Substituting Yarn

Would you like to use a different yarn than the pattern calls for? No problem! The first thing you need to do is knit a swatch in the yarn you'd like to use to determine the gauge. If the gauge is the same as the gauge listed in the pattern, follow the directions below under Same Gauge. If the gauge is not the same, follow the directions under Different Gauge. Both take a little math but neither is difficult to do. Examples of each are provided afterwards to give you a chance to try both.

Remember to write down the information in both the pattern and your knitting journal for future reference.

Same Gauge

You first need to determine how much yarn you will need to complete the project as it is listed and then you need to figure out how much you need of the new yarn. Here are easy to follow instructions to figure out both.


  • When working the math below, be sure to pick either yards or meters -- don't use both or your figures may come out wrong.
  • Make sure that the yarn you choose has the same gauge as the yarn called for in the pattern. Knit a swatch to make sure! If it is off, even by 1/4 of a stitch, your calculations below will be wrong. If the yarn you want to use doesn't match the gauge, see this Different Gauge below.
  • Whenever your math produces a fraction, always round up.

The Pattern's Yarn

  1. Most patterns list the number of skeins needed of each color. Write down the number for each.

  2. Find out the number of yards/meters in each skein. This is sometimes listed in the pattern. If it is not, check the manufacturer's website.

  3. Multiply the number of yards/meters in each skein by the number of skeins.

Your Yarn

  1. Find out the number of yards/meters in each skein of the yarn you'd like to use. If you have the skeins available, check the label. If you do not, check the manufacturer's website.

  2. Divide the total yardage/meters from step 3 above by the yardage/meters of your yarn.

Different Gauge

Substituting yarn that's a different gauge will require you to determine the ratios of stitches and rows. You will need to know the stitch gauge and row gauge for the pattern and the yarn you'd like to use. To determine the ratios, use the following formulas:

Stitch Ratio

Gauge for Stitches
for Your Yarn

Gauge for Stitches
from the Pattern
= Ratio for Stitches
(round to one decimal)

Row Ratio

Gauge for Rows
for Your Yarn

Gauge for Rows
from the Pattern
= Ratio for Rows
(round to one decimal)

Once you have the ratios determined, you need to apply the ratios throughout the pattern. Multiply the ratio for stitches by the number of stitches in the row to determine how many stitches you need for that row. If the product has a decimal, you will need to determine if you want to round up or down. What you decide to do will be driven by the stitch pattern. For example, if you are using a double rib stitch pattern and the result is 144.7, you'll want to round down since a double rib pattern works well with an even number of stitches. Do this same thing for rows: multiply the ratio for rows by the number of rows for that section of the pattern.


Need a little practice? Try to figure out the examples below on your own before looking at the answers.

Same Gauge
Difference Gauge

Let's say your pattern calls for 3 skeins navy, 11/2 skeins cream, 1 skein blue, 1/2 skein baby blue and each skein is 131 yards.

Yarn Called For in Pattern
Color No. of Skeins Yardage per Skein Total Yardage
Navy 3 131 yards 393 yards
Cream 1 1/2 131 yards 195.5 yards
(round up to 196)
Blue 1 131 yards 131 yards
Baby Blue 1/2 131 yards 65.5 yards
(round up to 66)

You've checked the gauge of the yarn you'd like to use and it is the same. This yarn has 87 yards yards per skein.

Yarn Called For in Pattern
Color Total Yardage
from Pattern
Yardage per Skein
of Your Yarn
No. of Skeins
Navy 393 87 4.5
(round up to 5)
Cream 196 87 2.25
(round up to 3)
Blue 131 87 1.5
(round up to 2)
Baby Blue 66 87 .76
(round up to 1)

So you will need to buy 5 skeins of Navy, 3 skeins of Cream, 2 skeins of Blue and 1 skein of Baby Blue.

The gauge listed in the pattern is 12 sts and 16 rows for a 4x4" swatch. The gauge for the yarn you'd like to use comes to 14.5 sts and 18 rows for a 4x4" swatch.

Let's figure out the ratio for stitches:


= 1.20833333333 so we'll use 1.2

And the ratio for rows:

= 1.125 so we'll use 1.1

Now let's apply these to a pattern.

You are asked to cast on 66 stitches and knit for 10 rows in a rib stitch. You need to multiply those by the ratios you've determined. The cast-on now comes to 79.2. Because rib works well with an even number of stitches, you'll round it up to 80. You will also work it for 11 rows. You are then asked to change stitch patterns and knit for 64 rows. The result comes to 70.4 rows. Whether you round up or down here will depend on the stitch pattern (how many rows it's worked over) and the project you are knitting. If you are working in stockinette, since it is done over one row, look at the project. Think about how the project will be used (sleeve, sweater, blanket, etc.) and what the measurements are that you need.