How long is a ball of yarn?

Everyone stand back. I’m going to attempt mathematics.

Yes, ambitious for a Friday afternoon, I know, but I’ve been doing some plotting lately and have to say, I’m getting really confused. Well. More confused than normal.

In an attempt to stave off the blues, which always leads to excess yarn shopping, I’ve been going through both my stash and my queue and favourites on Ravelry, trying to match things together. Shopping from the stash, reminding myself that I already have oodles of fabulous yarn, always cheers me up, and keeps me occupied until the urge to BUY ALL THE THINGS passes. To facilitate that, I did something you should only do when feeling brave: I downloaded my stash statistics from Ravelry.

In case you didn’t know, Ravelry will let you create an excel spreadsheet of everything you’ve added to your stash. Just hit the little button in the top right hand corner:

Rav stash screenshot

Scary, but helpful. You don’t get the pictures, but you do get all the vital statistics of the yarn, along with how much of it you’ve got (don’t total that column unless you really want to know!). I then went through my library, queue and favourites, picking out the “want to make for sure” from the “want to remember exists” patterns. I’ve then gone through the pattern list, noting the metrage needed and, importantly, the metrage of the suggested yarn.

That last one has proved to be really, really useful, because as far as I can tell, words are assigned to yarns more or less randomly. Let’s take my lovely Squoosh yarn, shall we?


It’s got 450m to the 100g, and is listed as a laceweight. That doesn’t sound right to me at all.

Or take this Saliga yarn from Fibres Exotica:


I ended up having a long, frustrating conversation with the girl on the stand where I bought it. She was very insistent it was DK. I could see by looking that it was lace (the FE stands lists it as Lace, as does Ravelry) but even after comparing it to an actual DK, she wouldn’t budge. Considering it’s 900m to the 100g, it’s pretty lacey to me, so I can only assume she’d got her terminology mixed up, and somehow thought 2ply=DK.

On Ravelry, lots of yarns are listed with their WPI – wraps per inch. However, as that’s not something that is on most yarn labels, I’ve never really used it as a measurement of yarn-weight, even if it’s probably more reliable. I tend to use metrage per 100g and have rough boundaries of my own that I use:

  • 1000m+ per 100g = Cobweb
  • 600-1000m per 100g = Lace (600m being a ‘heavy’ laceweight)
  • 375-550m per 100g = Fingering (550 being ‘light’ fingering)
  • 300-400m per 100g = Sport (yes, I’m aware this overlaps with fingering!)
  • 200-300m per 100g = DK
  • 100-200m per 100g = Aran
  • under 100m per 100g = Bulky

What do you think? Does that roughly match the scale you use?

I find it’s useful when trying to match yarn and pattern to know what yarn the designer used, rather than just go by the generic description. One shawl I’m looking at claims to be in cobweb wool, but as the yarn is only 600m to 100g, it’s heavier than lots of the laceweights in my stash. If you just see ‘cobweb’ in the description, you might be put off, when actually, it’s a heavier wool. In this case, I think the confusion has come because the yarn has 1ply in the name, which implies it’s lighter than it actually is. It also helps to know how to work out the yardage per 100g. Some of my yarn comes in (what seem to me) oddly weighed skeins, because they were originally measured in ounces. So again, my Squoosh is a 4oz skein, giving me 114g.

To work out your yardage over 100g, it’s a fairly simple bit of maths*.


Divide the number of metres you’ve got by the number of grams, and times the resulting number by 100. Ta da! Armed with that number, I find it much easier to work out whether or not my yarn is suitable for the pattern, since they’re both on the same scale.

The moral of the story seems to be to get your calculator out before choosing a pattern for your yarn, or the other way around! I don’t think it really matters what you call yarn, and I don’t think any attempts to standardise things would get very far. But it does go to show that you can’t take things for granted, and that a little maths goes a long way.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go delete my stash spreadsheet before anyone else sees it…

*Of course, if it’s a 50g or 150g skein, the maths is even easier, but I figured you already knew that!


4 thoughts on “How long is a ball of yarn?

  1. Good points! I was recently baffled by my Cascade Eco Plus being described as “bulky” when it looks, feels and knits up like aran. And guess what? When I went into to Rav yarn page there is a footnote: “N.B. The Ravelry classification system designates this as a bulky yarn (14-16 stitches/4”), although some people consider it as more of a light bulky/aran weight.”
    This means that I have massively over-bought for my blankie… but at least I now know the lfetovers will be perfect for an aran sweater!


    1. To be fair, lots of us don’t need help overbuying 😉 But it’s annoying to have to do so much maths when figuring things out. The ‘cobweb’ yarn at 600m/100g was the one that baffled me, when so much laceweight is lighter than that. Maybe I should point it out as a mistake on the database!

      At least having yarn leftover is better than running out 😀


    1. I think it has more to do with the thickness it’s spun to. So for fingering yarn, it tends to be lengths either side of 400m, and that’s probably dependent on weight of fibre.

      My confusion comes when yarns with the same lenth:weight ratio are called different things. If it’s only 600m to the 100g, that’s not what I’d call cobweb!


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