January 13th, 2013

31 Days to Get Organized: Identifying Mystery Yarn

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Did you find any mystery yarn when you went through your yarn stash last week? If you were updating notes on your yarn stash, how did you deal with the unknown yarns? Mystery yarn can be yarn that you handspun, yarn that lost its ball band, or yarn that was leftover from a long ago finished project. Before tucking this yarn away with the rest of your stash, find out some information of it and jot down your findings and store it with the yarn.

What Is The Fiber?

If you’re not sure of what the fiber content of your yarn is, do a little detective work by doing a burn test. Cut off a bit of your mystery yarn and bring a flame to it. But please, do it in a safe place. Check out this handy flowchart for doing a fiber burn test that will help you narrow down what kind of yarn you have. If you think you have a complicated blend of different fibers, it might be difficult to figure out exactly what kind of yarn you have.

What’s the Yarn Weight and Gauge?

A good way to estimate the weight or gauge of your mystery yarn is to determine its wraps per inch (WPI). In other words, how many times can you wrap the yarn around a tool to cover an inch. Nancy’s Knit Knacks has a WPI Tool with pre-marked increments. You can also wrap the yarn around something with a consistent circumference like a pencil. I like using a ruler since it has measurements marked on it already. When wrapping the yarn around your tool, don’t wrap the yarn too tightly. Make sure the wraps don’t overlap and don’t have any gaps between them. If you have a yarn that has an even diameter, wrapping an inch worth is enough to calculate the WPI. But if you have yarn that is not consistent such as a thick and thin yarn or a handspun yarn, wrapping over a larger width will help you calculate a more accurate number.

Once you’ve calculated the WPI, you’ll want to compare the number you calculated to a WPI chart to find out the corresponding yarn weight.

Lace – WPI > 35; > 8.5 sts/inch
Fingering – WPI 19-22; 7-8 sts/inch
Sport – WPI 15-18;  5.75-6.5 sts/inch
DK – WPI 12-14; 5.5-6 sts/inch
Worsted – WPI 9-11; 4-5 sts/inch
Bulky – WPI 7-8; 3-3.75 sts/inch
Super Bulky – WPI < 6; 1.5-3 sts/inch

My friend had some handspun that we calculated it to have 26 wraps over 2 inches. Dividing that number by 2 gave us 13 WPI, a DK weight yarn.

How Much Yarn Do I Have?

Finding out how much yarn you have by weight is one of the easier things to figure out about mystery yarn. Grab your kitchen scale and weight it. Some patterns do give you yardage requirements by weight rather than yards.

It’s really useful to know how many yards you have of your mystery yarn to help you from running out of yarn in your project. I quite accurate way to determine the number of yards in a ball of yarn is to run your yarn through a yarn meter. Another option is winding the mystery yarn onto a yarn swift. Measure the circumference around the swift and multiply by the number of strands in the hank of yarn you wound. This will be the total length of your mystery yarn. A niddy noddy can also do the trick, and they’re fun to use. If you don’t have a yarn swift or niddy noddy, you could use this method by wrapping the yarn around the back of a chair too.

What kind of mystery yarn did you discover in your stash?

– Dena

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6 Responses to “31 Days to Get Organized: Identifying Mystery Yarn”

  1. Kate Says:

    Oh, my gosh, I have so much mystery yarn. It’s all because of the annual dye harvest in which we boil up flowers and yarns and generally have a good time. All the yarn tags come off before the dyeing.

  2. Dena Childs Says:

    Wow, that sounds like a fun event.

  3. Zinah Says:

    Yup, I have some yarn that is a true mystery – a few skeins from two different brands and of the same grey color. The most frustrating thing is that I know this is all wool and DK but I also know that some skeins are superwash and some are not. I wonder what to do and if I should mix those. 🙁

  4. Kitt Bo Says:

    Thanks for this post! I was gifted a big bag of mystery yarn that I want to label as much as possible. This is a good start.

  5. Crysta Swarts Says:

    Next, if you’re really on the hunt, you can go to Ravelry and do the advanced search in the “yarn” section, using the filters on the left with the information you just found (fiber and weight, specifically). There’s a chance you may find the yarn you have!

  6. CoGemGal Says:

    Great Article,with good suggestions….”Tweet-able” on #twitter.

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