Substituting Yarns • Commercial or Pre-spun

Most of the knitting patterns you’ll find on Ennea Collective are designed to take advantage of generic yarns, whether they might be hand-spun or commercial yarns.

Although it’s not as simple as checking around to find the original yarn used in the pattern, as it is for many knitting patterns, it’s still possible to find (or spin) a yarn which will yield beautiful results.

There are things to consider when substituting yarns, but it doesn’t have to be a painful process. Here are the basics.

First off, take a look at the materials used in one of our patterns, the Cuppa Joe Mitts:

Materials: Approximately 200 yds [183 m] of sportweight yarn. (The S/M version used about 150 yds [138 m] and the M/L about 180 yds [165 m]).
Yarn Details: A 2-ply wool, 80% merino / 20% nylon, spun semi-worsted. Approximately 17 wpi, with 280 yds [256m] per 4 oz. – 1120 ypp.
Needles: Size 3US [3.25mm] dpns.
Gauge: 7 stitches per inch over stitch pattern for mitts.
Finished Sizes: S/M – 6.85” [17.5 cm] around hand; M/L – 7.75” [19.5 cm] around hand.
Other: tapestry needle for darning ends;
you will also need a small length of waste yarn to work the thumb openings.

Note these things about the yarn: 2-ply, 17 wpi, 280 yds [256m] per 4 oz. – 1120 ypp; the mitts require 200 yds [183 m] of sportweight yarn.

The most important ones for yarn substitution are bolded – the other notes are informational, but not required for substituting commercial yarns.

The basic considerations are: fibres used in the design sample, the weight of the yarn, how it’s spun, how much is required, and yardage similarities in the skein. We are not going into too much detail (more detailed information will be available on Ennea Collective as we grow) here, but hopefully this will provide enough information for you to make confident choices using commercial yarn or perhaps hand-spun you already have in your stash.


If the sample is knitted out of wool, for equal results choose a wool yarn which has similar qualities to the original wool. A design sample knit out of merino is probably not going to knit up quite the same in a less soft wool. However, having said so, depending on your desired garment, a less soft wool might fit the bill just fine.

Other fibre considerations are blends – in the case above, the merino is blended with nylon which will provide durability. But, merino can be quite durable all on its own, especially if it’s worsted-spun (many merinos on the market are). Another blend which would provide durability would be a merino-silk. However, it’s likely to produce a totally different garment due to the sheen of silk (if it’s Tussah). The result would also be something you would be less likely to wear about the house for manual labour (but, again, this is a subjective presumption).

If you were to knit the pattern out of something like 100% silk or bast fibres like bamboo fibres, you will have another variation in your completed garment: more drape, less spring. Wool tends to have a ‘memory’ (again, depending on the spinning technique used) and will hold stitch patterns brilliantly and it also tends to have some elasticity due to the crimp in wool fibres (wool is curly, in most cases). Silk and bast fibres tend to be elongated and more straight. So while you have durability and warmth from the fibres itself, you probably won’t have a nice tight ribbing on your cuffs. There is very little elasticity available.

And the opposite is true as well. If you knit a pattern originally knit in silk in a wool yarn, you are probably going to find the wool version might be smaller, it will have different stitch definition and it will also have a different sort of drape. Some of these things can be compensated for by using different needles. But the results can also yield a too loosely knitted fabric, or a fabric which is stiff as a board and not very comfortable to wear.

The basic rule here is to use a yarn which has very similar qualities to what is used in the design sample if you would like to produce a garment which is similar to the original.

But if you like to live a little, try other fibres.


Yarns are classified into different weights for ease of use, and also to help knitters choose appropriate patterns for a particular yarn.

All of our patterns are classed by yarn weight.

There are ways to know if your desired yarn for a project is of suitable weight.

One of them is to check whether the yardage in your skein of yarn is of comparable yardage to the yarn used in our patterns, providing the weight is also comparable to the yarn used for the pattern sample. In the example above, the yarn is noted to be ‘sport weight’. Knitting up a tension/gauge swatch in your desired yarn is another way to check.

And, you might also wish to consult this chart to determine if your yarn is appropriate:

yarn weight sts per 4” / 10 cm sts per 1” / 2.5 cm needle size [US] wraps per inch (wpi) yds per 4 oz yds per lb (ypp)
cobweb depends on needle size. 40+ 1500 6000+
lace weight 28-32 7-8 1.5-2.25 mm [000-1] 30-40 600-1500 2400-6000
fingering weight 24-28 6-7 2.25-3.25 mm [1-3] 24-30 450-600 1800-2400
sport weight 23-26 5-6 3.25-3.75 mm [3-5] 18-24 325-400 1300-1600
double-knit 21-24 5.5 3.75-4.5 mm [5-7] 12-18 250-350 1000-1400
worsted 16-20 4-5 4.5-5.5 mm [7-9] 10-12 213-275 850-1100
Aran 16-20 4-5 5-5.5 mm [8-9] 6-10 175-250 700-1000
chunky/bulky 12-15 3-4 5.5-8 mm [9-11] 6-8 100-175 400-700
super bulky 6-11 2-3 8 mm + [11+] <8 <113 <500

Other Considerations

Is your yarn a single-spun yarn whereby the yarn in the sample is a 3-ply? This will affect the look of the final garmet knitted in your yarn. It might be spectacular. But knowing it could look dramatically different is something to consider.

Finally, having a comparable yarn is important for sizing, looks, similarities and for the general desired outcome of your project. The final consideration you will have is whether or not you have enough of your chosen yarn. So, be sure to check you have enough yardage to complete the project as stated in our lists of materials.

Enjoy! We can wait to see what you’re knitting!

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