I don’t use much for knitting. Photo 1 is of my tape measure (centimetres and inches are marked on the same side for easy comparison), scrap yarn and colourful padlock stitch markers. Anything easy to see is a winner in my book! I have stitch holders, but only use them when my needles are under pressure.
My weighing scales, vital for yarn estimation, are in photo 2. I have a love-hate relationship with them because they represent the false equivalence of calculating yarn quantities. There are several methods for this, and here’s the one I use most.
In short: the design swatch is weighed, the median weight of each stitch is determined; this median is scaled up, viz, how many stitches are in the garment? – and there’s your estimate, ready for a 10-15% contingency.
All good in theory, but as we all know, meterage is what really matters. The length of yarn you actually knit up is key, especially for yarn substitution. We all know that different fibres = different weights. Then there is individual tension/gauge (the perpetual elephant in the room) and the sensitivity of the scales themselves.
The only way to do a meterage-based yarn estimate is to unravel the swatch, measure the length of yarn used, and scale up accordingly – but this comes at the expense of time and losing all the valuable information contained in the swatch. I can’t imagine any designer would sacrifice the latter. I wouldn’t!
Someone on Instagram suggested placing markers at regular intervals along the yarn, marking them off in a tally as you go, and then calculating a total at the very end of the project. This is an ingenious idea for smaller projects, but might drive you insane if garments are your jam (raises both hands in the air).
How long is a piece of string? That question is at odds with the discrete, countable units we lovingly call stitches. Tension is definitely the word.