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Yarn Description and Terms
By Linda Wendelboe

Yarns can be described in many ways. Lace weight, Sport weight, Worsted weight, and Bulky weight are examples of descriptions often used in North America. These descriptions refer to the diameter of the yarn and are indicative of the type of product normally produced with that yarn. Yarns produced elsewhere may use different systems of description. For instance, Australia and New Zealand may use a ply method in labelling their yarns. The number of plies listed on the label does not actually refer to the number of strands of yarn but instead refers to the diameter of the yarn.

The fibres from different species vary greatly in their intrinsic weight. This makes it hard to compare the yarns with fibre from different species. A pound or gram of yarn of a specific diameter will be a different length than another pound or gram of yarn of the same diameter from a different species of fibre producing animal. This means that, even though the yarn is properly described, fibre artists must knit or weave or otherwise make swatches to determine how it will work in their project.

TEX numbers are another method of describing yarns. This method usually uses yards per pound or grams per kilometre (1000 meters) and is based on the measurement and description of one strand of the yarn, called a "Single". There are two numbers in a TEX yarn description. The first number refers to the number of grams of one strand of that yarn that would be 1000 meters in length. A forward slash and a second number that indicate how many Singles or strands are put together to make the yarn. For example, a TEX number of 100/2 means a yarn made out of Singles that each weigh 100 grams per 1000 meters (kilometre) and which has two strands or Singles twisted together. The resulting 2 ply yarn is 200 grams per 1000 meters. Two pounds of this 2 ply yarn would be approx. 4,960 yards (5000 yards for easy calculations). One pound of the Single strand would be about 5,000 yards.

The following table shows various equivalent ways to describe a single stand of yarn.

TEX (GRAMS PER STANDARD               APPROX. SINGLE         NA                              METRIC          ENG. WORSTED
1000 METERS SINGLE STRAND)
                    LENGTH

50/1                                               10,000 Yard/Lb         Lace (as a 2 Ply)               20                    17.8

                    70/1                                                  7,000 Yard/Lb        Baby (as a 2 Ply)               14.3                 12.5

                  100/1                                                  5,000 Yard/Lb        Fingering (as a 2 Ply)        10                       9

                  400/1                                                 1,250 Yard/Lb         Bulky (as a 2 Ply)                  2.5                    2.2

For a two ply yarn (50/2), divide the Single Length by 2 to get a yards per pound measure. Following this method, 50 grams of this 2 ply would be approx. 5,000 yards  per lb. (Lace weight) and a 70/2 would be approx. 3500 yards per lb. (approx. a Baby weight).

METRIC represents the number of 1,000 meter skeins of yarn that weigh 1 kilogram

ENGLISH WORSTED represents the number of 560 yard skeins that weigh 1 pound.

NORTH AMERICAN yarn descriptions are approximate and less precise than Tex, Metric or English Worsted numbers but perhaps more comfortable to use for many wool crafters. They will vary somewhat depending on the type of fibre used to make the yarn and may be 2 or more strands:

     Bulky Weight:  Less than 8 wraps per inch - 400 to 700 yards per pound;

     Aran Weight:   6 to 10 wraps per inch - 700 to 1000 yards per pound;

     Worsted Weight:  10 to 12 wraps per inch - 900 to 1100 yards per pound;

     Double Knitting (DK):  12 to 18 wraps per inch - 1000 to1400 yards per pound;

     Sport Weight:  18 to 24 wraps per inch - 1300 to 1800 yards per pound;

     Fingering:  24 to 30 wraps per inch - 1800 to 2400 yards per pound;

     Baby:  30 to 36 wraps per inch - 2400 to 3000 yards per pound;

     Lace Weight:  36 to 40 wraps per inch - 3000 to 6000 yards per pound;

     Cobweb:  40 or more wraps per inch -  6000 or more yards per pound; and

     Zephyr weight yarn is finer than Cobweb, Chunky is heavier than Bulky.

Linda Wendelboe 03/04/05
 


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