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Have you ever eyed a ball of leftover yarn in your stash and wondered, “Do I have enough to make that little ______ (fill in the blank with accessory of your choice) that I’ve been eyeing on Ravelry?” If so, I’m hoping this week’s post will make your knitting life a little bit easier.

Did you know that you can weigh your yarn and get a pretty good idea of how much you have? Yes, that’s right! And the better news is that it doesn’t take rocket science to figure it out. All you need are your ball band (or knowledge of what your yarn is, so that you can look the details up online), a kitchen or postal scale (digital is best, but analog will do), and a calculator (or a love of long division). So, let’s get started, shall we?

For today’s example I’ll be using two partial balls of Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light that I’ve had sitting around for a while. In this case, I happened to save my ball bands, which is very unusual for me. Now, my ball bands say that each full skein contains 420 yards (384 meters), but it doesn’t tell me how much a full skein is supposed to weigh. This is rather unusual, since most yarn manufacturers give us that information. Fortunate for me, I have a full skein in another color-way that I measured at 4 ounces, or 113 grams. I have to believe that that information is available somewhere online–I just took the shortcut because I could.

Okay, so I now know that a 113-gram skein of Tosh Merino Light contains 420 yards (384 meters). First, I’m going to use my full-skein data to determine how many yards (or meters) per gram my yarn has. So, 420 yards divided by 113 grams equal about 3.7 yards per gram (if you’re using metric, it would be 3.4 meters per gram). Next, I’m going to weigh my leftovers, which, in this case, total 80 grams. Last, I’m going to multiply my 80 grams of yarn by its 3.7 yards per gram, and my total is 296 yards (272 meters)! And remember when I told you that digital scales are best for this? Well, that’s just because they’re more accurate. Since I’m using an analog scale here, I’m going to subtract 10% from my estimated yardage, just to be on the safe side. That means that I can count on having 266 yards for sure, maybe a little bit more.

Is your head spinning yet? I know it looks complicated when it’s written out, but it gets way easier with practice. Here is a step-by-step guide for you to try at home:

  1. Determine how much a full skein weighs and how many yards or meters it contains.
  2. Divide the full-skein yardage by the full-skein weight (in grams). Write that number down.
  3. Weigh your partial skein (in grams).
  4. Multiply your partial skein’s weight by the number from Step 2. This is your yardage estimate.
  5. If necessary, subtract a bit to allow for scale inaccuracies.

And there you have it! The next time you’re thinking about using leftovers, use this handy-dandy formula to calculate your yardage, and you’ll be all set to go!

How about you? Have you ever used this system to calculate yardage? Please share below!