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Published on October 7th, 2015 | by Angie

18 comments

How to figure out yarn weight

Got some mystery yarn in your stash? Decode your yarn with this helpful guide on how to figure out yarn weight!

It’s happened to all of us. You start a project and remove the ball band, only to frog it and forget it for months (or years). When you rediscover the yarn, at the bottom of your stash, you can’t remember what it is or where it came from, and you need to know how to figure out yarn weight.

First off, familiarize yourself with what yarn weights are in different regions. Those of us with ambitious stashes can have yarns from all around the world! Did you know that different countries use different systems for labeling yarns?

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You’ll notice that some terms overlap – this can cause confusion among knitters, and it’s exactly why tension squares are so important, especially with super chunky/super bulky yarns. Now that you’re familiar with the differences in terminology, it’s time to learn how to figure out your mystery yarn weight. You’ll need a pencil and a measuring tape or ruler.

Figure out yarn weight: read more at LoveKnitting

We’ll be using Wraps per Inch to figure out your yarn weight. You might notice that most ball bands have the wraps per inch, or WPI, indicated. This is meant to overcome the difficulties of regional terminology. Wrap your mystery yarn around the pencil, making sure that the strands are touching, but not overlapping.

how to figure out yarn weight with wraps per inch

Next, you’ll measure the pencil with yarn wraps against a ruler or a measuring tape to make sure you’re wraps are within an inch.

how to figure out yarn weight with wraps per inch

Count the wraps within the inch, and compare against these measurements below:

– Lace or 2 ply: 35 or more

– Light fingering, sock, or 2 ply: 22 – 34

– Fingering or 4 ply: 19 – 22

– Sport: 15 – 18

– DK: 12 – 17

– Worsted or Aran: 9 – 11

– Bulky or Chunky: 8 – 10

– Super Bulky or Super Chunky: anything  that has 7 or less wraps per inch

My mystery yarn clocked in at 10 wraps per inch, making it a worsted weight yarn. It’s no longer a mystery yarn, and I will tag it so I don’t forget – although tagging would have saved me the trouble in the first place!

Do you have mystery yarns in your stash?

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About the Author

Jack of all trades, Master of Netflix and video games. A musician by passion, a gamer by choice, and a crafter by chance: I write about knitting and crochet, design fun patterns, and blog at GamerCrafting!


Last updated: August 2nd, 2017.

18 Responses to How to figure out yarn weight

  1. Helga Barger says:

    Loved the article on yarn weight. I learned knitting as a child in Germany. Now that I’m retired after about a 40 year absence from knitting I remembered how fun it was and then I went crazy buying yarn. That was 4 years ago, my stash took over one whole room. I’ve gotten more realistic about how many projects I could make until I’m 110 or so. So I’m sorting and giving away and keeping the ones I really like. Since my yarn just came from everywhere I noticed the inconsistencies in labeling yarn weight. Your article on the subject helps me to match my yarn to projects I’m interested in.
    Thank you, knitting and learning in Texas

  2. ChrisJ says:

    Thank you for tackling this complex issue! With respect, the terms listed in the US column are those of the Craft Yarn Council and are not in common use among American knitters. One is more likely to hear the terms in the Other column with DK being favored over Light Worsted. We also, oddly enough, use the term Aran to indicate a Heavy Worsted yarn. I would refer you to Ravelry’s Standard Yarn Weights table for the most common US usage: http://www.ravelry.com/help/yarn/weights?highlight=5

    • Angie says:

      Hi ChrisJ –

      We tried to include what knitters of all ages use – and light worsted is still very common in older patterns that we might find lying around. The US column refers to the numbers that are on almost all US yarns, and the other column isn’t meant to be seen as unusual, just a different term. Thanks for your input! Happy knitting!

  3. Arden Allen says:

    my yarns are often mill ends and this article was so helpful
    thank you

  4. Elaine Danner says:

    Found the chart very useful, but I have a question about the “wraps per inch”. Does it matter what you wrap the yarn around? I saw a similar demonstration and they wrapped it around the ruler (which would be much wider than a pencil) or is the goal just to make certain that the wraps do not overlap.

  5. deb says:

    Very useful but is there a way to download pearls of wisdom such as this? With the pics it is hard to copy and I can never seem to find these articles again when I want to!
    Thanks.

  6. Dana says:

    glad you asked, Elaine…..seems to me, wrapping around 1 inch ruler vs. 1/2 inch ruler
    would make a huge difference…..cannot understand this equation.

    • Angie says:

      Hi Dana –

      You’re measuring the thickness of the yarn, not the length, so the width doesn’t matter. You could wrap it around anything so long as you only count the number of wraps in a stitch. Hope that helps!

  7. Lyn Grentell says:

    Elaine and Dana I don’t think it matters what you wrap the wool around it’s how many wraps not the length of wool used

  8. Virginia says:

    Wrapping around a ruler sounds like a great idea.
    I must say the English DK does seem thinner than our
    Aussie 8 ply. I will test this out. Thank you

  9. Penny Tasker says:

    Thanks for this simple explanation. I’m knitting a shawl in a found yarn and now I know it’s true nature – roughly 3ply, or a light sock-yarn weight. Having a clear comparison between US and UK terms is useful too, as I often use patterns where I’m not entirely sure what to substitute for the given yarn.

  10. Lana says:

    This article is so timely. I just returned home from the UK and Ireland with new yarn and was baffled as to the actually weight. This is fantastic. No problem now. Thank you! Thank you! I’ll be happily knitting all day.

  11. Mary Lee says:

    While the Craft Yarn Council broad designations are common on big-box-store acrylics & a few budget cottons & wools, they’re not in general use in the US. Even the major commercial yarn purveyors (Cascade, Berroco, Classic Elite, etc.) continue to use the long-standing terms – Lace, Fingering, Sport, DK, Worsted – although in the past few years some have begun to add the CYCA number box to their labels. Smaller scale commercial dyers (e.g., Madeleine Tosh, Lorna’s Laces) & indie dyers don’t use the CYCA numbers at all. BTW, Sport yarn is heavier than Fingering weight – 5 or 6 ply, not 4. Lace generally means 2-ply, with Cobweb used to refer to 1-ply wools or silks & Thread used for cottons. Light worsted & Light fingering are both rarely used designations, & while the former would appear in some patterns 40+ years ago, neither is likely to be printed on a yarn’s ballband.

  12. Rebecca Gracie says:

    I have been knitting since I was a child and often bought wool from mill outlets etc, and like many other knitters I didn’t always knit up the wool at the time and then it was a hit and a miss as to what the ply was, I am delighted that after all these years I found your blog and can now confidently find the right ply. Thank you, Thank you.
    From a Scottish knitter, Lang may yer lim reek.?

  13. Jacky says:

    I’ve read all the comments to Angie’s post and I find the discussion fascinating. As like many 50+ yr old knitters/crocheters, I learnt the craft years ago by my mother’s side, who in turn learnt from her mother. I am a New Zealander and most patterns back in the day were English but our wool was mostly from New Zealand. Now wool can be sourced around the globe and so are our patterns and on-line tutorials. Angie’s tips are useful as a guide when sorting out unlabelled wool, but nothing beats making a gauge square to save a headache later on in the project. I believe that knitting (and crochet) is an art not a science, so enjoy being creative!

  14. Gloria says:

    To Deb, re pearls of wisdom, if using an iPad can just tag the air drop button and save to I book for future reference or can select print option. Hope this helps

  15. JUDITH says:

    Its about time all manufacturers got together and worked out a standard terminology for yarn and stuck to it – cant be that difficult!?
    Even if it means they have to do the pencil test on a new yarn to get the labelling correct!

    • Angie says:

      Hi Judith,

      I think one of the big problems is that we still use these different terms across the world. For example, the US still has “sport weight”, which falls between 4-ply and DK – but sport weight isn’t a commonly heard weight in the UK! It would certainly be nice to have one main system that everyone stuck to – it would make things so much easier for us knitters! Happy knitting!

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