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Skeins come with labels and the labels are to be kept and read carefully. All labels usually contain the following indications:
- material: which material the yarn is made of. Many modern yarns are made of a mix of different materials: wool, silk, linen, bamboo, alpaca, etc. The skein price depends heavily on which material the yarn is made of. The label always mentions the exact percentage of each material the yarn is made of.
- if and how you can wash the yarn. Some yarns can be machine-washed, but not all. Even if not mentioned, always choose the gentlest and coldest of your washing-machine program.
- the recommended needle size: this information usually comes in the form of a pictogramme with two crossed needles. Very often, it is not a single size that is recommended, but a range, for instance, size 2-3. The smallest number is for a loose knitter, the highest for the tight knitter and the average knitter takes the middle number, (that would be a 2.5 size needle in our case). You know if you are a tight, a loose, or an average knitter by knitting swatches. If you are not a total beginner, assuming you are an average knitter is a rather safe bet as most people are neither tight nor loose knitters.
- the brand
- the product line. This name is not the same as the brand: a brand will produce different yarns over time. Some will remain on sale for several years, whereas others are more short-lived. When buying skeins of several colours for a project, you must be sure not only the brand but also the product name are the same. Bear in mind there is a marketing aspect to the product name. The product names often serve to highlight the most costly material the yarn is made of, even if the yarn is in fact mostly made of other materials.
- the colour name or a code number related to a specific colour
- the dye batch number. When buying your skeins, be careful to buy skeins with the same dye batch number. The "dark blue" colour of a specific skein you bought two years ago might not be the exact same colour as the "dark blue" on sale this year.
- the weight of the skein. Most skeins weigh 50gr, some weigh 100gr and some - often on the low-quality range, can weigh up to 500gr.
- the total length of thread. This indication is very important. First, it allows you to compare the price of two skeins of the same weight: the longer one is cheaper. Secondly, you need this information to estimate the number of skeins you need if you are not using the specific brand your pattern is mentioning.
Here's how to do the math: NUMBER OF SKEINS * TOTAL LENGTH FOR ONE SKEIN= total length you need for your project. Let's say your pattern calls for 6 skeins of 50 gr, 210 m each. That makes 6*210, so 1'260 meters. If you are buying skeins of 190 m each, you will need to buy one more as 6*190 equates 1'140 and that would be 120 meters too short for your project.
Some brands also mention the number of skeins you will need to knit a short/long-sleeved pullover for a child or an adult male or female. These indications are only valid for a person of average size and for a garment knitted in stockinette stitch. You will need much more wool if you are knitting colourwork, if your design includes some cables, etc. Don't be surprised if your pattern requires more or fewer skeins for a project than what the skein label indicates.
As you can notice, skein labels contain very important indications, indications you will need if you want to buy yet another skein, choose which size needle to use or wash your knitted garment. It makes sense to write down these indications for future use on a notebook, as a specific entry of your bullet journal or on your projects entries of an online knitting community.
Yarn is made of 3 different fibre types : plant-based, animal-based and synthetics-based. Synthetics-based fibres are produced by humans through chemical synthesis. The compounds that are used to make these fibers come from raw materials such as petroleum based chemicals or petrochemicals. The synthetics-based yarns have been invented in the 20th century. Many yarns are made of a mix of different fibres, often a combination of both animal-based and synthetics-based fibres.
Which kind of fibre to choose depends on personal preferences. Synthetics fibres have the advantage of being cheaper and easier to wash. They are not very breathable and retain bodily odours more. When wet, they don't provide any heat to the body, whereas wool does.