How To’s Day: Figuring out the weight/gauge of ‘mystery’ yarn!

howtosday-icon-thumb I don’t know about you, but I have to admit I have some mystery yarn in my stash. It has come from different sources. Given to me, yard sale finds, or simply I just lost the labels and I don’t remember what it is any more!

So just how do I figure out what weight it is? I am constantly mistaking worsted weight for sport weight and so on. I just don’t seem to have the internal instincts to determine what weight/gauge a yarn is by just looking at it!

So I have to rely on more scientific means!! One of the best ways to determine what weight/gauge a yarn is, is by using WPI, wraps per inch.  This is something that spinners do all the time. It’s pretty simple. You wrap your yarn around something and see how many wraps it takes to make an inch.

Sounds easy right? Well there are a few pointers.

  • Don’t use a ruler. It may be tempting but it is not the best tool for the job.
  • Use a round object like a round pencil, a dowel, or a broom handle.
  • Don’t pull the yarn tight. It should be wrapped loosely so it is just like it is in the ball or skein, if you pull it tight you will stretch it lengthwise, which will cause the yarn to measure out thinner than it really is.

This little chart will help too, it gives the general rule of thumb for the WPI for different weights/gauges of yarn:

      Type   WPI Standard
Lace 18 or more lace
Sock/Fingering 16 sock
Sport 14 sport
Worsted 12 worsted
Bulky 10 bulky
Super-Bulky 8 or less superbulky


So here we go!

Here is one of my mystery yarns..


I picked it up at a thrift store a while back, and have no idea what gauge it is. My guess is super bulky. Let’s see if I am right. I grabbed a dowel I had sitting around and marked it off in 1 inch increments.


Wrap the yarn around, remember to do it loosely!


And count! 8! So it turns out I was right in this case! I bet I could make a hammock with this big honking bunch of yarn!

Just for fun let’s see what this cotton yarn tells us!


Wrap loosely and count and…


14, well.. 13 actually which would make it a light worsted! What it should be!

So I hope this helps you out a little next time you have some mystery yarn! And don’t forget to check out my tutorial on measuring how many yards of mystery yarn you have!! Just click here! Put them together and you will know what weight/gauge mystery yarn is and how much of it you have!! So you can match it up to a project and start cleaning out your stash!! (Your significant other can thank me by sending me chocolate.. just email me for mailing address..)

23 thoughts on “How To’s Day: Figuring out the weight/gauge of ‘mystery’ yarn!

  1. That is very handy information 🙂 About how wide should your round object be? A wider dowel will make less wraps than a skinnier one, won’t it? I am guessing about the same width as a broomstick. Thanks for such a handy how to. This may just prove to be more valuable information than “How to be Pope” ;D

  2. Great job on that How-To! 🙂

    I have one question…how wide do you wrap…are you counting to 3 inches? or just one?

    Thanks again for an awesome tutorial!

  3. Thanks…maybe I can get some of all those small balls made into something now.

  4. This is particularly useful for those of us who tend to be careles with ball bands. I never know if I can combine all those ends into a hat or something or if it will just come out all wonky.

  5. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! that problem was bugging me for the longest time ever..!! now i can use my mysterious yarn .. and perhaps buy those label-less farmspun yarn i saw the other day!

  6. Awesome info!! Thankyou! I’ve been trying to figure this out for days!
    I’m with Jenny though…how wide should my dowel be?? A skinnier one will make more wraps than a wide one. What did you use? Thanks again!!!!

  7. Thank you very much, this was very useful! I only have one question.. What about size 3, DK yarn? How many WPI would that be?

  8. For those asking about how big the dowel should be – it doesn’t matter. You are measuring how thick the yarn is, not how many times a yard will go around the dowel. No matter how big the dowel is, if you have a bulky at 8 wraps per inch, you can only fit 8 strands inside your 1 inch marks.

    Hope this helps!

  9. Pingback: Cool links to keep you in the “know how to.” « savageknitting

  10. Pingback: Easy Knitting Design» Blog Archive » Working with Mystery Yarn

  11. bonjour good day hello !

    vous etes formidable!
    votre façon de voir à quelle grosseur la laine appartient est sensationnelle!
    j’en prends note! cela va rendre un grand service à beaucoup!
    merci! astucieux!

  12. In addition to this I’ve found standard masking tape it usually 1 inch wide (measure to double check) So I just use my closest needle and use the masking tape to mark a 1 inch section.

  13. You don’t need to worry about the width of the object. It won’t make anymore ‘wraps’. Its just about the width of the yarn which will make up the inch

  14. Thank you so much — this is so useful that I’ve just copied the chart onto my phone for quick reference. I’ll be back to read more.

  15. Fantastic! I used an empty small thread spool,it was perfect,and cut a small slit on edge to hold yarn while doing wraps. Thank you.

  16. Clean and straight-forward answer for this newbie who was told to bring “worsted” weight yarn to a learn-to-knit class. Gonna add this to my “how to” notes. Thanks!!

  17. Well done ! You have helped a beginner knitter in understanding the different ply of yarn/wool with no labels. Other wise I would have dumped this big bag of yarn because how would I be able to follow a pattern not knowing the proper yarn ply.
    Thanks a million. Margaret

  18. This is such valuable information. I have been knitting for years and could have used this many, many years ago. I am so glad that I now can go through all the yarn I have kept over the years that no longer have labels. I now can knit some new projects.
    Thank you so much for this useful information.

  19. Just found your site. Thank you for this little, simple test. I bought some Patons Venus yarn and there was no weight on the label. Now I know how to determine it!

  20. I am absolutely amazed I can get an answer to this question,I was sorting out all my bits and pieces and most do not a label.
    Thank you so much

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