A Giveaway Winner, and Yarn Chatter

Wow, so many of you commented on my giveaway post, with so many fabulous fall knitting plans! I particularly salute those of you who are already on top of your holiday gift knitting, because I have to admit that hasn’t even crossed my scattered mind yet. I wish I had more than one skein of yarn to give away, but as it is I’m pleased to announce a winner, thanks to the friendly neighbourhood random number generator. And it’s wee number 16 that pulls the winning prize! Congrats to Lynn Scott, commenting on Oct 29th. Lynn, I’ll be in touch about getting your prize to you.

RANDOM.ORG   True Random Number Service

In other news, let’s talk a little bit about yarn – specifically, knowing how much to buy! Last week after my Rhinebeck yarn haul post, a couple of you asked about how does a person know how much yarn to buy for a particular kind of project? It’s something we all have to grapple with when buying a new batch of yarn.

This is often made easier if you know you’re going to be making a small project. For example, “sock yarn” tends to come in 100g-ish skeins that are the right amount for an average pair of socks (but get two if you’re making socks for large men’s feet). In fact, you can usually get a single project out of something with at least 100g in it, like a hat or a pair of mitts. My Squall Hat pattern, for example, takes a single 100g skein of chunky yarn, and the Union Station beret also takes a single 100g skein even though it’s worsted weight, not chunky.


Larger projects, on the other hand, are trickier. Once you get into the habit of making large projects like sweaters, or even blankets (do people knit multiple blankets? I knitted one like five years ago and am just now recovering), you start to know how much yarn to grab. For me, I know that 7 or so 100g skeins of something (like Cascade 220 worsted-weight, below) will be enough for a sweater. I can get away with 6 skeins if it’s not terribly complex or cabley (cables eat up yarn more so than stockinette or knit/purl textured patterns), or if I’m doing 3/4 sleeves instead of full sleeves. I know this because I’ve made a lot of sweaters for myself, so I’ve had practice picking out yarn.


If you haven’t had a lot of practice picking out yarn for your own large projects, though, or if you’re knitting a sweater for someone else, you can do two things: 1) be at the mercy of the yarn requirements for the pattern, or 2) estimate based on standardized guidelines like these, or, more popularly, these, in a leaflet which is frequently sold at yarn shops right near the counter. (Also makes a nice knitter gift!) The trick with #1 is that you need to know what pattern you are going to make in advance of purchasing the yarn, which doesn’t always happen. Some of us would argue that this rarely happens, in fact. (It’s just so easy to get taken in by beautiful yarn sometimes.) So, in that case we end up resorting to #2 and going in with an estimate based on chest circumference of the finished garment.

In either of these instances, you need to know a few things off the top of your head, especially if you end up chatting with a friendly yarn shop employee for advice on your purchasing needs:
-What size garment am I going to be making with this?
-Do I think it’s going to have a whack of cables and bobbles and fussy yarn-eating stitches on it?
-Do I think I’m going to have to modify a standard pattern to add or subtract yarn? i.e. is my body likely to be shorter/longer/smaller/bigger than what standard patterns are written for? (I say this as a Tall Person who frequently adds length to sweater bodies and sleeves. My friend Jessie who is 8 inches shorter than me has the opposite problem).

The other piece of advice here that you’ll tend to hear a lot, is always buy an extra ball/skein of yarn if you can help it. It just does not hurt to have the extra just in case. If you keep that extra skein tucked away with your original yarn store receipt (without winding up the skein and making sure not to lose any labels or anything), you can most likely return it if you don’t end up needing it. Or, you can keep it and make a hat or pair of mitts or something else small for yourself or a gift. Unless the yarn is very preciously priced or comes in very large skeins, erring on the side of extra is just plain sensible.

Have you developed your own ‘system’ for remembering project amounts? Do you keep an index card of project yardage in your wallet for emergencies, or have other helpful steps at the ready? Share them in the comments and we’ll all be excited to learn them.

Have a great Thursday afternoon! Hopefully with some knitting in it, and a refreshing (adult?) beverage at the end of the day.




  1. Congrats to Lynn for the win!

    I have 4 online shops where I sell my knitwear patterns and finished items. As I get many requests for custom items, I have to keep track of everything I knit or crochet. I take photos of everything and keep track of the yarn name & amount, needle/hook size, pattern name, size of the finished item and the cost of materials and my labor. I attach all the information with the photo on my computer. I’m always ready for that special customer that wants a family heirloom baby item, scarf or cowl for their bestie, or to realize something they have in their head that needs to be brought to life.

    Great post today and lovely, yummy yarn.


  2. I enjoy your blog and have just nominated you for a Liebster, Versatile Blogger and WordPress Family Award.

  3. I am ways know what pattern I want to make (at least for sweaters) before I but yarn. I wonder if that makes me an aberration… I just like to plan for big stuff, and rarely stash sweater quantities.

  4. Thank you so much for the advice!!!! 🙂

  5. I bought the Knitter’s Handy Guide to Yarn requirements as a leaflet but I almost never have it with me when I buy yarn. The app that accompanies it is less expensive than the leaflet (I believe I paid 99 cents US) and comes with me everywhere. I use it a lot.

  6. Congrats to Lucky Lynn! Good ideas in the post, and Connie’s app idea is great too, thanks all.

  7. Yay! Congrats to Lynn!
    This post is really really really appreciated. As a new knitter, I have a little stash of yarn built up from stores where we were traveling and I feel in love with them – not knowing when or what I’d knit with them. I decided to always go with 2 skeins, thinking that “should” be safe, but not knowing how very many (in my mind) shawls and sweaters and larger projects would take. At one shop I told the clerk I had no idea what I’d make with the Alpaca Lace I “had to” have, but that it seemed like something I’d make a shawl with so I could wrap myself in that beautiful yarn. She wisely handed me three skeins and I now sit and ponder all the possibilities in Ravelry just based on yardage. Maybe too many options, but I’m slowly narrowing them down.

    This is a huge help for me as I move forward – still not knowing what I want to make, but knowing that I am SO tired of scarves and dish cloths and dreaming of other things as my skills grow. 😉

  8. I also try to think what the yarn wants to be (sweater or something smaller). I have a rough idea of how much yardage I need for a sweater at various gauges, but will go to Ravelry on my iPhone to double check for specific projects. My rule of thumb is 50-100g for mitts, 100g for socks and cowls, 100-300g for shawls, and 200g-400g for scarves (I like mine substantial).

    I am one of those people who has knit multiple blankets, usually at least one a year. This morning I finished my 3rd blanket this year (one was a barn raising quilt and the squares were made over several years). Last year, I didn’t knit any blankets, but I knit 1 in 2011 and 2 in 2010 (that’s as far back as my reliable records go).

  9. Good advice 🙂 I always fall for the yarn at Tuesday Morning, where they always have one skein less than I need for the project I’m envisioning!

  10. I also have the Knitter’s Handy Guide to Yarn app on my phone. It has been a great help.

  11. I think I currently have four blankets at varying stages in progress.

  12. Lolarennt · ·

    Jimmy Beans Wool has a great knitting calculator here: http://www.jimmybeanswool.com/secure-html/onlineec/knittingCalculatorPopup.asp

  13. Jae Hee Kwak Jackson · ·

    Thank you all for the great tips!

    I’m sock obsessed and rarely knit sweaters, but I usually buy yarn after carefully reviewing the pattern I like and noting any modifications I’ll need to make. I’ve knit hoodies for people and bought 2 extra balls of yarn because I knew I’d have trouble finding the same dye lot months later. I didn’t use the extras on the hoodies but I did knit socks.

  14. My strategy is to always buy more than I need. But I’m never quite sure how much I need, because I always forget to make a note of it before I go shopping, or I’m heavily modifying a pattern so the answer is “LOL I DUNNO.”

    The worst example of this was when I went shopping for Cascade 220 for a man’s hat. The pattern was for a child’s hat, which I was sizing up for an adult man. The pattern called for up to 1/2 a skein of Cascade 220. So I bought two skeins. TWO SKEINS. I ended up with 1.25 skeins left over.

    I don’t know how big I thought the hat was going to be, in the heat of the moment. But I do know that I had enough yarn, and that’s the important thing.

  15. I (now) always wait and buy yarn specific to a project I want to make.
    I always check the yards/meters on the tag and make sure I have a very similar length purchased. Since I can’t get yarns from the same place as my favourite designer, its the best option I have.
    I have a wee bit of a stash but will slowly work through it.

  16. Having smallish feet I can mostly knit socks for myself out of 50 grams, wound up in two times 25, so I have enough for each sock, If I want longer shafts (longer then 4 inches that is) I need 100 gram and have leftovers. So now I am on my second blanket, a so called ten year project.I mostly knit small projects so there is no mistake in too much or too less yarn. I would rather use a different colour to finish a sweater then a different dyebath and then call it Design! Every time my stash shrinks somehow it seems to grow again, not my fault. I know there is an unwanted guest in our house, we never see him/her, but know the mischief by name, the name is Somebody. I have though officially warned Somebody: do not throw anything away, it will cost you dearly.

  17. Sondra Showers · ·

    I would love to see a FO pic of the cowl you started in your last post!

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