Math for Knitters # 1 Gauge

Hilke Knitting

Today I want to talk to you guys about how to make a pattern work for different types of yarn.

I often get asked how to adjust patterns so that you can use chunky yarn instead of a standard sock yarn (or the other way around) and the answer is quite short:


This might not work for every pattern, but it works for simple socks without much design (fair isle, cables, lace etc) on them.
I give you an example. My go-to sock pattern uses a standard sock yarn with 40 rows and 30 stitches to 10 cm. I know that if I cast on 15 stitches per needle I will get socks in the size 37.
But now I want to use the same pattern to knit myself some socks in a bulkier yarn (28 rows and 20 stitches to 10 cm). To calculate how many stitches to cast on I use the gauge.

Since 20 stitches = 10 cm in my bulky yarn und 30 stitches = 10 cm in my sock yarn, I will only need 20/30 = 2/3 the amount of stitches to get the same size of socks.
In this case I will cast on 15*2/3 = 10 stitches per needle to get socks in the size 37.

I will then use the recommended size of needles for the yarn (4 mm) and so far this has worked out great. Now if your new number of stitches is something like 13,45 stitches per needle you can either use 13 stitches with slightly bigger needles or 14 stitches with slightly smaller needles.

Another thing that is pretty helpful here, is to knit swatches. The numbers on the ball band are just guidelines and since everyone knits differently knitting swatches will help you get even more accurate numbers.

Usually if you have decided how many stitches to cast on, the rest of the pattern will automatically come together, since most patterns give some general tips on how many stitches to knit for the heel flap, how often to decrease etc.

In some cases however you will have to change the rest of the pattern as well. In my patterns I usually knit a heel that is divided into three parts, so that is always easy to calculate based on your total amount of stitches. (In my example here I would divide the 20 heel stitches into parts of 6-8-6 stitches.)

For the gusset I usually decrease in every third round, but with bulky yarn like this, I would instead decrease in every second round. Otherwise the gusset would get too long.

For the toes I normaly decrease in the fourth round, then in the third round, in the second round and lastly in every round. For bulkier yarn I would start decreasing in every third round (instead of in every fourth round), then in every second round and I would increase more often in every round, since (as with the gusset) I don’t want the toes to get too long.

If you are knitting toe-ups you could cast on on third of your total amount of stitches and then increase in every round (or just a few times in every second round and then in every round).

Remember, this is not a science!


There are all sort of toes out there, so just try it out and write down what works for you (so that you can recreate it next time 😀 )

I hope this helps, see you guys soon!