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We’ve all had that puzzling moment when we’re staring at a ball of yarn and wondering if it will be enough to finish our knitting or crochet project. Or, maybe we haven’t even started our project yet and are wondering whether the leftover yarn we have stashed on our shelf is even worth using.
To see if you have enough yarn to finish your crochet or knitting project, make a sample swatch with the same tools you plan to use for your project. Complete a number of stitches, unravel your yarn, and measure it. You can also measure your yarn as you work by using a stitch marker.
I don’t know about you, but I always underestimate the amount of yarn I need for a project. No matter how much I crochet or knit, I always fall into the trap of thinking that I can make more stitches with a length of yarn than I actually can.
That’s why measuring is so important!
There are three methods I use to measure my yarn when I crochet. These methods work for knitting as well, so stay tuned regardless of your craft of choice.
Check the Gauge of Your Project
If you’re using a crochet pattern, make sure to create a sample swatch using the tools you plan to use for your crochet project. Compare the measurements of this sample swatch to the gauge that the pattern specifies. This will help you confirm if your project will be the right size and if you’ll have enough yarn to complete it.
Many crochet patterns indicate a gauge. Gauge describes the number of stitches that fit within a certain measurement. For example, how many stitches are within 4 inches of crocheted work?
If you’re using a pattern for your crochet project, pay attention to the gauge and the recommended materials. Then, gather the materials you plan to use for your crochet project and create a sample swatch.
When you’re done, compare your sample swatch to the pattern’s gauge. Do they match? If they do, it’s likely that you can purchase the amount of yarn that the pattern recommends and have enough.
If the gauge of your sample swatch doesn’t match the pattern, it’s likely that you won’t have enough yarn if you simple follow the pattern’s recommendations. Aside from yarn measurements, having a mismatch with the gauge usually causes your work to be a different size than the pattern’s.
Personally, when I first start a project, comparing my gauge to the pattern’s gauge is the first thing I check when trying to determine how much yarn I’ll need and how dense my stitches will be.
Measure a Sample Swatch of Crochet or Knitting
Using the same tools you plan to use for your project, crochet or knit a certain number of stitches. Choose an even number that’s easy to multiply by like 20, 40, 50, or 100. Complete a row of stitches, unravel it, and measure it. This will tell you the amount of yarn needed for that many stitches.
I originally learned this technique from the YouTube video below. I simplified it a bit because, honestly, I hate mixing math and crochet and spending too much time on the measuring process. That said, it’s a great technique and this video does a great job explaining it.
When using this technique, it’s important to use the same materials you’re using for your project. Grab a crochet hook or knitting needles that are the same size you’re using for your project and grab the same type of yarn.
This will give you the most accurate results.
Using a crochet hook or knitting needles that are bigger or smaller than the ones you’re currently using will impact the number of stitches you get per inch of yarn. Also, using a different type of yarn will impact your stitch count.
Do the best you can to use the same tools for your sample swatch that you’re using for your project.
Then, start building a sample swatch.
You don’t have to make a ton of rows, but you can’t use your starting chain, so you at least need a row beyond that. You can’t use your starting row for this technique, so at least have a row beyond that.
As you saw, the video did 5 rows that totaled 100 stitches that could be measured.
For my swatch here, I did 1 row (excluding my starting chain) for a total of 20 stitches that I could measure.
I crocheted my 20 stitches and unraveled the row. When I started unraveling, I kept my fingers pinched on my yarn at the place where I started unraveling it from. I didn’t want to lose track of it. You could also put a slip knot there, if you prefer.
Then, I measured it. I found that a full row of 20 stitches was 36 inches
Moving forward, I know that I can complete 20 stitches per 36 inches. If I need more than 20 stitches, I can do the math to determine if I have enough yarn for the number of stitches I need to complete.
To make things as easy as possible though, I usually use the stitch count of my current project. For example, if my project is 57 stitches across, I will use 57 stitches for my sample swatch and my measurement. That way, I can know the inches of yarn I’ll need for a full row without having to do any calculations.
I told you I hate mixing math and crochet.
If you’re already working on your project and suddenly wondering if you have enough yarn to finish it, without making a separate sample swatch, here’s another technique.
Measure your Yarn as You Crochet or Knit
As you’re knitting or crocheting, measure a length of yarn and put a slip knot there to mark it. Continue knitting or crocheting and count the number of stitches until you hit your slip knot. This will give you an idea of how many stitches you can complete with a certain length of yarn.
This method is great if you’re already working on your project and you don’t want to stop and create a separate swatch. You can measure your yarn as you work!
Wait until you’re at the beginning of a new row to make things easier.
Measure out a length of yarn from your knitting needles or crochet hook. It doesn’t matter how long the yarn is, but make sure it’s an easy number to remember and it’s not too short.
In my own swatch, 12 inches of yarn only made 5 stitches, so don’t underestimate how much yarn you’ll need.
Once you’ve measured out your yarn, put a slip knot in that spot so you can keep track of it.
Continue knitting or crocheting as normal, counting how many stitches it takes to reach your slip knot. Once you hit your slip knot, recall how long your stretch of yarn was. This will give you an idea of how many stitches you can complete with that same length of yarn.
The great thing about this technique is that you’ve done your measuring while working on your project. It’s a win-win!
Getting stuck in the middle of a project with no more yarn to use can be a real bummer. While it may not be fun to do measurements and calculations, it can save you the frustration of running out of yarn during a project you’ve worked so hard on. Once you get in the habit of it, you’ll appreciate knowing how much yarn you need to finish your project and not even care about the pesky calculations anymore.
Diana has been an artist for over 26 years and has training in drawing, painting, digital drawing and graphic design. Diana’s latest obsession is digitally drawing with Procreate and creating t-shirt designs with Canva. Diana has experience selling her art across a number of platforms and loves helping other artists learn how to make money from their art as well.