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I try to keep the label that comes with the yarn I buy but I do have a few balls of yarn where the label has disappeared and I don't have an additional, unused ball (that would still have the label).

Is there a way to tell what fiber(s) a yarn has if I've lost all the documentation for it?

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    Ugh, this is never fun and it's why I log yarn purchases in Ravelry and save my receipts. Nicely done, though. :) – Catija Apr 27 '16 at 23:27
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According to Maggie Righetti in Knitting in Plain English1, there are a couple of methods you can use to narrow down the possibilities.

The Burn Test

Take a small length of the yarn and hold a flame to one end of it. Take safety precautions when doing this. Don't perform this test near anything else that's flammable and be prepared for the yarn to burn or melt.

Animal Fibers - These will burn slightly but will not sustain a fire once the source of the flame is removed. There will also be a smell.

Plant Fibers - These will sustain a fire once lit.

Man-made - These will melt when exposed to high heat or flame.

The Rub Test

Rub a few strands of the yarn between two fingers 8 - 10 times.

Cashmere and some acrylics - These fibers will start to pill or ball when rubbed together.

The Resistance Test

Hold 3 inches of a single strand of yarn between your hands. Pull the strand firmly, then quickly release the tension.

Good wool, some acrylics - Will "stretch and snap back"

Cotton, linen, and silk - These have poor elasticity and will not snap back.

Getting Mixed Results

If you seem to get results that imply the yarn is multiple things, it probably is. Many yarns are a mixture of different fibers.

1 Righetti, M. (2007). Chapter 3: Don't Get All Balled Up About Yarn. In Knitting in Plain English. New York City, NY: St. Martin's Press.

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    If you are reporting someone elses work you should be using the block quotes markdown and link to the medium. I don't know if you are referring to a site or book or what. Attribution is important. – Matt Apr 28 '16 at 10:37
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    @Matt My understanding is that block quotes are for direct, exact quotes. I do not want to imply that this is exactly how the text appears in the book. I do understand that attribution is important, which is why I gave the author and book name at the beginning. However, I will add a formal citation along with an Amazon link. – BSMP Apr 28 '16 at 18:21
  • Yes. You are correct. If they are exact quotes or quotes with trivial changes they should have blockquotes. If this is your paraphrasing then it should be fine. I couldn't tell for sure and was worried. – Matt Apr 28 '16 at 18:26
  • @Matt - It's cool. My reply probably reads as more cranky than I'd intended. And you were right that it's not clear that I'm citing a book. – BSMP Apr 28 '16 at 18:32

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