Project Planning 101

Whether you’re using yarn from your stash, or you’re a first time knitter, the new year brings an opportune time to plan out your knitting projects. When it comes to choosing your yarn, gauge swatching, or trying out new stitches, the world of knitting can be an overwhelming experience. Read on for the FIRST STEPS to project planning and organizing your materials for a well-rounded knitting adventure!

Pattern First

There is no right or wrong way to start your project planning, but most of our staff highly recommend choosing a pattern before choosing the yarn. Doing so will give you a chance to think about time commitment, material requirements, and skill level– all before making any yarn purchases.

Consider how much time you can put into a project. A bulkier yarn will knit up much faster than a worsted, which will knit up much faster than a lace. Along the same lines, a project that has more yardage will take longer than a project with less yardage.

These details are usually available from a pattern’s description:

Pattern specifications from February Hat by Kate Gagnon Osborn via

Many patterns exclude the weight of yarn in favor of a recommended brand. If we do a quick search of “Kelbourne Woolens Germantown”, we can find out that this pattern uses WORSTED weight yarn, and calls for about 220 yards.

Now we can easily go through our stash or visit our LYS, and find yarn that fits these parameters!

Yarn First

If you’re like most of the staff at Baaad Anna’s, you’ll completely ignore the above advice at the arrival of new and pretty yarns! In this case, let’s go over how to project plan when choosing a pattern for a specific yarn you already have.


If you haven’t already guessed, knowing your yarn’s WEIGHT and YARDAGE are the first steps to picking a pattern. Once you have that down, you can determine if the FIBRE CONTENT is more suitable for a certain project.

Content:Machine Washable?Texture and DrapeIdeal for:
Wool/wool blendsHand washA range of soft and rustic, softens with wearGarments, toys, colorwork or steaking projects.
Superwash woolYesSoft and SquishyBaby apparel, garments, cable work projects.
Alpaca/LlamaHand washSoft and flowy, stretches over timeSlouchy or drapey garments, like hats, shawls, and loose tunics.
Cotton/LinenYesBreathable, softens with wearSummer garments, baby apparel, dish cloths
MohairHand washSoft and insulating Adding that extra bit of warmth. Lace mohair gives a fuzzy halo.
AcrylicYesA range of soft and soapyBudget, wool allergies, machine dryable needs.


Color selection can be the hardest part of project planning! When choosing for a project that requires 2+ different colors, there are two methods we can vouch for:

  1. The Saturation Photo Test: Take a photo of the yarn options, and set the filter to black and white. Colors that look different in black and white will have the best contrast.
  2. The Lazy Swatch: Take a piece of cardboard and wrap your yarn around it in the order you want to use your colours.

Read more about these two methods here:

What about Needles?

Needle sizes are suggestions. A pattern designer lists the needle size they used, paired with their yarn-weight suggestion, to reach the gauge of their pattern. However, even using the same yarn weight and needle size that’s recommended, you could come out with a completely different gauge!

So what is gauge and why is it important?

A knitting gauge will tell you how many stitches you have over a specific size, usually 10 cm/ 4 in. This is important, especially for garment construction. Gauge is impacted by needle size, yarn weight, personal knitting tension (if you’re a tight or loose knitter), and even needle material! A grippier needle, like wood or bamboo, might impact your tension to be tighter than a metal needle, which allows more slide along the needles.

For example:

A hat has a 19.5” (49.5 cm) circumference and a gauge of 18 stitches and 32 rows = 10 cm/4 in, in a worsted weight yarn.

There are going to be about 88 stitches to cast on. If we do the math:

  • (19.5″ ÷ 4 in) x 18 stiches = 87.75 stitches

That means that 88 stitches across the whole hat will be equal to 19.5 inches in circumference.

But if you’re gauge is 16 stitches= 4 in, then if we still cast on 88 stitches, the circumference of the hat will grow to 22″ circumference:

  • (88 stitches ÷ 16 stitches) x 4 in = 22″ circumference
  • Recommendation: Your gauge is too small, move down a needle size to increase the number of stitches per inch

The same can be said if your gauge is 20 stitches= 4 in. If you cast on 88 stitches, the circumference of the hat will shrink to 17.6″ circumference:

  • (88 stitches ÷ 20 stitches) x 4 in = 17.6″ circumference
  • Recommendation: Your gauge is too big, move up a needle size to decrease the number of stitches per inch

In summary:

If you’re gauge is off, your sizing may be off. While this may not be important for simple constructions, like scarves or blankets, it will definitely impact sweaters and hats. Most importantly, you may run out of yarn/have yarn left over from your yardage calculations!

While it’s not a necessity, try a gauge swatch to see what needles best suit the yarn and pattern you’ve chosen!

How do you choose your patterns and yarn?

Let us know in the comments below!

4 thoughts on “Project Planning 101

  1. Awesome! I like the colour strategies cuz I have totally screwed up in projects in the past on colour misplanning. So thank you for that!
    I also struggle with multicolour colour ways, I love buying them but I’m not always sure when to knit with them, it textured patterns or stripes versus straight… I’m knitting traquiar hat and gloves that Rebecca demoed for the shop last year, and it’s fantastic for a mellow short colour blend wool. Is there a chart to help me know when to use speckles or other types of bicolour blended skeins? There’s so many different kinds of colour changing skeins.

    1. Hi Linda,
      Unfortunately there’s no chart that sets the gold standard for using hand dyed yarns (yet), so all we have is the experience of other knitters.
      I would highly recommend looking into Stephen West Knits for his vibrant use of colors. Reading through Ravelry’s project pages of other knitter’s yarn choices might shed some light on how to pair wild hand dyed yarns.
      All the best.

  2. While I appreciate your point of view and know that most knitters follow your suggestion, I have found that doing a gauge swatch and then choosing the pattern works best. As an experienced knitter, I often do not get gauge even when using the recommended yarn for the garment. Also, if I do get gauge, I may not like the result, so end up choosing a different needle size resulting in a ‘look’ I like more. Having an extensive sweater quantity stash during Covid has lead me to do the swatch first and then choose the pattern which has been more successful and has saved a lot of time. If the gauge swatch is close enough to the pattern gauge I, at times, change the size I am knitting to get the size I want.

    1. Hi Karen
      That is a great way to do project planning, and a wonderful suggestion to those who have an extensive stash to use up!
      When you have the experience to adjust the gauge to get a better “look” of the fabric, you definitely should. It adds such a nice personal touch to handmade garments
      Thanks for sharing 🙂

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