Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Little Algebra and the Aptly-Named "Swift"

I recently purchased three things that have cut my unraveling time to a fraction of what it used to be. Yay! More time for knitting!

A ball winder from Knit Picks. ($19.99) I now unravel sweaters directly onto the ball winder. Infinitely faster.

A swift from TheKnitStore on Etsy. I got the large oak one for only $23.95. It  works great. I can make hanks in six different sizes, 34 to 74 inches.

The third item that has also saved me lots of time is a Royal digital scale that I got at Wal-Mart. I think it was about $20.
In addition to using to weigh packages and save trips to the post office, it speeds up the hank process.

When I finish unraveling a sweater, I may have six, eight or more balls of yarn. I want to put them into hanks with no knots or the fewest possible knots each. So, I choose the most average size ball and wind it into a hank using the swift. I count the wraps as it spins and stop at a standard yardage amount that would make sense to knitters (100 yards, 250 yards, etc).

Then, I weigh this first hank on the postal scale. Say it is 200 yards and weighs 80 grams for example. I then weigh the other balls I've harvested from the sweater and  I choose the ones that are 80 grams or perhaps select two that equal 80 grams. Then, I can wind these 80 gram balls into hanks without having to tediously count the wraps.

Another way this scale comes in handy is this: Say I've wound a sweater into five 80-gram hanks. I have one 23 gram hank left over. Hmmmm....wonder how many yards that is?

I don't have to count the wraps. I just plug some information into this handy-dandy algebra formula that my math-major husband set up for me:

base grams x = base yards * new grams

In the above scenario, this would be written as:
  • 80x = 200 * 23
  • Multiply 200 * 23
  • 80x = 4600
  • Then, divide each side by 80, and you get:
  • x = 57.5
So, now I know that my leftover 23-gram ball of yarn is exactly 57.5 yards--without having to measure it.

The best part is, I don't even have to do the math. I found an algebra calculator here.

I remember telling my high school algebra teacher that I was never going to use algebra. I take it back, Mr. Thomas!


  1. Ha ha! ... and what did you tell me last year when I was taking an algebra class at DCCC? We do use algebra more than we think we ever will.
    All kidding aside, Carol, you are such an inspiration to me in everything and especially with recycling yarns. Thanks for sharing and thanks for unraveling AND winding the sweater that I "swindled" for you ... what a friend you are!
    I sure hope Mr. Thomas reads your blog ... he would surely have a nice laugh and maybe a "ha ha".

  2. Well Karen, unless they have wireless in the grave...I doubt Mr. Thomas is reading this blog

  3. Oh Bethy, why would you assume one of my high school teachers is that old? When I was in ninth grade, it was his first year teaching out of college!! And, I just saw him a few years ago at a Duke dinner and he was very much alive and kickin!