Tuesday is Tools-Day: I love my scale

Yarn ScaleThis scale, that is. (I’ve never owned a bathroom scale, and after having two kids, I’m not planning to buy one anytime soon!)

I’ve been dwelling on tools a lot lately, and one tool that I use quite frequently is one that I don’t carry around in my knitting bag. My yarn scale (which is actually a small digital kitchen scale) hangs out near my yarn winder. It comes in handy for splitting skeins of sock yarn in half to ensure I have two equally-sized socks. (And for making sure my son’s Pinewood Derby car is under 5 ounces.) But I use it for a lot more than just that.

Last year, I was on a shawl/triangular scarf kick. I’ve made a Traveling Woman (that’s the red shawl in my avatar), an Ishbel, a Clothilde, and a Multnomah. They’re all lovely, and I knit them all in sumptuous yarns (Madelinetosh Pashmina and Sanguine Gryphon Bugga! yarn). Because the yarns were so nice, I wanted to make each scarf as large as possible, without running out of yarn at the end. This is quite the knitting feat!

Enter the yarn scale. And my other favorite-tool-that-doesn’t-fit-in-my-knitting-bag, Microsoft Excel. For each of these top-down scarves, I cast-on and knit a few rows. Then I stopped and weighed my yarn. Made a note what row I was on, then continued on for a dozen more rows and weighed the yarn again. Then I went into Excel and plugged in the number of stitches I had on the needles when I first weighed the pattern. Then I calculated how many stitches I was adding each row, and added up the number of rows I’d worked to get to the second time I weighed the yarn. From this, I calculated how much yarn (approximately) I was using per stitch, which gave me a ballpark estimate of how many stitches (at that gauge) I could get out of the yarn I had left. Then I could look at the pattern again and adjust it to use more or less yardage. I knit the Ishbel as written. I started the lace portions of both the Traveling Woman and Clothilde a little sooner, so I could get in an extra repeat of the lace pattern at the bottom. In all cases, I made the shawls as large as I could with the yarn I had to work with, while still leaving enough yarn to bind off comfortably.

For the Haruni shawl that I’m working on now, I changed the body of the shawl to be plain. I calculated that if I followed the rest of the pattern as written, I would still have more yarn left over than I wanted. So I modified the ends of the shawl to add an additional cluster of petals, thus using up as much of the yarn as possible. (And since I was already calculating in Excel, I was able to calculate how many beads I needed for the spaces where I planned to place them, so I was able to buy the right amount.)

This approach is useful for sweaters, too. I used my scale while knitting my Rhinebeck sweater. I knit the sweater top-down, and I wanted to make it as long as I could, while still having enough to do the cable detailing at the hem and bind off. I measured how many grams of yarn one row took, and then I calculated how many rows I could knit with the yarn I had remaining. Worked like a charm!

So I’m curious. Surely I can’t be the only knitting nerd who loves the scale??

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About Laura

Avid knitter!

Posted on February 21, 2012, in knitting, projects, techniques, tools, yarn and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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