Woodland Greys
"Dedicated to creating tomorrow's heirlooms, today"

Yarns are puchased and sold by weight, not by length. But the first concern of the consumer is 'do I have enough length in my purchase to finish my project'?  Because of this, sizes (numbers or count) are used to express a relationship between the weight of yarn and it's length. This relationship also reflects the diameter or thickness of the yarn. Many wholesale and retail yarn suppliers advertise using the yarn count system. So what do you get for your money? There are two numbering systems in use today:

First, the
Direct Numbering System
In the direct system as the numerical value of the size goes up, so does the weight per length and the diameter of the yarn increases correspondingly. Direct numbering is expressed in terms of weight in grams over length in meters. The most common direct numbering terms are:

Denier, expressed as grams per 9000 M
Decitex expressed as grams per 10,000 M
Tex, expressed as grams per 1,000 M

Direct numbering systems are used for filament yarns. Filament yarn is a yarn of indefinate length and is used in many industries including carpeting, upholstery, tire manufacture, some garment textiles such as microfibers, and as a continuous filament blended in some of the yarns we sell.

Second, the
Indirect Numbering System
This is the numbering system we rely on in this website. This system reverses the relationship of size and weight of the direct system, so the bigger the number the finer the yarn. The most frequently used numbers for indirect sizes are the
Worsted Count, and the Cotton Count. These numberings give the length of yarn per pound based on a hank.

Cotton Count The cotton count, used for both cottons and blends, expresses a ratio of a number of hanks required to make a pound of yarn to the number of plys used to create the yarn. A hank of cotton is equal to 840 yards. So a 1-count yarn = 840 yards of cotton, the coarsest cotton yarn available. A 3-count yarn would then be one third as course and would be expressed as 3/1 count show that it is a single strand. To convert count to yards-per-pound, divide the first digit by the second and multiply by 840 yds/lb.

16/2 = 8 X 840yds/lb = 6720 yds/lb.
20/2 = 10 X 840 yds/lb = 8400 yds/lb.

The ply is designated by the number(s) separated by a slash. Using a 4/2 example, this equals 3,360 yards (4 x 840) of two-ply yarn. Again, divide by the ply to achieve the actual yield on a one pound cone. In our example, it is 1,680 yards, or 3,360 divided by 2. An 8/4 count yarn would yield the same number of yards per pound, but would consist of 4 plys of finer yarn. So a number 8 four-ply yarn is the same diameter as a number 4 two-ply yarn.

Worsted Count
The worsted count also expresses the number of hanks required to make a pound of yarn. A hank of worsted wool is equal to 560 yards. So 1 worsted count = 560 yards of yarn, the coarsest worsted yarn available. Worsted sizes are expressed in the reverse of cotton sizes. A two-ply number 6 worsted yarn would be expressed as 2/6 count and would yield 1,680 yards per pound.

To get the yards per pound, divide the second number by the first number (the ply) and multiply by 560 yds/lb.

2/24 = 12 X 560yds/lb = 6,720 yds/lb
2/28 = 14 X 560 yds/lb= 7,840 yds/lb
3/15= 5 X 560 yds/lb= 2,800 yds/ lb

To convert worsted count to metric count, multiply the run by 1.129. Example, a 1/15 worsted count becomes a 1/17 Nm count.

Other numeric systems you may encounter as a consumer that can be converted into yards:

Metric Count
A system used for hemp yarns.
Nm (the abbreviation for the metric system) is the number of meters in 1 gram of yarn. To calculate how many meters are in 1 kg. multiply the metric count by 1000.
Nm 10 is 10 x 1000 = 10,000 metres in 1 kg.
Nm 14 is 14 x 1000 = 14,000 metres in 1 kg.

To convert metric count to worsted count, divide the run by 1.129. Example, a 2/34 Nm count becomes a 2/30 worsted count.

Wool runs - The number of 1,600 yard strands per 1 pound.

Woolen or wool measure - The number of 256 yard strands per 1 pound.

Linen count - the number of 300 yard strands per 1 pound.

Spun Silk - the number of 840 yard strands per 1 pound

substituting yarns, a rule of thumb is that if the yardage of the yarn you want to substitute is within 10% of the yardage of the yarn called for, you can substitute, making adjustments in tension or needles size. This is a general rule and only applies to similar yarns of the same system, not substituting cotton for wool or acrylic, so you may want to make a test piece first. Remember, a hard finish dress yarn will behave and knit differently from a high bulk acrylic.

In substituting handknitting yarn for coned yarn & vice-versa, here are some names and numbers:
3/11 = Sport Weight
4/8 = Worsted Weight
2/11and 3/15 = Fingering Weight
2/20 and 2/24 = Fine weight
2 strands of 2/24 together = Fingering Weight.

To get yards per pound from hand knitting yarn, you need to do a little more math.

For example:
I have a 50 gm ball of sport weight yarn with 184 yds. First, there are approx. 28 gm/oz or 454 gm/lb. 184 yds divided by 50 gm gives you 3.68 yds per gram X 454 gms/lb = 1,671 yds/lb

If the skein or ball is marked in ounces, a 50 gm ball = approx 1.75 oz. Using the example above, 184 divided by 1.75 = 105. 14 yds/oz X 16oz = 1,682 yds/lb. The approximate yardage for this yarn is about 1,675 yds/lb.

If the yardage is given in meters, remember that a meter is approximately 39 inches. The yardage in meters on the label of my example yarn is given at 168 meters. 168 X 39 in/M = 6,552 inches divided by 36 in/yd = 182 yds very close to the beginning yardage of 184.