Spinning Tuesdays: WPI Lies, A Cautionary Tale

My WPI. like my knitting gauge, lies constantly.

I use WPI (wraps per inch) as a guide to keep my yarn consistent when I’m spinning and to match yarn used in specific knitting projects.

The problem is I can get my yarn to read at almost any WPI I want it to.

Just like when I knit a gauge swatch, my hands can knit the perfect gauge with a particular yarn. But once the projects starts and I relax into it, my true gauge appears, and it’s wrong.

Here’s my latest WPI kerfuffle.

This is yarn I spun to knit the gorgeous Wanderlust Mitts from Knittyspin. The pattern calls for 11 WPI.

Yarn from, WPI gauge from
Yarn spun  from CJKoho, WPI gauge from FBN Plastics


I can look at that yarn now and know that it isn’t 11 WPI, it’s a bigger yarn, but I was determined to use it for those mitts.

11 WPI?
11 WPI?

I made it work. Like Cinderella’s stepsisters and the glass slipper I made it fit. I pulled it a little snugger, not yanking, but I took the poof out of the yarn. Lies.

For fun I tried making it an even bigger yarn.

7 WPI?
7 WPI?

Here’s a relaxed wrap, letting my woolen spin puff. If I wanted to knit something that called for 7 WPI, I would buy it, it’s close enough. Lies.

The lessons I took away from this are to measure several times, and try not to be so excited that I make the yarn fit. I have to remind myself to let the yarn speak, or it won’t work.

In all things spinning I find that I can encourage the yarn, but if I try to bully it, it always gets the last laugh.


Here’s the real WPI for the yarn:

9 WPI, no lie
9 WPI, no lie

What’s your relationship like with WPI?

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Jillian is the​ author of the best-selling spinning book Yarnitecture. She is the editor​ of Knittyspin and Developmental Editor for PLY and PLY Books. She kinda loves this spinning thing and wants everyone who spins to love it too, so she teaches and writes a lot. She knits, weaves, and stitches and tries to do as much of it as she can with handspun yarn. She's always cooking up all kinds of exciting and creative things combining fiber arts. She likes her mysteries British, her walks woodsy, and to spend as much time as she can laughing. Spy on her on her website jillianmoreno.com

12 thoughts on “Spinning Tuesdays: WPI Lies, A Cautionary Tale

  1. Melissa Elsworth

    I still have enough trouble getting my yarn balanced to even think about WPI. I figure I’ll eventually reach a point where I’m doing complex math based on weight of skein and length when I skeined in on a noddy (which lies as well)

  2. Jess

    I tend to eyeball it instead of reading WPI. I will still put the WPI on a yarn label, mostly just for fun, but I find I have better luck if I just look at the yarn and go with whatever it seems closest to. Between the differences in WPI ranges vs. regular knitting weights and the differences from section to section in a skein of handspun, I find it’s better to just approximate. And then I usually just design a pattern to fit the yarn rather than forcing the yarn to fit a pattern. 🙂

  3. rositta

    Since I’m a brand new spinner I don’t yet understand that nor can I worry about it. I’m still trying to get yarn that is somewhat consistent. Not succeeding thus far.

  4. Samina

    I’m still at the point where the thought of making my fiber look like yarn is the goal. Spinning the same type of yarn two different times is mind-boggling to me right now!

  5. Zardra

    I’ve had pretty good luck with the WPI tools that call for you to lay the yarn over lines of varying thicknesses rather than the ones where you actually wrap cause I’m like you and can make it fit. 🙂

  6. kbsalazar

    Back when I was running the wiseNeedle yarn review website, I got a request to include WPI in the data I collected and presented. So I did an experiment.

    I went to my LYS and asked everyone who came in to do a WPI count on four different yarns. I recorded their answers, and whether or not they had used WPI or routinely relied upon it.

    I found extreme variation in the results, and not only among people who were new to the concept. I concluded that WPI was too subjective to be worth the effort I’d need to invest to add it to the database.

    I find WPI to be occasionally useful for me as an individual, comparing yarns in my own stash to each other. But am skeptical that without uniform training (and some way to norm tension when wrapping from person to person), WPI isn’t all that useful as a data point for comparisons between my yarn and that of someone else.

  7. ac

    When I am looking at WIP in my handspun. I use a clear plastic 6-inch ruler like quilters use. I measure WPI while the yarn is still in the skein. I put a finger behind a number of strands. I then count the number of strands that it takes to make an inch. I do this at least twice. This gives me a average across the skein.

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