Estimating yardage - or - how to avoid playing yarn chicken

I recently shared a baby blanket project I had been working on using up partial skeins of leftover Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino. It is my go-to favourite for easy-care baby knits and so I inevitably am left with lots of partial balls to use up.

The project generated a lot of interest and questions, most notably how I estimate the amount of yarn needed for each colour block. I thought it might be helpful to share my process with you - in the spirit of thriftiness and virtuous stash busting.

If you are happy with truely random stripes then just crack on and knit that blanket however it pleases you. Needless to say that my brain doesn't really do random and  I did need to decide on some kind of structure and uniformity. As I was knitting I decided that solid blocks of colour would work well, interspersed with sections of narrower stripes and so, when I was embarking on a coloured section I needed to make sure I had enough of that chosen colour to complete the block.

I'm sure there are many methods of estimating yardage out there but what I did was to use a paperclip to mark off 100cm of my working yarn. You can clip the paperclip right onto the yarn and it will stay in place. I then knitted as normal with the working yarn, counting my stitches as I did so until I reached the paperclip.

This gave me the number of stitches which were needed to knit 100cm of yarn. In my case this equated to 50 stitches.

So, 50 stitches needs 100cm (meaning that 1 st uses 2cm)

Each colour block required 9 garter ridges (18 rows)

18 x 120 = 2160 stitches

2160 x 2cm yarn = 4320 cm ( 43.2 m) 

Being able to knit on a colour block without the anxiety of playing yarn chicken really helped me to plough through the knitting. There are times when a knitter likes to live dangerously but this project wasn't one of them. And with my trusty paperclip to hand I could relax in the knowledge that my yarn wouldn't run out partway through a row.

Do you have a favourite tip or trick for avoiding the dreaded yarn chicken? Do leave a comment and let me know.