Yarn Count Explained:
Understanding the labels on yarn packages
|This is an excerpt from Peggy’s new book, the revised edition of Book #1: Winding a Warp and Using a Paddle, that just came out in July. This is information not in the first edition and comes in the extensive new chapter on Sett.|
Table of Base Counts of Threads
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).
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.
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”