How to Read Yarn Labels – Quick Knitting Lesson

Yarn labels, some people call them yarn wraps, pack a lot of information and you’ll need to know what it all means especially if you’re following a knitting pattern.  Knitting patterns will tell you what kind of yarn to buy for that knitting project.

But there are other reasons as well. For instance you may want to substitute the yarn that is called for in a pattern, or you may want certain types of yarn like wool, acrylic or cotton. You may also want a certain thickness.  All this information is wrapped neatly around your little ball of yarn.

Yarn labels will give you information like:

  • fiber content, wool or cotton for instance
  • what size knitting needles to use
  • yarn weight (light, medium, bulky)
  • yarn length
  • laundry care
  • color and dye lot number

Note:  Each company has their own label so the information may not be in the same place. It’s there so once you know what to look for it’s easy peasy.

What  Yarn Labels Say And What To Look For

As you can probably tell I made this yarn label and I numbered the important elements so that it will help you understand.

yarn labels

1. The largest letters on yarn labels will be the company name. This one is My Yarns. I know it’s not exactly the most creative.

2. It will list the actual weight and length of the yarn, this one is 7 oz/198 grams and 364 yards/333m.

What’s important here is that you may pick up two different balls of yarn both weighing the same and maybe even looking similar but they may not have the same yardage.

For instance, you pick up a sock yarn that is 100 g / 3.5 oz and you also pick up another light yarn that is 100 gr / 3.5 oz. They may look almost identical but if you read the yarn label you may find that the ball of sock yarn has 425 yards / 388 m and the other ball of light yarn has only 346 yards / 316 m.

3. Next is the color and color number. This is light blue and the color number is A123.

4. The dye lot (or lot) number is 456.  Always check to make sure the dye lot numbers are the same.  Even though the color may look exact it could be off just a tiny bit.  This is really important too.  I have bought two colors that look identical but they weren’t and it does make a difference when you’re knitting. If you can buy enough yarn for what you need in your project that would be great. It may be hard to match it up if you run out. I’m really bad for that.

5. The fiber content will be on all yarn labels. This one is 100% acrylic.

6. The next set of boxes show you the gauge and laundry care symbols.

The first box on the left shows a ball of yarn that says medium and has a number 4 in the center.  This means it is medium weight. The number in the center describes the thickness. Numbers for thickness start at 0 (thinnest) and go to 7 (thickest) according to the Craft Yarn Councils Standard Yarn Weight System.

Yarn Label Section Especially Important For Knitters…

yarn label knitting section

This section, the knitting needle symbol section, on yarn labels is the part that knitters need to take a look at. On my yarn label above it’s the second box from the left. It gives you important knitting information for such things as needle size and knitting gauge.

Let’s decipher what this means

First of all in the center is a pair of needles with the number 5 mm at the top and 8 US below. This is the suggested knitting needle size they want you to knit with. That’s needle size 8 US (5mm)

The numbers all around the box are for knitting gauge which means how many stitches and rows you will get when you work with that yarn and size 8 US (5 mm) knitting needles.

On one side of the box is 4 X 4 inches, at the top is 10 cm X 10 cm. You need to make a gauge swatch that is 4 inches wide and 4 inches long.

The outside bottom of the box says 17 S (stitches), the right side 23 R (rows). This means that you will need to get 17 stitches and 23 rows in a 4 inch swatch. To narrow it down they want you to get 4.25 stitches per inch and 5.75 rows per inch.

Here’s where you can learn all about knitting gauge.

The third box is very much like the knitting one only it’s for crochet. It suggests a crochet hook size of I-9 (5.5mm). Using that size hook should give you a desired gauge of 12 single crochet (12SC) and 15 rows (15 R) in 4 inches (10cm).

The far right box and the two bottom boxes are laundry care symbols for your yarn. After all it isn’t going to be a ball of yarn for long right?

And just what do all those laundry symbols mean?

Well I thought you might want to know so below I have listed some common laundry care symbols and their meanings.

That way you have the yarn label symbols and the laundry symbols all in one spot.

Note: The dots on any laundry symbol represents how hot you can have the heat setting. One dot is the lowest. The more dots the hotter you can have the heat. They are universal in that you may see them for washing, ironing, dryers and so on.

Any “X” on any laundry symbol means “do not”

Laundry Symbols



Machine wash
Machine wash, permanent press
Machine wash, gentle or delicate cycle
Hand wash
Do not machine wash


Do not wring


Use any bleach when needed
Use only non-chlorine bleach when needed
Do not bleach


Tumble dry, normal settings, any heat
Tumble dry, high heat
Tumble dry, medium heat
Tumble dry low, permanent press
Tumble dry medium permanent press
Tumble dry low, gentle or delicate heat cycle
Tumble dry no heat
Lay flat
Line Dry
Dry in shade
Drip dry
Do not machine dry
Do not tumble dry


Iron, any heat, steam or dry
Iron high heat
Iron medium heat
 Iron low heat
Do not steam iron
Do not iron


Dry clean, any solvent, any heat, any cycle, any moisture
Dry clean, any solvent except trichloroethylene
Dry clean, petroleum solvent only
Do not dry clean

Do Yarn Labels Have A Use Once You Finish Knitting?

If your knitting project was a gift you could include the yarn label with the gift. I always send a yarn label along with the gift so they know how to wash and dry it. If you start using wool and other natural fibers it will be very important.

It also may be an idea to take note of the yarn care instructions for yourself or hang onto the label so that you can remember how to care for the fabric as well. You can keep it with the swatch you made. You did knit up a swatch right?

Back to beginning knitting

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6 thoughts on “How to Read Yarn Labels – Quick Knitting Lesson

  1. Thank you – very sincerely!!! I could understand some of the label but could never figure out the stitches and size needle to use. I am a long time knitter and now I know how exactly to figure out my pattern. Yes, I do make samples and then pray my sweater will come out right . I have been lucky some of time – With this information I shall start making better samples and yes, marking them for future use.

  2. Very helpful. Just what I have been needing and so clearly explained. Most people just assume you should understand. Thank you

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