Want to Crochet or Knit With Handspun Yarn? Here's What You Need to Know

One of the challenges—and beauties—of choosing to crochet or knit with handspun yarn is that it’s not quite the same as commercial yarn. Using some basic math, you can convert almost any pattern to work with your handspun.

Laura Hulslander Jan 19, 2018 - 3 min read

Want to Crochet or Knit With Handspun Yarn? Here's What You Need to Know Primary Image

Cowls and other gaugeless patterns are a perfect choice to knit with handspun. Photo by George Boe

Exactly matching the grist and weight of a commercial yarn is nigh impossible, so using patterns written for a specific yarn can cause some challenges. You could write your own pattern from scratch, but why reinvent the wheel?


A difference of just one stitch can make a big difference, but you can straighten it out with basic math. Photo by George Boe

Love That Math!

The first step for any project is a gauge swatch. Find your stitch and row gauge, then calculate the number of stitches at the new gauge for each measurement on the project’s schematic (if one is given). The most thorough approach is to calculate the number of stitches needed using your gauge. It can take some time to calculate each individual measurement, but it’s a very accurate way to reconfigure a pattern.

For an easier but slightly less accurate shortcut, you can find the ratio between your actual gauge and the pattern gauge, then use that to figure out which pattern size will give you the desired measurement.

There are a few caveats with this approach: First, this method doesn’t take row gauge into account, so be sure to use the row measurements from your original size. Second, it really works best for small differences in gauge and for patterns with a fairly wide range of sizes.


To knit Star Athena’s Columbia Mittens in handspun yarn, make sure the cable motif stays at a scale large enough to see. Photo by Joe Coca

Got Enough Yarn?

If you’re planning to spin for a specific project, be sure to have at least as many ounces of fiber as the pattern calls for, and if your finished yarn is bulkier than the pattern calls for, get extra. Always get enough fiber to sample! If the called-for yarn is woolen-spun and you’re planning to spin worsted, the finished project will be heavier. Also keep in mind that not all fibers are created equal; if you substitute a denser fiber such as silk for a fluffier fiber such as wool, you’ll need more fiber as well.

Adapted from “Knit Anything with Handspun,” Spin Off, Fall 2017.