How to Use a McMorran Balance

Have you ever purchased a cone of yarn and don’t know how much yarn you really have? It’s easy to find out, by using a handy tool called a McMorran balance. The McMorran balance is a scale that allows you to determine the yardage of a particular yarn. It consists of a rectangular plastic box and a balancing arm. The arm has been calibrated to calculate the yards per lb. of a particular yarn. Metric versions of McMorran balances can also be purchased.
To use it, follow the steps outlined below:

McMorran balance

Place the McMorran balance on a level surface, such as on the edge of a table.

Set the pins of the small balancing arm into the small notches on the top of the box.

McMorran balance

Lay a length of yarn in the notch of the balance, allowing the yarn to hang down towards the floor.

McMorran balance
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Using scissors start to trim the length of yarn, cutting about 1/2 inch at a time, until the balancing arm is level.

McMorran Balance

When the arm is level, remove the length of yarn from the balance. Measure the length of yarn against a ruler.

McMorran balance

  • Multiply the measurement x 100.
  • This measurement gives you the number of yards per lb. of yarn (ypp)
  • e.g. 8.4 inches x 100 =840 ypp

If you are measuring bumpy, slub or a handspun yarn, the measurement may not be accurate due to inconsistencies in the yarn but it will give you an approximate estimate. I use the McMorran balance to calculate how many yards of yarn are left on a cone.

For example, if using the McMorran balance, I know that the yarn is 840
ypp, I then weigh the cone of yarn, e.g. 12 oz. (.75 lb) – the cone has 840 x .75 = 630 yards of yarn left. I also find the McMorran balance to be very useful when
handspinning, to check the consistency of the yarn that I am spinning.

A few places to find a McMorran balance:
Halcyon Yarns
The Woolery


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This page last edited on November 18, 2013


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