No music today. But we now have a very big square! I returned to day 2’s yarn – ‘Fortissima Shadow Color’ in red by Schoeller + Stahl. The colour repeat is long on this yarn and goes from the very deep reds that I worked with last time. This time the red is paler in some parts, more orange in others, and is joined by a swathe of pink. I am really pleased with how this is coming together. I was secretly worried I’d get bored well before this point but the larger it grows the possibilities grow. Also, it’s fun having something brand new to make each day that is finished very quickly. Very satisfying.
As promised, today I will expound on ball bands.
Ball bands are not just to keep the yarn neat and tidy. In the past, they held very little information but these days they are a wealth of information. They will tell you not just the name of the yarn and who made it but also how to care for it, the size of the needles recommended for the yarn, yarn content and yarn weight, and more.
The information is usually a standard set of details but every company uses a different format and different yarns use different shape bands all of which lay the information out differently. So instead of telling you what you’ll find on a ball band, let’s have a look at 3 different styles of ball band or labels from yarns I am currently working with. Strangely, none of them are sock yarn…
Araucania uses tags rather than bands for their yarns. On the front of the label we have the company name, the range name and a brief description of the yarn. In this case these things are Araucania, Ranco, Luxury Merino Blend 4ply.
On the back of this label are more useful details. You will find the fibre content (75% Wool/25% Polyamide), how much yarn in the ball (344 metres and 100 grams). Gauge (24sts = 10cm) and needle size (3.25mm/US 3) are also listed. These are for guidance. All yarns can be used on bigger or smaller needles than suggested but this is an indication of what it was intended for. Some people pull the yarn more tightly around the needle which will give them more stitches over the 10cm used on this label for gauge. They’d have to go up a needle size or two to get the 24 stitches suggested here. But you will find that 4-ply yarns will all have similar suggested gauge and needle size. The Craft Yarn Council has produced a chart that gives the common gauge and needle sizes for each of the yarn weight categories.
Next on this label are care instructions. Some bands will only have words. Some will only have symbols. This one has both. the written instructions and warnings are straight forward. The symbols are probably familiar to you as something that is interesting but nonsensical, so let’s get rid of that confusion.
Care instruction symbols are fairly standard. One of the best places I have found for deciphering these modern pictographs is on the Lionbrand website and being that they are a yarn company, their chart is tailored to what you will commonly find on the ball bands of their yarn. These symbols are commonly found on ball bands by other companies too.
Using that chart we can see that the symbols on this Araucania label mean that the yarn can be ironed but only on a low temperature and don’t bleach it. The next symbol looks a bit like a sun is not on any chart I’ve found, although given that the written instructions say not to sun dry the yarn perhaps that is what it means. The symbol after that one means don’t tumble dry the yarn. The fifth symbol is direct washing instructions – it means that a machine wash is ok as long as it is at a temperature of 30 degrees celsius. The ‘P’ in a circle means the yarn is dry-cleanable but only without the chemical trichloroethylene. That last symbol means you should lay your yarn flat to dry it. So, taken together, wash your finished item at no more than 30 degrees celcius, or have it dry-cleaned somewhere that doesn’t use trichloroethylene. If you wash it at home, dry it the garment laid flat somewhere out of the sun and you can iron it but only on a low temperature.
The last part of importance on this ball band are details about the colour. If you are using only one ball of a yarn, this information is just interesting. If you need more than that, you need to pay attention to these two details – colour number (COL: PT1946) and dye/lot number (LOT: 15619). The first one is important because you want to be sure that all the yarn you’re taking home is actually the same colour. ‘But it looks the same!’. Yes, however with all of the artificial lighting in stores these days, it can’t hurt to double check. The same goes for the dye/lot number. This number refers specifically to the set of skeins or balls dyed in together in the same batch of dye.
Having dyed my own yarn, I can tell you that even if you use the same equipment to weigh and measure your ingredients, you won’t always get the same colour. This can be for a number of reasons. One is that none of the equipment is perfect, least of all the human eye and one drop less or more of an ingredient can make a huge difference in your final colour. This means that even if the colours look the same, if the dye lots are different you could notice a big change when you start a new ball of yarn. If you are making a modular shawl or blanket it probably won’t matter. It’s going to drive you nuts if it’s just the 6 rows of the left cuff on a sweater though so be careful. If you can’t match the dye lots, alternate between two balls every 2 rows to give it a subtle patterning which will disguise any differences.
I won’t go through these next 2 ball bands in detail but I will point out how things are presented.
On the left side of this James C Brett ball band (and I apologise for the quality of this picture. It didn’t resize well…) you’ve got a shade number and a dyelot. Across the middle is the company, yarn range and yarn-weight. To the right is the breakdown of the yarn content, length of yarn in both metres and yards, and though this yarn has no description for gauge it does suggest using 4mm needles (the ‘4mm’ under the ‘X’ graphic of crossed needles). Below that are the care instructions and on the top row of that last paragraph is the gram weight.
Next is the oddly shaped band from a ball of Austermann’s Merino 125. The ends of this band are tucked into the centre of the ball instead of being wrapped around the outside as the last one was.
Starting at the top are 2 rows of washing instruction symbols. the next row of symbols indicate suggested needle sizes. Next we’re told that the yarn is all wool that has been treated so that it doesn’t felt (that’s what the ‘superwash’ bit means). Then there’s the Woolmark to back that up.
Colour number and dye lot follow that and are made very obvious by being in a white square on a black background instead of just being printed in white on black like all of the other details.
Range and brand are on the largest part of the band as this is the part that is presented when placed on a shelf.
We have meterage and gram-weight before the barcode. After the barcode is your gauge information (that’s the grid – it’s telling you that over a 10cm square you should get 18 stitches and 25 rows if you use the suggested needle size to knit this yarn). Beside that is the bonus information of how much yarn you would need to make a medium size sweater at that gauge.
So, you can see that even though ball bands aren’t always a band, they all present similar information. This information is always useful. Among other things, it helps if you are knitting for someone with allergies, or can help if you are using a different yarn from the one suggested in a pattern.
Hey Charlotte, that tiny square didn’t take you all day to knit. What else are you working on?
My list of current projects is long. The list of things that have cast on and not finished is somewhat alarming. But I have been focussed on one project in particular these last couple of weeks.
Other than shawls, I don’t knit many clothes. My friend J though, knits maaaaaany sweaters and is a terrible (awesome!) enabler. I now have many in my queue to be knit and considering my ex-stock yarn stash, they all have yarn assigned to them. But I have been knitting a sweater for J with a favourite yarn of mine (Austermann’s Merino 125 – it’s so soft). She was admiring a brightly coloured sweater but wasn’t going to knit it. I had the perfect yarn, so I’m knitting it for her. It’s a really lovely yarn and is coming together beautifully don’t you think?