Knitters: Need scarf help
December 14, 2008 7:13 PM   Subscribe

Knitters: I want to knit a scarf 60" long. I have 174 yards (two 87-yard skeins) of yarn. The information on the label says needle size US 8-10, and the little swatch thingy says a 10 x 10 swatch is 16 stitches by 22 rows. I am planning to just knit in garter stitch. Is there a way to figure out how many stitches I should cast on in order to make this yarn last until the scarf is 60" long? I don't care how wide it is.
posted by HotToddy to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This pattern sounds similar to what you are making and calls for a skein of Lion Wool-Ease (197 yards, worsted weight) and size 10 needles, with a finished product of about 7' (you are only shooting for 5, so you could probably cast on a few more stitches). Assuming you have worsted weight, you should make it with this yardage. Your best bet is to knit a gauge swatch and make sure your gauge matches the one listed on the yarn. Knitters gauges can vary wildly from person to person.
posted by sararah at 7:21 PM on December 14, 2008

Also here is a handy yardage/gauge/swatch size calculator. Nifty!
posted by sararah at 7:23 PM on December 14, 2008

I think the gauge on the band is probably in stockinette, not garter. I would do a swatch.
posted by craichead at 7:51 PM on December 14, 2008

Wrap your yarn around your needle - don't pull too tight, not too snug. Wrap it 20 times. This will be approximately how much yarn it will take to knit 20 stitches. I don't know what that will be for you, but let's say it's 10 inches of yarn - half an inch per stitch (that actually sounds about right for a US 8 or 9 needle). For a more accurate measure, knit 20 or 30 with regular tension, marking the yarn at the beginning and ending of the measured stitches, unravel, and measure (don't pull the yarn too taut when measuring).

Now, if your gauge is 22 rows to 10 cm in stockinette stitch (that's about 5.5 rows to an inch), that means that you'll need to work about 330 rows for a 60" scarf (adjust for your own gauge, of course). Garter stitch compresses vertically compared to stockinette stitch. It depends on the yarn and your own gauge, but 10 to 15% shrinkage is reasonable to expect. So plan on working 360-380 rows in garter stitch. Cast-on and bind off rows take slightly more yarn than a regular knit row.

You have 174 yards, or 6,264 inches, of yarn. Divide by 380, and you'll see that you can allow up to 16.5 inches of yarn per row. Use your number of inches per stitch, you see that you can can probably cast on 33 stitches per row.

This is pretty rough, but it's a good starting point. You can block afterwards to the right length. Me, I'd cast on 30 stitches (which will be 20 inches, really wide for a scarf - that's a stole, really) and just knit until I ran out of yarn. Or, you can make two 10 inch wide scarves with the same yarn.
posted by peachfuzz at 7:53 PM on December 14, 2008

Yikes, I came back to writing this after something distracting on tv and those numbers in the last paragraph are totally wrong, of course - 30 stitches at 4 stitches to the inch is only 7.5 inches, obviously, so you can knit one 7.5 or 8 inch wide scarf of the right length, or two narrower ones (that sounds more like it). The method is right, though - make your swatch, measure your stitches, and do the numbers, and you'll be set.

It's good to know how to do this, but really, you could get an estimate just as good off a similar pattern, like the one linked in the first answer :)
posted by peachfuzz at 8:38 PM on December 14, 2008

Here's what I'd do:

I'd cast on 20 stitches, and knit in garter stitch for 5 inches, to make my swatch.

I'd then measure (length and width) and weigh my swatch. It'll be approximately 5 inches by 5 inches, but you should check this more precisely for your actual calculations. Assuming it's actually 5 x 5, that's 25 square inches of garter stitch.

Then, figure out how much total area you can create in garter stitch, based on the weight and measurements of your swatch. Say it weighs 10g, out of a total of 100g (I assume you have 2 50g balls), that means you can get 10 swatches of that size out of the total, which means a total of 250 square inches. If you want it 60 inches long, it can be about 4 inches wide for a total of 240 square inches of garter stitch. From your original swatch, you can figure out how many stitches to cast on for four inches (based on the ballband gauge, about 16).
posted by jacquilynne at 8:50 PM on December 14, 2008

You could (with long enough needles) simply knit longways - cast on until you've got your 60 inches, then begin. Keep going until you run out of yarn - or are going to run out before completing the next row. You may still need a swatch to see how many stiches you get to an inch. You may also need long circular needles rather than straights.
posted by attercoppe at 8:45 AM on December 15, 2008

Make a gauge. Be aware that garter stitch is "shorter" than stockinette. Which is to say that if you make 22 rows of garter, it won't be as tall as 22 rows of stockinette, so it will take more rows of garter to reach your desired length.

I work in a knitting store and this is the type of question of have the most trouble with. Largely because I am always looking for an excuse to buy more yarn, and "I might run out" happens to be one of the best there is. Also, our customers can return unopened yarn to us, but we cannot make new yarn appear out of the ether if they happen to buy less than they need and someone else comes in and falls in love with the rest of the dye lot.

But since it's clear you have a finite amount of yarn, I'll try to help. Here are some pictures of scarves whose patterns use 150-180 yards of worsted weight yarn.

The Single Cable Scarf by Leigh Radford. This pattern is in the book One Skein. Calls for 150 yards and allegedly measures at 3 inches wide, 50 inches long. You might get another repeat or two with 24 extra yards. Here's a picture of the whole scarf.

Swirled Scrolls Scarf by Jo Ellen Burton. 6 inches by 50 inches, 175 to 200 yards.

Both of these examples use stitch patterns. Cables are notorious for using up yarn quickly.

There are a few more patterns that meet these requirements on Ravelry. I used the pattern search tool there, selecting the filters for yarn weight, yardage, and scarf. If you're not on Ravelry yet, please GO THERE. This knitting question, and many many more can be answered through the huge archives of patterns and forums. It's like Metafilter for knitters.
posted by bilabial at 2:55 PM on December 15, 2008

That's not the Swirled Scrolls Scarf. It's the Gentle Stripes scarf. I couldn't find a picture of the Swirled Scrolls.

Sorry. Remind me to pay attention when I'm previewing!
posted by bilabial at 2:56 PM on December 15, 2008

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