Follow our easy-to-understand guide to calculate how many stitches you need to cast on and how much yarn you need to knit a blanket without a knitting pattern
Since starting Moloneymakes, the most common question I get asked by customers is ‘How much yarn do I need for X?’. More often than not, they’re ready to transition from scarf knitting to something bigger and want to knit up a blanket either for themselves, or as a gift for a loved one or new baby etc. To which my answer is always the same slightly frustrating ‘Well, it depends, really’.
See, the amount of yarn you need to knit your chosen project, or in this case, your cosy hand knitted blanket without following a knitting pattern, depends on a variety of things: How big would you like your finished blanket to be? What stitch will you use? What’s your tension like – are you a loose or tight knitter? What weight (thickness of) yarn will you use? What size needles do you have? How much yarn do you get per ball?… you get my point. Your blanket will require different amounts of yarn depending on your answers to those questions.
However, once you have your chosen yarn, needle size, stitch pattern and required finished blanket size nailed, it’s really not that hard to estimate exactly how much yarn you might need to complete your project, and how many stitches to cast on too. That’s exactly what I’m here to help you with.
It all starts with a swatch
I’ve mentioned before how important swatching is. It’s something I’ve done at least a dozen times in the past couple of days, in fact, whilst searching for the right yarn/needle combination for a couple of knitting projects on my ‘to-make’ list and it’s something I’m really glad I’ve taken the time to do since my gauge is out on all accounts. As infuriating as this process is, it’s certainly less frustrating than hours of stitching for something that doesn’t fit and it’s something I’m going to walk you through today in order to help you calculate the amount of yarn and stitches required to knit your cosy blanket.
For the purpose of this blog post, let’s say you’re making a baby blanket for a new arrival and you’d like it to measure 100cm x 100cm. For arguments sake, because this is what I have with me, you’re going to be using super chunky yarn on 12mm needles in garter stitch.
How many stitches do I need to cast on?
In order to calculate how many stitches you need to cast on, you’ll begin by making a swatch using your chosen stitch, yarn and needles.
For an idea of how many stitches to cast on for this, I’d recommend having a look at the gauge on your yarn band. The gauge on our super chunky yarn, for example is 10 stitches and 14 rows for a 10×10 cm square using 10mm needles in stocking stitch. Here I’ve made a swatch of 12sts and 16rows, adding on a few stitches and rows in order to get a more accurate measurement of my knitting tension.
The beauty of creating your own pattern in this way is, there isn’t a specific count you need to meet. You’re simply going off your own knitting tension to make something that will end up the right size. Which takes away a lot of stress and frustration when you don’t meet gauge first time!
In my swatch here, my stitch count knitting in garter stitch using super chunky yarn on 12mm needles is 8 stitches and 14 rows for a 10x10cm square. Now I have that, I have everything I need to know to figure out the stitch count for my baby blanket pattern.
We want to make a blanket measuring 100cm wide and 10ocm long.
10cm is 8 stitches, and 100cm is 10 x 10cm, so I need to cast on approximately 10 x 8 stitches = 80 stitches in order for it to be wide enough.
The blanket length can be worked out by measuring our work as we go, but to do the maths, 10cm is 14 rows, and 100cm is 10 x 10cm, so I need to knit for approximately 10 x 14 rows = 140 rows in order to for it to be long enough.
How much yarn do I need?
Okay, so now we have our stitches and rows, how do we know how many balls we need? Let’s go back to our swatch.
To start, count the total number of stitches and rows you knit for the entire swatch. I knit 12 stitches and 16 rows.
Use your kitchen scales to weigh your swatch. Mine weighs 17g.
Calculate the total number of stitches in your swatch (12 stitches x 16 rows) = 192 stitches.
Calculate the total number of stitches in your finished project using the figures we just worked out (80 stitches x 140 rows) = 11,200 stitches.
Divide the project stitches by the swatch stitches (11,200/192) = 58.3 which is rounded up to 59.
So, your finished project is 59x bigger than the size of your swatch.
Multiply this by the weight of the swatch (59 x 17g) = 1003g and you have the approximate weight of your final project.
Our super chunky yarn comes in 100g balls so you would need approximately 11 balls of yarn (or 10 if you like a little risk with your knitting) to knit a blanket. Our yarn bundles are perfect for larger projects like these.
Now you can knit a blanket without a knitting pattern!
It really is as simple as that and the same logic can be applied to almost anything you want to knit. Of course there will be some differences if you’re wanting to have a go at knitting a sweater or a hat without a knitting pattern, but you can make a good estimate if you know rough measurements (width and length). And if you don’t want to risk buying too many or too few, buy a pattern from an independent designer via somewhere like Love Crafts and let them tell you what to do and how much you’re going to need.
The world is your woolly oyster – get knitting!