May 14, 2013

Yarn Time

Yarn companies measure yarn in terms of yards/meters and weight.

As knitters, we do the same, but we also measure it in terms of time. In the math world, this phenomenon is known as Yarn Time (YT).

To determine YT, you need to ask critical, probing questions:
How many weeks (months, years) of yarn are in your stash? What is the ideal stash volume, in terms of yarn time? Can you define your minimum (or maximum) stash size in terms of time rather than yards (meters, grams, ounces)?
The answers to these questions define the basic YT parameters. The math wizards among us have already deduced that yarn time can also be expressed as an equation:

Number of Yards-Meters x Yarn Weight x Typical Project Complexity x Hours Available for Knitting / Average Knitting Speed = YT (Yarn Time)

That sequence is sometimes written like this: YM x YW x TPC x HAK / AKS = YT

This is the streamlined version, of course. Detail-oriented knitters may want to incorporate needle size, swatching, frogging, tinking, reknitting, blocking and finishing into their calculations.

You can use the formula to determine your personal YT value, then you can convert it into hours, days, weeks and years. Or decades. (Feel free to use a calculator and to make up your own acronyms.)

One Ravelry knitter and I agreed that for us the ideal stash contains six months of yarn at minimum. That defines the low end of our individual YTs. The high end is another story altogether.

I have at least a year’s worth of yarn in the stash at present, which provides a nice safety margin above my six-month minimum. Yarn time comfort zones vary, however, and another Raveler noted she has more than a decade of yarn in her stash.

That’s a lot of yarn, but she’s a fast knitter. Her 10-year YT might translate into 30 years for a slow knitter like me. If yarn production suddenly and mysteriously ceases, she would be in great shape. I, on the other hand, would not.

Just to make sure things stay interesting, some knitters measure yarn in miles as well as time, but we'll save that discussion for another day.

What's my point? Knitters are a quirky bunch, and frankly, I like that about us.

Now fess up. How many weeks, months or years of yarn time are you really harboring in your stash? Your spouses, partners, parents, friends or children (probably) don't read this blog, so your secret is safe with me.

PS: Sometimes I actually buy more yarn to accelerate yarn use. It seems counter-intuitive, but it's one of the mysteries of YT that in certain circumstances more yarn in equals more yarn out (MYI = MYO). Might have something to do with recently identified alien parasite antibodies.


  1. Fun read, thanks. We are a quirky bunch, aren't we? My best guess: I have about 6 mos. of Yarn Time stored in stash. Or possibly (probably?) more ...

  2. You are delightfully insane, but not alone. The real test is, do you have your stash in your bomb shelter instead of food?

  3. I have to say that my yarn stash has dwindled dramatically over the past several months. I have been trying to use up all the yarn that I seem to buy with no project in mind - and then never have enough to complete a project I find :-) But you definitely raise a valid point, in a SHTF scenario, I would definitely want to have plenty of yarn stashed away!

  4. I have all my yarns, except for leftover balls and scraps, in an Excel file. In looking back at records for the last two years, I see I have knit an average of 16,000 yards a year. Knowing that I have 72,000 yards on hand, I have about 4.48 years of yarn in my stash. A fact I am not too proud of. All that yarn I bought because I loved it and wanted to use it. And now it sits and waits for it's turn. Must. Knit. Faster!

  5. I've probably got about a year's worth of yarn or just over 15 miles. That's more than enough for me right now although I wish I could stop looking for more sock yarns lol. I have heard that sock yarn doesn't count as stash though... ;-)

  6. I'm taking part in a stash-down group on Ravelry. I haven't calculated it according to any formula but I would guess I have 8-9 months worth in the stash. My goal is to knit everything else and then just maintain no more than 2 shoeboxes of sock yarn.

  7. Eek! Something tells me I don't want to start doing the math to calculate my own stash's YT! Though I am definitely intrigued by this concept!

  8. I don't know if I could calculate my yarn time without ending up with a twitch:)I'll guess that I have between a year and 2 years worth of yarn but if I add in my UFOs there might be 3...

  9. Regarding my stash, I have reached SABLE, that is, Stash Aquired Beyond Life Expectancy!

  10. I have a special knitting calculator that I use


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