Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Total Project Cost vs. Cost Per Yard (and after this, no more math for a while)

Okay, just to muddy the waters a wee bit more, I'm going to throw out one more variable to consider when evaluating the economics of knitting. Yesterday I talked about Cost Per Yard, cautioning you to calculate this before deciding whether a yarn is a good buy or not. I also brought to your attention the variable of yarn thickness, demonstrating that thicker may be quicker, but it isn't usually cheaper.

Today we will look at Total Project Cost, or how "put-up" can affect the price of a project.

"Put-up" refers to how a yarn is packaged for sale, usually how many yards are in a ball or hank. Sometimes the put-up will affect your actual cost so that a yarn that may be cheaper per yard is ultimately more expensive in the context of your particular project.

Let's look at two bulky yarns by Cascade: Cascade 128 is put up in 128-yard hanks (get it? that's why it's called "128"); Cascade EcoWool is put up in 475-yard megahanks. Here is Cost Per Yard:

Cascade Eco-Wool: $18 per hank divided by 475 yds. per hank = 3.7 cents per yard
Cascade 128: $9 per hank divided by 128 yds. per hank = 7 cents per yard

Eco-Wool is much cheaper, nearly half as much when measured by Cost Per Yard.

But suppose you want to knit a baby blanket that requires 3 different colors of the same bulky yarn. And suppose the pattern requires 500 yards of Color A and 100 yards of each of Colors B & C. Let's look at the total amount of money you'd have to shell out to buy enough yarn to complete the project:

Cascade Eco Wool
Color A = 2 hanks x $18 = $36
Color B = 1 hank x $18 = $18
Color C = 1 hank x $18 = $18
Total Project Cost: $72

Cascade 128
Color A = 4 hanks x $9 = $36
Color B = 1 hank x $9 = $9
Color C = 1 hank x $9 = $9
Total Project Cost: $54

Because of the large put-up on the EcoWool, and the quirks of the particular project you are making (e.g. one large EcoWool skein isn't quite enough for Color A so you have to buy two, thus ending up with lots of excess yarn in Color A), the yarn that is more expensive per yard ends up being cheaper for this particular project.

Have I totally confused you?

The moral of the story: Do the math. Take a calculator with you or borrow one from your friendly LYS salespeople and figure out Total Project Cost if you have a particular budget in mind for your project.


mamaloo said...

Again, I am a smarter knitter now. Thanks for bringing up a good point.

Ever since I got turned onto the idea of oddball knitting, though, I tend to consider leftover yarn in significant quanity (a half ball/hank or more) to be a bonus for making a larger odd ball project. So, in theory, I transfer the excess cost of the excess and initially unused yarn forward to the future oddball project.

But, it's often something you don't think about when buying full skeins for small projects like dollmaking or infant clothing that requires multiple colours.

Marg B said...

You are briliant Carol. Bringing back knitting into the maths/sciences instead of letting the arty people hog it all the time. But I'm the sort of knitter who always buys WAY too much for any project for fear that I will run out and hence would probably happily buy the extra yarn figuring "I'll just knit an extra hat/scarf/full-size sweater with the left-overs".

Carol said...

I have to agree, Maggie; I overbuy, too and usually can find something to do with leftovers. If you have one experience where you run out of yarn in the right dye lot, I think it scars you forever...

Stacey said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one doing obesessive math calculations in the yarn store...

Anonymous said...

four times nine equals 36

Carol said...

Thanks - hey, it's even cheaper than I originally thought.

Anonymous said...

Carol, this has been just wonderful. Lately I've been reading my way through America Knits -- I'm sure you know the book -- it is just filled with interesting patterns and a profile of the American knit designer or fiber artisan who created each one. The profile I read most recently was about a Pennsylvania designer who studies and teaches historical knitting. She said some things about the importance of knowing the basics that really resonated. I think a lot of times I feel like I have a lot of holes in my basic knitting knowledge. Thank you for filling the gap a little with your very useful breakdown.