The One Tool No Knitter or Crocheter Should Be Without
What’s the single most useful tool you can have in your crochet and knitting craft space? A set of micro kitchen scales. I use them so often that I have two sets, just in case one breaks down!
It’s no exaggeration to say an accurate pair of micro scales transformed my crafting life. For instance, a couple of days ago I was knitting a hat with some leftover yarn, using an improvised pattern. However, when I finished the hate, it was way too small for my head. Instead of ripping back and hoping I had enough yarn, I weighed what was left of my ball. I then unravelled the decrease section, and weighed the yarn again. By subtracting the first weight from the second, I knew how much yarn I needed for the decreased section (around 4g). So I could then knit all the yarn I had left, except the last 4g, confident I had enough to finish the decreases for the hat.
For calculations like this to really work, you need micro digital scales that will weigh down to 0.01 of a gram (or an ounce if you’re using imperial measures). I like this one here. This level of accuracy makes a set of scales super useful in many knitting or crochet projects:
1. Stop playing yarn chicken. In any given project, you can calculate pretty accurately whether you'll have enough yarn to finish your project. Weigh your unused yarn (Figure A). Work a complete row or round, then weigh your unused yarn again (Figure B). By subtracting Figure B from Figure A, you have the amount of yarn used in that single row or round or repeat (Figure C). You can work out how many more rows or rounds or repeats you can do with the amount of yarn you have left by dividing Figure B – the yarn you have left - by Figure C.
2. Make use of every last drop of yarn when knitting socks. Weigh the yarn before you start your project, and divide that number by half (Figure A). Using a toe-up method, knit one sock up to the leg. If you’re not using a contrast colour for the rib, you can knit the sock until you get to the leg. Decide how many rows you want for the rib – say 12 rows. As you’re knitting the leg, weigh your yarn again after 12 rows – this is roughly the amount of yarn you’ll need for the cuff ribbing (Figure B). If you subtract Figure B from Figure A, you'll then know exactly how much yarn you can use for the rest of the leg before starting the cuff. If you’re using a contrast colour for the cuff, just keep knitting until you reach Figure A, then change yarn colour to finish the sock.
3. You’ve knitted one sock, and want to know if you have enough yarn left to knit the second, and you forgot to weigh the yarn ball before you started the project. Just weigh the sock, then the remaining yarn, and you have your answer. This can get a bit more complicated if you’re using contrast cuffs, heels or toes, but you can always weigh your contrast yarn before using it, then weigh the balls again once they are done, then you’ll know roughly how much of the contrast colour you used. If you subtract that from the weight of the sock you also know how much of the main colour you used.
4. In any instance where you need to divide a ball of yarn into half, micro scales are invaluable. Weigh the ball or skein beforehand (there is often a bit of variance in any ball or skein, so even if the label states 100g, it’s always worth checking.) Then wind off half the skein, using the weight on the scale to make sure you get exactly half.
5. If you’re making a project with regular motifs, say crochet granny squares or mitred squares in knitting, you can measure the weight of a single square and then calculate how many more you will be able to make from the yarn available. Don’t worry if you are joining as you go and forget to weigh that first square. Just stick the whole project on the scales, then divide by the number of squares you've done so far, and you’ll know how much each one weighs. If you’re only using one colour in a square, simply weigh your yarn ball first, knit or crochet a square, then weigh your yarn ball again.
6. If you’re making a garment, and you’re not sure you have enough for the sleeves or how long you can make them, weigh what yarn remains, then knit the sleeve until half is used up, then move onto the second sleeve. If you know you want, say, 10 rows of ribbing, weigh how much you use in 10 rows of the main sleeve, then you know roughly how much yarn you need to complete the ribbing.
7. With a really accurate set of scales, you can even calculate how much yarn is used in a single stitch. I don’t often do this, but it’s useful sometimes when you’re really unsure how much yarn you need in a project. Always do your calculations as an average – so if you want to know what one stitch weighs on average, knit or crochet, say, 20 or 30 stitches, then divide the weight of the yarn you’ve used by the number of stitches.
Always round up to the nearest whole number. Remember your tension and gauge may vary, so err on the side of leaving a bit more than you calculate.
Make sure you have your scales on a flat, stable surface and that the batteries still have plenty of charge.
When weighing how much yarn you have left, put the project down next to the scales, and put the spare yarn on the scales. If you hold the project above, this will vary the weight according to how close or far away you are from the scales, and how much yarn is suspended.
It’s fun and useful to keep a log of your average yarn weight used, particularly in projects you make frequently. I make a lot of socks in 4-ply/fingering yarn, and I know on average I used 16-18g for contrast cuff, short-row heel and toe. So when using leftovers as a contrast, I can go into a project confident I’ll have enough to finish the job.