Mystery Yarns and Yardage

Filed in Skill Building by on June 15, 2015 0 Comments

Beverly asks: I have too many skeins of yarn without ball bands so I cannot easily determine yardage. I have a scale so I can weigh the skein and I can pretty much tell the type of yarn (worsted or bulky, for example). Is there a way I can use this information to determine how many yards I have for a particular skein?

Great question Beverly!
You’ve got several options to analyze your yarns and find out how many yards of each yarn you have. Spinners have the best tricks for this, because the yarn they make is handmade and unique, so they must measure each skein of yarn in order to find the right use for it. I’ve collected several suggestions here, in no particular order. I hope you’ll find something helpful.

1. Weigh a known length of yarn. then calculate the length of the whole skein from that.
a. Weigh the entire skein of yarn. Write that number down.
b. Using a yardstick, measure off a quantity of yarn large enough to register on your scale, and make a note of the length of the sample. I can usually do it with 2 yards, but your mileage may vary. (Note: This will be easier and more accurate if your scale measures grams. It will work if your scale only measures ounces, but it’s likely you’ll have to measure off a larger sample.)
c. Once you know how much your measured length weighs, divide the total weight of the mystery skein recorded earlier by the weight of the measured length.
d. Multiply this number by the length of the sample.
Here’s an example: 2 yards of Mystery Yarn weighs 4 grams. Total weight of skein of Mystery Yarn is 100 grams. 100/4=25. 25×2=50 yards in the skein.

2. Rewind the skein on a Niddy Noddy. This is a spinner’s tool that makes a skein of a certain length. Many are adjustable. By knowing the length of the skein this tool is designed for,  and counting how many times my Mystery Yarn winds completely around the Niddy Noddy, I can calculate how many yards are in the skein. You can also use this technique if you own a yarn swift – simply measure the circumference of the yarn loop when it comes off the swift, multiply that circumference (in inches) by the number of strands in the loop, and divide by 36 to find the yardage. If your yarn is already in a loop (such as the skeins you can often buy from indie dyers), you can skip the winding step on this one and just measure! If you don’t have a Niddy Noddy, you can also make your own with a quick trip to the hardware store and a few dollars.

3. If you have a significant number of label-less skeins in your stash, you may want to consider investing about $40 US in a McMorran Yarn Balance. This tool can help you calculate yards per pound. It’s a clever, simple way to analyze any yarn. It works by comparing the length of yarn required to make the arm of the device balance to a standardized chart. Check around to see if any local spinners have one, because it is really a spinner’s tool, used for classifying handmade yarns, but it works a treat for mystery yarns.

4. Another tool to consider is a yardage counter. You can find them for $17 to $60 for a simple one. As you wind the yarn from skein to ball, run it through a yardage counter and you’ll have a decent idea of how many yards you have.

I hope all your Mystery Yarns have happy endings, and that you’ll let us know which method worked for you and how you implemented it.

Thanks again!

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