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How to Read Yarn Labels

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When you pick up a new ball of yarn, there is a plethora of information on that little slip of paper.  Learn how to read a yarn label with ease, so that you can pick the perfect yarn for that knit baby sweater [3] or crochet afghan pattern [4].  This tutorial will decipher the yarn label so that you’ll get the perfect yarn. Keep in mind that not all yarn labels follow the same format as this Red Heart Yarn [5], but most will usually include all of this same information.

pointed ends (1) [6]

Yarn Color & Dye Lot:

This information is very important to note if your pattern requires more than one ball of the same color.  Not only is is important to pick up enough of the color required to finish your project, but the yarn should have the same dye lot.  The dye lot indicates to the yarn company (and you) which pot of dye that ball of yarn was made with.  While the companies strive to make each color uniform despite different batches, there will be slight differences for many reasons (weather, slight yarn variations, water temperature differences… the list is long).

Gauge Information and Weight Category:

The two small squares shown here show the average suggested hook and needles size for this particular yarn, as well as about how many stitches are in a 4×4″ swatch.  These needle/hook sizes are just suggestions and your results will vary depending on your gauge, that is why it is important to make that gauge swatch before starting your project. For more information about the importance of the gauge swatch, check out our Knitting Basics: What is Gauge? [7] lesson.

What-is-Gauge [7]

For help choosing the correct crochet hook size [8], we have put together a great article for you.  We give you everything you need to know about crochet hooks.

how-to-crochet-crochet-hook-sizes_Large500_ID-849206 [8]

You will also see a graphic depicting a ball of yarn with a number in it.  This number classifies the weight of the yarn, with 0 being the finest yarn and the newly introduced 7 being the thickest bulky yarn.  For general reference, a yarn classified as a 4 is a worsted weight yarn.  For more about yarn weights, check out this handy chart of the standardized weights from the Craft Yarn Council [9].

Care Information:

This section will either use universal symbols or words to tell you how to care for your finished knit or crochet project.  From hand washing, machine washing to dry cleaning, be sure to follow these care instructions to ensure a long life for your creation.  Here is a helpful guide [10] about the symbols from Petals to Picots.

As a handy tip: when giving a handmade knit or crochet gift, consider giving the recipient care instructions as well.  I’ll often include a small ball of the leftover yarn attached to a small card with the care instructions on it.  That way the recipient has yarn for repairs, and will be able to care for your special gift for years to come.

Fiber Content:

Here you will note the type of material that makes up your yarn.  Whether it’s cotton, acrylic or wool – it’s important to note this section as different yarns knit or crochet up differently.  Some fibers don’t hold their shape well when hanging, other drape beautifully.  If you have an sensitivities to certain fibers you’re going to want to pay special attention to this section.

How Much Yarn:

If you are working a pattern that requires a specific amount of yarn, you need to note how much yarn this ball contains.  Your pattern will indicate how many yards (and often ounces of a specific yarn) you’ll need to make this project. Make sure that you pick enough for the entire project all at once, if at all possible, so that you are sure not to run out.  Nothing is worse than getting almost to the end of the project and running out of yarn.

Brand & Yarn Name:

This section is pretty self explanatory, but is important to note so that you can find more should you need to.  Often the picture shown here will also be the free knitting pattern [11] or free crochet pattern [12] included on the backside of the label.  These free patterns are designed to go perfectly with the particular yarn, so you’re sure to get a beautiful finished piece.

Brand Contact Information:

Should you need to contact the yarn company for any reason, this information will get you the help you need.


What information has always confused you on a yarn label?