Information you can get from a Yarn, Ball or Skein

The other day my weekly Zoom Weavers group met in person for a hike on Ring Mountain It was cold, grey, and windy but we had a grand time. After our lunches next to a large rock out of the wind we brought out things for show and tell.

One person wanted to know if two threads she had were the same.  I showed her how to hook them together to find out. In other words, she wanted to know if the two were the same “grist”. (A term sometimes used when talking about yarn size.)

You can compare two yarns quickly to see if they are the same size (grist) by hooking them together as if you linked your two index fingers together. Hold one set of yarns between your thumb and index finger. Twist the other two ends so that both sets twist. If they both feel the same, they are likely to be the same size.  One thread she knew was 5/2 cotton. When we twisted it like in the illustration, we discovered the 2nd yarn was the same size as the 5/2 and looked just like it so we gathered it was also 5/2.

Another person had a lovely skein of bamboo with the tag still on it. It said how many yards were in the 50g skein. She wanted to know how to translate that information to what she needed for planning her weaving project. I asked how many of the group had a McMoran yarn balance (now simply called a yarn balance). I was surprised that only a couple people did. This is a balance scale used to determine how many yards of a yarn are in one pound.

It’s great for letting you know how much yarn you have on an unmarked cone or skein. Place a length of yarn in the “V” on the balance arm and cut off pieces until the arm balances. Measure the length of yarn in inches. Multiply the number of inches (and fractions) by 100 for the approximate number of yards in a pound. Measure carefully because you multiply your measurement and your error by 100.

You can use the yarn balance to compare yarns, too. If they are the same length when they balance on the scale, they are the same weight and therefore, have the same number of yards per pound and are generally equal in size or thickness.

Basically, what our friend needed to know was how many yards per pound were in this 50g skein. She also wondered if it was sport-weight or fingering-weight yarn. I couldn’t show her this nice chart but said it was in my book, Weaving for Beginners.

If you know how many yards are in a ball or skein or ounce, see the chart above to find the yards per pound (ypp) for your particular yarn. If your yarn isn’t shown in the chart, use the worksheet in the following illustration to calculate the yards per pound.

An easy way to find the yards per pound is to take the known yarns in a 50 g ball or skein and multiply by 9.

Here is a worksheet to find the yards per pound (ypp) for 50 g and 100 g balls or skeins. And also, with the inches from a yarn balance.

Views from Ring Mountain are from many directions. Here we looked west to admire Mt. Tamalpais as well as the flowers carpeting lots of areas on Ring Mountain in Tiburon, California.

Ring Mountain is known for the Tiburon Mariposa Lily. It’s the only place it is to be found.

5 thoughts on “Information you can get from a Yarn, Ball or Skein”

  1. Peggy, what a useful post!

    I normally keep reference material like this on Pinterest, but that, of course, makes it available to everyone on the web. May I post this there? Please don’t hesitate to say say “NO”!

  2. Thank you Peggy for your wonderful clear information and the photo of the lily. I live in Mariposa count with the Mariposa lily. Haven’t seen any in bloom yet although the foothills are covered with colorful wildflowers.

  3. The McMoran Yarn Balance was no longer made for a long time. It is now available from Eugene Textile Center In Eugene, OR for $35.

    • Good point. I think aI always say, “now called yarn balance” but I should add where to find them. and the price


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