I did not always appreciate what you can learn from WPI or wraps per inch. I always thought in gauge, and since I was knitting, and WPI seemed like a weaving tool, I didn’t give it much thought. Fortunately my knitting world is a place of growth and change, and I’ve changed my tune on wraps per inch. Now I make a WPI and Ply card for every yarn that comes through my studio. I learn a bit about each yarn as I go.
Wraps Per Inch Narrows the Field
Worsted, bulky, DK, sport, fingering, lace. If you use yarn you have probably heard these terms used to describe yarn weight and the approximate stitches per inch you will get. Or you may be familiar with the number system developed by the Craft Yarn Council. Neither of these classification methods makes it easy to know whether you are talking about yarn that will be transferable with another yarn. This is a big subject, because fiber (not just type of fiber), method of spinning, method of preparation, plying, finishing, all play a part in the yarn you end up with. Not every worsted/#3 yarn is the same or will yield the same results.
It is hard to compare yarns without seeing them side by side and actually feeling them, but we do it all the time. Every tool we have should be used to clarify the weight of yarn.
Wraps Per Inch and Ply Cards
I love making wraps per inch and ply cards. It is the kind of task that feels significant, and is visually pleasing, so it fits right into what I like to do. I am currently putting my cards into notebooks with swatches, but they could easily be made and put on a binder ring that could be hung in your yarn storage area for quick reference.
Wraps Per Inch
- Take a piece of cardboard or card stock cut about 1″ wide and 3 to 5″ long.
- Mark a 1″ wide area where you will wrap the yarn.
- Wrap the yarn so that it is not at all stretched or squished within that 1″ area.
- Tie or fasten the yarn on the wrong side. I put a piece of tape over the back too.
- Count the number of wraps!
- Tie another piece of yarn around the WPI card.
- Undo one end of the yarn to identify the structure of the yarn:
- These are (from top): a) 4-ply, b) 2-ply then 2 strands plied, and c) 4-ply.
What Can You Learn?
Can you tell which one is wool? Are there any blends? Are any manufactured fibers?
Be sure to write the WPI and ply information on your card. Think of the wealth of information you have in your yarn stash. When I want to be distracted by yarn, but I do not want to start a new project, this gives me a chance to constructively play.
I save pieces of white cardboard from things I purchase or that come into our house. I then cut these up into these cards. You can buy card stock at office supply stores and it works nicely.