June 5th, 2012

Tuesday’s Weaving Tip – What Do the Numbers Mean in Coned Yarns?

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We’ve had many questions from customers asking what the numbers mean in front of the names of our coned yarns, such as 8/2 Cotton and 2/10 Merino Tencel. I knew Barbara Elkins, founder of WEBS, would be able to explain it well for us. Here’s what Barbara has to say.

Many of the Valley Yarns weaving yarns are named with fractions like 3/2, 20/2, 2/10, etc. The numbers are shorthand for the number of yards to a pound of a particular yarn. We always give you the number of yards per pound (yd/lb.), but if you know what I call the magic numbers, you can figure yardage yourself.

Yarn is sized by the number of yards in a standard one pound skein of yarn, and every type of fiber has its own magic number.

Here are the numbers you need to know:
A standard one pound skein of single ply cotton has 840 yards in a pound (the count).
A standard one pound skein of single ply linen has 300 yards in a pound (the count).
A standard one pound skein of single ply worsted wool has 560 yards in a pound (the count).

To figure the yards/lb. of 3/2 cotton, you multiply 840 (the count) x 3 (the size) and divide by the ply, 2 and come up with 1260, the number of yards in one pound of 3/2 cotton. The yardage of all cotton yarns is derived in this way. The size will be the first number; the ply will be the second number.

To figure the yards/lb. of 20/2 linen, you multiply 300 (the count) x 20 (the size) and divide by 2, (the ply) and come up with 3,000, the number of yards in one pound of 20/2 linen, for example. And like cotton, the size will be the first number; the ply will be the second number.

To figure the yards/lb. of 2/10 merino tencel, you multiply 10 (the size) x 560 (the count) and divide by 2 (the ply) and come out with 2800, the yards/lb. in one pound of 2/10 merino/tencel. Note that worsted count shows the ply number first.

[EDIT: Regarding how the fibers are written--cotton and linen have the size first followed by the ply.  Wool has the ply first followed by the size. Unfortunately, not all publications follow this standard. But on our website, we show wool with the size first and the ply second.]

So if you just remember three magic numbers and the fiber they are associated with, you can generally figure the yards/lb. of many of the yarns you encounter.

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Dena

Ecommerce Marketing Manager at WEBS - America’s Yarn Store
Dena started working at WEBS in 2006, shortly after she learned to knit. She also dabbles in crochet and weaving. She finds knitting complements her marathon and triathlon training really well.
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  • LaRue6358

    How is the size number derived? Also, in your article, you give the size number first except in your third example of 2/10 merino tencel, you say “multiply 10 (the size)” when 10 is the second number…?  Is it the larger the number the smaller the size?  Hard to tell from the photos.

  • Robin

    Yes but how does that translate to knitting yarn wts. i.e. fingering, DK, worsted?

  • Lety Booth

    Thanks so much!  I have a cone of single ply that I wanted to knit with but wasn’t sure of yardage!

  • Peggy

    Is there a magic number for silk, too?  Thanks. 

  • Jane

    Are the size numbers like crochet thread sizes? Size 20 would be the smallest, then 10, 3, and 2 would be progressively larger – is that right?

  • Dena

    Yes, a 20/2 cotton would be smaller than 10/2.

  • Dena

    Barbara says: “Silk is complicated! There is the French system, which is figured in meters & kilograms: There are 1,000 meters to a kilogram (39.5″), 2-ply yarn has half the yardage, etc.
     
    In the English system, the count is 840 (the same as cotton), but singles, two-ply, 4-ply, etc., would all be stated as the same yardage as singles. 
     
    In the case of silk yarns, it may be easier to rely on the manufacturer’s numbers.

  • Dena

    Regarding how the fibers are written–cotton and linen have the size first followed by the ply.  Wool has the ply first followed by the size. Unfortunately, not all publications follow this standard. But on our website, you’ll we show wool with the size first and the ply second.

  • Northern_NM

    This is still as clear as mud (at least for me)! Can’t you just publish an approximate knitters gauge as well as the ever-oblique 2/10 or whatever? Since you are marketing these yarns to knitters as well as weavers, it would seem helpful of you to do so. Or perhaps is is too complicated for you, too.

  • simona

    I’m even more confused now. I have a knitting pattern that calls for approx 1600 yards of lace yarn, and I like one of your tencel yarns, but where does tencel fit into the “magic” numbers?

  • Carolyne Palone Coleman

    I bought a beeeeutiful cone yarn that is cotton and rayon and the color is Goldenrod, the numbers are 14/2. i learned that 14 is the size and 2 is the ply because for some reason cotton and linen have their numbers backwards, listing the size first rather than the ply first..this is a huge cone i purchased so how would i figure out the yardage..its gobs Im sure lol..

  • Carolyne Palone Coleman

    okay i did a little homework. if 840 yards is the standard for a 1ply in a pound of cotton and since mine is 2ply rather than 1, then i take the size (14)divide by the ply(2)=(7)
    i then take (7) and times it by (840) giving me a whopping 5880 yards in my huge cone of cotton rayon yarn…

  • Sara

    Hi Carolyne,

    That’s pretty close though not exact with the rayon content, but that’s a great yardage estimate to work from. You may want to invest in a yarn balance. These are great when your cone has no label! Unfortunately we don’t carry them but you can find them online.

  • Dianna Haught

    This wasn’t helpful. How can I convert the numbers to dpi/sett?