,How much yarn do I need for....?'

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One of the most asked questions in my shop. And how much DO you need. Well... I got all philosophical about it in another blog post. But this time we are talking about the actual yardage/metrage you need for a project. 

There are two set ups:

1. You want to get a general idea. You either want to knit something and kind of wing it without a pattern or you just need an estimate and will spend time to find a matching pattern later. 
2. You have or want a pattern. The pattern specifies the amount you need but you want to use an alternative yarn and need to do the math. 

Let's start with the first. 

1. You can ask the professional at your LYS (Local Yarn Shop) and they will use their expertise and experience. Or... like me most times... an app that will calculate it for you. The great thing about using an app and showing the customer how to use it is that they don't have to take your word for it. And when it fails... -as it sometimes does, knit karma always lurking around the corner- It's nobody's fault. hahaha (insert evil laugh)

app: Stash Bot by Hannah Fettig $ 4,99 you'll earn that right back by not buying yarn you don't need. I love it! 

2. This one is a little more complicated. Assuming you are not using the yarn that is mentioned in the pattern. First of all, ask your LYS professional. But if you are shopping online (small businesses first!) or if you want to figure it out yourself, you need to take a couple of things into account;

- What thickness is the yarn? 

Obvi the yarn you use has to have the same thickness as the yarn in the pattern. Look this up on Ravelry, it's the quickest and most reliable source to get to this information. If you cannot find this type of yarn you inherited from your grandma on Ravelry, you can use the information on the ball-band and find the right thickness in the Standard Yarn Weight System on the Craft Yarn Council website. This site is a gem for finding amounts and sizes and all kinds of numbers that have to do with knitting. 

- What fibre is the yarn?

Cotton is the complete opposite of wool, or almost. They behave in a totally different way. Trust me I know. My first ever knit sweater was completely knit in rib stitch. This would shape so nicely around my shapes. It did. For about half an hour... I had knit it in cotton and as cotton has zero stretch and is relatively heavy it drooped around my curves after wearing it only a couple of minutes. Choose wisely. If you are not yet a yarn fiber master like Clara Parkes, you can start to learn about different fibres by reading her books, talking to your knit friends and do some internet research. Easier and a more short term solution is 'match it to the original fibre as much as possible', 

- What is the length of the yarn on a ball/skein

A detailed pattern will let you know the thickness of the yarn, the weight of the original ball/skein and the amount of yards/meters on that ball/skein. If it is not in the pattern, again, look it up on the yarns page of Ravelry. Note that we are talking about LENGTH not about weight. Heavy fibres will have less yardage/metrage on a ball and when you match weight you might be surprised about the amount of yarn you'll lack or have extra. Once you know how much yarn is on a ball...

- What is the size you are knitting?

We'll go into that in more detail another time. But a good way to measure is around the bust, and just above the bust under the armpits. Measure around and take the number in between to get to a good general fit. If your boobs are relatively small or large there's things you can do and learn but the above measuring technique will work well for most people. Look at the pattern, does it mention negative ease/no ease/ positive ease? Read really well. Does the measurement say 'finished size' or 'bust size'. Decide what size is best for you. 

- What is the amount of yarn that matches your size?


photo: Petra Orrbeck

Here's an exmple from Anna Maltz' sweater pattern 'Visser'. Let's say we're using size L, I've underlined how to read the information here:

XS (S, M, L, XL, XXL) Model wearing a Size Medium.

Garment measurement around bust: 112.5 (120, 124, 131, 135, 142.5) cm / 44.25 (47.25, 48.75, 51.75, 53.25, 56)”
Designed to be worn with 35cm / 13.75” to 40cm / 15.75” positive ease around bust.
Yarn A: Straw (024) x 3 (3, 3, 4, 4, 5) 50gr balls 
Yarn B: Rosehip (002) x 3 (3, 3, 4, 4, 5) 50gr balls


The yarn used has 208 yards(190 meters) on 50 gram balls and is a sport weight. A mixed fibre of wool and silk. 

Let's say we're looking for a similar yarn in the Ja, Wol collection. Find the yarn thickness in the yarn menu by clicking 'sport'. Here all our sport weights are listed. In this case Ovis et Cetera 'herba' comes close. The ramie fibre acts as the silk but is heavier so the metrage is different for the same thickness, it has 80 metres more per 100gr:

Sport weight
100 gram total/ 300 meter / 328 yard approx 

So we need 4 balls of 50 grams of the original yarn in each colour. That is 4x190 m =760 m, now divide this by the amount of meters on the yarn you want to use: 760 : 300 = 2,5 So you'll need 2,5 skeins of Ovis et Cetera 'herba',

You can see that if you are on a budget, 50 gram balls will get you a more budget friendly result because you can come closer to the actual metrage. At the same time I always advice getting about 50 grams more than you need just to outsmart knitting karma (because... you know how she gets...). 

At Ja, Wol I am working on clear labeling throughout the shop. Showing price, metrage, fibre, price per kg and how much you would need for XS, L, and XXXL to give a better idea of what you need. But talking to the expert can never beat words on paper. Don't feel shy, we know you need to start somewhere, don't feel intimidated, we are there for you, we are there to help!


and don't forget...

KNIT A SWATCH!! And don't be all like 'too much work'. You KNOW how much work it is to redo a whole sweater. Just saying... 



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  • Hazel O'Dea on

    I really like https://yarnsub.com/ for looking for options which are easily available in Europe rather than US based yarns which are expensive / tricky to find

  • Saskia on

    I’m happy to read this Lisa Jane. Happy to help and please share your questions with me, I’d love to help.

  • Ericka Eckles on

    What a treasure of a blog post. This was so helpful in understanding yarn amounts for knitting projects xx

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