March 24, 2012

Knitting vs Crochet, Part 2: Does Crochet Really Take More Yarn? (Part 2)

Better late than never.  Click here for Part 1.

Since I overestimated by ability to keep the swatch size the same, I'm normalizing the height and width measurements by using square inches instead.  So, I'll get the amount of yarn used per square inch.  Easier that way anyway.

Also, since I'm not going by pure measurement, I didn't take pictures of all the swatches.  I did take this one to prove I did them though:

My gauges didn't come out the same either, though not very far off.  Again, since I'm using gauge to calculate the stitch width and height to get me the dimension of the stitch in square inches (I know, it's weird, but it lets me do the amount comparison) in order to get amount used per stitch, the gauge isn't a problem.  I was hoping for a more direct comparison, but oh well. 

I did do the garter stitch and double crochet swatches (which is why it took me so long).

Also, to state, I'm doing everything in inches.  Not standard, but that's what I did because I'm a stupid American who just realized her tape measure has centimeters on it.  Measurements are to 1/16 of an inch.

My raw results are in this chart (sorry for the real way to post this without it running off the page.  However, for integrity, I want to put my raw data here):

Stitch Used Tool Diameter Width (in) Height (in) Swatch Size (sq in) Stitch Gauge (/in) Row Gauge (/in) Stitch Width (in) Stitch Height (in) Stitch Size (sq in) # of Stitches in Sq. In. Length of Yarn Used (in) Amount of Yarn Used per Sq. In. (in) Yarn Used per Stitch (in)
DC 4.25mm 3.7500 2.2500 8.4375 4.5 3.0 0.2222 0.3333 0.0741 13.5000 312.3125 37.0148 2.7418
Garter 4.25mm 4.3750 2.0000 8.7500 5.0 10.0 0.2000 0.1000 0.0200 50.0000 341.6875 39.0500 0.7810
SC 4.25mm 3.7500 2.1875 8.2031 4.5 6.0 0.2222 0.1667 0.0370 27.0000 355.5625 43.3448 1.6054
St St 4.25mm 3.8125 2.3750 9.0547 5.5 7.5 0.1818 0.1333 0.0242 41.2500 297.2500 32.8283 0.7958
DC 5mm 3.8125 2.1250 8.1016 4.0 2.5 0.2500 0.4000 0.1000 10.0000 264.3750 32.6326 3.2633
Garter 5mm 4.2500 2.0000 8.5000 4.5 10.0 0.2222 0.1000 0.0222 45.0000 316.5000 37.2353 0.8275
SC 5mm 3.6875 2.1250 7.8359 4.0 5.0 0.2500 0.2000 0.0500 20.0000 306.0625 39.0588 1.9529
St St 5mm 3.7500 2.3750 8.9063 5.0 6.5 0.2000 0.1538 0.0308 32.5000 250.6250 28.1404 0.8659

To give my formulas:
  • Square Inches = W * H
  • Amount of yarn used per sq. in = [yarn used in whole swatch (in)]/[square inches of area used]
  • Stitch height/width = 1/[row gauge (for height)] or [1/stitch gauge (for width)].  This is because my gauges are all per 1 inch (if you, say, used 4 in for your gauge, it would be 4/[gauge measurement]...or, more explicitly: [gauge measurement]/[# in. for swatch] = 1 st / [x in] -> x = [# in. for swatch]/[gauge measurement])
  • Amount of yarn used per stitch = [amount of yarn used per square inch] / [the number of stitches in a square inch] (which is 1/[size of a stitch in square inches]).
Since that chart is large and pretty unreadable, I created these comparison table, one for amount of yarn used per sq. in. and one for amount used in a stitch.  They are both sorted min to max amount used:

Amount of Yarn Used per Sq. In. (in) Tool Diameter
Stitch Used 4.25mm 5mm
Stockinette Stitch 32.8283 28.1404
Double Crochet 37.0148 32.6326
Garter 39.0500 37.2353
Single Crochet 43.3448 39.0588

Yarn Used per Stitch (in) Tool Diameter
Stitch Used 4.25mm 5mm
Garter 0.7810 0.8275
Stockinette Stitch 0.7958 0.8659
Single Crochet 1.6054 1.9529
Double Crochet 2.7418 3.2633

There's a couple of things here I noticed right away.  The least apparent thing may be easier to see in this graph:

Can't see it?  I've added lines between the 4.25mm data points for on stitch and the 5mm for the next stitch:

Hm.  There's a relationship here. If you order the stitches from least to most yarn used, it shows that you can go to the next stitch, and the only thing you need to do is increase the needle/hook diameter to the next up size and you'll use around the same amount of yarn. And the stitch order staggers between knitting and crochet.  This itself is a nail in the coffin for the whole '3 times more yarn' myth.  I wonder if this trend holds out if you added more diameter sizes.  I really don't want to make up more swatches to find out, though.

On the other hand, to maybe, possibly, give some credence to those who say crochet takes up more yarn, look at the table for per stitch.  Yes, it turns out that both knitting stitches I looked at use less yarn per stitch than both crochet stitches. But then look at this table:

Stitch Size Tool Diameter
Stitch Used 4.25mm 5mm
Garter 0.0200 0.0222
Stockinette Stitch 0.0242 0.0308
Single Crochet 0.0370 0.0500
Double Crochet 0.0741 0.1000

Using the same order of stitches as the second table above, I created one with the stitches size in square inches.  So, yes, the knitting stitches take less yarn.  They also cover less area, which is what I figured. But this still doesn't settle why, when you look at square inches and not stitches, the order changes.  My guess is that the ratio of the area gained in the square inch to the amount of yarn used is not the same for each stitch, and that it would work out to be that the stitch that used the least yarn while covering the most area would be the one to use the least amount of yarn in a square inch.  I don't feel like doing that comparison.  It's not that important to this myth.

Anyway, to get back on track, we get to the final conclusion as seen in the first table (Yarn Used per Square Inch).  So, how much yarn does each craft take against the other?  It depends on the stitch you're using.  Using the same tool size:

Percentage of Yarn Used

Stitch Used Garter Stockinette Single Crochet Double Crochet
Garter 0.0000% 0.0016% -0.0011% 0.0005%
Stockinette Stitch -0.0019% 0.0000% -0.0032% -0.0013%
Single Crochet 0.0010% 0.0024% 0.0000% 0.0015%
Double Crochet -0.0005% 0.0011% -0.0017% 0.0000%

Table is read down, then across (so pick a stitch on the left hand side, then find the stitch to compare it to at the top, then find where they meet to find the percentage more of yarn the first took against the other.  If it's negative, it took less.

None of these are anywhere close to 3 times the amount. 

There's one more thing I do want to explore here, though.  Those saying that 'crochet takes more yarn' could claim is that, in reality, if a knitter and a crocheter were doing similar projects, they would pick completely different tool sizes.  And, most likely, the knitter would use a bigger tool than the crocheter (my guess based on my experience...if you can prove me wrong, let me know).  This is what I was trying to test with the 'same gauge' thing.  The problem is that the gauges aren't all that compatible between knitting and crocheting.  Should have known that. 

However, the data I do have shows that this argument doesn't work either.  Look at the first table again.  If, say, a knitter wanted to crochet something that would normally be in garter stitch and still use a similar amount of yarn, just change it to double crochet.  Going from garter to double crochet results in less yarn being used, and if you go down a tool size or two (which you would), it'll use close to the same amount of yarn.  Once again, it comes down to what you're doing in that craft.  The knitter could use less yarn and therefore get more out of the same yardage, but the crocheter could do so too.

Therefore...myth  BUSTED.  Crocheters aren't using up all your yarn.  Actually, you may be using more yarn than a crocheter, since it all depends on stitch and tool size chosen.  And even if the crocheter is using more yarn, they're NOT using anywhere close to 3 times as much.  So stop repeating this myth.


  1. Wow. Thank you so much for going to all the effort to work this out! I've always wondered, because I'm a broke student so I'm always trying to save yarn. Now I know how to be economical with stitch type and needle size! This is really awesome info!

  2. Wow! thanks for this info.i've always believe that crochet uses more yarn than knitting.

  3. Thank you for your hard work and your generosity and kindness for sharing this with those of us whose mind is to cluttered to figure this out. I will be sharing this with others and spreading the words, "Myth debunked!"

  4. It looks like all your percentages are off by a factor of 100. You probably calculated the percentages and then set the cells as "percentage" or whatever the excel name is, which divides by 100 again. (for instance, -0.0019% should be -0.19%, etc)

    1. Hm...maybe. Wouldn't be the first time I made a stupid mistake like that. I would have to dig up the spreadsheet though to check; it's been awhile since I did this!

      The good news is if everything's off by a factor of 100, then the comparison's at least stand, even if the raw numbers are screwed up. Thanks for pointing it out though; just haven't managed to revisit it.

  5. No longer interested. Unsubscribe me.