The Missing Piece

Sometimes yarn labels can be less than helpful. Most yarn is not packaged in the United States, and most yarn companies are located in non-English speaking countries. Since their primary markets don't speak English as a primary language, many companies omit English language information from their labels. And some product lines hire marketing people who decide that a minimalist label design is the most attractive, meaning that important and useful information is omitted from the yarn label altogether! It can make yarn shopping a little bit like solving a mystery.

For those of us who sometimes buy secondhand yarn or who have extensive stashes, it's not uncommon to come across a naked skein or partial skein. No label and we don't remember or have any pertinent information about the yarn.

What to do?

For those international labels, here's a little chart of fiber translations:

Some labels include different Eastern European languages, but most of those also have either German or Greek.

If your yarn does not have any fiber content information, you can also do a burn test. Trim off a little piece of the yarn (a few inches long is good), and, holding it with tweezers, set it on fire. If the resulting smoke smells like burning hair, it's an animal fiber. If it melts, it's synthetic (nylon, polyester, microfiber, acrylic, etc.). If it burns quickly, it's cotton or some other plant fiber. Obviously, blends will do a combination of the above. While this test won't give you precise information, it is helpful for guessing how the fiber will wear and wash. And you may be able to narrow down the possibilities further. A very soft yarn that gives smoke that smells like burning hair is more likely to be alpaca or angora than wool, and if it sheds a lot or is kind of fuzzy, it probably has some angora in it, for example.