Doing the Math

Yesterday proved to be incredibly busy. This semester’s 20 hour schedule means that classes start at 9am on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and don’t stop until 3pm. I barely have time to grab a refill of my water bottle between them, and definitely don’t have time to get any class work done. By extension, this means that I don’t have time to work on Project stuff, although I do a great deal of thinking about it. I had plans to update here last night but some family stuff demanded immediate attention and I finally staggered into bed sometime around midnight, intending to read a few pages of Robinson Crusoe (we’re discussing it in my British Literature class right now) but pretty much fell asleep with the book in my hand.

Today, though dawns bright and sunny. Too sunny, as it happens–it’s startlingly predicted to be somewhere around 99 degrees here today. I’m not sure that my constitution can take it. Our long weekend has developed a mind of its own and we have lots to do–the least of which is heading to ReBelle for their 5 year anniversary sale. More yarn! I have half a thought to talk to the lovely owners about the possibility of donating some yarn and needles for the community knit-events I’m hoping to establish (more about that coming up) but am 1) still feeling some anxiety about asking people for anything other than their time, and b) pretty certain that today will be hugely busy for them and they probably won’t welcome the distraction of a customer wanting to do anything other than buy yarn. I’ll probably put my sponsorship questions on hold until a quieter time. But for any knitters out there in the Lexington area, definitely head over to see them today.

One thing I did manage to accomplish yesterday (in hurried scribbles during the ten minutes before arriving in my classes and classes actually starting) was some math about the blanket. Long overdue math, as it happens, because my priority right now is to get people knitting and crocheting and I can’t do that unless I know what they need to knit. So here goes.

The blanket will be comprised of 144 squares. I’ve settled on a finished dimension of 8″ x 8″ for the squares–that will result in a blanket around 8′ x 8′, although it could be slightly larger than that depending on the method I use to join the squares. If I crochet them together (which would be aesthetically more pleasing and provide a “frame’ for each square) then it’s likely to be more like 9′ x 9′. Yikes, that’s one big blanket.

Margie had asked me yesterday about creating specific patterns for the squares. more confident knitters will probably be quite happy to grab some needles and yarn, cast on, and figure it out as they go along but newer or less confident knitters will, as Margie pointed out, need a little more guidance. With that in mind, I’m working on some rough patterns–how many stitches to cast on/what size needles/how many rows–for contributors to follow. Alas, I’m not confident enough to do this for crochet (I’ve only been crocheting for 2 weeks as opposed to 30 years knitting) but maybe I can find someone who will help me put together similar instructions for crocheters.

The biggest issue is that I really don’t want to limit people to the type of yarn or size of needles that they use–the whole point of this project is to celebrate identity and diversity and I really want that to be reflected in each individual’s chosen materials. Obviously, though, that allows for a huge amount of variance that just can’t easily be catered for in written instructions, so there’s going to be some degree of “knit until you get to 8 inches” or “cast on between 20-22 stitches”. I don’t think I can get any more specific than that. I plan to write very simple patterns for three main yarn weights–sport, double knitting, and worsted. All of those weights will knit up pretty quickly and provide a nice smooth base for embroidery. I’m a little less enthusiastic about worsted the stitches will be much larger and therefore the embroidery surface not as easy to work on), but worsted weight yarns are easily available and can be really cheap and I really want to make this Project as accessible as possible. As for other weight yarns–if someone really wants to knit a square in fingering weight (or even lace weight) then that’s fine by me. It will just take them a lot longer. I’m not writing a pattern for a fingering/laceweight square simply because I imagine that the type of knitters who would want  to create that type of fine gauge knit will already know what they’re doing. That said, some of the charts I hope to provide for LGBT symbols might lend themselves better to a lighter weight yarn so I may need to stay flexible on that point. Bulky and aran weight yarns are probably the only ones I will actively discourage, simply because the nature of them and the relative size of the squares means that they’ll be trickier to work in and harder to work embroidery on to.

If you’re new to knitting, this is probably complete gibberish to you. Don’t worry–when I get the “instructions” page up later today, I’ll make it really easy for you to go to your local yarn shop and pick out something suitable with a great deal of ease. And if you’re not new to knitting, you might well disagree with some of the suggestions I’ve made. If that’s the case, I would LOVE your input. I’m not going to be offended if someone comes along and tells me there’s a better way of doing something–this is a community project and, frankly, I can’t do it alone, so if you have suggestions about the knitting process or any other aspect of it I will be very glad to hear it.

Next up. How much yarn will it take? I’m hoping to get some sponsorship for materials but that means I need to know exactly what materials will be necessary. For most people planning to knit one square, a single skein of yarn should do the trick, but I need to have a clear idea of how much yarn I might need to provide at community events and that means, by extension, knowing roughly how much yarn the whole project will take. It’s involves relatively simple calculations, but I have to take into consideration the fact that different weights of yarn will require different amounts. I’ll have to figure out the total yarn requirement for each of the three main types of yarn, and from there take a rough average and add a bit for wastage. Although I will need to provide yarn and needles at community knit-events, I’m hoping that most of my squares will be created by people diving into their yarn stashes and finding something that speaks to them. Us knitters (and crocheters, of course) are known for our massive and ever-growing stashes of yarn. Do I really need to go to Re-Belle today for more yarn? No, of course not–I’ve probably got enough in my stash to knit continually for a couple of years but yarn is an addictive substance where I’m concerned and the call of yarn on sale is powerful… Thankfully, my wonderful partner Susan is incredibly tolerant of the baskets of yarn that keep materializing in various rooms of our house. I’d even venture to say that she actively encourages me to add to the collection, knowing full when that when I have needles or a hook in my hand I’m blissfully relaxed, and the calmness that engenders ripples out throughout the household. It’s a win-win situation.

Anyway, I’m digressing. Back to yarn amounts. Here goes…(and bear with me while I rattle through my calculation process in a very public way–it won’t help you as a knitter but it will help me if I need to come back and check how I worked this out.)

Sport Weight Yarn (5 ply, 10 wpi)

Has an approximate gauge of 24-26 stitches x 32-34 rows = 4″ square of knitting.

Uses needle sizes 3 – 5 (3.25 – 3.75mm)

26″ yarn per square inch of knitting = 1664″ yarn per 8 x 8 square. That’s equivalent to approximately 47 yards of yarn required to knit one square.

47 yards x 144 squares = 6758 yards for the complete blanket. I’m going to round that up to allow 7000 yards to allow for wastage, etc.

A typical skein of sport weight yarn on at my favourite online yarn shop, Knit Picks contains 110 yards, so it would take 64 skeins to knit this blanket. That’s a LOT of yarn.

Cost wise, the skein of Knit Picks yarn that I’ve linked to is $2.49 a skein–that’s pretty inexpensive but not the cheapest. And there are plenty of sport weight yarns that cost a LOT more. But, based on this yarn and this price, the blanket would cost around $160 to knit. Not, actually, as frightening a cost as I thought.

Even better, an individual knitting one square would be able to buy just one skein. Actually, one skein of sport weight yarn would easily knit 2 squares–and if a skein was only around $2.49, then it’s not a huge outlay either. Excellent.

Double Knit Yarn (8 ply, 11wpi)

Has an approximate gauge of 22 stitches x 30 rows = 4″ square of knitting.

Uses needle size 5 (3.75mm)

23″ yarn per square inch of knitting = 1472″ yarn per 8 x 8 square. That’s equivalent to approximately 41 yards of yarn required to knit one square.

41 yards x 144 squares = 5904 yards for the complete blanket. I’m going to round that up to 6000 yards to allow for wastage, etc.

A typical skein of double knit yarn on at my favourite online yarn shop, Knit Picks contains 123 yards, so it would take 49 skeins to knit this blanket.

Cost-wise, the yarn I’ve linked to is $3.99 a skein, so that’s a total blanket cost of approximately $200. As with the sport weight yarn, there are plenty of different brands out there that vary dramatically in pice, some cheaper, some not.

And again, an individual knitter would only need one skein which would be enough for two squares.

Worsted weight (10 ply, 9 wpi)

Has an approximate gauge of 18-20 stitches x 22-24 rows = 4″ square of knitting.

Uses needle sizes 6-7 (4-4.5mm)

20″ yarn per square inch of knitting = 1280″ yarn per 8 x 8 square. That’s equivalent to approximately 36 yards of yarn required to knit one square.

36 yards x 144 squares = 5184 yards for the complete blanket. I’m going to round that up to allow 5500 yards to allow for wastage, etc.

A typical skein of sport weight yarn on at my favourite online yarn shop, Knit Picks contains 75 yards, so it would take 74 skeins to knit this blanket. At $2.49 a skein, the cost of a complete blanket would be around $186.

And, just like the previous two examples, one skein is going to be enough for one square.

Somewhere along the line I also need to factor in the costs of yarn to crochet the squares together. I’m going to estimate I’ll need half as much yarn again to edge and join the squares. Based on these calculations, I think a rough cost of $300 for yarn is a decent place to start. Now I have to raise some money…



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