Does Knitting or Crochet use more yarn?

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Does crochet really use more yarn than knitting? And if so, how much more? This simple question can lead to heated debates in knitting and crochet groups. However, no one seems to have clear cut evidence for their answers. So, time for a few little experiments…

But first, for those looking for the ‘too long/didn’t read’ summary, here are the findings in brief:

In general, Crochet uses more yarn than knitting.

But

The stitches matter. Some crochet stitches use less yarn than some knitting stitches.

Still, it is true that, overall, crochet is the yarn eater.

The Mittens Experiment


Two mittens, one knit, one crocheted. Both are made to the identical schematic and dimensions. Both are made in the identical yarn. But which used more wool? Answer below, but first, the swatches…

The Swatches Experiment

Each swatch is made to exactly 10cm by 10cm, with a 3cm tail of yarn, and created from the same ball of Drops Karisma. They were knitted on metal knit pro zing 4mm needles or crocheted on a metal 4mm tulip Etimo hook. (Why is this important? – The hook/needle material can alter tension, and therefore yarn usage)

The swatches in order of weight

Stocking Stitch knitted swatch


The stocking stitch knitted swatch was made using 21 stitches by 28 rows. It weighted 5 grammes. I then frogged it and measured the yarn. It turned out that it took 11 meters and 25 centimetres total (including the start and end tail).

The Treble Crochet swatch

The second lightest swatch was not a knitted swatch however. It was the Treble Crochet swatch. (Or Double Crochet in US terms). Using 17 stitches by 8 rows to hit exactly 10cm2, it weighted 6 grammes. It used 13 meters and 2 centimetres total (including ends).

The Garter Stitch Knit swatch

Two of the swatches both weighted in at 7 grammes – the garter knit swatch and the moss stitch crochet swatch. However, my poor old kitchen scales just wasn’t up to the task of weighing with more accuracy. it can’t give decimal places for a gram, so show if one was fractionally heavier than the other. When they were both unraveled and the yarn measured, it turned out that the garter knit swatch used just a tiny bit less yarn than the crocheted moss stitch, so I am ranking knit in garter stitch 3rd for yarn efficiency. its useful to remember that garter stitch takes more rows to reach the same height as stocking stitch, and therefore creates a thicker fabric that uses more yarn.

The Crochet Moss Stitch swatch

Almost neck and neck with the knit garter stitch swatch comes the crochet moss stitch swatch. It appeared to weigh the same, at 7 grammes on a not-staggeringly-acurate kitchen scales. When frogged, it’s yarn usage was 15 meters 84 centimetres.

The Double Crochet swatch

The heaviest swatch was the one made from double crochet stitches (single crochet in US terms). It weighted 8 grammes, and took 16 meters 39 cm of yarn in total.

What the swatches suggest

So the knit stocking stitch swatch ‘won’ (if the competition was to use the least amount of yarn). However, one of the crochet swatches came out lighter than the knit garter stitch swatch. Which demonstrates that there isn’t a simple answer to whether knitting or crochet uses more yarn. It’s all about the stitches used. If we introduced swatches in very lacy open crochet stitches, it’s easy to imagine that they would be lighter still.

But what does this imply for understanding how much yarn will go into a project? Yes, it’s all about the stitches used, but which stitches are equivalent to each other?

It just so happens that I had two sets of projects to hand where I had a knit and a crochet version of the same item for contrast. The more trustworthy of these two projects were the mittens. The other project was three market bags the same size as each other, two of which were crocheted, and one knitted. I’m looking first at the mittens, as I think they give better data overall.

The Mittens

When Christmas was approaching, I decided everyone who would get gifts from me this year would get mittens. I started with one schematic and one set of measurements for the various sizes. Then I worked out stitch counts to hit those measurements for both knit and crochet. (Its important to keep things a little varied when stash busting by making 15 pairs of mittens)

The mittens pictured above are both large child size for a 9 to 12 year old. Both are made in Sirdar Snuggly 100% Merino 4 ply. The shape and size is almost identical. The peak of the knitted one is slightly sharper. The length of mitten, length of cuff, length and width of thumb, and width of mitten are all identical. The knit mittens are in stocking stitch with a k1p1 rib. The crochet mittens are in pebble stitch (alternating 1dc, 1tr – or 1sc, 1dc in US terms). Over several rows, this stitch comes out at about the height and thickness of HTR stitches, but less gappy and more equivalent to a knit stitch. (And looks really pretty, too!) The ribbed cuff is worked in back loop only dc.

In short, the 2 mittens are about as close to equivalent as a knit and a crochet project can be.

(Side note:I should have the patterns for these mittens ready soon. But as spring is a silly time to launch mittens patterns, I will likely publish next autumn along with the matching hats and cowls. Watch this space if you like the idea of a simple, any yarn weight, basic top down mitten pattern for knitting or crochet)

The crochet mitten

One single crochet mitten weighted 19 grammes in large child size. In the pattern, I would need to suggest 1 50g ball of yarn would make 1 pair of mittens in all child sizes. But 2 balls would be needed for the large size mens. And to avoid anxious games of yarn chicken, I might suggest 2 balls for the ladies size too, as its only 2 stitches wider, but a good bit longer, especially in the cuff, than this child size. So, in short, if you wanted to crochet these mittens, and you were rooting through your stash or shopping, you would need to know that you could make them in child sizes from 1 ball, but would need 2 balls to hand for adult sizes to be safe.

The knitted mitten

The knitted mitten took 13 grammes of yarn to make the large child size. Compared to 19 grammes for the crochet version. So, the knitted version took 6 grammes less per mitten. In other words, the crocheted version took nearly half as much again in yarn to make than the knit mitten did.

In the final pattern, 1 ball of yarn will be sufficient for all sizes of this mitten, up to mens sizes, when it is knitted

And that’s the comparison where it really matters. Do I need to buy one ball of yarn, or two?

But are mittens a fair test by themselves? When I was looking at the swatches I saw that some crochet stitches are lighter than some knitting stitches. And so I wondered, what about really open, lacy crochet stitches? Knitting lace is beautiful, and can open up wonderfully. But let’s be honest, crochet can open up much more. Thats when I thought of some market bags I had hanging in my hallway waiting for shopping trips. They might be good to look at here too.

The Market Bags

The red and white knit market bag is my free pattern on Ravelry. The wine red swatch and the blue and yellow swatch are both patterns I developed for a book proposal I hope to send out to publishers in the near future. So I can’t tell you much, or show them in full, as I need to preserve the main images for the book proposal. You will need to take my word for it that they are nice market bags in easy, beginner friendly stitches, and measure about the same size as each other.

The Clonmellon Market bag from my old free pattern is a trusty bag that’s been in use about my house for a couple of years now. its holding up well! it was made in Drops Paris, and weights 261 grammes. In total, it took 4 balls of red, and 2 of white – 6 balls of yarn.

The lace crochet market bag

The maroon red crochet bag uses a very open lacy stitch – every second row is mostly chain stitches, yet adds dramatically to the height. Not surprisingly, it weights less, coming in at 170 grammes. it took 4 balls of Rainbow Hobbii 8/8. Although I know more than ever after these experiments that crochet ‘normally takes’ more yarn, I would expect this specific project to be the lightest of the three bags, because of all these chain stitches and all that negative space. And so I was surprised that…

The knit lace market bag

The knitted market bag only weighted 4 grammes more than the crochet one, using the same yarn. This was particularly surprising to me because, as already seen, garter stitch uses a lot more yarn than stocking stitch, and this is a garter stitch bag – yes, it has a yarn over, knit two together across the row every 4th row giving it that lovely lacy look. But it’s still essentially garter stitch. A stocking stitch lace might have been lighter, hypothetically.

Conclusion

I started this blog having been watching some car-crash arguments on face book about whether crochet really uses more yarn than knitting. So many opinions, so little data. I refrained from joining in the arguments, and started swatching instead. A little searching on google showed I’m not the first to have this idea. Amy Gunderson over on Interweave and Kat Zimmermann of Craftematics have both explored the question – with slightly different answers. Probably because they took different approaches to exploring the question.

Taking all this information together, I believe its safe to say this. An equivalent garment in crochet will probably take about half as much yarn again than a similar project in knitting. Good to know when heading yarn shopping. This is because crochet stitches are different from knitting ones, and generally thicker. However, there is a huge variety of stitches and stitch patterns in both knitting and crochet. And an openwork, lacy crochet cardigan might take less yarn than a very dense knitted cardigan that had a lot of cables. Even so, I will be sticking to my ‘rule of thumb’ that crochet takes about half as much yarn again than knitting does for most closely equivalent projects.

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By Ciara

I learned to knit as a young child, and came to crochet much later in life when I could no longer knit. Sharing the joy of crochet with sustainability and slow fashion in mind is a passion

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