A Guide to Ball Bands
Now that we are open, many of you can start a new knitting or crochet project for the first time in what felt like forever. I could say that I missed this feeling but, to be honest, I have so many projects on the go or waiting to be started already that I didn't get a chance to! Nevertheless, starting something new can be exciting. That is until you start reading the ball band. There is so much valuable information on a ball band but fathoming it out can be confusing, regardless of your knitting/crochet experience. Fear not; today, we will look at everything you need to know before you start a project and where to find it. I will be using the Creative Smile Super Chunky ball band as an example, but the information is pretty much identical on all ball bands, albeit in a different layout. Below is a picture of the ball band.
The Main Section: Brand Details and General Information
This section is the part that bears slightly less importance when you are starting to work with the yarn, but it can be quite interesting to know these details. At the top is the name of the brand that makes the yarn (Rico in this case) followed by the name of the yarn itself (Creative Smile). This may seem stupid and obvious but it is so important that you keep these details in case you need to order in more - you may be sure that you have enough but there is every possibility of the tension being not quite right or the pattern miscalculating the number of balls you need.
Below this is the amount of grams and metres per ball. The amount of grams can sometimes be useful if you are doing a pattern using a different yarn to what it used originally but using the amount of metres is much more accurate because some wool can be very light, meaning you can get a hundreds of metres on a 50g ball, whereas that won't be the case for something thicker and heavier. In my last post, I explained how to calculate how much wool you need to use for a pattern if you are using something different to what it suggests.
Then, below this, it tells you what materials are used. This may not be a priority for you necessarily, but if it is, for whatever reason, then here are a few tips:
Finally, we have where the yarn was produced, which is pretty self-explanatory. A lot of wool is produced abroad, though if you are trying to reduce your carbon footprint by buying things that are produced locally, I recommend yarns from the brand West Yorkshire Spinners, which we do stock.
Tension and Sizing Information
Now we will look at the tension and sizing information, which is particularly important if you are following a pattern but not using the yarn that is recommended. The first symbol shows which needle or hook size (in millimetres) you should use when working with that yarn. Next is the tension square. When you are following a pattern, you should check that the tension is the same on both the pattern and the ball you are using. In the tension diagram on this ball band, you can see that, to make a 10cm by 10cm square, you need to cast on 11 stitches and do 14 rows. If I wanted to use this to make something that has the same tension or similar (eg. one more/less stitch or row). Then, to check that your tension matches the tension square, you need to try knitting it up. So, in this case, you would cast on 11 stitches using 8mm needles and do 14 rows. If your square matches the measurements that the ball band shows, your tension is correct and you are ready to start the project. If not, try bigger needles if it is too small/tight and smaller needles if it is too big/loose.
The bottom two diagrams are a lot less complicated and are not too important unless you are not following a pattern at all. These tell you how many grams you need for a certain size jumper. In this case, you need 700g (ie. 14 balls in this case) for a size 14/40inch jumper. Also, do note that not all ball bands have this diagram.
Finally, we have the washing instructions. I won't explain every symbol that exists because there are hundreds of them, but I will explain the ones shown here and a few others:
If you come across one not shown here, you can find it online by searching for images of washing instruction symbols.
And there you have it - you now know how to navigate a ball band! If you have a specific question about a ball band you have, do let us know in the comments!
My name is Sharon the Sheep, the owner of Avicraft Wool Shop in Bromley Kent..