We're often asked how many skeins of yarn it takes to make [insert type of project here]? The answer is always, it depends. Though there are some general guidelines for yarn amounts, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration when choosing yarn for a project. Today we’ll share our best tips and tricks so you can choose the right amount of yarn for your project every time.
Here are some of the factors to take into consideration when calculating yarn amounts:
1. What kind of project do you want to make?
The first factor that determines how much you yarn needed will be the kind of project you're making: a hat project would require far less yarn than knee-length sweater dress, for example!
2. What weight of yarn will you be using?
In our last post we talked a lot about swatching and how different yarns on different needles sizes will knit up at different gauges. For instance, if you’re knitting a shawlette, you can probably find plenty of patterns that call for 100 grams of a fingering weight yarn (usually anywhere between 375-450 yards) that are worked on larger needles (US 5 or 6) to create drapey shawls. You can also take that same 100 gram fingering weight skein and get a pair of socks for most feet (caution: if you’re knitting for large men’s feet you may need a bit more yarn!) on US 0 or US 1 needles. If you want to knit a sweater however, you’d need quite a bit more yardage and you’d need to decide on gauge to determine exactly how much.
3. What size project will you be making?
A baby sweater will take less yardage than an adult sweater. A shawlette may only take one skein of fingering weight, whereas a larger stole may require two or three skeins of fingering weight. This seems obvious, but when taking in combination with what weight yarn you’ll be using it can make a difference. For instance, if you choose to knit a worsted weight sweater you will likely require less yardage to knit a sweater in any size than you would if you knit the same sweater in fingering weight yarn. That is because your worsted weight yarn will knit up at a larger gauge than your fingering weight yarn.
So based on these 3 factors, how do you best determine how much yarn you’ll need? To answer this question easily, start with picking your pattern.
Any good pattern should tell you how much yarn is required to produce the project as written. A warm hat? Probably a 100 gram skein of Worsted or Bulky Weight. A sweater? That will depend on the size you choose, but again, well-written patterns will have estimates of how much yardage you’ll need to make the pattern in your size.
So what happens when you fall head-over-heels in love with yarn BEFORE you've selected your pattern? In this instance, we usually turn to Ravelry to help us make an educated guess. For example, if you know you want to knit a fingering weight sweater, you can search the pattern database to see how much yardage other patterns written for that same weight specify in your size.
You can also use Ravelry to refer back to your previous projects, or view other knitters' projects to see how much yarn was used to make a project similar to what you have in mind. Did you like the finished size? Were you playing yarn chicken right before the bind off? Here's where keeping accurate notes can really come in handy! For example, if the last shawl you knit with one skein was too small, think about buying 2 skeins and looking for patterns that call for more yardage.
Creative Knitting and Jimmy Beans Wool both have handy dandy yardage calculators on their site which can help determine how much yardage you need, providing you have some of the answers to the questions we’ve posed above.
Last but not least, we can't emphasize this enough: always buy an extra skein just in case! Especially when working with hand-dyed yarns, when you’re purchasing yarn for a larger project, a "safety skein" in the same dye lot can be a huge lifesaver, regardless of if you have a pattern in mind or not.
That skein can be used to swatch for your project, and will come in handy if you're running low on yarn near the end of your project. Trust us, it's terrible to run out of yarn before you're done knitting, especially if the yarn you’re using is dyed in small quantities (like ours!) and you’re trying to match dye lots or find more of a one-of-a-kind yarn.
While a safety skein isn't necessary for a single skein-project like a hat, if you’re buying 10 skeins for a sweater, that extra skein might make the difference! Plus, leftover skeins of yarn can be used to knit small projects to match, such as a hat or fingerless mitts.
Now the moment you've been waiting for: a cheat sheet for how much yarn to buy for a project! We've created a handy reference chart estimating how much yarn you need to knit a hat, scarf or adult-sized sweater in both yards and meters. Please use it as a suggestion and refer to all the things covered in this blog post when making your final purchasing decisions - we hope you find this helpful!
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Creating and working with yarn is such a labor of love for all of us in the fiber community.
That’s why we believe that it’s so incredibly important to employ the most environmentally-friendly practices throughout the production process, every step of the way. To us, honoring the planet that nurtures the gorgeous animals we get our fiber from, conserving the water we use to dye with, and using as little energy as possible is one of our top priorities.