What is a yarn count ?

Yarn count refers to weight of the yarn in unit length , or length of the yarn in unit weight , in other terms how heavy or light the yarn is , ( in simple terms thickness , though thickness also depends on the fibre and bulk of the yarn )

Yarn count is expressed in many units , two most common units are Nm count and Tex count .

Nm ( Number Metric ) count means Number metres of a yarn in 1 gram weight of yarn so for example if 1 gram of yarn has 3 meters length, Nm count would be Nm 3 , if 1 gram has 7.5 meters on length Nm count would Nm 7.5 hence Nm 3 is heavier than Nm 7.5 .

On most ball labels , you will find Number of meters or yards ( 1 meter = 1.09 yards ) , example if 100 gram Ball has 350 meters of yarn in it – then 1 gram of yarn is 3.5 meters hence final yarn count is Nm 3.5 , if 50 gram of yarn has 100 meters in it then 1 gram has 2.5 meters hence yarn count is Nm 2 .5

Higher the yarn count lighter is the yarn , lower the yarn count heavier is the yarn – Generally for knitting and crochet , most yarn counts fall in Nm 0.10 ( Super Jumbo ) ( means 1 gram 0.1 meters or 100 grams = 10 meter ) to Nm 6 ( fingering weight ) ( means 1 gram – 6 meters or 100 grams = 600 meters ) , Most common weights fall between Nm 1 ( 100 grams of yarn = 100 meters ) to Nm 4 ( 100 grams of yarn = 400 meters of yarn )

Please refer to chart of yarn weights to understand typical ranges

What are yarn plies / strands ?

In simple terms it is number of strands or ends twisted/ folded together , Example a yarn with 2 strands twisted together in technical terms is called as 2 Ply yarn – The Nm count is always expressed as Count of the single strand followed by ply example Nm 4.5/2 means – Single yarn is Nm 4.5 and is two such yarns are twisted together – hence final weight ( count of yarn would be ) Nm 2.25 means 225 meters in 100 grams , Example Nm 7.5/3 means – 3 strands of count Nm 7.5 twisted together hence final weight would be Nm 2.5 that is 250 meters in 100 grams , so this is called as yarn with 3 plies .

Some yarns are can made with multiple plies especially finer wools , super fine merino wools are not easy to spin in thick counts hence fine count is spun and many plies twisted together to make thicker yarn suitable for Hand knitting example Nm 24/2 X 4 means – Nm 24 – 2 yarn strands folded / twisted together and 4 strands of this 2 plied yarn is further twisted again, so total 8 strands , Nm 24 , final count would be Nm 3 means – 300 meters in 100 grams

What is yarn Ply as in weight of yarn ?

In UK , NZ , AUS still old method of thickness of yarn is used where weight of yarn is mentioned as ply – not to be confused with ply/ plies as explained above.

This still refers to weight of the yarn , In olden days when yarns used to be spun by hand , not many different counts could be produced as in modern day machines , so most of yarn counts spun by hand were in narrow range , therefore to make thicker yarn , 2 plies or 3 or 4 or even more of same yarn was folded together to make thicker yarn – Hence 1 ply yarn would refer to thinner yarn , 4 ply thicker , 8 ply even thicker.

This terminology is used even today in UK, AUS, NZ by knitters.

Though in modern day terms, technically speaking It is not true anymore, because modern day 4 plied or 8 plied yarn can actually be weight wise a 2 Ply yarn (as per olden system), But old system by weight method is still used.

We have tried to make a simple chart which could give some idea of the Ply as in weight (olden system) in context of modern count system / (meters in grams)- Appx meter range.

Yarn weight conversion chart

UK USA Australia
1 ply Laceweight 1 ply
2 ply Fingering 3 ply
3 ply Sock 3 ply
4 ply Sport 5 ply
DK DK/Light Worsted 8 ply
Aran Worsted 10 ply
Chunky Bulky 12 ply
Super Chunky Super Bulky 14 ply

As you can see this Ply weight chart is not be confused with Ply / Plies as in strands of the yarn

In real textile engineering terms Ply means number of yarn strands, the concept of Ply weight on exists in Hand knitting yarns limited to certain countries

12 ply weight Australia could in real terms could be just a single strand (1 Ply) or 2 strand yarn (2 Ply) it does not mean there are 12 strands in the yarn, but when we define in technical terms, for example as Nm 26/2X 6 or Nm 19/12 - it means 12 Ply Yarn with 12 strands

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