Through the years a popular question I get asked is “** how much yarn will I need for swatching?**” The answer hasn’t always been straightforward because it depends on different factors such as yarn-weight, gauge, how big you’re making a swatch, how many swatches you may need to make and if you’re swatching flat or in the round. For that reason, the industry standard has been to just add 10-15% extra yarn to a knitting pattern’s yardage requirements and this will typically allow for a swatch or two. Or many knitters have just found it’s reassuring to purchase an extra skein to allow for multiple swatches, should that be necessary.

But I’ve always wanted to be able to provide a bit more clarity on this topic. Instead of it being this vague concept of “you just need some extra yarn for swatching”, wouldn’t it be nice to at least have a ballpark yardage amount that a typical swatch needs? Well that’s what I set out to do!

# The Experiment

I tend to keep all of my swatches. And wow, do I have A LOT (the above picture is just a small portion of my collection!). This came in handy though because I wanted to make sure to have a large sample size of swatches to test, all using different fiber types and yarn-weights (and at various gauges). And from that, I performed some calculations in order to arrive at a yardage amount for each yarn at a typical swatch size of 6″ x 6″. This is typically the smallest you want to make a swatch because your gauge is measured over 4″ and you want to make sure to measure on the inside of your swatch and not the edges, so 6″ at least allows some space on either side (interested in learning more about how to measure a swatch? **Check out my page here**).

I had some theories of what to expect in this experiment, but I wanted data to see if they are accurate or not. Would all similar weight yarns take around the same yardage? What roles do gauge & fiber content play? Is the amount needed for bulky-weight yarn dramatically different than DK-weight yarn? Let’s dive in!

First I’m just going to share the results of my swatch study. But like a good math student, I’ll also show my work so you can see how I came to these results 🙂 But for those who don’t care about the math, I figured I would just start with the results and, if you’re interested in the nitty-gritty you can keep reading to learn more.

# The Results

At a swatch size of 6″ x 6″, the yardage required depends on the yarn-weight and gauge and there is only a small difference between different fiber types. Check out my chart below for my results:

Yarn-Weight & Gauge | Yardage for 6×6 Stockinette Stitch Flat Swatch |
---|---|

Sport/DK (5-5.75 stitches per inch) | 32-36 yards |

Worsted (4.25-5 stitches per inch) | 27-32 yards |

Aran/Bulky (3.25-4 stitches per inch) | 21-26 yards |

Super Bulky (2-3 stitches per inch) | 16-20 yards |

# Here are a couple of points I want to make about the above chart:

## 1. Gauge is the biggest factor

All of my yarn-weight groups had similar yardage amounts so long as they were knit at gauges within the specified range. For example, I had various Berroco *Ultra Wool* swatches knit on a variety of needles, thus producing various gauges. The swatches that were in ‘typical’ worsted-weight gauge range of 4.25-5 stitches per inch stayed in the range of around 27-32 yards. But when my gauge strayed into more aran-weight territory (4 stitches per inch for example), the yardage amount fell in line with the aran/bulky category. **So this tells me the most important factor is gauge**. Tighter gauges require a bit more yarn than looser gauges.

## 2. Fiber content has less of an impact

I wouldn’t say that fiber content has no impact, but it has less impact than gauge. For example, in the worsted category, I used Berroco *Pima 100* (a 100% cotton), Malabrigo *Rios* (a 100% Superwash Wool) and Sandnes Garn *Alpakka Ull* (a wool/alpaca blend). And all 3 of my testing swatches had a gauge of 4.5-4.75 stitches per inch. In a 6×6 flat swatch, the Pima 100 would take 29 yards, the Rios would take 30 yards and the Alpakka Ull would take 32 yards. Pretty darn close despite the difference in fiber types!

## 3. How does swatching in the round change things?

As the chart header notes, the ranges provided are based on a flat stockinette stitch swatch. How does working in the round change things? In the round swatches take more yardage because you are draping yarn strands on the wrong side of the work (if you are using this common method for swatching in the round). I did lots of comparisons and what I found was that across the board for different weights and gauges, **an in the round swatch typically took 4-8 yards more than a flat swatch** (thinner yarns on the higher end and thicker yarns on the lower end). So you can add these amounts to the above ranges to get an approximation for in the round.

## 4. How does a textured stitch pattern change things?

This one is harder to quantify because there are SO many variations in stitch patterns. But here is an example I can share:

My worsted-weight Berroco *Ultra Wool* stockinette stitch in the round swatch (with a gauge of 4.75 sts per inch) uses 35 yards and, in the same yarn, my moss stitch in the round (at a gauge of 4.25 sts per inch) uses 37 yards. So although typically the looser the gauge, the less yardage needed, that wasn’t the case here due to the textured stitch pattern. This is because moss stitch has both knit and purl stitches (whereas stockinette stitch in the round is just knit stitches), and purl stitches will use up more yarn than knit stitches. So it makes sense to me that, despite the gauge difference, that the moss stitch swatch used just a bit more yardage than the stockinette stitch swatch.

## 5. Why no fingering-weight in the chart? I need a larger sample size!

I don’t knit with fingering-weight a whole lot so I didn’t have a large enough sample size of fingering-weight swatches for this experiment. I had a couple, but I didn’t feel it was sufficient to draw any conclusions from. So I will need to do some fingering-weight swatching and update this blog post in the future!

## 6. View the chart ranges as an approximation

I recommend looking at the yardage ranges as approximations, because every yarn can be a little different and there were subtle differences in each swatch measured (i.e, some may have had a rib stitch or garter stitch border and others didn’t). But when I’m looking at data like this I’m looking for trends and the trend here was definitely those ranges for those particular yarn-weights/gauges. So hopefully this information at least provides a bit of guidance on the approximate amount of yarn you would need for each 6×6 swatch you may want/need to make.

## The Math

Are you curious about the calculations I used to conduct my little experiment? Let’s dig into it!

**Step 1: Find the total square inches of existing swatch.** I measured the width and height of an existing swatch I had to come up with a total square inches for that particular swatch. The example below in Woolstok by Blue Sky Fibers and it measures 5.75 x 5.25 so the total square inches is 30.2.

**Step 2: Weigh your swatch in grams.** Using a kitchen or postage scale, measure your swatch to find out how many grams it weighs. I used 2 scales in my experiment – one that rounded and another that gave 2 decimal places (so even more exact). Using both just helped to confirm that the weight was indeed accurate. In my below example, I’m measuring a swatch of Woolstok Worsted – first on my scale that rounds to the nearest whole number and second on my decimal place scale (note: since that scale is small, I placed a small bowl on it, used the ‘tare’ feature to zero it out and then added the swatch).

*The second photo shows how the more precise weight is 9.78 and the first photo shows 10. So this showed me that the ’rounding-up’ scale was indeed doing an accurate job.*

**Step 3: Find the grams per square inch number.** Now we want to take the grams from step 2 and divide it from the total square inches from step 1. So 10 grams divided by 30.2 square inches = .33 grams per square inch.

**Step 4: Based on your grams per square inch, find the total grams of a 6×6 swatch.** Since I was using a 6×6 swatch size as my constant, I first needed to figure out the square inches of this size swatch. So a 6×6 swatch would be 36 square inches. Then I multiplied that by .33, my grams per square inch number from step 3 to get a total of 11.88 grams. So based on my Woolstok’s swatch’s grams per square inch, a 6×6 swatch of that yarn would weigh approx. 11.88 grams.

**Step 5: Find what the yardage of this 6×6 swatch will be.** To do this part of the calculation, you need to know how many grams and yards are in a full skein of your chosen yarn. So for Woolstok, a full skein is 50 grams and has 123 yards. To then figure out how many yards are in the 6×6 swatch that weighs 11.88 grams (info we got from step 4), you multiple 11.88 grams by the total yardage of a full skein (so 123 yards). And then divide the result by the total grams of a full skein (so 50 grams). This final result is the approximate yardage of our 6×6 swatch. So (11.88 x 123)/50 = 29.2 yards.

I hope you have found this swatch yardage information helpful! If you have any follow-up questions feel free to reach out.