How Much Yarn Do I Need

Machine Knitters usually use yarn on cones because it is more efficient and economical. Cone yarn can be more economical because it does not have to be packaged and distributed in the smaller 1-3 oz. skeins. They are usually on 1-2 lb cones. The confusion for hand knitters is that they do not understand the relationship between the terms used to describe cone yarns and the same yarn in skeins. It is my hope you enjoy this method of comparing cone yarn and yarn put up in skeins or hanks.

Formulas to Determine How much Yarn you Need for a Knit Project

Common Hand Knitting Skein Yarn Categories

Most knitters understand the hand knitting categories of yarn. These are: fingering or baby yarn, which gives a standard stitch gauge of 8 stitches and 12 rows per inch; sport weight yarn, which gives a standard gauge of 6 stitches and 8 rows per inch; and worsted weight yarn, which gives a standard gauge of 4 stitches and 6 rows per inch. 

Now, what we need is a simple way to relate this information to cone yarn terminology. First, let us assign a number rating to the hand knit basic categories: 

fingering yarn = 5 or 6 
sport weight yarn = 3 or 4 
worsted weight yarn = 2 

Common Machine Knitting Cone Yarn Terms

The sizes of cone yarn are often referred to by a fraction-like number, such as 2/24, 3/15, etc. In this system, the first number refers to the number of strands twisted together to form this yarn. This is also known as the "ply". The second number relates to the thickness of the yarn. The bigger the second number is, the smaller the yarn is in diameter. Therefore, a 2/24 yarn is a very small yarn composed of two strands or plies. The 3/15 is a larger yarn composed of three strands or plies. A 2/8 yarn is bigger than the 3/15 even though it only has 2 strands because 8 is a smaller number than 15. In other words, the first number has nothing to do with the size of the yarn in this relationship, but it is important because it is used to find the rating of the cone yarn so that it can be "compared" to the hand knit yarn terms. 

*Special Note: Cotton yarns reverse the two numbers. For example, a size 2/12 yarn would be labeled 12/2. The number of strands is represented by the second number instead of the first number. The thickness of the yarn is represented by the first number instead of the second number. 

Relate the Fractional Cone Yarn Number to Hand Knitting Yarn Rating

Look at the cone yarn fraction: For example: 3/15. Divide the second number by the first number. 15 divided by 3 equals 5. Compare this number to the hand knitting ratings. Five is a fingering weight. Therefore a 3/15 yarn is about the same as a hand knitting fingering weight yarn.

Let us take this one step further. If you use a 2/24 yarn and combined 2 ends (strands) of this yarn, it would be twice as thick. Multiply the first number by the number of ends that you are using. 2 times 2 equals 4. This makes your yarn a 4/24 now. 24 divided by 4 equals 6. Six is the rating for a fingering yarn. Therefore, if you knit with 2 ends of a 2/24 yarn it will be identical in size to 1 end of a 2/12 yarn (12 divided by 2 is also equal to 6). Do you see how easy it would be to use this numbering system to create any size of yarn that you want or to combine different kinds of yarns? 

Test What You've Learned: Solve This Puzzle

Puzzle: I have a 2/24 yarn on a cone. I want to make a stockinet stitch , worsted weight - heavy sweater out of this fine yarn. How many ends (strands) of yarn must I combine to make a worsted weight yarn?

Solution: I must achieve a rating of 2 for a worsted weight yarn. 
1 end: 24 divided by 2 equals 12 = no rating.  
2 ends: 2 times 2 equals 4 4/24 = 24 divided by 4 equals 6 = fingering weight.  
3 ends: 3 times 2 equals 6 6/24 = 24 divided by 6 equals 4 = sport weight.  
4 ends: 4 times 2 equals 8 8/24 = 24 divided by 8 equals 3 = heavier sport weight.  
5 ends: 5 times 2 equals 10 10/24 = 24 divided by 10 equals 2.4= close enough to worsted.  
6 ends: 6 times 2 equals 12 12/24 = 24 divided by 12 equals 2 = worsted weight.  

I would use 5 or 6 ends. In order to knit this on a standard gauge knitting machine, I would have to use every other needle and use more weights to pull the yarn down into the hooks of the needles. This heavy of a yarn should really be knit on a bulky knitting machine. 

Skein Yarn and Cone Yarns give Number of Yards in Grams,Ounces, or Pounds.

This is another comparison system.
The smaller in diameter the yarn, the more yards per pound.
A 2/24 cone yarn is approximately 5500 to 6700 yards per pound.
A 3/15 cone yarn is approximately 2650 yards per pound.

Example: Tamm Estillo is a 2/14 dress yarn and has 3670 yards per pound. Therefore, it is slightly smaller than a fingering weight if you compare the yardage of it and the 3/15 yarn above. Using the other system: 14 divided by 2 equals 7. This is also a rating that is smaller than the fingering rating of 5. So you see, both ways can work if you develop comparisons.

Use This Information for Professional Knitting.

Professional knitting fabric is often composed of several strands of fine yarn rather than one strand of the same yarn. The finer the yarn is in size, the greater the yardage per pound. Several strands of yarn combined, "fills" better than one strand of the same yarn. Another advantage to using fine yarns is that you can use the same yarn to create different weights for the different seasons of the year. This allows a knitter to use the same yarn for light weight summer fabrics and adding more strands for the heavier winter fabrics. Understanding the size of yarn and how to combine it to create different weights is essential to your knitting foundation. Experiment with this topic to create your own fabric weights.

The Knit Products we offer you in our online knitting catalog use a wide range of yarn combinations. Our Yurok, Hupa, and Salish caps and headbands are knit with 3 ends of 2/30 superfine Merino Wool. Whereas our Native American merino wool blankets are hand loomed with 2 ends of yarn. Our camo visor caps.. are hand loomed with 3 ends of merino wool or 2 ends of 2/24 acrylic. Whereas the light weight Native American Shrugs and receiving baby blankets are knit with 1 end of this same acrylic yarn. The crib weight baby blanket and personalized baby blankets are knit with 2 ends of the same 2/24 acrylic yarn. The cotton baby blankets are knit with 1 strand of 8/2 combed cotton. Whereas, the cotton baby booties, cotton baby hats, are knit with 2 strands of the 8/2 combed cotton. Lots of different yarns in different combinations make unique and original knit clothes, home décor items, and gifts of all kinds. Go to our online catalog and examine the possibilities!

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