Ask Madelyn: How Much Yarn Do I Need for Weaving?

Ask Madelyn

Hi Madelyn!

I am a new weaver (avid knitter for forty years) and I took a three-day course several months ago. Of course summer arrived and all my crafting went onto a back burner. I go to start and have completely forgotten how to figure out how much yarn for weaving I need. The instructions that I wrote down now make no sense to me. The only part I get is that I need 10% for loom waste and something about 36″ (width of my loom). Please help—I’m raring to go!!

(Actually, while I’ve got you could you also recommend a yarn for weaving a soft scarf with a beautiful drape?)


Hi Donna!

Let’s say you are going to weave a scarf. (The only consideration you’d be making relative to your loom’s width is that you can’t weave anything wider than it will allow. So your calculations will be based on the finished width of the item you want to make, and that width will have to be possible on the loom you have.)

A scarf is generally from eight to ten inches wide. Usually, you will have some draw-in as you weave (woven width is narrower than the width of the warp in the reed) and some shrinkage if the item is washed. You need to have an idea of those percentages to determine the width on the loom (draw-in and shrinkage). Let’s say you choose JaggerSpun wool/silk for a soft, drapable scarf. You can use either plain weave or twill (among other structures). Let’s say you sett this yarn at 30 ends per inch for a warp-emphasis plain weave or for a balanced twill. If you calculate about 15% draw-in and shrinkage you’d divide the finished width by .85. So for a finished width of about 9″, you’d start with a width in the reed of 10-1/2″. That would mean 10.5 x 30 = 315 warp ends.

Next, you determine your desired finished length; let’s say that’s about 65″. I’d calculate 15% for take-up and shrinkage (that might be a little high, but it’s better to figure too much than too little). So you’d need to weave 65″ divided by .85 or about 76″ measured on the loom. I’d therefore put on a 3-yd warp (108″), which would leave 32″ for loom waste; the loom waste would include fringe. So you’d need 315 ends x 3 yd = 945 yd for the warp. If you weave 30 picks per inch at 10-1/2″ weaving width, you’d weave 76″ x 30 ppi x about 11″ (you need to allow for extra weft for the weft angle in each shed) or about 700 yd for the weft.

The information you need to figure out the needed yarn for weaving any project is: warp and weft sett, desired finished width and length, percentage of draw-in/take-up and shrinkage.

Hope this helps!


P.S. Tom Knisely has an excellent video, The Weaver’s Yarn Companion, that covers choosing yarn for weaving of the right fiber, weight, and type for your projects, as well as how to choose the right sett and reed for your yarn. Click here if you’d like to check it out!

Types of Yarns: How Much Yarn Do I Need for Knitted Sweaters or Cardigans?

Find out how much yarn you need to make any-sized cardigan or sweater!

A butterfly of beautiful yarn I got at the Blue Moon Fiber Arts booth at Sock Summit ages ago. The worsted yarn is called Twisted and the fingering (in the middle) is Socks the Rock, both in the Valkyrie colorway: lovely purples, browns, and grays. It’s waiting to become a cardigan.

My original plan was to make a long vest out of this scrumptious pile of fiber (photo at left), but when I got home and looked at the pattern I had in mind, I didn’t have enough yarn. Bummer! And I only needed about 250 more yards.

Twisted comes in generous skeins of 560 yards, so I’d have leftovers if I ordered another skein, plus the dye lot might not be consistent with my lot. (One of the lovely characteristics of hand-dyed yarn is that it’s just that—dyed by hand!—so the dye from one lot might be pretty different from that of another lot).

Anyway, after half a year of thinking about this yarn type and what project to use it with, I found some inspiration hidden in one of my favorite books, The Knitter’s Companion by Vicki Square.

I was looking up some technique or other when I passed the section on yardage estimates.

I thought about my lonely bag of Blue Moon yarn, and lo and behold—the idea came to me: A cardigan with the main body knit from Twisted and the ribbing at the bottom, cuffs, neck (and the button band) knit from Socks that Rock held double. I might need another skein of sock yarn for this, but I can choose anything that’s similar to my colorway and hold it with Socks that Rock and it’ll work. Right?

So the moral of this story is that inspiration comes in all forms. And here’s the list of yardage estimates for you. Take a look at the list and then wander through your stash and see if you have any yarn that’s a tad short (or long!) on yardage for the project you had  planned for it; use the estimates to plan a new project for that yarn. You never know what will pop out at you.

Yardage Estimates for Sweaters in Standard Yarn Weights

The following guidelines are for the amounts of yarn needed for a basic pullover or cardigan in a variety of sizes and yarn sizes. These estimates are for smooth yarns and plain or lightly textured knitting.

Keep in mind that heavily textured patterns such as all-over cables or oversized looks can easily require additional yarn (400-600 yards; 375-550 meters). When knitting with two or more colors, the total yardage will be greater to account for the yarns being carried across the back of the work.

Estimate generously, and if you have leftovers … well, they’re a designer’s best friend!

Babies 12-18 Months
(for a pullover or cardigan)
Fingering weight: 600-700 yards (550-650 meters)
Sportweight: 550-650 yards (500-600 meters)
Worsted weight: 450-550 (400-500 meters

Toddlers 2-6 Years
(for a pullover or cardigan)
Sportweight: 800-1000 yards (750-950 meters)
Worsted weight: 600-800 yards (550-750 meters)
Bulky weight: 550-650 yards (500-600 meters)

Children 6-12 Years
(for a pullover or cardigan)
Sportweight: 1000-1500 yards (950-1400 meters)
Worsted weight: 900-1200 yards (850-1100 meters)
Bulky weight: 700-1000 yards (650-950 meters)

Misses Sizes 32-40 Bust
(for a regular, comfortable-ease pullover; add 5% for a cardigan)
Fingering weight: 1500-1700 yards (1400-1600 meters)
Sportweight: 1400-1600 yards (1300-1500 meters)
Worsted weight: 1100-1400 yards (1000-1300 meters)
Bulky weight: 1000-1300 yards (950-1200 meters)

For a longer, loosely fitting, or oversized misses-sized pullover (add 5% for a cardigan)
Sportweight: 1500-1900 yards (1400-1750 meters)
Worsted weight: 1300-1500 yards (1200-1400 meters)
Bulky weight: 1100-1400 yards (1000-1300 meters)

Men sizes 36-48 Chest
(for a regular, comfortable-ease pullover (add 5% for a cardigan)
Sportweight: 1700-2100 yards (1600-1950 meters)
Worsted weight: 1500-1700 yards (1400-1600 meters)
Bulky weight: 1300-1500 yards (1200-1400 meters)

For a longer, loosely fitting, or oversized man’s pullover (add 5% for a cardigan)
Sportweight: 2000-2400 yards (1850-2200 meters)
Worsted weight: 1500-1700 yards (1650-1850 meters)
Bulky weight: 1300-1500 yards (1400-1550 meters)

—Vicki Square, from The Knitter’s Companion

Vicki doesn’t cover plus-size sweaters plus-size sweaters (42-52 bust), but from my experience, you need the following amounts for, adding the same 5% for cardigans:
Sportweight: 1600-2000 yards (1500-1850 meters)
Worsted weight: 1400-1600 yards (1300-1500 meters)
Bulky weight: 1200-1400 yards (1100-1300 meters)

Now go forth and visit your stash!


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