My Top Ten Weaving Tips – #10: Yarn Count Explained

Long ago, before this new website began 5 years ago I published a tip a month on the old site. There are over 100 and they are on this website. I think many new weavers must see these tips because the numbers say that for all of my most popular Top Ten tips, there were at least 3,600 visitors!!

Yarn Count Explained:

Understanding the labels on yarn packages

Yarn Count

There are official standards for measuring the number of yards in one pound of yarn. These standards were created by cloth manufacturers in the nineteenth century. The standards refer to the weight given to a given length of thread. For cotton, they used a reel with a circumference of 1 1/2 yards or 54″; for linen, one of 2 1/2 yards or 90″; for woolens, one of 2 yards or 72″. Silk uses the cotton reel.

A 1 ply thread of cotton wound around its reel = 1 1/2 yards; 80 threads = one skein or 120 yards; and 7 skeins = one hank or 840 yards or one pound! So, now we know that there are 840 yards (one hank) of one ply cotton thread in one pound. This is the base measure or the “one-count.” Linen is calculated in leas, where 1 lea = 300 yards of one ply linen = 1 pound. Worsted is measured by counts. One count = 560 yards of single ply worsted = one pound. See the Table of Base Counts of Threads for some other base measures (one-counts).
Table of Base Counts of Threads
Yarn Count Table

Now, it is obvious that a very thin yarn will take more yards to weigh a pound than a thick yarn would. On the package or cone of yarn is a fraction which tells you how your yarn relates to the base measure. It also tells you how many plies the yarn has. You need to know this because the measure of yards per pound is based on one ply thread.

Say your package of cotton thread has a fraction of 3/2, for example. The top number tells you the size of your yarn and that it is three times the base measure or 3 x 840 = 2520 yards per pound. The bottom number is the number of plies, which here is 2 (2 ply). You know what one ply of your yarn is, so divide the total of the yards above the line by the number of plies.

Using the Yarn Count Method to Find Yards to Pound
Yarn Count Formula

Simple! Unfortunately, some yarn makers put their fractions upside-down. Usually, you can consider the smaller number to be the plies and the larger number to be the size. If after your calculations you get a number that makes no sense, try flipping the fraction and recalculating. If you have the yarn in your hands, you can count the plies, so you can tell which part of the fraction refers to it.
Taken from: Book 1: “Winding a Warp and Using a Paddle


2 thoughts on “My Top Ten Weaving Tips – #10: Yarn Count Explained”

  1. Thanks once again. I have finished reading the beginners guide you sent me but not yet winding a warp by using a paddle. So hadn’t got to that yet.
    Being Australian makes it more difficult as our millers use names, such as DK or 8 ply, 5 ply, 12 ply, Worsted, 4 ply, meaning sports weight I think, etc.mainly designed for knitters. And so you have to check the small print to get the information you talk about AND convert it to metric.
    I am,printing this table and sticking it up next to one of my looms.


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