My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


How Much Yarn Do You Really Need?

Spaazlicious left an interesting comment about my Peapod Sweater:
I looked at those pattern yarn requirements. Looked at the baby. Looked at the pattern yarn requirements. And said, “No freakin’ way it takes that much yarn for that.” I’m a smug bastard to see your experience bearing that out.

I’ve been noticing that lately though–my bicolor cardi from Annie Modesitt took just over half of the yarn “required.” I know that patterns are made to sell yarn, but it seems a little much, especially most people buy extra over the stated requirements for “just in case.” Just making me think.

And here I thought it was just me. ๐Ÿ™‚ I always seem to use wa-a-ay less yarn than a pattern calls for. With a few exceptions.

I discovered early on that I almost always ran short of yarn on Dale of Norway designs. A long time ago I emailed their customer service about this and received a nice response. Apparently, they knit up each design in one size, and then guess-timate how much yarn the other sizes will take based on the yarn requirements for the one size knitted. Not an unreasonable way of doing things, but methinks their guess-timator needs a fine tuning.

Disclaimer here — I haven’t made a Dale sweater in quite a while so I don’t know if the yarn amounts for their patterns are more realistic these days.

I’ve noticed that some Starmore designs I’ve made were skimpy on yarn requirements. I’ve run short on a couple of fair isles and on one cabled design. Not by much, though. And I’ve always had plenty of yarn in the kits I’ve received from them at Virtual Yarns.

But most of the time I have yarn left over. I do tend to buy a “just in case” extra skein, but I’ll often have a couple of skeins left over.

The smallest size of the Peapod Jacket called for 4 skeins of Debbie Bliss Cotton Cashmere, and I made mine using three skeins, with about a quarter of the third skein left over. But I do think I (for whatever reason) tend to use less yarn to knit something than others. I wonder why that is? That has puzzled me from time to time — how is it that two knitters who knit to the same gauge will use varying amounts of yarn to complete the exact same amount of knitting?

I think that if I were the designer and had knitted the Peapod using the 2.75 skeins, I would list the yarn requirement as 4 skeins. I could see someone knitting it and needing just slightly more than 3 skeins.

And in the interests of full disclosure, I do this for my own patterns — I do pad the yarn requirements slightly to try to guard against anyone running out of yarn. I generally up the yarn requirements by 50 – 100 yards. I’m not trying to push a particular yarn — it’s not like I make any money off that. I just really, really hate running out of yarn and know that others do too!

What do you all think? Should designers do this? Do you think most designers do?

Speaking of design, katomliz asked:
I checked your sweater software program .Looks helpful. I see they have software for socks too. Have you your used that one?

You know, I think I do have a copy of the Sock Wizard software. I believe I bought it a few years ago when I first embarked on sock knitting. Used it to do my first pair of socks. A nice little program, if I remember correctly. Check out the link to read all about it. There’s a demo there you can download.

Denim Sweater

Slowly it grows, millimeter by millimeter.


This is the start of the back. I’m doing a seed stitch border. I do so love seed stitch! And miles of stockinette. Yawn. But . . .

Ooh, Look! A Giveaway!

Wanna win some sock yarn? Send an email to: blogcontestATcomcastDOTnet by noon (Eastern time), Sunday, October 15, 2006 to be entered in a drawing for some sock yarn.

I’ve got some sock yarn that I discovered when cleaning out my stash room (ahem) that was overlooked in the Great Sock Yarn Giveaway of ’06. Since October is clearly sock month (Socktoberfest! / Sock Hop!) it seems like a good idea to give some away. I’ll send enough yarn for a pair of socks to six lucky contestants, drawn at random.


So send an email to the address above. That’s all you need to do — just send me an email. Sock-knitters outside the U.S. are welcome to enter too.

P.S. to Liz — That’s not linoleum in my kitchen — it’s Armstrong floor tiles circa 1999 that I had put down to replace a truly heinous one-piece sheet of vinyl flooring! Does the fact that I like it and chose it make me retro? ๐Ÿ˜‰ My appliances are beige and black — honest!



  1. i pad my yarn requirements a bit too, wendy; i tend to knit down to the wire on a lot of projects, and often have just a few yards left over. so i am generous in my estimates of what others might need. and on pieces that are sized, i may knit (or have test knitters knit) several sizes, but not all, so there too i am guesstimating!

  2. I think it’s great that designers want to make sure we purchase enough yarn to make the whole project. The leftover yarn can always be used for something else, and it sure beats that horrible, nervous feeling of wondering if you are going to run out. That used to happen to me all the time with cross stitch kits – having to use the floss down to the very last inch. It was terrible.

  3. I would rather a designer have the yarn requirements high than low. I always buy a little extra too “just in case”. I’d rather have extra than not enough.

    I love the baby sweater. It looks adorable in the purple.

  4. I would much rather have leftover yarn than to run short. The chances of getting the exact same dyelot/yarn is infintesimal. I don’t care if it does say it’s the same dyelot. It’s almost always different!

  5. I would much rather a designer require too much yarn than too little. I usually buy an extra skein of yarn, but sometimes that’s not possible. I’ve been pretty lucky though. I’ve come close to running out but that’s it.

  6. I like it when the yarn requirements are padded 1. Because I am a tight knitter and generally need more than the recommended amount and 2. Because I generally buy a little extra too, just in case, so if I end up having even more extra, I am always happy to be able to add to my stash. I’ve only been knitting a year, so my stash is not as formidable as most and I like to be able to increase it when I can!

  7. I like patterns that pad the yarn requirements a little. Really, the designer almost has to do that, otherwise face the wratch of the knitters who run out.

    Thanks for having a contest! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Hm…So Lucy kinda matches your appliances! She’s a designer kitty!

  9. I knit a Dale this year and ran out of yarn. They’re still doing it.

    And when I knit my own designs I over-estimate like CRAZY and wind up with piles extra… which I then make something else with.

    It’s all good. It’s yarn!

  10. Yep – I’ll join the chorus – I’d rather have some left over than not enough. But I don’t buy *very* expensive yarn for projects. However, even at $10 per skein it’s not a horrible “loss” in leftover yarn. $20/skein might make me eat those words though. heh 2+ skeins left over gives you a very nice quantity for a scarf or other smallish project.

  11. i almost always have leftover yarn – i did a cardigan out of Interweave Knits (it was from a couple of years ago) and it had intarsia bands that called for 2 balls of each color – i barely used a half skein of each!

    i’ve always had plenty left over from Dale patterns too. so don’t know what’s up with that.

    other than that, i’ve barely time to knit lately – and haven’t seen your friend Kat either. but i suspect we’re both lurking about Mpls!

  12. Hi Wendy- In my patterns, I always add a little extra, because with Fair Isle, you may need more, plus I factor in the all-important swatch. You know, those things we’re supposed to do, which I’m sure you’ve heard of.
    Because of the small tension, it’s really important to get it right. I would much rather have more than not enough.

  13. I prefer my yarn requirements padded so I run less of a risk of running short. Running out of yarn is very annoying. Better safe than sorry!

    Thanks again for the Regia! They are coming to HK with me. =)

  14. My opinion on pattern yarn requirements, is I’d just simply like them to state if they padded it or not, so I would know if I should get extra or if a little extra is already figured in.

  15. Ugh. I have a Dale sweater waiting in the wings and bought the amount stated in the pattern. I’m getting a sinking feeling….

  16. Definately add more yarn……just a smidge……cause the imagination burbles with leftovers!…….and I use the “swatch” as a square for an afghan…….and that is a lovely memory piece……and the floor is fine: just ask Lucy!

  17. I would MUCH rather a designer pad a little extra yarn requirement into the pattern than to be spot on or require less (gulp!). I’d rather have a skein or more extra than to run out (which is the absolute worst feeling in knitting, I think) . . . and my LYS will usually let me return what I don’t use (IF I retain the receipt, which I rarely do, or IF it’s not clearance yarn, which it usually is).

    If nothing else, if I have leftover I could make a hat or a scarf!

  18. Having knit samples for a designer, I can attest that a. the instructions generally tell you to start each piece of a garment with a new ball, and b. gauge is somewhat of a mystery. Normal knitters use their odds and ends of skeins in each piece. Normal knitters knit to a gauge that is different from any manufacturer’s suggested one. I like to include the yarn I used to swatch (so sue me, I like to swatch) but it can throw the calculations off.

  19. In addition to slightly padded yardage requirements, I would like to know how much yarn was used to make the sample sweater. That way, I can know how much they padded the yardage and whether I am willing to pay for the extra ball or two. For my own designs, I weigh my sweaters and leftover yarns in order to estimate how many yards I used.

  20. You have a stash ROOM?? Show us, please ๐Ÿ˜‰

  21. I always run low on debbie bliss patterns. Rowan patterns tend to be spot on though. I usually buy extra yarn too when working with an ‘unknown’ to me pattern company. Some shops take them back but I tend to find that I still keep the balls.

    I love the peapod set. It’s just so darn cute.

  22. I would rather the designer pad the yarn requirements than not have enough. Sure, I have a lot of lonely skeins lying aroung, but they’ll be used eventually!

  23. Extra yarn is good. Much better than running out. There’s no question about it! Extra yarn will always find some use.

  24. I prefer padding on yarn requirements. I always buy an extra skein (newish knitter, some yarns frog better than others ๐Ÿ˜‰ and if I really like the yarn, a small accessory can be made. I’ve only made small items as it is, as I don’t have a fraction of the kitting time I’d like to.

  25. I would rather have extra yarn at the end. I ran out when I did the Einstein coat. I used the leftover yarn for CIC projects.
    It would be nice to know just how much yarn the sample pattern used, but I doubt that is going to happen.
    I love your question and answers series.

  26. What a great discussion! I’m always afraid that I’ll run out of yarn and it’s happened more often than I’d like. Thankfully there are lots of projects for the small amounts of yarn that are left over and alongs like the Lonesome Skein.

  27. I’ve found that most patterns I have call for more yarn too. I also don’t mind. Most yarn stores will accept unused skeins for return with no problem (not that I’ve ever taken advantage of that).

  28. I was talking to my LYSO about yarn for Annie Modesitt’s bi-color cable cardi just last week. She studied the pattern and then said, “Whoa, that’s WAAAY too much yarn.” Most of the time I carefully buy an extra skein, but we are going to back way up for this one.

  29. martha in mobile says:

    I like the reveal; e.g., “I knitted the smallest size this with almost 3 balls. You might want to get an extra ball just in case.” That way I know the risk I am taking.

  30. I’ll get in line for sock yarn. I did not make it to the VA Fall Fiberfest b/c of all the rain. I did manage to sneak in a trip to Holly Spring though!

    Go denim! I’m doing a Baby Surprise in Denim right now. Good for a boy or a girl, right?

  31. Strangely enough, I always have LOTS of Dale yarn leftover, but I generally tend to run out or be right up to the end of the yarn called for in other patterns. Maybe it depends upon the size being knitted?

  32. Evidently we need endless supplies of yarns … we do, we just do.


  33. I definitely appreciate it when the yarn amounts are padded a bit rather than having them not estimate enough yarn. I would much prefer spending an extra $10 dollars or so on a skein of yarn than spend months making a sweater and run short at the end of the project. I have had a project in my early days of knitting in which I had to buy a skein of a different dye lot, and it wasn’t pretty!

  34. I think it’s alright to pad the yarn requirements a little, but I think it would be nice if the designer would say approximately how much yardage they pad things by so that people can decide if they should get another ball or hope that the padding will be enough.

  35. I would rather have the yarn overstated. I hate running out because it always happens (a)in the middle of the night, (b)after the yarn has been discontinued; and/or (c)when I can no longer remember where I bought it. And now that I’m loving the scrapiness of the log cabins, I don’t mind leftovers at all. BTW, have you tried the new Plymouth Speedway needles? They’re like Addis only better. I’ve only used a size 3US but I loved this needle. The point is much pointier and the join is as smooth as an Addi. I’m going to get a whole bunch of them from a LYS but Patternworks is also carrying them.

  36. I would rather have a ton of leftover yarn then run short. I wondered on the pea pod baby set if they messed up and included the yarn for the hat in the sweater balls. I note it does say that for the hat you’ll need 1 ball for all sizes. But this is just a theory, as I’m alays full of theories.

    Lucy I’d sure love to snuggle that warm fur of yours.

  37. New knitter here. What are all the things you can do with a skein of yarn? I’m starting to get leftovers and need ideas. Oh, and I don’t wear hats. ;^)

  38. I guess I’m in the minority. I hate having a lot of leftover yarn. I really hate the oddball skeins takig up real estate. I never seem to do much knitting with them later, they just hang out and take up space and multiply,

    I had THREE balls leftover after an interweave sweater once.

  39. I’m just finishing my third Noro pattern, and I’ve found they give yarn requirements down to almost the millimeter. When I did their Lotorp bag, I had absolutely nothing left, and I did a baby sweater (I forget the name), and had less than a yard left. The sweater I’m knitting now for me I ordered 2 extra and I’m really glad I did as I needed both (needed mostly because with Noro’s color varigation, I couldn’t just start with 1 ball and then just necessarily go onto the next one).

  40. A stash ROOM?? Makes my stash cabinet look positively miserly. I obviously need more wool. And cotton, and silk, and alpaca, and linen, and sea silk, and bamboo….

  41. When I calculate my yarn requirements for my patterns I use the calculators in KnitAble to get a rough guide for my test knit and then if those calculations are accurate I use it to calculate the other sizes. I always round up the number of balls because there is nothing worse than running out of yarn and tyring to match dyelots.

  42. I like the seed stitch border for the denim sweater, and I have a couple of questions about substituting seed stitch for a ribbed border. Do you knit the same number of stitches in seed stitch as you do for the body? Do you use the same size needle, or do you go down a size or two? I don’t like ribbed bottom edges as they emphasize my pear-shaped figure (only good in diamonds), but I don’t have the know-how yet to substitute something like seed stitch. I’d appreciate any advice you can give.

  43. I am always horrified that I will run out of yarn, so I usually buy the yardage needed for the next sized up. I expected to have a ball or two left over after finishing my last sweater, but I ended up with six…

  44. I pad a little bit too. Although what I do is knit for one size and do a bit of statistical nonsense (was a marketing statistician in a former life) and figure out what the other sizes will require based on past experience of others.

    Anyhow, once I arrive at that figure, I add another 10 or 20 percent for a gauge swatch. So far, so good, but I can’t imagine what to do with fair isle or multiple colors or stripes. That would add in a whole other dimension!

    I would much rather have too much than too little! (Unless your LYS like mine has an exchange policy of 7 days only and then, no deal.)

  45. Zoiks! I posted more info about the bicolor cardi thing at my blog. And I agree, really, about having too much rather than too little, but the gap seemed a wee bit excessive. I’m going to end up finishing the rogue with extra yarn too (although I saw someone else posting about running out, and as it’s my own handspun, it wasn’t like I was worried about running out anyway, or returning the excess). So I guess it’s one of those things you learn about your own style of knitting, like going up or down a needle size because you know you are a tight/loose knitter. Although I have run out of yarn before, with the clapotis, so I thought I was on the other side. Anyway, like you said, how does it work, this knitting the same size, same gauge, yet needing more or less yarn? aaaah, the mysteries of knitting.

  46. I love the seed stitch border.. Looks great~! I made my DD an entire sweater of seed stitch talk about boring … I think I’d prefer the St. st over the seed st but I think it looks specktaquler as a border! You go girl!

  47. Well, of course your appliances are beige & black….they match Lucy!

  48. OK OK, it’s a good thing to “pad” yarn requirements, but sometimes designers go overboard. I just finished the Shetland Triangle from Wrap Style and used under 300yds of fingering weight yarn. The patterns specifies almost 600 !!! yds. Grumperina used about 500 yds and made the shawl significantly bigger than the original pattern. (…and it wasn’t an issue of the original yarn coming in huge skeins.)

  49. I would rather have left over yarn that not enough. I found that when I was a quilter, this happened with quilting patterns too. I hate running out!! Loved the video of Lucy, she is so adorable.