Demystifying Yarn Care Symbols: Guest Post from Natalie at All Free Knitting

Do yarn care symbols confuse you? Would you like to be able to read those labels and understand how to actually take care of your yarn without ruining it? This post is for you! Natalie at All Free Knitting graciously offered to write a guest post on demystifying yarn care symbols, and I am forever grateful. Read on for some great tips!

How to Demystify Yarn Care Symbols

demystifying yarn care symbols

If you’ve ever bought a skein of yarn, you’ve probably noticed those cryptic symbols near the swatch information, needle or hook size, and yarn weight. They are actually universal symbols among yarn manufacturers, which means that once you learn the translation, you can decipher any yarn label!

We at know that buying yarn can be a joyous, yet occasionally overwhelming experience, which is why we are sharing our printable infographic, Yarn Care Symbols. Simply print out a copy or keep it handy on a mobile device the next time you go yarn shopping, and you’ll know exactly how to care for any yarn you buy.

Machine Washable vs. Hand Washable

One of the first things you should consider when buying yarn is how it will need to be washed, since bleaching, drying, and ironing will come later in the laundering process. It’s helpful if you can decide whether or not you’re willing to commit to a possibly complicated laundering process even before purchasing your yarn. Different types of fibers have different washing needs, but yarn types can generally be separated into machine-washable and hand-washable.

Machine Washable yarn – Acrylic, cotton, superwash wool. These types of yarn can usually be washed in a washing machine on the gentle cycle. However, not all washable yarns are necessarily superwash, which is a term that refers to a specific type of processed yarn. So, while acrylic and cotton yarns are washable, their washing instructions may differ from that of superwash wool, for example. That’s why your safest bet is to always check your yarn label for specific details.

Hand Washable yarn – Alpaca, cashmere, wool, silk, linen. Protein and plant fibers such as these will have the best results when washed by hand. Wool that hasn’t been superwash treated should be hand washed in cold water. The movement from a washing machine can cause the wool fibers to mat together, which is called felting. And while felting is a technique that creates a recognizable type of fabric, it is not always desired because you will lose the look of your stitches. The bottom line: you should always refer to the yarn label for exact details, as care instructions may vary.

For more information on yarn fiber, check out our guide, Fiber Fundamentals: How to Pick Yarn for Knitting.

Yarn Care Symbols

Dots: Represent temperature. These dots can be found in the washing, machine drying, and iron and pressing symbols. The more dots there are, the higher the temperature the yarn can withstand.

X: If you see an “X” on a label, that means “do not” do whatever the symbol stands for. For example, if you see a triangle, which stands for bleach, “do not” bleach that particular yarn.

yarn care symbols

Bonus Tips

When giving a handmade knit to someone as a gift, it would be a nice gesture to include the yarn label. Then, it will be easy for them to care for the gift you’ve made. You could even make a homemade label with easy-to- read care instructions.

When washing your knits, it is a good precaution to wash them inside a laundry care bag or a pillow case. This will prevent your knits from getting caught on any buttons or zippers if you are washing with a normal load.

It is not usually the best idea to hang your knits to dry as it is very easy for them to grow to an unwanted size or shape. Luckily, this can be easily fixed by washing the knit again and reshaping it.

Acrylic yarn should never be ironed because it is made from polymer, a type of plastic, and will melt under extreme heat.

Hopefully this guide has in fact demystified yarn care symbols for you, so you’re no longer intimidated by them. That means you can go ahead and knit with any type of yarn, without dreading the laundering process.

For some of our favorite infinity scarf patterns, including Melody’s 3 Step Infinity scarf, check out “42 Infinity Scarf Patterns to Knit Today” on AllFreeKnitting.

For a PDF download of the infographic, click here: Yarn Care Symbols from All Free Knitting.