Patterns, Tips

Using a different yarn for your pattern

Sometimes we all want to make a pattern in a different yarn from the one recommended in the pattern. It could be that you’ve fallen for a newly launched yarn and want to use it with a pattern you already love or that you’ve saved a pattern but the yarn has been discontinued.

It is possible to substitute yarns, but for good results there are a few guidelines that are worth following.

Yarn Thickness

For the best results replace a DK yarn with a DK, a chunky with a chunky etc. It is possible to adapt a pattern for a different thickness of yarn, it will need quite a bit of maths and rewriting, so you might be better looking for a similar pattern for the thickness of yarn you have.

What’s your yarn made of?

When you are deciding whether your pattern will work with the yarn you want to use, have a look at what the original yarn was made of and what is in yours. The closer the make up of the yarns, the easier you are likely to find the substitution.

For example, wool and cotton behave very differently when you knit them up so the feel of your project will be different. To see what we mean grab a cotton and wool DK from your stash and knit a swatch of each in a stitch pattern you like.

On the other hand, a wool or mainly wool blend, can usually be replaced with a wool-effect acrylic yarn because these are designed to behave like wool.

Most patterns tell you what the content of the original yarn was, and you can find the same information for your chosen yarn on the label.


Tension is crucial if a yarn substitution is going to work.

There are two stages to this. If possible, find out what the recommended tension of the original yarn is. This isn’t necessarily the tension given in the pattern – that might be given over a particular stitch pattern – but you can usually find it by searching online. Compare this to the recommended tension information for the yarn you want to use. The closer these are, assuming they are based on the same needle size, the more likely your substitution with work. If your original yarn has a recommended stitch tension of 20 stitches to 10cm and your replacement yarn has 26 stitches to 10cm you may run into trouble.

The second stage is to make a tension square using the instructions in the pattern. This will show you whether your project will come out to the right size in the new yarn. Plus, you will be able to see if you like how your yarn will knit up for that pattern.

Once you are happy that your yarn will work, you need to make sure you have enough of it. This does involve a small sum or two.

Take a look at your pattern again and find the “meterage” for the recommended yarn. This is the number of meters per ball.

To find out the total meters needed for your project, multiply the meterage by the number of balls needed for your size.

Now look at the label on your chosen yarn for its meterage. To find out how many balls of yarn you need, you divide the total meters needed by the meterage of the new yarn.

Let’s show you what we mean.

The pattern requires four balls of yarn with 220m per 100g.

4 x 220 = 880m

Your chosen yarn has 115m in a 50g ball.

880m divided by 115 is 7.65 so you need eight balls.

Seven balls would give you 805m – which might be enough but is it worth the risk? Eight balls is 920m so definitely enough.

Now you are equipped to use some of this seasons lovely new yarns in a favourite pattern or match up some stash yarn with a pattern you’ve fallen for.

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