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.
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.