How Much Yarn Do I Need?

***Originally published May 14, 2010***

Yes, this could be construed as a rhetorical question musing on the volume of my stash, but it’s also one of the most frequently asked questions here at the shop.

My answer: Do you have a pattern in mind?  If you have a specific pattern in hand (or in your Ravelry queue — we can look it up for you!), determining how much you’ll need is pretty simple.

Every pattern will have a section at the beginning that looks something like this — what I call the specs of the project:

What you’re looking for here is the yarn they’re using in the pattern.

When you’re substituting yarn, the yardage is the most important number to look at.  While this pattern calls for 400g of Lorna’s Laces yarn (4 skeins x 100g each), they’re using a silk/wool blend.  What happens if I decide to do a wool/bamboo blend instead?  Well bamboo is much heavier than silk, even if you’re comparing strands of the same thickness.  So if you only use 400g of this wool/bamboo blend you’ve created, that 400g will yield fewer yards than you’re expecting.

On the other hand, if you go with the 820 yards recommended in the pattern (4 skeins x 205 yds each), your total amount of yarn will weigh more in ounces, but you’ll be sure to have enough length of yarn to complete your project.

(Yes, this was the infamous Clapotis, for those of you who were wondering!)

Now, what to do if you don’t have a specific pattern in mind?  I’m a big freestyle knitter, and like to make patterns up as I go along, or adapt cool patterns that I find to fit my own aesthetic, gauge, and style.  (For example, I’m a big fan of halter top tanks, and always like to give my sleeves on sweaters a little bit of a bell flare at the cuff.)

If you know you want to make “a sweater of some kind,” or “a hat, but don’t have a pattern yet,” here’s a yardage estimator we’ve created based on the past few years of working these numbers up for customers in the store, that can give you an idea of how much yarn you’ll need (larger version available on our Custom Yarn Creator site):

And if you’ve got nothing at all in mind at the moment, but just want some yarn to inspire you and know it will turn into something down the road, we always recommend 8 oz. as a good starting point — this will always be a safe bet for making a few small projects, or a medium size project down the road.


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