Types of Yarns: How Much Yarn Do I Need for Knitted Sweaters or Cardigans?

Find out how much yarn you need to make any-sized cardigan or sweater!
A butterfly of beautiful yarn I got at the Blue Moon Fiber Arts booth at Sock Summit ages ago. The worsted yarn is called Twisted and the fingering (in the middle) is Socks the Rock, both in the Valkyrie colorway: lovely purples, browns, and grays. It’s waiting to become a cardigan.

My original plan was to make a long vest out of this scrumptious pile of fiber (photo at left), but when I got home and looked at the pattern I had in mind, I didn’t have enough yarn. Bummer! And I only needed about 250 more yards.

Twisted comes in generous skeins of 560 yards, so I’d have leftovers if I ordered another skein, plus the dye lot might not be consistent with my lot. (One of the lovely characteristics of hand-dyed yarn is that it’s just that—dyed by hand!—so the dye from one lot might be pretty different from that of another lot).

Anyway, after half a year of thinking about this yarn type and what project to use it with, I found some inspiration hidden in one of my favorite books, The Knitter’s Companion by Vicki Square.

I was looking up some technique or other when I passed the section on yardage estimates.

I thought about my lonely bag of Blue Moon yarn, and lo and behold—the idea came to me: A cardigan with the main body knit from Twisted and the ribbing at the bottom, cuffs, neck (and the button band) knit from Socks that Rock held double. I might need another skein of sock yarn for this, but I can choose anything that’s similar to my colorway and hold it with Socks that Rock and it’ll work. Right?

So the moral of this story is that inspiration comes in all forms. And here’s the list of yardage estimates for you. Take a look at the list and then wander through your stash and see if you have any yarn that’s a tad short (or long!) on yardage for the project you had  planned for it; use the estimates to plan a new project for that yarn. You never know what will pop out at you.

Yardage Estimates for Sweaters in Standard Yarn Weights

The following guidelines are for the amounts of yarn needed for a basic pullover or cardigan in a variety of sizes and yarn sizes. These estimates are for smooth yarns and plain or lightly textured knitting.

Keep in mind that heavily textured patterns such as all-over cables or oversized looks can easily require additional yarn (400-600 yards; 375-550 meters). When knitting with two or more colors, the total yardage will be greater to account for the yarns being carried across the back of the work.

Estimate generously, and if you have leftovers … well, they’re a designer’s best friend!

Babies 12-18 Months
(for a pullover or cardigan)
Fingering weight: 600-700 yards (550-650 meters)
Sportweight: 550-650 yards (500-600 meters)
Worsted weight: 450-550 (400-500 meters

Toddlers 2-6 Years
(for a pullover or cardigan)
Sportweight: 800-1000 yards (750-950 meters)
Worsted weight: 600-800 yards (550-750 meters)
Bulky weight: 550-650 yards (500-600 meters)

Children 6-12 Years
(for a pullover or cardigan)
Sportweight: 1000-1500 yards (950-1400 meters)
Worsted weight: 900-1200 yards (850-1100 meters)
Bulky weight: 700-1000 yards (650-950 meters)

Misses Sizes 32-40 Bust
(for a regular, comfortable-ease pullover; add 5% for a cardigan)
Fingering weight: 1500-1700 yards (1400-1600 meters)
Sportweight: 1400-1600 yards (1300-1500 meters)
Worsted weight: 1100-1400 yards (1000-1300 meters)
Bulky weight: 1000-1300 yards (950-1200 meters)

For a longer, loosely fitting, or oversized misses-sized pullover (add 5% for a cardigan)
Sportweight: 1500-1900 yards (1400-1750 meters)
Worsted weight: 1300-1500 yards (1200-1400 meters)
Bulky weight: 1100-1400 yards (1000-1300 meters)

Men sizes 36-48 Chest
(for a regular, comfortable-ease pullover (add 5% for a cardigan)
Sportweight: 1700-2100 yards (1600-1950 meters)
Worsted weight: 1500-1700 yards (1400-1600 meters)
Bulky weight: 1300-1500 yards (1200-1400 meters)

For a longer, loosely fitting, or oversized man’s pullover (add 5% for a cardigan)
Sportweight: 2000-2400 yards (1850-2200 meters)
Worsted weight: 1500-1700 yards (1650-1850 meters)
Bulky weight: 1300-1500 yards (1400-1550 meters)

—Vicki Square, from The Knitter’s Companion

Vicki doesn’t cover plus-size sweaters plus-size sweaters (42-52 bust), but from my experience, you need the following amounts for, adding the same 5% for cardigans:
Sportweight: 1600-2000 yards (1500-1850 meters)
Worsted weight: 1400-1600 yards (1300-1500 meters)
Bulky weight: 1200-1400 yards (1100-1300 meters)

Now go forth and visit your stash!


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Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

17 thoughts on “Types of Yarns: How Much Yarn Do I Need for Knitted Sweaters or Cardigans?

  1. Thanks for the inspiration of adding a different yarn to finish a project! I’m working on my second Mr. Greenjeans with a limited amount of yarn as well. I found a beautiful brown yarn to knit accent pieces (hat and mitts) but have found that I may not have enough yarn for Mr. Greenjeans. I thought of doing the collar band in the accent yarn. I think it will work great!

  2. your last measurement has a typo; you say “worsted weight: 1500-1700 yards (1650-1850 meters)”, when it should say “worsted weight: 1800-2000 yards (1650-1850 meters)”, or else you would need less yarn for a regular sweater than for an oversized sweater.

  3. I am happy to have this chart of how much yarn to buy for the pullover or cardigan sizes!! I expect to use it when I am traveling and visit a lys. Now I know how much of what kind of yarn I can buy when I don’t have a pattern in mind.

    Do you think that you will print a chart like this for sleeveless knits?

  4. I have had this problem a few times in my knitting life & came up with the same solution & it worked out even nicer than I had originally planned. Now I think about combining compatible yarns when planning a project that I think would look fantastic with a different edge, hood, even sleeves in a different yarn.

  5. Funny thing, I was just mulling over estimating yarn last night and searching through my resources one of which was The Knitter’s Companion— and today’s Knitting Daily is the same topic. Here was my problem: Most of the charts I found give an estimate for “pullover”. Pullovers can have long sleeves, 3/4 length sleeves, elbow length sleeves, and short or cap sleeves, which of course impact the yardage estimate. Does any one know of a yardage estimate chart which gives estimates for pullovers/cardigans with various sleeve lengths?

  6. When I read the subject line in my email my first reaction was “there is never enough yarn.” I thought some world famous math wizard had finally determined what the alloted amount of yarn was that each person should have. I was relieved to find out what the article was all about. But, ever since, my friends and I have been chuckling – nervously – because we all had the same reaction. I loved the article and am never without my Knitter’s Companion – I even bought my Companion a “companion” copy for traveling.

  7. Thanks you so much for the inspiration and the yardage charts. When ever I go to buy yarn, I always have to have a specific pattern or else I don’t know how much to buy. Now I can get the yarn and plan the project later. (Sounds good for my very meager stash). Are there any yardage estimates for accessory type items? Things like mittens, hats, purses, and scarfs? Thanks again!

  8. To DestinysRose–
    Yes, I have “The knitter’s handy guide to Yarn Requirements” by Ann Budd published by Interweave Knits–It’s a leaflet. It has yarn estimates by gauge for Mittens, gloves, socks, tams, scarves, hats, Sweaters and vests.
    You should be able to get it through Interweave Press.
    Good luck, SJ at Watsons002

    However this handy quide just shows yarn requirements for “Sweaters” with no reference to sleeve lengths.
    I am still looking for a Yarn Requirements Chart that will show requirements for different sleeve lengths on sweaters
    Anyone know of such a chart?

  9. Oh, Kathleen. You couldn’t have been more timely with this message. We’re in the midst of Stitches South here and the lovely eye candy available on the show floor is sooo hard to resist–especially the sale yarns. I’ll have to print out your yardage estimate chart and carry it with me. One never knows when a few balls and skeins want/need/beg to come home with you! This will ensure enough (balls, skeins, hanks) come along on the trip home. Thanks!

  10. I lost your newsletter d.d. 23-4-2010, could you please send me a new one?
    If I remember well, it also said something about the yardage of booties…?
    Thanking you in advance, Roza Verschoor.

  11. I have a shawl pattern that calls for about 450 yards of sock weight yarn. I have a worsted weight yarn that I love for that shawl and have 218 yards of it. Does anyone know if via conversion I have enough? It’s a triangular shawl half stockinette, half mesh lace. It’s 48″ wide and 24″ tall. Or… if I don’t have enough, dose anyone know how big I could make it with 218 yards? Thanks.