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No Yarn Label, Which Knitting Needle?: A Simple Solution

Welcome knitters, no matter your skill level, you are in the absolutely right place! In my blog posts I endeavour to break down the basics of the world of knitting so they are understandable, manageable and possibly even inspiring.

A white woman, Alice, a knitting teacher. Squashes 2 different yarn balls together in front of her face.
I love a good yarn squidge

This blog post will cover that experience we have all had, realising we have a mystery yarn in our hands. A yarn that does not indicate what knitting needle is should be knitted with, or what project it could be successfully knitted for. Otherwise known as it's yarn weight category.

Why is Knowing the Knitting Yarn Weight Category Important?

Knitting yarns come in a wide range of weights, or thicknesses. Some yarn weights are better suited to specific knitting projects, such as: Socks. You are unlikely to want to knit a pair of socks in very heavy weight yarn - firstly those beautifully knitted socks will fall off your feet, secondly you are unlikely to be able to get a shoe on over the top!

Different yarn weights have different drape, texture and tension qualities which affect the knitting project you are trying to bring to life on your knitting needles. A lace weight yarn is perfect for a light, drapey lace shawl, not so great for a cosy and warm winter sweater...!

Alice, a white woman holds 3 different yarn thickness strands against her hand to the camera
3 different weight strands here, DK, Fingering and Chunky

It's helpful to be aware of the yarn weight you are choosing to knit with, to help get the tension and texture you either personally want, or that matches the tension needed for the knitting pattern you are following.

Most yarn weights are identified by the recommended knitting needle size to knit it with. For example, a yarn label that recommends a 4mm knitting needle, identifies the yarn weight as DK, (or Double Knitting). You may be thinking, why do I need to know about yarn weights, why can't I just knit? And you most certainly can, I just get passionate about wanting to demystify knitting and empower everyone who wants to learn to knit. Because none of it is particularly complex, it is just new information. Once you get comfortable with that new information, you are able to make your own choices, choices that best serve your creativity.

To learn more about yarn weight categories and what each one is often used to knit, check out my earlier blog post, and step by step guide: Beginner Knitters: Yarn Weights Explained.

But there's No Knitting Needle Info on my Knitting Yarn Label!

90% of the time, the recommended knitting needle size is listed on the yarn label, but sometimes, especially with hand-dyed yarns, there is no knitting needle suggestion to be found anywhere on the yarn. Maybe your yarn has no label, or it is hard to read. If you are new to knitting, the thickness of the yarn strand isn't necessarily easily identifiable just by looking at it.

A white woman, Alice a knitting teacher, holds yarn and knitting needles  close to her face with a happy expression
That's how I knew I was a bonafide yarn nerd...I can now just look at a yarn strand and know what weight it is, most of the time!

But I digress! Have no fear, I am here to show you a very simple method, called Wraps Per Inch, which helps you navigate from knitting needle confusion, to clarity in 2 easy steps.

What is Wraps Per Inch?

The Wraps Per Inch Method, or WPI (we knitters love an abbreviation, gives us more time to knit) is literally what is says, an inch worth of wrapped yarn. It is the amount of wraps, per inch, that indicates, approximately, the yarn weight you have and therefore the recommended knitting needle size to knit it with.

What Do I Need for the Wraps Per Inch Method?

You will need:

  • Your mystery yarn

  • A ruler, (preferably one with inches but 2.54 cms is 1 inch)

  • A pencil of consistent diameter - no merging from thick to thin

  • The handy WPI guide I have for you below

Ok, Now What?

1. You are going to gently but firmly wrap your yarn around your pencil until you have just over an inch covered. Be sure to not wrap your yarn too tightly, but have the wraps sitting side by side.

2. Once you have that, you will line it up against your ruler to check the inch length, then you will count the amount of yarn wraps that cover the inch. Or, count as you wrap, then check you have wrapped an inch.

If you have a lot of 'mystery' yarn to identify using the WPI method, you may want to mark an inch on your pencil with Tipp-Ex / White Out or little notches using a sharp knife.

3. Next you will make a note, mentally or write it down, of the amount of Wraps Per Inch and cross reference with the guide below:

A Wraps per Inch guide for knitters to identify yarn weights
Worth saving this blog post for?

As you can see, it is approximate but it works! You can use this guide to clarify both the yarn weight category and the recommended, or most common, knitting needle size to knit it with.

4. My final step suggestion would be to make a little label for your yarn, so you can pop it away, safely identified, ready to knit when the next project calls for a...DK? Sock Weight? Whatever your now non mystery yarn is!

What if my Yarn Wraps per Inch Count Falls under 2 Categories...?

It is always recommended to try the WPI method a few times per 'mystery' yarn. Then you can take an average and make a better estimation at the yarn category it falls under.

Check that your yarn wraps are not too stretched, or overlapping on the pencil.

Make sure to have your ruler, or tape measure parallel to your wrapped pencil

Can I See a Demonstration?

Well thank you for asking as I made this nifty Instagram Reel to show you how easy the Wraps Per Inch method is.

Find it HERE

So What You are Saying is...

I appreciate you now have yarn to wrap, labelling to make for your now identified yarn and knitting needles to choose, knitting patterns to peruse etc etc. So I will 'wrap' this up (pause for laughter).

A white woman, Alice, a knitting teacher, sits beside a pile of handknitting proudly
What do you want to knit?

Identifying what weight category your yarn is allows you to knit it with confidence, with the knitting needles you determine are right for you and the project you are knitting. It prevents disappointment and confusion if your knitting tension turns out to be, not what you expected.

You have some gorgeous yarn, it deserves to be knitted up into something that you, or someone special to you, will love, appreciate and treasure. So wrap that yarn, label it with it's yarn weight category and reach for it with excitement when the next 'knit-spiration' hits and you realise you have the perfect yarn for the project.

Happy Knitting!

PIN this blog post for easy access and reference

Alice, a white female knitting teacher holds strands of yarn as part of a Pinterest Pin to promote the blog post

If you are a beginner knitter or simply want to brush up on your basic skills, check out my Beginner Knitting course or pick the specific skills class you need with the Single Knitting Class options.

Be sure to sign up to my mailing list, The Loop, to be notified of all and any new classes and tips videos.

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