I bought a LOT of yarn when I was in Japan this March. It was a wonderful adventure, but now I have a bunch of unlabelled skeins as well as some sort-of-labelled but partially uninterpretable cones and balls. In Japan, they sell yarn by weight. Patterns give weight per ball and numbers of balls. So I know that I have 300g of this and 150g of that – but I’m unclear on the meterage.

What to do? I read Knitty, and so when I saw this article on measuring homespun I was intrigued. I googled the McMorran Yarn Balance, discovered that it was out of production, and found a replacement version for sale at the Woolery. This is an on-line US store, so I thought I’d look for a local version. But I had no luck. Figuring in postage, I would expect to pay about $AU 50-60 to get it a $US 39 item from the US shop. A bit steep, perhaps.

Then I read on more carefully and realised that all this is, is a dead simple fixed beam balance. You cut off a bit of yarn, hang it over the beam, and trim with scissors until you get to the desired weight. But if you’re cutting off a bit to measure, then any old scale will do as long as it measures to the appropriate precision. What precision? I figure that 1% should do it well enough. A metre of yarn normally weighs… well, let’s look at some ball bands and find out! I rarely use anything lighter than fingering, which runs at about 400m/100g or 0.25g/meter.  To get a 1% precision with 1m of yarn, you’d need a balance that measures to the nearest .0025g.

That’s tiny. It’s 2.5mg; less than the average drop of water. But there are lots of people who measure things in those sorts of quantities, so I started looking for lab scales. Pricy. But here’s my pro-tip: hop onto ebay and search for “digital scales 0.001”. Suddenly there’s heaps of them, quite a few under the $25 mark, and a crucial clue: look for the jeweller’s scales, not the analytical chemistry scales. And if you’re prepared to go to 10mg precision – 4% accuracy in 1m fingering, or 1% if you don’t mind using 4m – then you can find quite a lot under $10.

Have a browse and you’ll see some have little cups and some have flat plates, and some have built in calculators, and some are shaped like iphones, and some are mislabelled as .001 when they’re only 0.01 – caveat emptor. I think the flat plates would be easier to weigh a little bundle of yarn, and 0.01g seemed good enough to me, so that’s the kind I bought. $8.75 including delivery? SOLD!