Thursday, August 2, 2012

Unlabelled Yarn - Getting to Know You...

"Why thank you for the free yarn, my anonymous yarn-giving friend!"
"You're very welcome, my yarn-using charity knitter friend."
BOTH of us are happy with this.  I get free yarn, and my friend unloads stuff she doesn't want anymore.
(I mean, she really TRIED learning to knit, but it just wasn't for her.)

So, now, I have a bag full of yarn, ready to be used for my charity knitting.
It's pretty awesome, and I'm happily looking through all the yarn, to see exactly what I have.
Unfortunately, lots of the yarn has no label, so I'm not really sure WHAT I have.  This makes it difficult for me to plan projects.  I mean, I can't go searching for patterns on Ravelry, if I don't know the specifics for my yarn.  :(

But, I'm not giving up!  Not me!  I am DETERMINED to know what this yarn can do.
Thankfully, I know a little bit about how to figure out the details of a yarn.

#1: What is the weight? 
Fingering, Sport-weight, DK, Worsted, Chunky, Bulky, Super-Bulky?
A quick way to determine this is to do a "wraps per inch" test (WPI).

You don't need any fancy tools to do a WPI test.  Just a ruler will work.
Grab your ruler, and wrap the yarn around it (not too tight!) over and over again, then place all the strands side by side (but not squished together).  Then, count how many strands there are in an inch.  I usually count how many strands there are in two inches, then divide it by two.  Seems to work better for me.

Once you know how many wraps per inch your yarn gets, you can use THIS chart to see what the weight of your yarn is.  Now, you have that part figured out.  CHECK! :)

#2: How many yards of yarn do I have?
My favorite way of checking this is to run the yarn through a yarn meter.  It's pretty fun, actually.  I run the yarn through it, then wind the yarn into a nice yarn cake on my ball winder.  So, I'm getting two things done at the same time.  I'm measuring my yarn and winding it too! Cool....

When I finish measuring and winding my yarn, I always write down the information I learned, so I don't forget it.  I make my own yarn label, using a piece of paper and tape, with my information listed.

Now that I know the weight and yardage, I can search through the Ravelry pattern database, with that information entered in the column on the left side.  Awesome. :)

#3: What size knitting needle/crochet hook should I use with this yarn?
But, before I run off to Ravelry-world, I like to get to know my yarn even better.
So, I sit myself down in my knitting chair, with the unlabelled yarn, and a fistful of knitting needles and crochet hooks in different sizes.  Then, I knit a few rows with the yarn, to see how it feels on the different sized needles.  I also look at the fabric it creates, to see how it looks.  When I'm happy with the results, I write the knitting needle size on the label.  Then, I do the same thing with the crochet hooks, and list that info as well.

By the way, now you can do a gauge swatch (knit and crochet), then, write the stitches per inch on the label.

It takes a couple hours to get all this done, but it is SO worth it.  Now, your yarn has a label again, which will make it much simpler to choose a pattern.

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I'm a forum moderator and blogger for Spinrite Yarns (, and I spend WAY too much time there. :D You can also find me on the Knitting Help Forum occasionally