The epic saga of the yarn meter

To go with my new skein winder, I set out to find a yarn yardage counter. There are a few on the market, but not many, and none under $30. The most popular one is $50, and there are high-end ones for upwards of $150. So not in my budget.

The other day I gathered up all the Google-fu I could muster, searching for every single type of yarn meter I could possibly find, how well they work, how much they are, and how you can make them at home. I hope to pass the knowledge on to you, dear reader, in case you ever need it.

The cheaper yarn meters for sale are based on fishing line counters, generally the Shakespeare brand. These measure out in feet, and have a counter that goes to 999 - which is 333 yards. After it goes to 999, the counter starts over again. Line counters can generally be had on eBay for 15 bucks or less. Once you have the counter, you can make a stand with some yarn guides and have yourself a quick-and-dirty yarn counter.

Fishing line counter used for do-it-yourself yarn meter

However, fishing line counters are not generally suited for the measuring of yarn, so I've heard. There are a few threads on Ravelry about it if you want to look. First, they're not all that accurate. They can even be inaccurate by 50 yards! Which is a big deal if you want consistent skeins. Second, they can clog up. I expected this, especially if you're dealing with fuzzy yarns. Remember, they're made for fishing line. Third, they apparently have a tendency to break.
Measuring wheel walking tape measure for use as a yarn yardage counter meter

Then I found a different kind of yarn meter, based on a measuring wheel. You know those wheels-on-a-stick that measure feet, yards, or meters? That thing. You take the wheel off the stick and put it on a stand, to measure your yarn. Hello Yarn has a great tutorial for it.
Hello Yarn do it yourself DIY yarn meter yardage counter using a measuring wheel

The only downside to this one is the measuring wheels (also known as walking measuring tapes) are still kind of steep. You can probably find them for $40 at the cheapest, unless you get a deal on eBay. And some of them measure yards, some measure meters, and some measure feet. So you have to make sure you know which unit you're measuring, and calculate accordingly.

I try to be frugal. I am also very poor. So I wanted to do this the absolute cheapest way possible, while still having an effective yardage measurement. I was just about ready to throw in the towel, when...

Oh. My. God!

Read that article and be awed at the simple, elegant, cheap solution. It's a bicycle odometer, where a magnet on the bike's wheel tracks the number of rotations. You put the magnet on an arm of the skein winder, and the sensor on the base, and voila! Yardage counter. No muss, no fuss, no woodworking and no $50 cost.
Bicycle odometer mileometer measure for yarn yardage meter counter

I am very, very pleased. Otherwise, I would have finally bought a decent scale, and measured by weight instead of yardage. But this way is much better. I'm off to eBay to get myself a $5 yarn yardage counter. ;)

Update: After a bit of adjustment, it works great! This it the best idea ever so thanks a gazillion to Traveller's Yarn for the tip!

Coming soon: pics and vids of the skein winder WITH yardage counter.



  1. Thanks for the compliment! I'm glad that it works for you.

  2. Hot damn, what a great solution. Knitters are pretty creative and industrious folks!

  3. SOunds good, but could you be more specific about to make it work. I am confused about how mesuring Km/hr is going to help me measure yardage of yarn.
    Your video looks nice but it is really dark and hard to see. thanks~

  4. Also, the amount of yarn needed to go around the ball on the ball winder will change as the ball size increases...might be better to invest in a yarn swift and put the magnet on the yarn swift as that might give you a more accurate yardage count?

  5. Bless you! I've been looking for an elegant solution to this problem!

    Never in a million years would have thought of a Bike odometer!

  6. The bike odometer is a great idea, but how can I make it with a normal winder?
    Thans a lot

  7. Brilliant, thanks for taking the time to share this.

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    Bikash Roy