Common questions we receive everyday:
What is yarn count?
What is the ply of this yarn?
Are your yarns suitable for crochet?
What is your ticket number?
Is it ok to knit with your yarns?
What is the difference between DK weight & 8 ply?
What about embroidery threads?
Your yarns have only 2 or 3 plies, how can you call it 8 ply?
Isn’t yarn count & thread count one and the same?
Why do you call wool in different metrics and cotton in another?
It is all confusing, right? Well, it need not be confusing if we first understand that there are a lot of systems & nomenclatures used depending on the country, depending on which craft you practice- crochet or knitting or embroidery or weaving.
First, let’s look at the standard nomenclature used in spinning industry and by the commercial weaving and knitting industry too. The hand weavers also use this system.
The English system used for Cotton counts (which incidentally we use in India as well) is called ‘Ne’ (New English). It defines a count as number of 840 yards of yarns in 1 pound of yarn. For example, if we say the count is Ne 10, it means that there are 10 x 840 yards of yarn in 1 pound. If the count is say Ne 60 (which is used for ladies tops/ fine traditional kurthis), it means it has much more yarn to a pound : 60 x 840 yards in 1 pound. So, higher the number, finer it is. That is for cotton.
Similar system is used for Wool & linens as well- but then the definition of how much of yardage is there in 1 pound or kilo varies. For wool, the count is denoted in Nm (New Metric), which asks us to check how many 1000 meters of yarn is there in 1 kg of yarn. The metrics used for linen count system is different and is called ‘Lea’.
The above system is called ‘indirect’ count system and is used for natural yarns in general. Basically we measure the length of yarn for a given weight. Remember, higher the number, finer the yarn in th ‘indirect’ system.
But when it comes to synthetics like polyester, nylon, acrylic, etc we use ‘direct’ count system. They work differently- we measure the “weight of yarn for a given length” as opposed to “length of yarn for given weight” in indirect count system. So, higher the number, thicker the yarn in this system. The usual metrics used for synthetics are ‘Tex’ & ‘Denier’
Now to the hand knitting yarn nomenclature:
The ply number or ‘weight’ number is used mainly by knitters. Here again the nomenclature seems to be different in US , UK and other countries. Just like the knitting needle sizes, the yarn nomenclature also changes. For example, the US calls the yarns in ‘lace weight’, ‘fingering’, ‘sport weight’, ‘DK’, ‘TK’, etc, UK calls it ‘single ply’, ‘2-ply’,‘4-ply’, ‘8-ply’ and the like. Roughly you can say sport weight and 4-ply are very similar in thicknesses. So are DK & 8-ply.
Now to the next logical question: You call it ‘8-ply’ but I see only 2 ‘plies’ in the yarn. Well, the yarn-ply is a little different from this. If you twist two strands of yarns together, it is called ‘2-ply’. If you twist 3 together, it is ‘3-ply’. But the ‘4-ply’ and ‘8-ply’ yarns in the market do not talk about the number of strands in the yarn, it simply denotes the final yarn’s ‘thickness’- it is an indication of thickness and not the technical details like number of strands.
Let’s move on to Crochet yarns:
Ticket number is used in crochet industry. Higher the ticket number, finer it is. Generally the crochet threads are tightly wound with multiple strands of yarns (plies). The yarns are compact and ‘wiry’ and good for making things like doilies. However nowadays the crocheters prefer yarns which are soft and plush too as it gives them freedom to crochet different things like dress tops, beanies, scarves and other wearables as well. Generally the yarns which don’t ‘split’ easily work well for crochet.
Same with embroidery. They are tightly spun & plied together to withstand the rigours of embroidery machines. However hand embroiders can choose regular yarns and even hand spun yarns to get interesting effects.
Finally the ‘thread count’: This is something used in the bed linen industry. It is a measure of number of threads in one square inch. That is if you have 100 warp yarns & 100 weft yarns in one square inch, it is called 200 thread count. It has nothing to do with the ‘yarn count which we have been discussing so far.
Interestingly, there were a lot of efforts to consolidate and bring out a unified & universal count measuring system. But then as you would appreciate it is not that easy as everybody is ‘used to’ working in a particular metrics for a long time. Even the machines and testing equipment are designed to suit this, so it doesn’t seem to be an easy task.
Remember the fate of ‘Esperanto’ language?
So rather than waiting for a universal count system, let’s learn about it and enjoy the diversity !
Shuttles & Needles supplies a wide range of yarns in cottons, wools and silk for weaving, knitting & crochet. Pl check our yarn section for details