How to Know If You Have Enough Yarn for a Project

pile of yarn

Of course most of us have "enough" yarn (although, arguably, there's no such thing), but do you have enough for the project you want to make?

In this guide we'll show you how to figure out how much yarn you need, and how much you already have. It's pretty simple, but having a calculator handy is good idea!

How much yarn does your pattern call for?

(Don't have a pattern, but still need to estimate? Scroll down to the bottom of this article!)

When calculating yarn amounts, you should ALWAYS go with how many yards or meters the pattern calls for. Do NOT go by how many skeins it calls for, because different yarns have different amounts in each skein, and the yarn you're using may have much more or much less than the yarn they used in the pattern. You should also NOT go by how many *grams or ounces it calls for, since different types of yarns weigh differently and this is a less accurate measurement.

Ideally, your pattern should tell you how many yards (or meters) you need exactly by saying something like, "You'll need 200 yards of yarn A and 50 yards of yarn B."

Many patterns will instead tell you how many skeins of a specific yarn you need. For instance, they'll say something like, "You need 5 skeins of Malabrigo Worsted." Hopefully if they say this, they'll also tell you how many yards are in each skein of the yarn, usually written like so: "(100% merino wool; 210 yards / 192 meters; 100 grams)." In this case, you would be able to easily calculate that 5 skeins of Malabrigo Worsted at 210 yards each would be 1050 yards total.

If they only list the specific yarn and don't give you the yardage of each skein, you should look up the yarn on Ravelry to find out how many yards are in each skein, then do the same math above. Ravelry has a LOT of yarns listed in their database, so even if you're skeptical, it's worth searching there first for the info you need.

*Some older patterns will list yarn quantities in grams or ounces instead of yards or meters, and not list a specific yarn. In these cases, you'll have to do some guessing. Hopefully they will still mention which weight of yarn to use, and you can use this chart to estimate about how much yardage is probably in each skein (these are rough estimates): 

Lace 500–1000 yards per 100 grams
Fingering 380–500 yards per 100 grams
Sport 300–380 yards per 100 grams
DK 190–300 yards per 100 grams
Worsted 190–240 yards per 100 grams
Aran 140–190 yards per 100 grams
100–140 yards per 100 grams
Super Bulky 40–100 yards per 100 grams
Jumbo 5–40 yards per 100 grams

How much yarn do you have?

If you have full skeins and know the yarn's weight & yardage:

If you have a yarn's label (or know its weight and yardage information) and only full skeins, you can calculate how much yarn you have by multiplying the number of yards per skein (on the label) by the number of skeins you have, like the Malabrigo Worsted example above.

If you have partial skeins and know the yarn's weight & yardage:

If you have a partial skein of yarn and still have the label for it, use the information on the label and the weight of the partial skein of yarn (you'll need to use a scale for this) to find the yardage/meterage in the partial skein, as follows:

Note: when doing this math, stick to the same measurement system the whole time. Do not switch between yards and meters or grams and ounces.

(Length of full skein  x  weight of partial skein)  ÷  weight of full skein  =  length of partial skein

So, step by step:

  1. Multiply the number of yards or meters in a full skein (on the yarn's label) by the weight of the partial skein (use a scale to measure this).
  2. Take that number and divide it by the weight of the full skein (on the yarn's label).
  3. The resulting number is about how many yards or meters is in the partial skein.

Our example: we have a yarn that is 200 yards and 50 grams (says the label), but it's a partial skein so the actual weight of the skein we have is 22 grams. We multiplied 200 by 22 to get 4,400, then divided 4,400 by 50 to get 88, which is how many yards there is in the partial skein.

If you have partial or full skeins and do not know the yarn's weight or yardage:

To calculate how many yards are in a mystery skein of yarn you know nothing about, you can measure out a bit of the skein, weigh that amount, then use a modified version of the equation above to find out about how much yarn you have total. We use grams and yards in our step by step instructions, but you can use ounces or meters if you prefer (just keep it consistent).

  1. Measure out 20 yards of yarn from the mystery skein (do not cut it).
  2. Weigh the 20 yards on a scale and record how many grams it is.
  3. Weigh the full skein of yarn (including the 20 yards) on a scale and record how many grams it is.
  4. Multiply the full skein weight by 20.
  5. Divide that number by the weight of the 20 yards.
  6. The resulting number is how many yards is in the full skein.

Our example: we have a mystery skein and measured that 20 yards of it weighs 18 grams. The full skein weighs 85 grams. We multiplied 103 by 20 to get 1,700, then divided 1700 by 18 to get 94.4, which is about how many yards there is in the mystery skein.

How many yards did you use for a project you already finished?

Not sure how much yarn you used for a project? Want to make another and find out if you have enough now? Using techniques similar to the ones above, you can weigh your finished piece to estimate how much yarn you used! Follow the steps below:

  1. Weigh the project you made before in grams.
  2. Multiply that number by the number of yards in a full skein of the yarn you used (if you do not know how many yards were in a full skein of the yarn you used before, use the chart above to estimate how much was likely in each skein).
  3. Divide that number by the number of grams of a full skein of the yarn you used before (if you used the chart above to estimate, divide by 100).
  4. The resulting number is how many yards you used in the finished project.

Not using a pattern but still trying to estimate how much yarn you need?

The most accurate way to find out how much yarn you need for a project you don't have a pattern for is to find a similar pattern online and go with how much yarn they used. 

The best website to use for this is Ravelry can be a bit overwhelming if you don't know how to search on it. The trick is to use their filters!

On Ravelry, start on their pattern browser & advanced search page. Don't type anything into the search barIf you're not looking for a specific pattern, you'll see the most accurate results if you leave the search bar blank.

Then, click as many of the applicable filters on the left of the page as possible. They are grouped in boxes by category. Start every search by checking off the options for "Free," "Purchase online," and "Ravelry download" in the box labeled "Availability." If you skip this step you'll be including patterns in the search that are only available if you buy an entire book or magazine (which are usually no longer available).

Then go through all the other filters and check off as many as you can before looking at the patterns that come up. For example, if you are looking for a baby cardigan in fingering weight yarn that is knit top down, you'd want to find the filters for each one of those options: under "Gender / Age / Size / Fit" you can click "Age or Size" then "baby,' under "Weight" you can select "Fingering," under "Category," you can click "Clothing" then "Sweater" then "Cardigan," and under "Attributes" you can click "Construction" then "top down."

Once you've found a similar pattern to what you'd like to make, you can use how much yarn it says it requires to estimate how much yardage you'll need for your project.