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Estimating How Much Yarn to Buy

You need to know how much yarn to buy whenever you start a new knitting or crocheting project. You can figure out the yardage by using yarn calculations, whether you’re substituting one yarn for another in a pattern or whether you just have a general sense of what you’d like to knit.

If you’re using the yarn called for in a pattern, the pattern usually tells you how many balls to buy for each size.

However, if you choose to use a yarn different from the pattern’s suggestion, you may need to do a little calculating:

  • Number of skeins called for in the pattern × yards per skein = total yards needed for the pattern

  • Total yards needed for the pattern ÷ yards per skein of your chosen yarn = number of skeins you need (round up to the nearest whole number, if necessary)

If you aren’t working directly from a pattern or are working at a different gauge than a pattern recommends, you don’t have a tidy way to determine how much yarn to buy. Estimate how much you need. This table gives yardage approximations for various projects in a variety of gauges.

Estimated Yardage of Yarn for Projects
Yarn Weight Category Stitches per Inch Yards Needed for a Hat Yards Needed for a Scarf Yards Needed for an Adult Sweater
1 Superfine 7 to 8 300 to 375 350 1,500 to 3,200
2 Fine 6 to 7 250 to 350 300 1,200 to 2,500
3 Light 5 to 6 200 to 300 250 1,000 to 2,000
4 Medium 4 to 5 150 to 250 200 800 to 1,500
5 Bulky 3 to 4 125 to 200 150 600 to 1,200
6 Super bulky 1.5 to 3 75 to 125 125 400 to 800

Patterns usually call for a little more yarn than you’ll actually use, but because you want to swatch and account for the unknown (you actually hate three-quarter sleeves, or you've had some terrible yarn accident), buy a little extra yarn, particularly if it’s being discontinued. A ribbed or cabled pattern takes more yarn than stockinette stitch, and your knitting may vary.

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