Knitting vs. Crochet: Speed & Yarn Use
Crochet is faster than knitting, but uses more yarn. Is this true?
This is the question I set out to answer with a short but straightforward experiment. My qualitative data from the experience of knowing both crafts assumed yes, so let's start with two hypotheses:
Crochet is faster than knitting.
Crochet uses more yarn than knitting.
Experiment Design and Methodology
In order to test these hypotheses, we need to be specific in the design of our experiment. Rather, we need to compare and contrast numerical evidence to support (or disprove) our claim. For any collected data to be valid, we first need to address a few variables and determine what we will change and what we can keep the same across trials. The variables in this experiment are as follows:
Craft: knitting or crochet (experimental variable)
Stitch type (experimental variable)
Weight of yarn used (measured)
Size of swatch (measured)
Size of needles/hook (controlled)
Type of yarn (controlled)
Method of yarn pull (controlled)
Number of stitches (controlled)
Length of tails to weave in (controlled)
You may notice there are three types of variables in the list above. Experimental variables are the ones we change between trials or, in this case, swatches. Measured variables are the ones we literally measure during and following the experiment. Controlled variables are those that we purposefully and carefully keep the same between swatches. With all of these data together, we can create a useful set of experimental data.
First, let's address the controlled variables. To keep these variables controlled so they don't affect the results, I used 5mm knitting needles and a 5mm crochet hook for all trials. I also used the same yarn with the same outer pull on a skein that had not been rolled or caked. In determining the swatches, I decided on a 20 by 20 stitch pattern for every swatch. That is, 20 stitches wide and 20 rows high for a total of 400 stitches in each stitch pattern. Finally, the tails were cut to 6 inches at both the start and end of the swatch so as not to affect the weight of the yarn used.
Next, let's look at the measured variables. Time was simple as I filmed each swatch being made. There is some wiggle room in that measurement so I decided to round each time to the nearest 30 seconds or half minute after measuring. The time measured includes the time to cast on or chain, make the 400 stitches, bind off, and weave in both ends. The weight of each swatch was simple to measure, using a high-precision kitchen scale accurate to 1/100th of a gram. Finally, the size of each swatch was measured to the nearest half inch using a 12.5 x 12.5 inch quilter's rule and measured as though the swatch would be blocked.
Last, we have two experimental values: craft and stitch type. It is difficult to directly compare knitting and crochet and, although it is possible to "fake" knit stitches using crochet, this is usually done with a special method which defeats the purpose of the comparison. To make the comparison the most fair, I chose the two most common and basic stitch patterns in each craft. For knitting, this is garter stitch (knit every stitch) and stockinette stitch (knit the right side, purl the wrong side). For crochet, it's single crochet and double crochet.
I know what you're thinking - won't using double crochet take twice as long as the single crochet? An excellent question which is addressed by the data. I think you'll find the answer surprising.
The experiment boils down to this: using the same yarn with the same yarn pull, same size needles, and same tail lengths, make four swatches measuring 20 stitches by 20 rows. One swatch each of knitted garter stitch, knitted stockinette stitch, single crochet, and double crochet. Measure and compare.
Collected and Calculated Data
The data collected from each swatch is listed in the table below, with the knit swatches on the left in purple and the crochet swatches on the right in yellow.
5 x 2.5 in
5 x 3.5 in
6 x 5.5 in
7 x 11 in
12.5 sq. in
17.5 sq. in
33 sq. in
77 sq. in
Number of Stitches
Weight per size (grams per square inch)
Time per size (minutes per square inch)
The last two rows were calculated using the collected data in the other rows. Weight per size, measured in grams per square inch (forgive my mixing of metric and imperial units), provides the amount of yarn used to make 1 square inch of fabric in that stitch. The time per size, measured in minutes per square inch, tells how long it takes to create 1 square inch of fabric in that stitch.
Using the data above, there are are few interesting conclusions. Let's revisit our hypotheses one at a time.
1. Crochet is faster than knitting - supported by the data
It may initially seem that this hypothesis is not supported because the overall times to make 400 stitches in each swatch are startlingly similar. However, notice that the sizes of each swatch are significantly different. This means we need an additional point of comparison. Instead of trying to make the swatches all the same size, which would necessitate a different number of stitches per swatch, we compare instead how long it takes to make 1 square inch of fabric. This is a more fair comparison. Consider a beginner project: a scarf. This scarf will be the same size regardless of the stitch or craft chosen. What is different is the amount of time it takes to make.
There is a clear-cut difference in the time per size measure for the knit swatches and the crochet swatches. Although there is some margin of error in time collection, the difference is stark in comparing the crafts. This set of data supports the conclusion that crochet is, indeed, faster than knitting. Showing, in fact, that knitting can take 2-3 times as long to produce the same amount of fabric as crochet. Interestingly enough, double crochet seems to be faster than single crochet.
2. Crochet uses more yarn than knitting - NOT supported by the data
The measure of weight per size shows an interesting similarity in the amount of yarn used to make the same amount of fabric - the measures are nearly the same! It does suggest that, interestingly, the garter stitch may use more yarn than stockinette while single crochet may use more yarn than double crochet. These measures are close, however, meaning more data is needed before we can draw a conclusion.
Both discussions above lead to some interesting thoughts and questions.
WHY is crochet faster than knitting? I don't have a clear answer on this but my immediate thought would be that the stitches are simply larger. Take a look at the size comparison between the swatches - the crochet swatches, even in single crochet, are significantly larger than the knit swatches. So although I can make 400 stitches in about the same amount of time, those 400 stitches in crochet are going to be physically much larger than those same 400 stitches in knitting.
If both knitting and crochet use the same amount of yarn to make an item, why does crochet feel like a yarn-eater? This could be because the stitching is faster, meaning that you need to pull on the yarn more frequently. If this is true, it would certainly FEEL as though crochet is eating at the yarn even though the total amount used is about the same regardless of craft.
What thoughts and questions did this bring up for you? Share in the comments!
If you paid attention in science class, you may recall that small datasets, like this one, are not particularly valid in their conclusions. The more data we have, the more valid our conclusions. In this case, the only way to get more data is to make more swatches! For additional validity, the data should be collected from as many people as possible - otherwise the conclusions would only be true for me.
To that end, I've created a Google Form found here (and embedded below) where you can provide your own dataset! It includes instructions at the top and collection items for each swatch. After submitting your results, you'll have access to the data summary from all responses. With time and more data, we'll be able to revisit this post and see if the additional data supports the same conclusions or brings them into question.
Only knit or only crochet? No problem! All questions are optional - skip ahead to your craft to provide data for just those swatches.
Do you knit and crochet? Does this data seem right to you? What other conclusions and questions did the data make you consider? Leave your thoughts below and I'll see you next time here on the blog!