Knitting Blog

2 Cheater Methods to Figuring Out Yarn Weights

If you have a skein of yarn that’s missing its label, before you can start stitching with you, you probably need to figure out what weight it is.

mystery yarns in basket

One of the most straight forward methods to do this is the wraps per inch method. But that’s not a fail-proof method. The downside of using WPI is that you have to have a chart handy. Does 11 wraps per inch mean it’s a DK or worsted yarn? Well, it really depends on the chart.

Fortunately, there are two easy (and quick!) ways to determine the weight of your yarn, whether it’s mystery stash or hand-spun. They’re not perfect, of course, and you might still have to swatch, but there’s no chart needed.

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types of yarn guide

Learn everything you need to know about yarn weights and fiber types to make savvy selections and achieve superb stitches.Get My FREE Guide »

Cheater method #1: Use a needle gauge

Grab a needle gauge, fold a length of your yarn in half, and poke it through some of the holes.

Yarn through needle gauge

You want the yarn to be snug in the hole so it doesn’t slip right out, but you want a little wiggle room too — not so tight that you have to really force it in there. When you find a hole that seems comfortable, start your swatch with the needle or hook that corresponds with that hold.

This method won’t tell you the actual weight of the yarn, but it will get you started stitching with a comfortable tool.

One more note: This method gives you a tool size that’s closest to the typical suggestions on a yarn label. If want a looser fabric, go with a hole size where the yarn is a little looser. If want a firmer fabric, go with a hole size where the yarn is a little tighter.

Cheater method #2: Eyeball it

If you’ve been knitting or crocheting long enough with a variety of yarns, you can probably just look at your yarn, compare it to the labeled yarns in your stash, and make a reasonable guess at the weight.

You can compare, side by side, various weights of yarn and see where yours comes closest.

For example, take the yarns above. Let’s say I know the weights of the two on top (the gray and the pink) and the three on bottom (the pale blue, white and red), and I’m figuring out the weight of the teal yarn.

Just by comparing, I can tell that the teal yarn is closest to the light blue yarn, which is a DK weight. I can reasonably conclude, then, that my teal yarn is DK weight, tool.

If you want to be more sure, compare the mystery yarn to several different yarns of the same weight. Yarn weights vary, even within a category, so using multiple examples for comparison will give you a better idea of the weight if your yarn seems to fall between two categories.

All that being said, WPI is still a useful tool. If you pick a chart and stick with it, you can classify all your yarn consistently. All three methods can be useful in different circumstances, and with these two “cheater methods,” you should have no trouble matching yarn to needles to pattern.

FREE Guide! Choose and Use the Right Yarn

types of yarn guide

Learn everything you need to know about yarn weights and fiber types to make savvy selections and achieve superb stitches.Get My FREE Guide »

What’s your favorite way of determining yarn weight–one of these or something different?

One Comment

Maureen Spillane

This seems like a great short cut. Question about your illustration of the 5 yarn types above – the DK weight seems thinner / finer than the sport weight. I thought that Sport was generally finer / lighter in weight than a DK. Am I missing something? Thanks.

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