Updated January 3, 2022. Because of the holiday I am running an updated article from the archives. Happy New Year!
Beginners often ask: How do I estimate the amount of thread needed for each color in a project?
There isn’t a hard and fast rule for this because the amount you need per square inch varies with the mesh size, thread, and stitch. This method works to figure out how much yarn you use per square inch for any thread and any project. It does require a bit of stitching and some simple arithmetic.
Helpful Hint: If you have a thread notebook, write down your amount per square inch. Then you can use it the next time you use that thread.
Begin by marking on a canvas the same mesh size a 1-inch square block. So, for example, if you were working on 14 mesh, this would be a 14 x 14 block.
Now take the thread you will be using, any color will do, and cut it into a bunch (5 or so) of 18″ lengths.
With those threads, start to stitch the square in the stitch you will be using. Stitch the whole 1″ square and keep track of the number of the cut threads you use.
Divide that number by 2 and round up if there is a remainder. This number tells you how many yards it takes to stitch one inch.
Take the number of yards it takes to stitch an inch and divide the number of yards in one package of the thread. Always round up. Then add 20%. This tells you how many inches you can stitch with one package.
Now you need to figure out how many square inches there are of each color. That is trickier because the colors could be dispersed all around the piece. But you have a good tool to estimate in your hand.
The middle section of your thumb is about an inch. And your fist covers about 5 square inches. You can use this to estimate the extent of the colors. This will always be a rough estimate, but it works for our puposes.
You don’t need to do this for every color. Since you can’t buy half a skein of thread, then any color where you have less than a skein’s worth of square inches, you buy one package.
After you have figured out the square inches in a project, divide that number by the number of inches per package. This will tell you how many packages you need to buy.
Because we rounded up and added in the 20% overrun, this should give you enough thread to do the project. The overrun is there to give you some wiggle room as well as to cover starts and tops of the thread as well as tearing out for mistakes.