Looking at yarn packaging

Yarn is packaged (sometimes called put up) in different ways — balls, skeins (rhymes with "canes"), and hanks. Each comes wrapped with a label that you should read carefully. It gives you useful information and lets you know whether the yarn is a good candidate for the project you have in mind. If the yarn begs to be purchased before you know what you want to make with it, the information on the label will let you know what kind of project best suits it.

Label talk

A yarn label has tons of vital information (Figure 2-2 shows a typical label). Pay particular attention to

I Gauge (how many stitches and rows per inch) and suggested needle size: This information gives you an idea of what the final knitted fabric will look like. A size US 11 (7/2 mm) needle and a gauge of low numbers (3 stitches and 5 rows per 1 inch) will yield a heavy, chunky fabric. A size US 5 (3/4 mm) needle and a gauge of 5 stitches and 7 rows per 1 inch will yield a finer, more traditional fabric.

I Fiber content: This lets you know whether the yarn is wool, cotton, acrylic, a blend, or something else. If you intend to make a washable garment, check to see whether the yarn is machine- or hand-washable or strictly a dry-clean fiber.

I Dye lot number and/or color number: This information indicates what batch of dye this yarn came from. When you buy multiple skeins of yarn, compare these numbers to ensure that they're the same (that is, that all your yarn comes from the same dye batch). Even if you can't detect a difference in color between two balls of different dye lots, chances are the difference will become apparent when you knit them up one after the other.

To avoid unwanted color variations, buy enough yarn from the same dye lot at one time to complete your project. If you have to buy more later, you may not be able to find yarn from the right dye lot.

Figure 2-2:

A sample yarn label.


100 grams

Sport Weight

40% Merino/ 60% Linen 250 yds/skein

Product of Belgium Distributed by KM Sales

3.25mm 3 US

gentle cycle lay flat to fin tsAerL in




2.5cm/1inch dry

6 sts

Ball, skein, or hank?

Yarn is packaged in different forms: balls, skeins, and hanks, as shown in Figure 2-3. Balls and skeins come ready to knit. Once you find the end, you can cast on and go. Hanks need to be wound into a ball before you can use them. If you try to knit with the yarn in hank form, you'll quickly end up with a tangled mess.

To wind a hank, follow these steps:

  1. Carefully unfold the hank (it's formed into a large circle) and drape it over a chair back, a friend's outstretched arms, or your bent knees if you're sitting.
  2. Locate the ends of the yarn, and if they're tied, cut or unknot them.
  3. With either end, begin by making a butterfly (see Figure 2-4).

Wrap the yarn in a figure eight around the thumb and little finger of your hand. Make about 20 passes if you're winding a medium-weight yarn; make more passes for a finer yarn, or less for a thick yarn.

  1. Take the "wings" off your finger and thumb and fold the butterfly in half, holding it between thumb and fingers.
  2. Continue wrapping yarn loosely around the folded butterfly (and your fingers), as shown in Figure 2-5.

Figure 2-5:

Wrapping the yarn loosely around thumb and fingers.

Figure 2-5:

Wrapping the yarn loosely around thumb and fingers.

6. When the package gets bulky, slip it off your fingers, turn it, and continue to wrap the yarn into a ball.

Neatness isn't important. Looseness is. Always wrap the yarn around as many fingers as you can, slipping them out when you change position. The space they take up will ensure that the yarn isn't stretched as it waits to be knitted. If you knit with stretched yarn, guess what happens to your knitted piece when the yarn springs back to size?

  • Your local yarn store may offer a winding service to convert hanks of yarn to center-pull balls using a yarn (or ball) winder and a swift — two pieces of
  • 1 equipment that allow you to make an easy-to-use "cake" of yarn that sits flat as you knit it. If you find yourself with many hanks to wind, you can even buy your own winder and swift!
  • If at all possible, you want to start knitting with the yarn end that comes from the inside of the skein or ball. This way the skein or ball will remain in place as you
  • 1 knit and not roll around the floor attracting the attention of a cat (or other pet)

on attack. If you're lucky, the inside end will already be pulled to the outside — ready to go. If not, you have to reach in and pull out a small hunk of yarn in order to find this end and then rewrap the extra — not ideal, but better than trying to retrieve the ball after it has rolled under the couch (for the third time).

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