I’m always wondering how much yarn something will take. I’m pretty good at estimating for the big picture–how much for an entire project–but I often need to know how much I need for a row, the cast on, and the bind off. Let’s look at quick ways you can figure yarn needs out. You will need to mark your yarn to make these calculations, so let’s cover that first.
Marking Your Yarn
Lately there have been great photos of knitters playing Yarn Chicken on Instagram. While that is fun, sometimes it is a pain not to have the right amount. All these methods of calculating require that you mark your yarn so you can measure how much you used. What I usually do is measure a yard, 5 yards, 10 yards (dependent on what I’m measuring) and tie a locking pin at the end of the measurement. It doesn’t need to be exact. This last photo has a marker from the end of the yarn–I need to bind off this project and I want to make sure I quit knitting while I have enough left to do a JSSBO.
How Much Yarn For The Cast On
I could probably make money if I could come up with a perfect formula to predict this! It is hard to judge because it is dependent on needle size and the method of cast on used. I do have a trick that you can use though. This is useful if you are going to cast on a lot of stitches and don’t want to run out of yarn. I’m defaulting to long-tail methods, because those are usually where you end up with a poorly gauged tail length.
Estimating Tail Length Using the needles for your project, cast on 5 or 10 stitches.
- Put a marker in the tail 5″ from the last cast on.
- Repeat on the yarn side.
- Now undo the cast on stitches.
- Measure between markers. Deduct 10″ (the two 5″ lengths marked off).
Let’s say I need to cast on 70 stitches. 1.625″ x 70 = 114″ or 3.2 yards.
Remember that you need to divide that in half to cast on. In my sample, I put 2 yards into the tail end. I want a 10″ tail and if I miscalculated, I want extra in my tail, because it is the finite piece–I can always pull more yarn from the ball.
How Much Yarn For A Row (Pair, Pattern Repeat)
Ready to figure out how much yarn you need for a row (pair, pattern repeat)? I tend to do this as I start to think about needing to add another ball of yarn, how much I’ll need to bind off, or maybe if I should split a ball to work both sides of a neckline or something. Assuming you will use a similar amount of yarn in each row or pair (pairs are really good if you have a pattern row and a plain row). Measure off 1, 5, or 10 yards and mark the yarn. Mark the first stitch (optional). Now work your row, pair, pattern repeat. How much of your marked off yarn did you use? Let’s say you had 5 yards marked off and your pair of rows took 3.5 yards. Now you can calculate how much yarn you need for however many rows you have to do.
How Much Yarn For The Bind Off
This is dependent on the bind off you are using. You will need more for JSSBO than for a regular bind off. My rule of thumb is to leave 3 times the amount of yarn needed for a row for a regular bind off. JSSBO, I’ll go 4 times or more.
So if you used 3.5 yards for a pair of rows, you will need 1.75 yards (half) times 3 or 5.25 yards or 7 yards if you need 4 times.
Emergency Measuring Tools
Although I have rulers and tape measures everywhere, sometimes I find myself without a proper measuring tool nearby. In those situations I tend to grab a piece of printer paper (I’m always working from hard copies of patterns). It is 11″ tall, so I can use it to measure off 12″ by adding an inch. If I need to measure 4″, fold that paper in half width-wise and it is 4.25″. Fold it again and you’ve got a generous 2″.