Yarn Substitution

Thursday 18th February 2021

Tags: Techniques

If, like us, you spend many happy hours browsing patterns online, the chances are you will have found a design you love the look of that uses a yarn you can’t get hold of. Or you might be lucky enough to have a whole garment’s worth of yarn in your stash looking for a pattern to bring it alive.  If you have never adapted a pattern for a different yarn it might be quite a daunting prospect, but we would like to reassure you that it is quite easy if you follow our tips.

Fibre content

It is always best to try to find a yarn with a similar fibre content.  If the pattern calls for Special DK and you want to use Naturals Organic Cotton, the drape and handle will be very different, and you might be disappointed.  However, if it stipulates wool and you have an acrylic yarn in your stash it will probably work out fine. We reknitted pattern 9364, originally in Sundae, now in Naturals Organic Cotton and you can download this design from our free patterns.


It is so important to check that you can achieve the same tension with your chosen yarn.  Using the needle size and tension given, knit or crochet a square and see if you can match the gauge in the pattern.  If the square is far too big, your yarn is too thick; way too small and your yarn is too thin.  If your tension square is just a little out, you can adjust this by changing the size of your needle or hook.

Pattern 9135 re-knitted in Naturals Organic Cotton and free on our website

Yarn quantities

You will need to work out how much of your chosen yarn you are going to need.  The original pattern will give you the number of balls the design requires in your size.  It may also tell you how many yards or meters there are in the ball. 

Now you need to calculate the total length of yarn needed.  Let’s imagine your pattern takes 5 balls, each with 120 metres.

5 multiplied by 120 = 600 metres in total.

Now let’s say your yarn has only 100 metres in each ball.

600 metres divided by 100 = 6 balls needed in your yarn.

If you are worried you might run out, it’s probably worth adding an extra ball, just in case.

So now you can choose a pattern to match your yarn with confidence.