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Understanding Yarn Count in Weaving

  • 3 min read

When it comes to choosing yarn for your project the size of yarn is an important factor in determining whether your fabric will be fine or bulky. This is where understanding yarn count in weaving comes in. Yarn count, or size of yarn, is defined by its weight and fineness. It can be a little confusing when all over the world slightly different ways to note yarn count in weaving are used. However, with some simple definitions up your sleeve you can demystify those numbers. This, in turn, will help you select yarn size and quantity of cones of yarn required for your next project.

Here in the Thread Collective shop, you’ll see yarn count in weaving provided in 2 ways. Those are; Metric count (Nm) and English cotton count (Ne). You’ll see it noted alongside the yarn as, for example, Nm 14/2 or Ne 8/2.

How do we interpret yarn count in weaving? Luckily for both yarn count units the formula is essentially the same. Though different in that one involves the metric system and the other imperial. 

So, how do you read yarn count in weaving? Some simple definitions.

Yarn Count in Weaving
Understanding what the numbers mean

Unit of measurement: provides you with the system yarn count is provided in.
Yarn counts per ply:The length per weight would be if the yarn were only a single ply.

If the unit of measurement is Nm this is how many skeins of 1000 meter lengths of a single ply of the yarn would be needed to make one kilogram.

If the unit of measurement is Ne this becomes the number of 840 yard (770m) skeins of yarn that weigh 1 pound (0.45 kg).

Number of plies: How many individual strands of thread make up the yarn so 1 is 1 ply, 2 is 2ply, 3 is 3 ply and so on.

Different ply in yarn - part of the equation

A little maths:

Knowing this, if neither yards per pound (YPP) or meters/kg are listed you can estimate this with the following formulas. You can also use these calculations to figure out length of yarn you have left after using some. Don't forget to subtract weight of the cone first.

Formula for calculating yarn by weight from yarn count number.

Regardless of yarn count system used the more yarn you have per kg or pound the finer your yarn will be.

Yarn sizes (From left Maurice Brassard Cotton Ne 8/16, Ne 8/8, Ne 8/4, Ne 8/2, Ne 16/2)

However, note that the same yarn count for different fibre types does not mean you’ll have the same EPI or WPI. Though both may be Ne 8/2 the yarns may have different diameters. This is due to factors such as how the yarn was spun and whether the fibre is protein or cellulose. Thus, if mixing and matching yarns in your project it’s important to also look at WPI or the recommended EPI for your weave structure.

Some recommendations!

Still fuzzy on all of that? Never fear. You don’t need to understand the intricacies of the yarn count system to make it work for you! Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all but for a great starting place, a scarf would be wonderful in finer weaving yarns like this bamboo or this tencel. Baby on the way? Try this organic cotton for a cushy blanket. Updating your hand towels? This 8/2 cottolin is a popular choice. You could also order some sample cards if you prefer a visual and textural representation of yarn choices.

Still stuck? Drop us a line via the contact form or join us in our Facebook group and we’ll do our best to help you choose the best yarn for your project! You can also follow our Instagram or Facebook page.