How much yarn do I need for…..?
It’s a question I get often. And I get it. If you’re purchasing new yarn, you want to have enough yarn and not run out, just like you don’t want oodles left over. If you’re wanting to use stash, you need to know if you have enough.
So how do you work out how much you need if your’re making something from squares? It’s a question you can answer yourself, you just need to make a few decisions first, make a sample or two and do a little easy maths. I promise it’s not hard, you just need to be logical and work it out step by step.
I’m going to go through the process of working our how much yarn from start to finish with you, sharing a theoretical example. You can use this method for anything you want to make from squares.
What to Make?
It’s an obvious one, but you need to decide what you want to make. Is it a scarf, blanket, cushion or something else? How big do you want that thing to be? Using a blanket as an example, it could be a small baby pram blanket or a lap blanket for the couch or a king side bed blanket. If it’s for a bed, do you want it to sit on top or hang over the sides as well? Work it out. Write it down.
I want to make a bag. I am not all that fussed on the exact size it ends up, but I know I want it to be square and I want it different on each side. I think a 3 x 3 grid will work well.
What pattern/s will I use to make it?
You can do oh so many things when it comes to choosing a pattern or patterns to make your chosen thing. You can choose one pattern, all different patterns, 2 or more complimentary or contrasting patterns, solid or lacy or a combination of them. I’ve designed over 200 and there are many many designers out there who’ve designed a whole lot more. You really are spoilt for choice. Have a look around and find patterns that you love.
I’m using my Deco pattern from my book Granny Square Flair.
If I choose more than one pattern, how will I arrange them?
It’s a good idea to roughly sketch out your layout. Use your desired measurements of your project. Divide your width and length by the size of your squares to see how many squares you need. You can use grid paper or whip up a grid using a table in a word processing document. Label each square with the name of the pattern you’ll place there. If you’re tech savvy you can even use a photo app to create virtual layouts using photos of the patterns you are going to use. We’ll use this layout more than once in the process as you’ll see.
Again there are many options when it comes to layout;
- checker board style if you have 2 patterns
- lacy in the centre and solid on the outside
- florals separated by solids
- random (very hard for me to do!)
- any order that pleases you
Here is my layout plan for my bag, created in Word. Even if you’re only using one pattern, doing this can help if you’re going to mix up the colours.
What yarn will I use?
I go into this in more detail in my book, but basically you will need to consider your personal preference for how a yarn feels, what it’s made of, how it’s made, the cost and most importantly, the purpose. You wouldn’t use a fine delicate yarn for a bag that will be tossed around.
I am going to use Yarn and Colours Must-Have cotton for my bag. This is a good yarn for the bag as it’s mercerised, which means it’s been treated to be more durable.
What colour/s will I use?
If you choose to use one pattern or many, there are so many colour possibilities. Here are just a few;
- use one colour for all squares
- use one colour per square, but a different colour for each, from 2 to as many colours as you have squares
- use the same colour progression for each square, eg rounds 1 to 3 in Colour A, 4 to 5 in Colour B, rounds 6 to 8 in Colour C.
- use the same colours for each square but mix up the colour order
- use different colours for every round and either keep them the same or mix them up
I am going make one side of my bag in the same colour progression and the other in 2 colours, one per square in a checker board layout. I’ve scribbled some notes on my layout plan. The numbers are the colour numbers. I chose them because they make me happy. Nothing more to it than that.
What hook will I use?
Generally, you’d use the hook size recommended on the yarn label. But, you are not bound by that. Try it out and see what you like. If you like more drape, use a larger hook. If you want a stiffer fabric, use a smaller hook.
I am going to use a 4 mm hook. The recommended is 2 – 3.5 mm. I am going to use a 4 mm hook because I tend to crochet a bit tighter than most and I do like a bit of extra drape.
How much yarn will I need…
Now you know all the what’s for your project, you can now work out how much yarn you’ll need.
If you want to be exact, the best way to work it out is by making a sample. Sure, a pattern will most likely tell you how much yarn you’ll need for one sqaure, but this can vary for you for many reasons. You may crochet tighter or looser, you may make some stitches at a very different tension to the designer, you may be using a thinner or thicker yarn or you may be using a different hook. Of course, that difference won’t be much if you’re making something small, but the larger the project, the more difference you will find.
There are 2 ways you can work out your yarn needs for your project by making a sample.
- Weight. Make a sample square and weigh it after you finish each colour. Multiply the weight by the metreage for your yarn. You will need scales that measure down to 1 gram at least.
- Measure. Make a sample in your colours, but don’t weave in the ends. Unravel the square and measure each colour to see how many metres you have used.
Once you have worked out how much for each colour and square, you can use your layout chart to help you work our your total yarn needs.
I have used each method to show you an example. You’d use one or the other in reality.
Weight. Rounds 1 to 4 = 7.7 grams for colour 1, plus rounds 5 to 6 = 11.28 grams in total. 11.28 – 7.7 = 3.58 grams for colour 2.
The yarn label says 50 g = 125 metres. So if I divide 125 by 50 I get 2.5 metres per gram.
Therefore, I need 7.7 x 2.5 = 19.25 metres for colour 1 and 3.58 x 2.5 = 8.95 metres for colour 2 for one square.
I need 9 squares for the front side of my bag, so 9 x 19.25 for colour 1 = 173.25 metres and 9 x 8.95 = 80.55 metres for colour 2.
Measure. I made one square in one colour and unravelled it. I then measured 1 metre and folded that on itself until I had some left over. I counted the complete 1 metre strands and added the measurement of the smaller section to figure out how many metres I need for one square = 28.5 metres. (pretty close to the weight calculations)
I need 4 squares of colour 1 so 4 x 28.5 metres =114 metres and 5 squares of colour 2 so 5 x 28.5 metres = 142.5 metres.
Total. Now it’s a simple matter of adding the requirements for each side to work out my total.
Front colour 1 173.25 + back colour 1 114 = 287.25 metres of colour 1 needed.
Front colour 2 80.55 + back colour 2 142.5 = 223.05 metres of colour 2 needed.
How much for joining and finishing?
You also need to allow for the yarn needed to join and border the project. You can work it out pretty easily. Work your planned border on one of your sample squares and use either the weigh or measure method to figure out how much yarn you used. This is the calculation for 4 edges, so divide it by 4. Using your layout plan, count how many edges you have to border and multiply your that by your 1 edge calculation.
I also like to add 10% for joining and “just in case” stuff. You might encounter a knot you can’t untangle, mistakes might be made, kids or pets might “play” with your yarn.
I made a simple border around one of my sample squares and worked out by weighing that I need 17.325 metres to work all the way around 1 square. 17.325 divided by 4 = 4.33 metres needed per edge.
Each side of my bag has 12 edges, so 12 x 2 = 24. 24 x 4.33 which means I need 103.92 metres to border both bag panels.
Total. Now to work out how many balls of each colour I need.
Colour 1 287.25 + colour 1 border 103.92 = 391.17 + 10% for joining and “just in case” = 430.29 metres needed in total for colour 1.
Colour 2 223.05 + colour 2 border 0 = 223.05 + 10% for joining and “just in case” = 245.35 needed in total for colour 2.
1 ball of my chosen yarn = 125 metres. So colour 1 430.25 divided by 125 means I need 3.45 (4) balls of colour 1. Colour 2 245.35 divided by 125 means I need 1.97 (2) balls of colour 2.
And you are all set to go.
But, but, but….
So yes this all works if you have some of the yarn you plan on using on hand. But if you don’t, you can still use what you have to work it out approximately. If you have a similar yarn in your stash, use that. A great place to find similar yarns is yarnsub.com. Simply type in the yarn you want to use and it will bring up a list of similar yarns. Maybe you have something on the list.
The scales you use to weigh are important too. You can use your standard kitchen scales. They tend to weigh down to 1 gram. If you want more precise measurement, then you can get scales like mine that weigh down to under a gram here on Amazon. (affiliate link – see note below)
And another thing…
Just to really highlight how the yarn calculations can be very different depending on the yarn, crochet style and hook, let me show you a couple of examples of the same square made by other people with different yarns and hooks. Thanks Nikki and Meghan for your help with this.
First up is Nikki W’s example. Nikki used an 8ply acrylic yarn and a 4 mm hook. The metreage for the yarn she used is 2.3 metres per gram and Nikki’s square weighed 11 grams. So she would need 25.3 metres to make one square. That’s 3.2 metres less than my example for one square. Multiply that by 24 and that’s nearly 77 metres less she’d need for the bag panels only. It would be less overall with the border and joining calculations too. Interestingly, her square was exactly the same size as mine. Now that’s not a whole lot in the scheme of things – about half a ball. But if you were making something larger, it can make a real difference to your yarn budget.
Next up is Meghan’s Deco. Meghan used an acrylic yarn, worsted weight (about 10 ply) and a 5.5 mm hook. The metreage for the yarn she used is 1.71 metres per gram and Meghan’s square weighed 22 grams. So she would need 37.62 metres to make one square. That’s 9.12 metres more than my example for one square. Multiply that by 24 and that’s nearly 219 metres more she’d need for the bag panels only. That’s a big difference, even on my small scale project. Her project would be bigger also as her square is 2 inches larger than mine. So overall her bag would be 6 inches larger.
So you see, a different yarn and hook can make a big difference to the amount of yarn you need. It’s worth taking the time to work it out for your project and your chosen yarn.
I hope this rather long explanation of my method of working out the “how much yarn” question is of help to you next time you are ready for the exciting feeling of a new project.
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