way so is likely, at some point, to require washing!
The care labels use the same standard symbols as you see in your wardrobe and typically include washing instructions (hand or machine), wash temperature and information about whether the yarn is suitable for the dryer and or ironing.
Ironing tip – if it’s acrylic, don’t apply direct heat if you want to iron anything acrylic, do so on a cooler setting underneath a tea towel – direct heat melts the fibres in acrylic yarn!
Some brands include other additional information on their labels. This is a space for them to connect with you so they may include a free pattern, a special offer or a coupon for example!
Another common extra is that the ball band will give you an indication of how much yarn you require to make a sweater. Note that these amounts are a guide (based on knit!) and will depend entirely on the style and size of sweater. Crochet generally uses more yarn so I would expect this guide to be a minimum.
I have also seen yarn brands (I’m looking at you Lion Brand!) add measuring tape style marks to the edge of their bands so there really is no excuse not to measure your gauge!! (I might have to go and check how accurate the marks are now I’ve said that!!)
So there we have it – that little piece of paper may be small but is mighty in terms of how much use you can get out of it. I hope you find this useful and had one or two ah-ha moments!
One last thing to note is that if you loose your ball band there are places on line where you can find this information. Mostly it will either be given on the yarn brand website, online yarn stores and in Ravelry’s extensive historical yarn database (the best place for info in discontinued yarns in particular!).
Despite the on line availability of this info, I hate throwing away yarn bands, but have never been quite sure what to do with them! I just started stashing most of them in a box… finally this post has let me know why I saved them all!!