How to Estimate Needlepoint Yarn Quantities

“How much yarn, or thread, will I need for my needlepoint project?” If you are not stitching a needlepoint kit then this is undoubtedly a question you will need answered. Estimating needlepoint yarn quantities is not an exact science and there is a ‘right’ way and a ‘quick’ way to do this.

The ‘right’ way of estimating thread quantities for a needlepoint project is to stitch a square inch on your selected canvas, using your selected yarn and the stitch you plan to use. You then calculate total yarn quantities by multiplying out from the amount used to cover this square inch. I call this method the ‘right’ way as it will give you the most accurate measure of how much yarn you will need.

The tricky part about the ‘right’ way of doing things is that often we do not have a little bit of the desired thread to test out on the canvas. Maybe you want to buy all that you are likely to need all at once. This is when the ‘quick’ way of estimating needlepoint yarn quantities comes in handy.

This could also be called the “Fist Method of Determining¬†Needlepoint Yarn Amounts”. Make a fist and apply the flat part of the fist to the canvas. Count how many “fists” of each color your canvas requires. Each “fist” is approximately one skein of tapestry wool – so that is an area of approximately 2 inches by 3 inches (the flat part of your fist) per skein of yarn. If a skein is 8 yards then you can estimate it takes approximately 8 yards of needlepoint tapestry yarn to cover 6 square inches of needlepoint canvas. But, always buy at least 10% extra to allow for small fists!

There are some other factors you will want to take into consideration before purchasing yarn:


  • If your design is made up of a lot of small color areas you will need to buy more of that (those) color(s).
  • Smaller mesh canvases will need more yarn than larger mesh.
  • Basketweave stitch uses almost a third more thread than continental stitch.


You can see why it is hard to estimate how much thread is required for a particular design! Hopefully this will help you to estimate the amount of thread required for your next needlepoint project.

Brenda Stimpson is a needlepoint designer, stitcher and business owner. When she is not stitching she is often writing about needlepoint or thinking up the next grand design.