When you think of knitting, you might imagine various tools, but you probably don’t expect a knitter to brag about their scale. Yet a reliable scale is a very useful tool in a knitter’s kit. In this blog post, we’ll find out why some people measure yarn with a scale, why it’s so practical and which scales are best for knitting projects. This can be helpful for people who knit and crochet for a living, or for people who are very passionate about their knitting hobby.
Knit-Picking: What's a Skein?
If you’re new to knitting and looking to get started, or simply curious about the jargon, we’ll define a few terms that come up a lot in knitting circles.
Yarn: yarn is a long, continuous length of interlocked fibers used in the production of textiles. It can be used for knitting, crocheting, embroidery, weaving, making ropes and more.
Skein: in knitting, a skein is yarn (or threads) that is loosely coiled and knotted. A skein can come in various oblong shapes, unlike balls of yarn.
Yard: an imperial unit of length that equals to 36 inches (3 feet) or 0.9144 meters. Depending on your location, yarn may show weight or length, sometimes both.
Why Use a Scale to Weigh Yarn?
Precision can be very helpful! Some people like to keep track of how much yarn they use for a given project. This can help you know if you can finish a project or start another one before ordering more yarn and other materials. Weighing yarn can help you make the most out of the yarn you already own and helps prevent waste. It can also be useful for repeating projects or gifts.
For example, if someone is selling a type of shawl, everyone who wants the shawl product wants the same size. Some designs include the amount of yarn needed beforehand to make it easier. If you want to sell patrons teaching people how to knit or crochet something, it’s helpful to let them know the exact quantity of yard they will need. While yarn usually has the weight on the packaging, you might not use an entire ball for a project.
Separating yarn is another frequent need. If you’re making a matching pair of socks, it’s important that the yarn be divided into two equal skeins. You could “eye it” or try to measure it with a ruler, but it’s time consuming and not very precise. For a hobbyist, it could be a little embarrassing to gift two socks of wildly different size, or frustrating to have too much yarn for one and not enough for the other. For someone who sells their goods to make a living, it could lead to clients cancelling or not ordering again. It’s a waste of time and material for everyone. So why not use a scale to make it easier?
A scale can be helpful to calculate shipping costs as well, particularly for larger items. This is especially important for people who ship their work since that can get expensive fast. You don’t want to find out how expensive a blanket would be to ship after waiting in line in a post office or undercharging a customer.
Of course, most projects don’t use a single ball or skein. You might only use a little bit of each if your project has a lot of different colors. Weighing yarn can help you determine how much you have left after various projects.
Sometimes, people prefer to use yard rather than weight, or just know how many yards are left in a bundle because they’re used to the unit. Weight remains more precise. It’s also a lot easier to weigh multiple bundles of unknown quantities than it is to find out their length.
Scaling projects is easier with weighing. Let’s say someone makes sweaters of a certain size, and they get popular enough that people ask for that same sweater in different sizes. Using weight to figure out the right amount of wool is much easier than trying to figure out the right length, especially if you use a lot of different yarns for colors and patterns.
Conversions for Yarn:
If you like the idea of weighing yarn, but still find yards more intuitive than grams, don’t despair! There’s a way to convert the weight to yard. Keep in mind since various types of yarn can be heavier or lighter, you still need to make some calculations.
You need the yard’s label to know the weight per length. If you don’t, cut a yard or a meter from that skein (measure it with a ruler) and weigh it.
Known measurement (from the label or your own):
Weight in grams = Length in meter (For example, 50g = 200m)
Divide both sides by 50 (50g/50 = 200m/50)
You’ll obtain a length per weight unit. (1g = 4m)
Now weigh all the yarn you want to measure. (Let’s say you have 350g of yarn.)
Plug in the weight of all the yarn and multiply it by the length. (350g x 4m = 1400m).
Convert meters to yard if needed by multiplying by 1.094. Or use an online converter or an app. (1400 x 1.094 = 1531.6 yards
This can be confusing, but when you search for yarn’s weight, it often does not refer to the weight of a skein if you placed it on a scale. In knitting jargon, the yarn’s weight means the thickness of the threads. Different types of yarn are used for different projects. Thin threads are "lighter" and tend to be more for light, thin projects like baby clothes or crochet. Heavier threads are thicker and can be used for blankets, rugs or ropes.
Most projects will specify yarn weight, or at least have a range for the thread thickness. Try to keep your yarn in labeled containers to know the thickness if possible. If you lost the wrapper or the label fell off, you can compare the thickness by eye, or use the “wrap per inch” technique. Wrap your yarn around a long cylindrical object (a pencil will do fine). Measure an inch (or 2.5cm), then count the number of wraps. The more wraps you get, the thinner the yarn, and vice versa.
What Type of Scale Should I Use to Measure Yarn?
Unless you’re a large manufacturer, you probably need a compact scale. Yarn is fairly light and even a project like a large blanket will use multiple balls or skeins, not one gigantic yarn ball, so a low capacity is not an issue. While most skeins will have weight indicated, there can be slight variations, especially if it’s humid. Professionals also like having a more precise number since they need to track their materials closely to make sure they have enough to fulfill all their orders. A compact scale is also easy to store when you’re not using it.
For people who sell their work at higher volume, a bench scale has a compact footprint but a higher capacity. Bench scales are frequently used to calculate postage in shipping departments. They can also offer more features like counting or checkweighing, along with larger keypads and displays for improved productivity.
A tare button can be very useful, since you can place multiple balls or skeins in a container and remove the container’s weight without having to manually subtract its weight from the weight of your material.
Some people find it easier to use a scale that includes both grams and ounces, since the weight displayed on the label can change depending on where you bought the yarn or which units are used in the patron. If you sell designs themselves, it can be helpful for customers who live in other regions of the world to include both units, so they don’t have to manually convert it themselves.
A scale that has batteries or a rechargeable battery can be helpful, since it’s portable and you might not always have access to an outlet in the area where you choose to knit, or the outlet could have other tools already plugged in.
One of the many reasons to buy professional digital scales over the cheap ones you can find everywhere (aside from quality and precision) is their ability to communicate data. Most compact and bench scales offer an RS-232 interface, and some even include a USB interface. You can connect your scale to a computer to track results and transmit data to various software, including Excel. This is very useful for small businesses, who do not always have access to expensive software and specialized equipment.
Measuring yarn is not as easy as it seems, but scales can simplify the process considerably and help you keep track of materials and costs. Professional weighing scales are a worthy investment for serious hobbyists and professionals alike. Looking for the right scale for knitting? Contact us, we’ll be happy to help you choose the best device for your needs.