How to Read Yarn Labels + FREE Cheat Sheet

Do you guys pause to read yarn labels when you’re shopping or do you just choose by feel and color? At first, I would find yarn that was the right color and a medium weight, and that worked for a long time. But, as you branch out and make different things or make gifts, being able to read yarn labels really makes a difference. There is so much helpful information on a label that you could be missing out on. Today, I wanted to go over how to read yarn labels, so that you know the best way to use and care for an item made from that yarn. There’s also a freebie at the end of this post for deciphering the information on yarn labels and any other clothing tag. Ready? Let’s go!

How to Read Yarn Labels

Go ahead and grab any ball of yarn you have. Some of the information may be arranged differently on labels from different brands, but they will all have the same information and use the same symbols.

1. Brand/Yarn Name

The first big text you see is usually the brand name, or the name of that specific yarn. It’s easy to spot and there’s nothing tricky about it. This one is Big Twist yarns, in their Baby line.

2. Yarn Weight

Somewhere on the label, there’s a block of little symbols. The first one is a picture of a ball of yarn and a number on the label. This symbol shows the yarn weight. It can be anywhere from 0-7 and it just tells you how thick the yarn is. The one I’m using is a #4, so it’s a worsted weight yarn.

There are can be a few different types of yarn under each weight category. Here’s a quick breakdown of the yarn weights:

  • 0: This is lace weight, and it’s really just a fine crochet thread.
  • 1: This is superfine yarn, and it includes fingering weight, sock yarns and some baby yarns.
  • 2: Slightly thicker than #1, but still fine. Yarns in this category are sport weights and baby yarn.
  • 3: Next is a light weight yarn. These are DK yarns good for double knitting and light worsted yarns.
  • 4: Medium weight is the most common and the one I used for most projects. This category includes afghan, worsted, and aran yarns.
  • 5: This is bulky yarn. It’s also called chunky yarn.
  • 6: Super bulky! This can also include roving, which is the wool that hasn’t been spun so it’s still fluffy and untwisted.
  • 7: Lastly, there’s jumbo yarn. This is the chunkiest of yarn and even thicker roving.

3. Gauge

The next two boxes are for determining the gauge of your knitting or crocheting with that yarn. It’s an estimate, but it’s a good way to see whether you need to work more tightly or more loosely for projects that need an exact gauge.

The image in the middle tells you whether it’s referring to the knitting or crochet, and what hook or needle size is used. On one side, it’ll say the measurement of the gauge square; here it’s a 4 x 4 inch square, or 10 x 10 cm. On the bottom, where my finger is, you’ll see the number of stitches you’ll need to get a square the same size as the sample. Here, it’s 18 stitches in knitting and 13 in crochet. On the other side, it shows how many rows make up the 4 inches; so, 24 rows for knitting, and 14 rows for crochet.

If you know this information, and you know that you knit with the same gauge (or you do a sample), you can figure out how many stitches you need for anything. For example, if my gauge is the same as the sample, and I need to make a scarf that’s 28 inches wide, I can do some simple math to figure out how many stitches to start with.

  • If I was knitting, 18 stitches x 7 (to get 28 inches) gives me 128 stitches to cast on. 
  • For crochet, 13 stitches x 7 gives you 91 stitches in your foundation chain. 

You can just start casting on or creating your chain without figuring out how many stitches you need, but it’s usually easier to get it right the first time and know approximately how many you’ll need than to go by trial and error.

Related: Craftsy Yarn Haul + Extra Goodies

4. Yarn Amount

This next bit is probably most important reason to read yarn labels. This little section here tells you how much yarn is actually in one ball/skein/hank. The information is always given in a few forms so no matter how you measure your yarn, there’s something for you. This particular ball of yarn is 2.8 oz / 80 grams / 147 yards / and 134 meters.

If you were working on something that needed 400 yards of this yarn, you can easily figure out how many balls to get. Just divide 400 by 147 yards and you get 2.72; now you know that you’ll need 3 balls of this yarn to finish your project.

There’s a little bit of math involved in crochet and knitting, but it’s all simple!

This section also has information about the fiber content of the yarn. This one is 100% acrylic, but you’ll also see yarn with a mixture of fibers.

5. Care Instructions

When I’m deciding what yarn to get, this is the main reason I like to read yarn labels. These symbols are the same as the ones you see in your clothing and they tell you how you should care for the yarn/finished item when you’re washing and drying it.

This company also writes out that it’s machine washable and dryable, but sometimes there are only symbols. The first one means to machine wash at medium heat and with permanent press on. The triangle with an X through it means not to use bleach. The third symbol is to tumble dry on low heat with a gentle cycle. The next image means not to iron anything made from this and the circle with an X through it means not to dry clean it.

For me, this was incredibly useful when I started selling blankets and making items as gifts. I didn’t want to give someone a gorgeous blanket that would be a nightmare to wash and take care of, so I always look for machine washable and dryable yarn that still looks beautiful if I’m making baby items or clothing that’s going to need washing often. Otherwise, I include a note that briefly tells the customer how to wash the item.

That sounds like a ton of symbols to know, but you don’t need to memorize it all. I have a cheat sheet I whipped together so you can just print it out and stick it in your purse to reference when buying new yarn! It’s in my resource library for subscribers, so just head on over there to sign up or print it out!

6. Color and Dye Lot Numbers

If you take a look at the image above, you’ll see that little suggestion to buy as much yarn as you need from one dye lot. This is where you find that information. Somewhere around the bar code, there’s a little bit on the color number, color name and the dye lot number. This is the color “Twinkle Little Star”, and if I ran out of this while I was using it, I could easily just pick up another with the same name and it would be fine.

However, the dye lot number gives you a little more info. When yarn is dyed, it’s dyed in big batches and not every batch is exactly the same color. I could pick up another ball of this yarn, but it might be more yellow than the first. Once, I made a sweater for my mom and halfway through, I saw that the color was off. It had the same name, but the dye lot number was different and the second ball of yarn I was using was more of a dark purple than the navy blue I started with.

So, when you need a few balls of the same yarn, try to get them all at once and make sure the dye lot numbers match. This way, you’ll know that all of that yarn was dyed in the same batch and is the same shade.

7. FREE Patterns!

You know those pictures on the front of the labels of a baby in a nice cardigan, or someone modeling a scarf made of the yarn? Well, a lot of the time, that pattern is actually included on the label! Sometimes it’s a the link to the yarn company’s website where you can find the pattern, but most of the time, it’s the full pattern.

You just need to take the label off by unsticking it where the ends meet. Taking it off this way just stops you from cutting off any of the pattern. Then flip it over and voìla, free pattern on the inside! This is why it’s always good to read yarn labels. I like to keep some of my labels if I like the pattern so I can make it another time. They’re also great for when you LOVE a yarn, but have no idea what to make with it.

Just like any pattern, all the information is right there, just in a smaller form. And that’s it! Those 6 or 7 things are all you need to know about how to read yarn labels.

Laundry Care Cheat Sheet

Okay, here is the cheat sheet I promised! Like I said earlier, there are a ton of different symbols for taking care of your yarn or any clothing item when it comes to washing and drying. And although it’s so incredibly useful to know that information, it can be hard to keep all the symbols straight. So to help with that, I created a little cheat sheet with all the most common laundry symbols that you can just print out and stick in your purse. Then, when you’re shopping for new yarn and aren’t sure what a symbol means, you can just reference this handy little guide!

Or, if you want, you can even frame it and hang it in your laundry room so it’s always there when you’re doing your normal washing. When you spend the time to choose pretty yarns and make something handmade, you want it to stay in the best condition possible for as long as possible. And the easiest way to do that is to just follow the care instructions.

Just click the image or use the form at the end of the post to sign up for access to the resource library where the full version of this cheat sheet lives, along with other freebies for subscribers.

I hope you guys liked this post and now know how to read yarn labels! I’m branching out and working on more informational posts so that along with free patterns, you guys get to know more about the tools, the techniques and all the tricks that go into crocheting or knitting anything.

If there’s anything you’re curious about or want to learn more about, let me know in the comments! Or, just comment below and tell me your favorite yarn and why you love it. I have a few, but my favorite is Crafter’s Secret because it’s easy to care for, it’s super soft for acrylic yarn, and it comes in every color you can think of!

See you soon 🙂