I find it very interesting as I sell my handspun yarn, just how many otherwise experienced and I would even venture so far as to say expert knitters are intimidated at the thought of using handspun. They often ask what weight it is, or comment that their pattern calls for a specific yarn weight and that handspun cannot be substituted. Well, what did we do before mill spun? We measured our yarn in wraps per inch.
To determine the “weight’ of a yarn simply grab a ruler, or if you have a wraps per inch tool, grab it instead. Wrap the yarn around the tool or ruler until it covers one inch. Count the number of wraps and head for the following table:
5 or fewer wraps - Chunky - 300 yards per pound
6-8 wraps - Bulky - 400-500 yards per pound
9-11 wraps - medium or worsted weight - 800-1000 yards per pound
12-15 wraps - Sport weight - 1200-1800 yards per pound
16-18 wraps - fingering - 2000-2400 yards per pound
19 and above - lace weight - 2600 yards per pound
Now as you begin to examine your fiber stash, you can spin small samples of each fiber to see what kind of yarn it is best suited to. Don’t go overboard, just spin a sample that will be large enough to measure a wrapped inch. This sample can be stapled to an index card that you have written all of the necessary information on and placed in a zipped plastic bag that can be either placed in the very top of the bag, or attached to the outside of the bag. Be sure to note what the wpi measurement is, as well as the weight of the fleece. When you begin a new project you can quickly determine what fleece or other fiber will spin into a suitable yarn. You can also be reasonably certain as to whether you have enough of one fiber to complete the project as well. Be sure to include some extra in your calculations for waste, loss due to vegetation, etc. In the case of an unwashed grease fleece, I find that it is easier to spin the sample from locks that have been washed thoroughly. If you weigh the locks before washing then again once they are dry, you can estimate the loss in weight to the entire fleece during washing. This can also be noted on the sample card.