Follow this easy calculation, as told by one knitwear designer.

By Roxanna Coldiron
April 30, 2021
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completed arm knit blanket folded over white bench

Hand-held needles aren't the only way to create knitted items. "Arm knitting is similar in so many ways to traditional knitting. The yarn makes the stitches in exactly the same way," explains Anne Weil, designer behind Flax & Twine and author of Knitting Without Needles: A Stylish Introduction to Finger and Arm Knitting ($17.49, amazon.com). "The difference is that you use your arms as the knitting needles to hold the stitches, and your hands as a way to make new stitches. With some creativity, you can make almost all the same variety of stitches as well, you can make cables, lace, and complex stitch patterns."

Of course, since you are using your arms, the results tend to be larger in scale. Chunky blankets and sweaters are popular both for their warmth and aesthetic. But the amount of yarn required to complete these projects differ from knitting something on a smaller scale. So, how do you figure out how much yarn you need for this technique?

Calculating by Project

When it comes to figuring out how much yarn you will need, you need to consider two things: what you are making and what yarn you intend to use. Then, go from there. "The amount of yarn you need really depends on your project and how thick your yarn is. For example, a good size blanket takes about 225 yards of yarn," Weil says. "If you are making that with four strands of super bulky yarn, you would need 900 yards total. If you are using two strands of a jumbo yarn, you would need about 450, and so on. If you are using something really big like T-shirt tube yarn, you may require less than that since the stitches you make are so big."

It can be hard to guess, though. Weil recommends making a swatch of fabric in the size and shape of the item that you want to make. "Measure the dimensions, and how many yards of your yarn were required for that swatch, and expand the dimensions to the size desired. Multiply required yarn accordingly," she says. "For example, if you swatch was 10-by-10 inches and it required five yards (100 square inches), then, if you want a blanket that 80-by-60 inches (4,800 square inches), you would need 48 times five yards equals 240 yards for the blanket."

Pattern Guidelines

The good news is that many patterns for knitting projects will include a guide or estimation of how much you would need for a project. For instance, this arm-knit blanket pattern estimates that a small blanket will use six pounds of yarn and a large blanket will use about nine pounds of yarn. Weil's patterns, like this Arm Knit Seed Stitch Blanket pattern also include a materials list so that you know exactly what you need.

It's also good to experiment. Developing your own patterns can be a great way to learn what works and what doesn't. The final results, after trial and error, can be quite beautiful, and it will be worth it to see what you can make.

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