Margaret Kavanagh and Faydra Kenning

Can You Name These 7 Essential Yarn Label Codes?

crochet yarn label

If there is one thing that artists the world over have in common, it’s our love of yarn and our compulsion to collect it. We call it “building our stash.” We don't judge a book, or a yarn, by its label. And that's not necessarily a good thing.
How many times have you gone into a yarn store for just one skein, and walked out with 10? I know I have. That’s how I ended up with a stash that fills two drawers, an under-bed organizer, and a hanging shoe organizer. (All fairly clever ways to store a stash, if I do say so myself.)
So, you’ve got a stash. But, how can you tell if that gorgeous skein of yarn you bought on a whim is going to be appropriate to use for your mom’s shawl, or if it would be better suited for your significant other’s geek blanket? Is the skein the proper weight? Do you have enough to finish your project? And how do you care for it once you’ve finished it?

Yarn Labeling

The yarn label can tell you all of that if you know how to read it. Yarn labels contain lots of information — much of it in pictograms — and if you’re just starting, it's confusing to decipher.
Labels don’t have standardized layouts, but most of them use common symbols, making it easy to decrypt the information once you know the code. You’re looking at seven basic pieces of information.

1. Source

Who made your yarn? You may think the information is obvious, but it’s important. Whether you’re using commercial or boutique yarn, hand-spun or upcycled, knowing who made your yarn and where you got it can help you get more of what you like.

2. Weight

Yarn weight is the measurement of the yarn thickness and ranges from 0 to 6, and from Lace to Super Bulky. Worsted weight yarn, #4 on the scale, is probably the most commonly used (and is also known as Aran).
Have you lost your yarn's label? You can determine the yarn’s weight by figuring out its WPI, or wraps per inch. Simply wrap your yarn around an object with a consistent circumference. Don’t overlap your yarn or wind it too tightly. Just ensure there are no spaces between each wrap.
Measure the number of wraps in a single inch and reference our WPI chart below to get the approximate weight. crochet pattern yarn wpi

3. Gauge

Gauge tells you several important things that could mean the success or failure of your project. All you need to know about gauge is contained in a box. Most yarn is labeled for both knitters and crocheters, so there are two boxes on the label, but we’ll focus on the box (the center box) in the graphic below.

yarn label diagrams

This yarn label has gauge.

Along the top of the box is the size hook recommended for this yarn. In this case, a J-10 or 6mm hook. Around the bottom and right side of the box, you see the numbers 14SC and 14R. These stand for 14 single stitches and 14 rows. On the left, you see the numbers 4″ x 4″ which tells us that if you create a gauge swatch of 14 rows of 14 single, it should measure 4-inches square.
Now, every artist has a different gauge. My sister crochets much tighter than I do and has to use bigger hooks than are typically recommended. Know your own gauge! If you are making a project that is gauge critical, a swatch is a necessity and will save you a lot of frogging.

4. Amount

How much yarn are you buying? Labels list the length of skein four ways: ounces and grams (weight) and yarns and meters (length). Some patterns will only list lengths of yarn rather than number of skeins, so make sure you know exactly how much yarn you will need and purchase accordingly.

yarn label diagrams

This set of codes describes skein yardage, fiber content, and care instructions.

5. Color

The color you choose can affect the outcome of your project as much as the stitches you use or the weight of your yarn. When it comes to yarn color, you’ll find two crucial bits of information on the label: the color name and the dye lot.
Labels display the color name of your yarn prominently (hopefully something memorable like “Van Gogh Tardis Blue”). If they use a numbering system, that will be listed as well. I know this sounds silly, but when buying multiple skeins of the same color, check the name. I’ve had to return to the store to buy more blue and replace the black I grabbed by mistake too many times.
It gets even trickier than just differentiating “Knight’s Watch Black” from “Three-Eyed Raven Black.” Make sure yarn is not only the same color but the same dye lot. You’ll find this information printed or stamped near the color name. Yarn colors can vary between dye lots, and finishing a project with a slightly different color is painful, once you see the results.

yarn label diagrams

This section details the yarn color name/number, dye lot, country of origin, and more.

In our case, our yarn is Teal Green Blues (TSSM-103), Lot # 4685. If you were making a project that needed several skeins of this color, you should make sure you buy all you need of this color and dye lot at the same time. You may not find it on your next trip to the shop.

6. Fiber Content

Knowing the fiber content of your yarn helps you make informed decisions on how to best use each skein — whether it will have the appropriate bloom, loft, halo, and drape. You probably don’t want to make a baby blanket out of super scratchy wool or Amigurumi out of slippery silk, for example. Defining fiber content could be an article on its own, so we’ll leave it at that for now. Remember to look for it on the label when you choose the best yarn for your project.

7. Care Instructions

These symbols are the same as the symbols you find on your clothes or bedspread tags. They tell you how to care for the fabric you are creating when you art. Instructions consist of tips for washing, bleaching, drying, ironing, and dry cleaning. Knowing what these symbols mean can help lengthen the life of your finished object, and keep it beautiful for a long time.
Now that you know the code, you can do a little research to decipher the language of the labels and choose your yarn wisely!


Readers, this article originally appeared in an issue of Happily Hooked Magazine. Now I can't tell you that you'll obsess over every single article in every single issue as much as I do, but I'm guessing you'll like them a whole lot. There is a T O N of great information, like you found in this article, in each issue. And, of course, there are PATTERNS!

If you aren't already a subscriber, you might want to check out what you're missing. And if you want to have access to all the previous issues, too, check out the Lifetime Membership, because know-how NEVER goes out of style.
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Author Info

Blog Manager & Columnist Coordinator at Happily Hooked | + posts

I've been crocheting since my mother taught me as a little girl. I'm lucky to be working with Happily Hooked and I can't wait to share everything yarny and hooky with you! Yarn over, peeps! Yarn over!

Faydra Kenning
Faydra Kenning
Website | + posts

Hey! I'm Faydra, a stay-at-home mom of one, loving wife and crochet designer. I picked up my first hook as a young girl learning from my mother how to crochet. I started Knottie Hooks in the Spring of 2018 after friends were asking for me to make them things. I began creating my own new designs soon after. Fast-forward to 2020 where I have turned those sketchy notes into unique patterns and new products.

I wake up every day looking forward to what I do. I feel blessed that I can work from home doing what I love and still take care of my family.

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