Yarn Count: Definition, Formula & Calculation

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  • 0:03 Yarn Count
  • 0:35 Calculating Yarn Count
  • 1:08 Direct System
  • 2:39 Indirect System
  • 4:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

How do you know if a yarn is of the right quality for a project? For one, you could check out the yarn count. In this lesson, we're going to see what that means and how it's calculated.

Yarn Count

Some people try to count sheep when they go to bed. For others, however, a good night's sleep only comes from thinking about yarn count. Before any textile, including bed sheets, can be made, the manufacturers have to produce the yarn. The quality of a sheet depends on its yarn count, which is a numerical value that tells you how fine or coarse a yarn is. In technical terms, it's the value of the linear density (the diameter) to which that yarn was spun. When helping you fall asleep, this is the count that will matter.

Calculating Yarn Count

The yarn count can tell you a lot about a yarn's durability, strength, and comfort. It's an important number, and that means it's one that you don't want to estimate. You can probably guess where this is going. We're going to have to talk about math and in a textiles course, no less.

In its most basic sense, the yarn count represents either the mass per unit length, or length per unit mass of the spun yarn. Let's look at two different ways to calculate this number, both of which can ultimately tell us how fine or coarse the yarn is but involve different routes of getting there.

Direct System

Let's start with the first method for calculating yarn count: the direct system, which calculates the weight of a yarn by treating the length of the yarn as the constant in the formula. Basically, it helps you answer the question, 'How much does a consistent length of yarn weigh?' That's what the yarn count represents. In this system, a higher yarn count represents a heavier and, therefore, coarser yarn.

The basic formula for the direct system looks like this:

N = (W/l) / (L/w)

In this formula, N is the Yarn Count, W is the weight of a sample of yarn, l is the unit of length, L is the length of the sample, and w is the unit of weight. W and L come from the specific yarn being used, but what about w and l? These numbers come from the metric we're using to calculate yarn count. Here are three units we often use in the direct system:

  1. Tex: Grams per 1000m (1 km) of yarn
  2. Denier: Grams per 9000m (9 km) of yarn
  3. Pounds per Spindle: Pounds per 14,400 yards of yarn

For example, a Tex would be the weight in grams in one kilometer of yarn. In our formula for the direct system, the unit of length would be one kilometer, and the unit of weight would be a gram. From there, all we need is the actual weight and length of the sample, and we can calculate the yarn count.

Indirect System

Now let's take a look at the indirect system, which flips the formula around, treating the weight, not the length, as the constant. The indirect system calculates how long a yarn has to be to meet a specific weight, not how much a specific length of yarn weighs. In the indirect system, higher yarn count indicates a finer yarn.

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