One of my favourite knitting tools is a scale to weigh my yarn.
The Benefits of Using a Yarn Scale
A scale allows you to do several things:
- Check how much yarn you actually have (it is rare for a 100 g ball to have exactly 100 g in it. This can help you make more informed decisions.
- Make projects (scarves, shawls and toe-up socks for example) as large as you have yarn for (when you calculate how much yarn each repeat or section takes). This helps you win at yarn chicken.
- When you find you’ve used more yarn than expected in a partially finished project, if you know how much yarn you have left you can make accommodations to account for the shortage (order an extra ball so it get there before you run out, make elbow length sleeves instead of long, add a stripe of another colour, or something more creative)
- Divide a ball of yarn evenly (for example, to knit socks two at a time).
- Calculate how much left-over yarn you have to see if you have enough for a planned project.
- Determine how many stitches or how much surface area you get per gram or ounce by weighing a swatch.
- Weigh your finished project to see how much yarn you actually used.
What to Look For in a Yarn Scale
Most food scales go down to 1 g increments. While this is great for food, it is not ideal for knitting.
I recommend a postage scale or a jewelry scale.
Look for the following features
- Digital—Digital is more accurate and is easier to read.
- Resolution—at least 0.1 g (0.01 oz), I prefer 0.01 g (0.001 oz).
- Capacity—enough to weigh most projects you make or at least for the biggest ball or skein you plan to ever use.
- Tare button—so that you can reset the scale to zero even if it has something on it.
- Surface—the weighing surface should be large enough to accommodate a large ball or cake of yarn. Add large light bowl to weigh bigger things. Make sure the surface area will accommodate the base of the bowl.
I am not going to recommend a particular scale, because it seems that every time I go to look at them, there are different scales to choose from and the one I purchased last is no longer available. If you look for these features, you should be go to go!
Why Overkill is Sometimes a Good Thing
I have a small scale from the kitchenware department of my local grocery/department store. I chose the scale I did because of its fine grain, it measures to 0.01 gram increments. I don’t ever really need to know the weight that precisely, but a scale that measures whole grams is too imprecise for me.
If I am down to the wire with a yarn, half a gram might make the difference between winning and losing at yarn chicken. If I know I need about 3.75 grams of yarn to finish another repeat and the scale (with a resolution of 1g) shows that I have 4 g left, I have no idea if I have enough yarn. I could have anywhere between 3 and a half and 4 and a half grams; anywhere from not nearly enough to enough with a comfortable extra . If I weigh the same about of yarn on a scale with a 0.01 g resolution, that ball may show I have 3.57 g left and I know not to try for another repeat, or it may show 4.36 g and I know I will have enough with some left over. If the scale with a 0.01 g resolution shows that I have 3.76 g left, I would probably choose not to do another repeat, because I would likely not have enough yarn.
How to Get Accurate Measurements
Here are a few guidelines to follow when trying to get an accurate reading.
- First, make sure that your scale is on a flat, solid, hard, level surface. A table top is ideal. Never try weighing on a soft surface like a carpet, couch or even a tablecloth.
- Ensure that all the yarn or project is contained on the surface of the scale. If it is not, add a light bowl or container that easily fits on the scale and put the yarn into that. Don’t forget to tare the scale to take the weight of the container into account. After you tare the scale with the empty container on it, the scale should read 0 g.
- If at all possible, weigh in grams. It is more accurate and really easy to calculate. Most balls and skeins today are sold in 50 g or 100 g quantities.
- Check the accuracy of the scale by weighing things of a known quantity.
A Warning—Take Heed
Recently I learned that you have to be careful about what you learn from your scale.
To be honest, I have more than one scale. Each is close to one of my knitting chairs.
I weighed some skeins of yarn I had just purchased and was appalled to find that every last one of the 50 g balls weighed only 30-32 g. I know that very few balls of yarn will be precisely 50 g, but this seemed ridiculous. I fumed and called the yarn manufacturer a few unpleasant things in my head. I vowed to call the store and email the manufacturer the next business day. I vowed never to buy that manufacturer’s yarn again.
Then I switched to a different project until I could resolve the shorted skein issue. I had weighed my 100 g skeins when I started my project and found they had the expected 98 g in each skein. A few rows into the third skein, I weighed it to see how much I had used and was horrified to see that there were just over 56 g left when there should have been a lot more. Perplexed, I put the project aside and thought about it.
Eventually, I realized that I had weighed the yarn on two different scales. The scales had shown the same (or very close) weights before, but now something was amiss.
The Advantage of a Known Quantity on the Scale
I dug into my change (actually I asked DH for some coins from his pocket as my wallet was downstairs) and weighed the coins.
My original loonie was showing a weight of only 4.5 g and an original toonie was showing a weight of 4.6 g. Something was clearly amiss.
I took the batteries out of the scale and put them back in. All of a sudden, the toonie showed a weight of 7.29 g, my newer loonies weighed 6.32 g and my original loonie showed a weight of 7.08 g. Miraculously, one of the “shorted” balls of yarn now weighed 49.53 g (including the ball band which weighs about 1.1g) and we are back to a very acceptable 48.4 g ball of yarn.
Coins are a known weight. Here are the weights of some Canadian, American, UK an Australian coins for reference. For other coins, just search Google for “how much do coins weigh in [name of country]”.
- CDN quarter since 2000 weigh 4.4 g
- Original Canadian loonies ($1 coin) weigh 7 g.
- Newer loonies (those minted as of spring 2012) weigh 6.27 g.
- Original toonies ($2 coin) weigh 7.3 g.
- Newer toonies since 2012 weigh 6.92 g.
- US pennies since 1983 weigh 2.5 g
- US Nickles since 1866 weigh 5 g.
- US quarters since 1965 we 5.67
- UK 1p weighs 3.56 g
- UK 2p weights 7.12 g
- UK 5p since June 1990 weighs 3.25 g
- UK 10p since 1992 weighs 6.5 g
- notice that the 2p weighs 2 times the 1p, and the 10p weighs 2 times the 5p.
- Aus 5c since 1966 weighs 2.83 g
- Aus 10c since 1966 weighs 5.65 g
- Aus 20c since 1966 weighs 11.3 g
- Aus 50c since 1969 weighs 15.55 g
- notice that the 20c weighs 2 times the 10c which weighs 2 times the 5c.
Now, I always keep a couple of coins of known weight beside each of my scales so that I can check that the scale is calibrated properly.
And I humbly apologize to the unnamed yarn company that I so maliciously maligned in my own head. So really this post could be called ” My Apologies to a Yarn Company for the Nasty Things I Thought About Them”.
Can you come up with more ways to use a scale in your knitting?