Gauge and Yarn Substitution, Part One

Some women came into my LYS the other day with a hat pattern for a discontinued yarn, and I, a good yarn store employee, suggested some substitutes. As soon as I mentioned "stitches per inch" and "measure your heads" and, (gasp!) "swatching", their eyes glazed over. I finished my explanation with some examples, and when I asked how they would ultimately figure out what yarn to use, they said, "Come see you!"

Understanding the correlation between stitches and sizing and being able to analyze and use the information in a schematic is the key to unlocking some major knitting potential. I have some beautiful Fresco burning holes in my stash, and seriously long arms--fingerless mitts!

I found these fingerless mitts, designed by our friend Leslie Friend at A Friend to Knit With, and they're perfect for bridging the gap between my cold hands and my perennially short coat cuffs (not to mention they keep my hands dexterous and warm enough to knit while waiting for the bus or the train). These gloves are designed in Portland Tweed, a lovely yarn indeed, but not the one sitting on my desk. The gauge is 5.5 stitches per inch, and Leslie asks that we cast on 34 stitches.

34 (stitches)/5.5 (recommended stitches per inch)=6.2 (inches)

Total stitches divided by stitches per inch=inches around of finished object.

6.2 inches is slightly smaller than the stated 7 inches around--I assume that this is giving the mitt some negative ease, which means you want the glove to be smaller than the measurement of your forearm (or else they won't stay up!) Ease is a conversation for another time. For now, let's just focus on matching the 6.2 inches.

The recommended gauge of Fresco is 6.5 stitches per inch on a US 5 needle, the unknown in this case is the total number of stitches I will be casting on.

x (unknown number of cast on stitches)/6.5 (stitches per inch)=6.2 (inches)

6.5 x 6.2=40.3

Since we can only cast on in full numbers, we are going to theoretically cast on 40 stitches. This is only true if my knitting matches the recommended gauge. I know! You hate swatching. But it is a necessary step most of the time to achieve nicely fitted things. Since I will be knitting this in the round, I need to knit a swatch in the round. Stay tuned!


  1. okay... i always need a refresher course in switching up yarn! LOVE it. thanks! and can't wait to see them out of fresco..... that yarn is YUMMY!

  2. p.s. there is a printable version of that pattern on the sidebar of the blog... for some reason ravelry doesn't link right there.

  3. You have no idea how much I needed this...after ripping out the same pattern 5 times, only to give up and do a pattern I had the yarn for. Thank You!!

  4. Well said! This is not always an easy concept and I often get the same question at the yarn shop. I usually just make the conversion for people and send them on their way. I think I will recommend this article next time!