Sometimes you have a ball of yarn you want to work with that doesn't tell you all the information you need to know in order to use it. It could be a handspun yarn, yarn recycled from a thrift store sweater or something from your stash that no longer has a ball band.
How do you figure out what size needle or what sort of gauge you should be getting with that yarn? A quick check of the wraps per inch will tell you a lot.
- First, collect the yarn that you want to use and either a wraps per inch tool, like the one shown in the picture, or a simple flat wooden ruler or yard stick if you don't have a WPI tool.
- If using a wraps per inch tool, there may be a notch at the top through which you can thread the tail end to hold it in place. If not, you may want to tape the end of the yarn to the end of the tool or the back of your ruler to give yourself more control.
- When using a wraps per inch tool, gently roll the yarn onto the tool to the one-inch mark. If using a ruler, start an inch in from the end and wrap the yarn around the ruler for at least an inch. Make sure no matter which tool you are using that your wraps are touching but not overlapping.
- Once you've wrapped an inch, count the number of wraps per inch. In the example pictured, I got 12 wraps per inch using the tool and 14 using a ruler. Different tools and websites have slightly different ranges for determining the weight of a yarn based on wraps per inch, but in general 5 or fewer wraps is considered super bulky, 6 to 8 is bulky, 9 to 11 is worsted/medium, 12 to 14 is light, 15 to 18 is fine and above 19 is super fine.
- Once you have an idea of the weight of your yarn, check out a yarn weight chart to find a needle size that might work well with your yarn. The yarn in my example is a light to medium, meaning I should try a needle somewhere in the range of size 5 to 9 US. I started with a 7.
- Knit a gauge swatch (this part will take longer than five minutes) to determine if you like the fabric you're getting with that yarn and your chosen needle size with the stitch pattern you want to use. You may even want to try an exploratory gauge swatch to get a look at several gauges at once. Pick the one you like and get started on your project.
- Remember that the yarn needs to be neither too tight nor too loose when you wrap it around the tool or the ruler. You shouldn't be able to see the tool under the yarn, but it shouldn't be overlapping either.
- Once you've figured out the needle size and gauge you like with a particular yarn, write it down in case you have leftovers of the yarn when your project is done.
What You Need
- Yarn you want to measure
- Wraps per inch tool or ruler