Knitters often have to guess whether there is enough yarn left to work one more row or one more round. Or should I switch to a new ball of yarn — or bind off — now? But I hate to waste yarn if I don’t have to…
Here is one really easy way to help figure out if you need to switch skeins now or in another row or so.
1. Start planning when you are near the end of the current ball of yarn. Find the end of the yarn. Lap the cut end near the last stitch worked leaving enough of a tail for weaving in later, say 4-6″ (10-15 cm); i.e., do not place the cut end right at the last stitch. Run your hand along the remaining loop of not-yet-knitted yarn to find its middle. At the middle, gently tie a loose knot.
2. Knit the next row or round. If you reach the knot, as shown here, you know this is the last row from this ball of yarn. Of course, you need to untie the knot before completing the row. Then finish the row. Start the next row with a new ball of yarn.
3. If you can knit the whole row before reaching the knot at the middle of the yarn, you know that you have enough yarn to knit another row. Untie the knot, and knit another row. Here the knot is shown quite near the end of the row. Because enough of a weaving-in tail was left in when finding the middle and tying the knot, there is no worry that the knot is too near the end of this row. If the knot were ridiculously far from the end of this row, you would probably want to repeat the process from #1 above, finding the middle again and tying another knot. When you do not come close to the knot, it can mean that you had more than 2 rows left in that ball of yarn. Better safe than sorry, though, right?
4. Clearly the last full row has been knitted from this ball of yarn! Not much waste at all. No risk of having to undo a row because you ran out somewhere in the middle. Onward with a fresh ball of yarn!
This easy, low-tech method works when knitting rows or rounds.
It also works when you are anticipating a bind-off row rather than a knitted row. Binding off often uses more yarn than a regularly worked row. If you are trying to squeak out the last knitted row and a bind off row, you may want to leave more than 4-6″ (10-15 cm) lapped at the beginning to allow for the extra yarn needed to bind off.
Sometimes you need to allow for completing more than one row, such as completing a 2- or 3-row stripe or when knitting the front of a cardigan and wanting all your tails in the side seam rather than near the open edge. The same method works just as well. You may start earlier because you use more yarn in multiple rows, and it may take a tiny bit longer to find the middle of the yarn. It’s still easy and worth it to be sure you have neither wasted yarn nor wasted your time in knitting too far with the remains of a ball of yarn.