Yardage: The amount of yarn in the ball or skein, in yards and meters.
Fiber content: What the yarn is made from and percentages of each different fiber.
Dye lot: The dye lot of that given balls/skein.
Needle size: The label will tell you which size needle is recommended to reach the correct gauge for the yarn.This is just a guide and you may need to use a different needle size depending on your gauge.
Gauge: You will see a square with measurement around it, this is the ideal gauge of the yarn, and it tells you how many stitches and rows make up a 10 x 10cm square of stockinette stitch. This is important when following a pattern to ensure your knitting comes out the right size and you achieve the best performance of the yarn.
The crucial question when you are choosing a shade to knit a garment is “will I wear it?” If you’re making something for someone else, “will they wear it?” You will be spending time, money and effort to make something very special, and if the color is wrong, it won’t be worn.
If it’s for yourself, think about your wardrobe and what would work with the color palette you already wear. There are countless sources of inspiration online - Pinterest, fashion websites or knitting blogs. If you want to explore the science of color, find a color wheel online, or explore our color packs of co-ordinating shades in some of our most popular lines.
The most important advice here is to choose a shade you will actually wear - unless you really love wearing neon fuchsia, don’t choose it on a whim!
Yarn is dyed in batches called lots, and because there can sometimes be a very slight variation between lots, you will see a dye lot number stamped on the ball band or tag of your yarn. If you’re buying yarn for a garment, make sure you buy all of your yarn from the same dye lot to avoid shade differences. We'll always supply you with balls from the same dye lot in a single order. If you order again, if we have enough of that same dye lot in stock still, we'll match your previous dye lot again.
Yarns that have been dyed by hand either in small batches in kettles, or painted by hand, are miniature works of art. Hand dyed yarns are unique and full of character, and a wonderful choice for a smaller project such as a scarf or shawl.
Expert tip: The exact color of a shade can vary a lot between every single skein of hand dyed yarns, and even within the ball. It's part of the beauty of creating with hand dyed yarns, but can catch you out if you're not prepared. Buy two skeins of the same shade and alternate every two rows if you want to avoid pooling (unless you want to pool deliberately). Pooling is when colors clump together and knit up into big splotches.
Yarn technology is so exciting today, with manufacturers introducing techniques to print dye yarn so that as you knit, you produce a pattern, defined stripes, or a color change.
Self-patterning yarn produces a print that looks almost like advanced colorwork, such as fair isle, and self-striping yarn produces stripes of color without you having to switch shades. In color changing yarn, there is either a short color repeat, to produce narrow stripes, or a long color repeat, that produces wider bands of color.
This color changing process is also used to create an ombré effect, where one color graduates very subtly from a deep shade to light, or from one color to another.
Yarn comes in a variety of types of packaging:
Hank: A long open twist of yarn, usually used for artisan spun yarns, or delicate fibers. You will need to wind this into a ball before knitting.
Skein: A rectangular shaped ball of yarn which often has a center-pull.
Ball: A spherical ball of yarn.
From left to right, a hank, a skein, and a ball.
The amount of yarn you purchase depends on what the pattern says. Patterns will specify a number of balls or a length in yards (or meters). If it's give as a length, you’ll need to look at the yardage length of a ball and calculate how many balls you will need.
For larger projects, it can be worth buying a bulk value pack.
It is best to use the yarn recommended in the pattern. However if the yarn is no longer available, or if you want to change the look of the garment, yarns can be substituted as long as a few guidelines are followed.
The substituted yarn must be the same thickness. Check this by making sure the new yarn is the same gauge. The length of both yarns also needs to be checked to make sure you have sufficient yarn to complete the pattern.
Hand-knitted garments are not as resilient to repeat washing as machine-made clothes, therefore need to be treated with extra care. There are three different ways to launder knitwear: hand-washing, machine-washing and dry cleaning. Before laundering, read the washing instructions on the ball band of the yarn. If in doubt as to whether a yarn is machine-washable, do not cross your fingers and chance it. A decision like that could result in your beautiful knitted garment shrinking to doll size!
A great way to check how your garment will stand up to washing it to take the swatch you’ve knitted before starting the project and wash it. Before you risk your precious finished project, you can get a good idea of the color-fastness and stretch post-wash.
However you decide to wash, for natural and delicate fibers, use a specialist washing liquid to take care of your finished projects.