Looking at yarn requirements for a pattern can be confusing and, especially if you need to substitute yarns, trying to decide how much yarn you will need can be overwhelming. Often a pattern will call for a number of balls of a particular yarn and may or may not include additional information about those balls, such as the number of yards per ball or the weight* of each ball. BUT did you know that the only number you really need to know is the total yardage required for the project?
The number of balls required is useful if you are using the yarn called for in the project (and for working the math to determine total yardage), but otherwise can be misleading. The weight of each ball is almost useless for determining how much yarn you will need if you are substituting as different fibers, different thicknesses and even different yarn styles of the same fiber can have wildly different yardages for the same weight.
Let’s take a look at a few different Lion Brand yarns that have the same weight per ball but widely varying yardage. Pay close attention to the differences in fiber and weight category:
Vanna’s Choice (per ball): 3.5 oz, 170yds, category 4, 100% acrylic
Baby’s First (per ball): 3.5oz, 120yds, category 5, 55% Acrylic/45% Cotton
Cotton-Ease (per ball): 3.5oz, 207yds, category 4, 50% cotton/50% acrylic
LB Collection Organic Wool (per ball): 3.5oz, 185yds, category 4, 100% organic wool
LB Collection Superwash Merino (per ball): 3.5oz, 306yds, category 3, 100% Superwash Merino
Let’s say your pattern called for 5 balls of Cotton Ease, but you’d rather use Vanna’s Choice. These are both category 4 yarns, so substituting should be pretty straightforward (though you will , of course, want to do a gauge swatch). However, even though the Vanna’s Choice balls weigh the same as the Cotton-Ease balls, if you buy the “5 balls” required by your pattern, you’ll end up being about 185yds short – that’s more than another full ball of the Vanna’s Choice!
Just remember when you’re thinking about how much yarn you need for a pattern that yardage is what it’s all about when you’re deciding how much to buy and you’ll be all set.
For more on substitution and figuring out how many balls of a different yarn you will need when substituting, see our FAQ by clicking here.
*Please note that “weight” here refers to the actual ounces per ball, not the thickness of the yarn