Once upon a time I was a new crafter who had no yarn. So I asked if anyone had some yarn they wanted to get rid of, and ended up with a box from my grandmother's attic and a box from a friend's mom, and I still have a lot of those yarns.
One of them was a huge ball of cherry-red aran-weight acrylic. It was soft, so that was a plus. It was brighter than a lightbulb, and nothing else seemed to go with it, so those were minuses. I fooled around with it for a while and could never find anything that it wanted to be, so I gave up on it and shoved it back into my Stash Tower.
Two days ago I was watching some of the Olympics from February that are still on our DVR, and needed something mindless to work on. I pulled out this yarn on a whim and asked if it wanted to be a small blanket. It said...
...Maybe. Try me; we'll see.
So I cast on fifteen stitches and started knitting a stockinette swatch. When it looked like I had enough rows to measure an inch in the center (yes if it's not a huge deal I only measure over one inch, yes I know you're not supposed to do that), I experimented with a little lace. That didn't go over very well, so I ripped back to the last stockinette row and decided to try a basketweave. With fifteen stitches I did three stitches by three rows for each block of the weave, and it turned out pretty cool but a bit too fussy. I stopped experimenting and started measuring.
Four stitches and six rows to the inch, measured in the center of the stockinette portion of the swatch. I counted the number of rows, multiplied to figure out how many stitches were in the swatch, weighed the swatch, and figured out approximately how many stitches per gram I was getting (67, in case anyone was wondering). With 228 grams of this stuff, I could get 15,276 stitches (approximately) out of the ball.
Then it was time to play with measurements, using my gauge as a guide. To get a 27" square would take 17,496 stitches, which is 2,000 too many. But a 25" square would be 15,000 stitches, which leaves some for casting on and binding off. A little small, perhaps, but it might make a nice stroller blanket or be nice for a toddler to cuddle.
I also measured out ten yards and weighed that so I'd have some idea of the yardage of this monster. It came out to about 456 yards. (In one ball, which I'm not even sure was a full ball to begin with. I wish I could figure out what brand this was, but it didn't come with a label and nothing I've run across so far has had the same feel.) To double-check my requirements, I used the number of yards per gram (2) times the number of grams in my swatch (4) to come up with the yardage for my swatch (8 yards). Dividing by the number of stitches (270) gave me yards-per-stitch (0.03) and multiplying by 15,000 stitches gave me an approximate total yardage (444 yards). Since this number squeaks past my yardage limitation, I should barely be able to finish. The idea was to use up every scrap of this stuff, so I'm okay with taking a risk like that.
And so was born a very simple baby blanket, Cherry Field. Once I finish mine I'll write up the pattern and offer it free for you. Because the blanket itself is as easy as [cherry!] pie, it'll be more about learning what you're doing than simply following directions. Hopefully it will appeal to the sort of knitter who has a desperate need to know not only "what" to do but also "how" and "why".
Or just the type with a large quantity of stubborn yarn!