6 Things you can Learn from the Yarn Ball Band

A Wealth of information can be obtained from a yarn ball band.  However, interpreting the band is not always easy.  Once you understand how to read the ball band, it becomes much easier to substitute yarns for a particular pattern.   You will discover at least 6 important pieces of information you can obtain from the yarn ball band.  

  • Fiber content: The ball band will tell you the types of fiber(s) that constitute the yarn.  This ball band lists the fiber content as 100% wool.  If the yarn is a combination of fibers, each will be listed with a % to indicate the contribution of each individual fiber.  When substituting yarns, it is often a good idea to use a yarn with a similar fiber content so the drape of the final product is similar to the pattern.
  • Weight of the yarn: The number on the yarn ball band in the lower left white square of the label tells the weight of the yarn.  There is a numbering system for reporting the weight of the yarn.  The larger the number, the bulkier the yarn.  This particular yarn is worsted weight (number 4).  You can find a great reference for yarn weights at the yarn council at www.craftyyarncouncil.com/weight.html.  When substituting yarns, it is usually recommended to substitute for a yarn in the same weight category.  If substituting outside the weight category, your needle size will likely need to change.

    01d3c90d4b0ca846177c0257917809bc5386ab9f39Yardage: The yarn label should give the amount of yarn included in each ball in both yards and meters.  Always make sure you pay attention to the number of balls called for in your pattern and multiply by the number of yards per ball to get the total yardage needed.  It’s better to have extra yarn available then to run out before your project is finished.  It’s also not ideal to go back and purchase more yarn later as the dye lot may not be the same (see more below).

  • Care instructions: The label should include washing and care instructions.  The 5 square boxes to the right of the yarn weight indicate care instructions for the final garment made with that yarn.  The first box refers to handwashing and gives a safe water temperature if hand washing is acceptable.  This yarn is safe to hand wash at 30 degrees Centigrade.  The second box addresses machine washing.  The 3rd box with the picture of the iron inidcates the safety of ironing items made with the yarn.  The box with the triangle refers to bleach (not recommended for this yarn).  The last box refers to drycleaning.  The A in the box indicates that dry cleaning is acceptable with any solvent for this particular yarn.  You can find a thorough list of yarn care symbols at lionbrand.com/yarnCare.html
  • Recommended needle size and guage:  The gauge recommended for this yarn is 4-5 stitches per inch in stockinette stitch.  Assume stockinette stitch for all yarn label gauges.  The recommended needle size is given in both US and Metric sizes and is US 7-9 for this yarn.  However, it is most important to make sure you are getting the right gauge for your pattern regardless of the gauge listed on the yarn label
  • Color and Dye lot: Yarn is dyed in large batches, called lots.  Color across different dye lots often varies.  Therefore, it is important to try and purchase all the yarn for 1 project from the same dye lot.
    Yarn Dyelot
    Yarn Dyelot


Blocked capeletI’ve been doing a lot of research on blocking lately.  I have always wet blocked by either submerging the item, or spray spritzing.  Most of my yarn is wool so these methods have served me well.  My technique is simple but this week I discovered a kitchen tool that works perfectly for the process.  My general process involves soaking the finished item in lukewarm water with a bit of aqua soak (rinse-free soap for hand knits).  In my reading, several sources have recommended draining the water, rather than lifting the hand-knit item out of the water, to avoid stretching.   Unfortunately, I don’t have a utility sink that I can dedicate for this purpose.  I started brainstorming about using a strainer, in a bowl of water.  Then, I remembered my husband’s pasta pot…. perfect!


Perfect blocking chamber
Perfect blocking chamber

I place the item in the inner chamber where the pasta goes, and then fill the pot with lukewarm water and aqua soak until the item is submerged.  After letting the item sit for 20 minutes, I lift out the inner chamber and let all the water drain.   I then roll the knit item in a towel to remove most of the moisture and place it on a blocking mat.  The mat I use is foam with multiple pieces that fit together like a puzzle.

Mat pieces for blocking
Mat pieces for blocking

I’m able to make the mat as small or large as I need it.  I place the mat on a flat surface and use stainless steel t-pins to pin my item to the appropriate size.  I then leave the item until it is completely dry.  Some items can be blocked on forms, such as socks.  Some people use forms or balloons to block hats.  I just lie my hats flat on the blocking board, usually without pins.  I’m concerned that stretching around a balloon will stretch the ribbing of the hat.  I continue to be afraid to steam block but hope some day I will work up the courage to try it.





yarns 1If you don’t have a Ravelry account, STOP and go immediately to www.ravelry.com and sign up for a free account.  Ravelry is an invaluable resource for knitters.  It has a large database of free patterns and patterns for purchase.  Ravelry also has a large yarn database.  You can personalize your Ravelry account and  record all your own projects and store your patterns purchased on Ravelry in your Ravelry library.  Ravelry also has an active forum in which you can ask for help from fellow knitters and share ideas.  One of my favorite Ravelry functions is the yarns function.  Most of us have a stash,  yarn we purchase on sale, yarn purchased for a certain project that never happened, and yarn we received as gifts.  Sometimes, it is hard to find a project for our yarn.  This is where Ravelry comes in.  You can enter your yarn in the yarn database.  You can then browse all the projects that other Ravelers have completed in the same yarn.  The projects will indicate how much of the yarn was needed for that particular project.   When I browse projects completed with my yarn,  I get ideas about what type of projects the yarn is suited for.   In addition, some of the patterns are available on Ravelry and many of them are free.  I seldom leave Ravelry without a pattern when I use this method to diminish my stash.  Ravelry has MANY other invaluable functions and there are people out there who teach classes on getting the most out of Ravelry.  Since the membership is free, there is nothing to be lost and a lot to be gained by joining.  I hope to see you on Ravelry soon.  You will find me there as jpwarner.