The Name's the Thing
The yarn's name will be the first thing you notice. The name of the company will be prominent as well. These are the first and last names of the yarn and are matters of great importance. The naming of yarn is a critical part of the merchandising, and much thought is given to this process. It is the way knitters refer to the product and spread the word among other knitters whether the yarn is liked or not! The country of origin is displayed, and often the company address is offered. Some labels contain a Web site, which is helpful if the knitter has questions regarding the yarn after purchase.
Fibers Front & Center
Fibers used in the yarn are clearly shown, including percentages, if the yarn is composed of more than one fiber. This information lets you know what to expect in the performance of the yarn, both while knitting with it and when the final product is in use. If using wool of a special variety, the label will indicate that. Terms used are usually generic, but there may be specifics added to show special qualities, such as Sea Island cotton or merino wool.
Color & Dye Lots
The color and dye-lot designations are critical to note. Knitters are warned to purchase more than they think they might require of the same dye lot (the specific batch number of the color) because even minute differences in the batches can cause a glaringly obvious line when the two balls are joined in a finished product.
Weight is shown in grams and ounces, and the length of the yarn, frequently in both yards and meters, is indicated. This is critical information to the knitter, but be aware that there may be slightly fewer or more yards in the ball or skein. For that reason, it's always prudent to purchase one more unit of yarn than you think you will require.
The weight classification is prominently shown, as this is the information knitters use to make decisions regarding which gauge to use. The knitting industry has standardized the written descriptions of weights of yarn into a system more easily understood in the world market. Rather than the somewhat ambiguous terms knitters have used, the industry suggests that a number designation be used to determine the thickness of yarns, and therefore, the gauge range.
Using these symbols, the knitter can determine which yarn will be needed for the pattern she or he has in mind.
The symbols are now in use, but there will be a period of transition as knitters become accustomed to the designations. Newer patterns will incorporate these symbols, but knitters will need to make the translations when using older patterns.
What's Your Gauge?
The small boxes with numbers and needles relate to the needle size used to achieve the correct gauge with the yarn. As we know, gauge is a personal matter, and is among many factors which affect the final result. The suggested needle size merely offers a starting place for your swatch. Most domestic yarns will offer both a metric and U.S. version of the needle size. However, if the yarn is manufactured abroad, do not expect that the U.S. size will be shown. If the number is listed with a comma where it does not seem to belong (i.e., 3,5), it is a metric number, and you may need a needle gauge to determine the U.S. equivalent.
Along the bottom and side of the box are the dimensions (10cm x 10cm,
4 inches) as well as the number of stitches and rows your yarn will produce under the general tension standards. This is the part which will vary greatly. It does not matter what needle size you need to get the correct gauge, but you must achieve that gauge if the knit project is to fit.
Laundry instructions are suggested with a temperature limit inside the box. The yarn label will indicate whether the yarn should be dry-cleaned or washed by hand or machine, and will also indicate the best method for drying your project. Even the temperatures for drying may be suggested. This may be critical information, particularly when acrylics are involved. This fiber is sensitive to high heat, which can permanently alter the hand or drape of the fiber.
As you can see, the label can be a helpful resource of information when making a yarn choice. This article is not intended to be a complete discourse on the subject, but more of a starting point on the topic. For more information, please check out the data at YarnStandards.com, a Web site sponsored by the Craft Yarn Council of America.
(from the Creative Knitting e-Newsletter, May 23, 2008)