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The Art of the Yarn Scale: Three reasons why a scale is an important tool for knitting

If you've been reading along I've been slowly taking my stash yarn and winding it onto cardboard cones. My intention was to find joy in organizing the yarn. And my first focus was to have the yarn look pretty. Now I am setting an intention of creating space for future creativity. And that means finding out how much yardage is on each cone.

In order to calculate how much yarn I have left of a skein it is helpful to have the ball band and a scale. However, since this stash has been with me for quite a few years some of the ball bands have been misplaced.

For those of you who don't know what a ball band is, I have a photo below. A ball band is the piece of paper wrapped around the skein or hank when you purchase it from the yarn shop. It gives you the brand name, yarn variant, weight of yarn, and how many yards there are. It also tells you the fibers in the yarn, like alpaca or merino, and if it's super wash or hand wash.

The ball band in the image with the orange yarn shows that the brand is Lang Yarns and yarn name is Canapa.

Fiber Content: 100% Hemp

Weight: Super Fine/Fingering

Gauge: 22 stitches per 4 inches on US 2.5 (3mm) needles

Weight/ Yardage: 25g/87 yards (80 m)

Care: Machine wash gentle, lay flat to dry

Country of Origin: Italy

I also can see that I paid $7.00 for it and it's dye lot is 1601. This was a yarn purchased at Hill Country Weavers in probably 2018.

Calculating the yardage of each yarn wound onto the cones was a little bit of an afterthought so I need to get creative. One approach I could take is go ahead and buy an electric yarn counter and feed the yarn through that as I wind onto the cones. But for now I'm back tracking and trying to not buy anything new, so I'll use a handy dandy baby scale and do some math.

Before I dive into the math I'll tell you the three main reasons why I recommend investing in a scale.

  1. Win at Yarn Chicken.

  2. Knitting two at a time.

  3. It's not just for yarn.

First, have you ever been knitting a project and not been sure if you will be able to finish because you might run out of yarn? Well, having a scale can help win at that game of Yarn Chicken. I've capitalized it here to emphasize how real it can be when your binding off 250 stitches and only have enough yarn to bind off half of those. This has happened to me in the past as a happy accident because I then bind off in a different color and the whole project is elevated! If that sounds like a nightmare to you, then get a scale, and save yourself a headache.

Second, you can evenly separate out a skein into two equal halves and knit sleeves or socks two at a time. I love this! Right now I'm knitting sleeves two at a time. One sleeve is using a small ball of yarn and the other is on a cardboard cone (see image of gray yarn on a cone). I wanted to see if the yarn traveled well on the cone, and it does. I've been knitting and walking with ease, and happy to say the cone doesn't add much weight to my project bag.

Third, the scale isn't just for yarn. A small scale is so handy for baking and cooking. Weight out your flour and sugar or measure 8oz burgers for easy cooking.

You don't need a fancy scale. I have a kitchen scale that I use for baking. Lately for my yarn I've been using a baby scale leftover from weighing my first child at home for the pediatrician. Now it's a roving and yarn scale.

Kitchen scales can range from $8-35. If you don't already have a kitchen scale check out this helpful article on best kitchen scales and how to use it.

Okay, now onto the math. I'm going to use a cake of yarn leftover from a cowl I knit a few years back. A cake is a skein of yarn wound on a ball winder. The ball band for this yarn is missing. If I'm remembering correctly the yarn is fingering weight from Hedgehog Fibres.

Let's break down the math to figure out how much yarn I have left.

Orignal weight of yarn skein = 100 g

Leftover weight of yarn in cake = 74 g

Orignal yardage = 437 yards

Leftover yards = ?

To calculate yardage

437/100 = 4.37

4.37 * 74 = 323.38

So I have 323 yards of this skein left. Which is a lot! So I'll write out the yardage on a sticky note and place it inside the cone. When I'm ready to use this yarn then I'll be able to check how much is available.

Now that is all well and good for the yarn I haven't wound onto cones yet. For the yarn that has already been wound I need to subtract the weight of the cone. So I have some leftover cashmere worsted weight yarn that is half wound, it was a little too tangled and needs a time out before I will finish wrapping it smoothly onto the cone. But still fine to do a little math with.

It weighted out to be 1.8 oz. And the cone is .7 oz. If I convert that to grams I have:

51 g - 20 g = 31 g.

I know this is cashmere yarn and it's worsted weight. But without the tag I'm not sure what the original yardage was for a 100 g skein. So I'm going to make an educated guess. Most worsted weight yarns come in skeins of 170-240 yards for 100 g skein. I'll estimate that it started out as 200 yards.



200/100 = 2

2 * 31 = 62

So I'm guessing I have about 62 yards left. I'm usually really good about keeping the ball band. I have a notebook I tape them in, but over the years each time I moved things have gotten mixed up and lost. For this one missing a ball band, a simple sticky note with the details I do have in it will suffice.

Taking a little extra time in the beginning of a project to breath, set an intention, and maybe weigh your yarn can prevent unnecessary hiccups in the future.

Now you know why a scale is a great tool for knitters and how simple the math is.

Happy knitting,



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