Sometimes you have a project in mind, and yarn on hand, and boy it sure would suck to get mostly completed and realize you don’t have enough yarn to finish. In my case, I’m impatient. Sunday night I had one hank of appropriately-colored gray yarn, and a gray wrench to stitch, and I would have loved to get started… but first I needed to know if I had enough yarn to fully cover the entire thing.
Here’s how you figure it out.
Step 1- Cut a set length of yarn. In my case I cut a strand of yarn that is 36 inches long. A few reasons for this- 1) my measuring tape is in inches, making that a convenient measure, 2) 36 inches = 1 yard, and yarn labels list yardage, so I won’t have to do any conversions, and 3) 36 inches is a comfortable working length for when actually stitching, so my beginning and ending tails can be reasonably included in these figures.
Note- this will only be a helpful estimate if you use yarn that is the same, or at least the same thickness, as the yarn you plan to use in your project.
Step 2- Take a scrap piece of plastic canvas, the same gauge as your project, and begin stitching.
Make sure to use the same stitch you will be using in your project, as some stitches take up more yarn than others, for example cross-stitch uses more than Continental.
Keep going until the yarn is nearly done, and fasten off as usual.
Step 3- Do some math. My 36″ of yarn allowed me to fill an area that was 6 holes wide by 19 holes high. Yes, I’m counting in HOLES, not stitches. Why? Because some of my pieces are oddly-shaped and the stitches I’m using are slanted and I don’t feel like having to figure out how many stitches will fill irregular areas. Counting the holes is simply faster for me. You can count stitches if you prefer as long as you make sure to count total STITCHES needed later.
So. 1 yard (36″) of yarn will allow me to stitch an area comprised of 114 stitches.
Then all you have to do is count the number of holes in the project (or stitches, if you’re doing it that way), divide that by your swatch yardage (in my case: 114) and the result will tell you how many yards of yarn you need to fill it.
To that resulting number I would pad it based on certain factors- areas where you have to cut excess away, areas where you accidentally used too much to tie-on and get a few stitches short on that piece, etc. So for smaller projects I’d say this is a good way to know if a finite amount of yarn will work. For larger projects I’d say this was a good way to estimate the minimum amount of yarn you’d need.
If you were going to purchase yarn for this project and the count you end up with gives you the yardage of just UNDER a ball of your required yarn, I’d spring for an extra ball. Best case scenario: you don’t end up using it and can return it. Middle-of-the-night-likely scenario: you remember you have that second ball once you run out of yarn. For Sprocket’s wrench, I’m trying to avoid buying yarn. I have two different yarns in an appropriate gray that I can use, but one of them only has one, already-started, skein. I’d prefer to use that one, but I don’t want to risk running short. So I’ll count up how much my pieces will use without padding for any extra. If I see it’s pretty close to the amount of my preferred yarn I have I won’t bother starting with it, and I’ll use the other one instead.
Note– this method does NOT include yardage for whipstitching the edges together. That’s fine with me, because some of my edges are joined with a different color, of which I have plenty, and if I run out of my gray for the sewing-up I don’t mind using a slightly different shade for the assembly.