Information on Knitting Yarn Ball Bands

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Quite often when people buy yarn one of the first things they do is rip off the ball band and discard it. It’s regarded as nugatory packaging, not worth keeping or even looking at, however this isn’t true. There is a wealth of information on the ball band that may be required later. I’m not recommending that you keep every single ball band from every ball of yarn that you buy; but, it’s good to know what information is on it. Whilst you can retrieve the information at a later date, things such as the dye lot may need to be recorded, which you can do via project notebook or on Ravelry. So this guide is an overview of the information that you can find on the ball band, I've used Rico Creative Cotton.
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Brand & Yarn

The first thing that you notice on the band is the brand and the type of yarn that you’ve bought. So the one below has nice and big that it is Creative Cotton, over to the top right the brand is displayed, Rico Design. Slightly smaller you can see that it’s Aran thickness yarn. 
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Weight and Length


The weight and length of the ball should also be on the band, the length is more important than the weight. Different fibres and yarn construction weigh different amounts. This is important when you want to substitute yarns in patterns. A yarn with a high acrylic content will generally have a much higher meterage than heavier natural fibres.

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Fibre Content


Ball bands will have the fibre content on them, a few years ago EU legislation changed how this could be displayed. Crafters like to know specifics, well I do, what kind of sheep is that from?  Fibre content used to be quite detailed, Blue Faced Leicester, Merino, Jacob, Suri alpaca, Mulberry silk or the fineness of the wool used, under EU law this is now not allowed. Before you get up in arms about it, the legislation was aimed at companies who produced (generally garments) that stated that they were ‘wool’ and had 5% wool content. Tighter laws were introduced on labelling which negatively impacted the crafting community, but as with all things, there are ways around this. 
An ‘old’ ball of Baby Cashmerino will have on it that it is 55% merino wool, a ‘new’ ball will have in big letters 'with extra-fine merino wool’, but the fibre list will just state 55% wool. 

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Most will not tell you exactly where the fibre is from, but with the increase interest in rare breeds and buying local those yarns containing British wool may have the British wool logo on it, a great selling point if you live in the UK and want to support British farmers, or the Woolmark logo. The Woolmark Company, which, according to its website is “the world’s leading wool textile organisation”, it’s the “global authority on Merino wool” and companies can use the logo under license which is an independent quality endorsement. There are also other logos that might appear such as the Shetland wool one (bottom left) which shows that the yarn is from the Shetland Isles. The Campaign for Wool logo is more on websites than ball bands, and is quite nice too (bottom right)
The Rico ball band says 100% cotton.
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Care Instructions

On the Rico ball above the length and weight are the care instructions, these tell you that it's machine washable at 30, do not bleach, do not tumble dry, it is iron-able and it can be dry cleaned. Cotton is a fibre that can take quite a lot of 'punishment' through the washing machine and with the iron, but if you've splashed out on a hank of hand beaded silk and cashmere it will need to be handled with care. It's worth understanding what these are and there are lots of websites that will tell you.
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Tension Square & Needles

Somewhere on the ball band will be a little square and next to it a pair of needles and a possibly a crochet hook. The square will tell you how many stitches and rows over 10cm, 4 inches for US yarns, in stocking stitch. Again if you’re substituting yarns this is vital information, yarns with the same tension will hopefully work up to a similar size, although the effect the designer wanted may change due to fibre content. Some brands (often European) may have a handy jumper or pair of socks on them, this shows how many balls are needed to make either the pair of socks or the garment in the size in the middle of the jumper. The Rico ball band tension square is 18 stitches and 24 rows over 10cm, needles or hook size 4 - 5mm, and to knit a size 14 top you'd need about 11 balls (550g).
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Random Numbers

Somewhere on the ball band will be a little square and next to it a pair of needles and a possibly a crochet hook. The square will tell you how many stitches and rows over 10cm, 4 inches for US yarns, in stocking stitch. Again if you’re substituting yarns this is vital information, yarns with the same tension will hopefully work up to a similar size, although the effect the designer wanted may change due to fibre content. Some brands (often European) may have a handy jumper or pair of socks on them, this shows how many balls are needed to make either the pair of socks or the garment in the size in the middle of the jumper. The Rico ball band tension square is 18 stitches and 24 rows over 10cm, needles or hook size 4 - 5mm, and to knit a size 14 top you'd need about 11 balls (550g).

Other Information


There may also be some other information on the ball band, such as country of manufacture, a QR code which you can use your mobile phone to scan and download information, contact details for the brand will also be somewhere on the band. If you're lucky some ball bands may have a free pattern on them too. Wendy Traditional Aran has a hat and scarf pattern on the inside of the ball band, some sock yarn has a pattern for a pair socks and 'fancy' yarn often has the pattern or the instructions of how to knit the yarn.

Finally

Whilst keeping every ball band is not exactly a viable idea it is worth making a note of some of the information on the ball band, either in a project notebook or on Ravelry where you can add yarn to your stash or make notes when you start a project. So hopefully now ball bands won't be ripped off and discarded in the excitement to get to the new yarn and start the project, and you are left wondering a few months later the washing instructions, tension or meterage.
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