How Much Yarn Do I Need?

How to estimate yarn requirements and the importance of gauge swatches.

Take a look at this picture. I used the same balls of yarn and the same chart for each of these examples. However, every single one of these samples is a different size. Each one uses a different amount of yarn. Some stitches required a bigger or smaller hook to get square stitches.

Because every stitch and every crocheter is so different, my patterns do not include good yarn estimates- it is up to you to choose which stitch you want to use, make a gauge swatch, and calculate the amount of yarn you will need to purchase.

Step #1- Choose a Stitch

The first step is obviously to choose which stitch you want to use. There are a lot of options- you can see examples of 6 different crochet stitches here.

When picking a stitch, consider what you are making.

Are you making a scarf? Then you might care more about what the back looks like. You also won’t want something that is too stiff, or too wide. In all of the samples pictured above, I used a light fingering weight yarn (category 1). This is a pretty tiny yarn, yet my smallest swatch was still 5.5 inches wide. Some of the wider stitches just might not be a viable option.

Are you making a blanket? Are you going to line it with fabric? If you are okay with lining you project (whether a blanket or scarf) you can use stitches that aren’t so pretty on the backside.

Step #2- Choose a Yarn and Hook

Your yarn choice is going to have a major effect on the final size of your project. Bigger yarn=bigger stitches. For a blanket, this will probably be a good thing. But if you are trying to make a scarf, smaller is better.

Step #3- Make a gauge swatch in the stitch and yarn you are planning to use

I cannot emphasize the importance of this step enough. Usually when making scarves, the gauge doesn’t really matter. It is just a scarf, after all! This is NOT true when working with a pixel chart of this detail level! If your stitches are not square, the image will not look right. For example, the Time of the Doctor pattern will not have pretty circles- it will have ovals. Pokemon will either be squashed short or stretched tall. The stitches HAVE to be squares in order for these patterns to work (unless you are using one of my knitting patterns. Then your stitches must be perfectly rectangular. Rows/stitches per inch should be about 1.3).

You must make a gauge swatch in your chosen yarn, with your chosen stitch, with the right number of colors. Sure, tapestry crochet is just a bunch of sc stitches- but the shape of those stitches changes slightly when you are crocheting over another strand of yarn.

Ch 15 and work a few rows in your chosen stitch. Then work 5 stitches in color A, 5 stitches in color B, and five stitches in color A. Work 5 rows in this pattern, making a 5×5 box of color B in the middle of your sample. Then work a few more rows in color A. You now have a beautiful little swatch. Go and block it. Then measure the color B box in the middle. Is it a square? If it isn’t, then something needs to be tweaked. Change your hook size. Change your yarn. Try a different stitch. Keep making changes until you have a square- it will be worth the effort!

Here is an example:

I made these two swatches with a Tunisian Crochet simple stitch in different yarn weights and different hook sizes. Both of the center boxes are 5 stitches wide and 5 stitches tall. I made the orange swatch first. Even without blocking it, I knew that it wasn’t going to work. The color B box is very obviously a rectangle. This would be a horrible choice! The green sample is much better. After blocking, the color B box is square. I have found a good combination!

When you have a good gauge swatch, also measure how many stitches and rows are in each inch (if your stitches are actually square, these numbers should be the same!!) All of my scarf patterns are 40-41 stitches wide and around 600 rows long. (You will get the actual numbers after purchasing a pattern.) In my good green swatch, 5 stitches/rows=1.125 inches. This means that if I used this yarn/hook combination, a scarf would be 10.25 inches wide and 12.5 feet long! I would need to go back and make more gauge swatches until I found a combination that would be more reasonable.

Gauge swatches are also a great way to decide if you actually enjoy working a particular stitch. After making a bunch of Eevees, let’s just say that there are a few crochet stitches that I absolutely hated and will not be using in future projects. It was a good experiment. My charts are pretty long, and you don’t want to be stuck working a stitch that you don’t like for 60+ hours.

Step #4- Make another gauge swatch...and then rip it apart!

After you have found your perfect combination, you still need to make one more swatch. Sorry, I know that you want to get going on the pattern! But this will be the best way to figure out how much yarn you need to buy!

Make a small swatch in the stitch that you have chosen. Let’s say that you decided that regular tapestry crochet would be the best choice. Chain 10 stitches or so in color A and work a few rows over color B, just like you would in a project. Take your hook out and grasp the end of color A as close to the last stitch as you can. Pull out 5-8 stitches in the middle of a row, making sure to count how many stitches you pulled out. Measure how much yarn you pulled out- but don’t pull the yarn too tight. Try to let it lay next to the ruler in it’s natural state. Let’s pretend that you pulled out 5 stitches, and it is about 5 inches long. Now you know that each stitch will take about 1 inch of yarn!

On the first page of the pattern I will tell you how many total stitches there are. It will be around 24,600 for a scarf. In this example, 24600 stitches x 1 inch/stitch = 24600 inches of yarn, which works out to about 683 yards. (Don’t worry, I will have these equations written on the first page of every pattern for you to fill in- you will just need a calculator). And now you know how much yarn you need to buy!

If none of this made sense, and you are the type of person who likes bloggers who are not lazy and actually remember to take pictures when they are working, here is a link to a blog about how to measure yarn.

This process is the same regardless of what stitch you decided to use. If you are making a C2C blanket, work a few squares, pull them out, and measure! (C2C blanket patterns will have pixel counts for each individual color included on the first page).

Step #5- Start an Actual Project

US customers can purchase my patterns on this website or on Ravelry.

For customers outside the US, please visit my Ravelry Store. Paying VAT is a headache and I like letting Ravelry handle it. Some of my patterns are also available on Etsy if that is your preferred vedor.

If you have questions, want to share your progress updates, want to suggest ideas for new charts, or want to be the first to hear about new patterns, join my ravelry group. Or you can follow @tesselationpatterns on instagram.

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