How to adjust gauge when working with a different weight yarn

I recently entered an art contest at Dick Blick for miniature art. I decided I would make a mini version of my most popular pattern, the Snuggly Sloth.

Alas, I didn’t win the contest. But working on the sloth got me thinking about proportion and scale when it comes to knitting. Knitters have written in to ask if my patterns can be scaled up or down or knit with a different weight yarn. The answer is yes!

All of the sloths pictured below are knit from the same pattern. It’s amazing how a simple change in yarn size and needle size can make a big difference.

As I note in every pattern, gauge when knitting toys isn’t very important so long as your stitches are tight enough to conceal the stuffing. Generally speaking, you can just pick a different weight yarn and a corresponding needle size, and my patterns will scale up or scale down nicely.

I typically knit with one of these three weights of yarn and corresponding needles:

  • Sport weight yarn and Size 3 US/3.25 mm needles

  • Worsted/Aran weight yarn and Size 5 US/3.75mm needles

  • Super Bulky weight yarn and Size US 10.5/6.5mm needles


If you want to make a huge sloth or a tiny walrus, you can and should experiment! And send me pictures of your results :)

There are, however, two exceptions that you need to be aware of when changing the scale on my patterns.

The first is felt pattern pieces. You can easily enlarge or reduce the pattern pieces when you print them out or on a photocopier.

The second is any pattern that is written to work a certain length, such as “Work until piece measures 3 inches/7.6cm.” The simplest way to address this is to convert the measurement to rows, and then knit that number of rows instead. Since I provide the gauge for a 4 inch/10cm square in the patterns, you can easily convert with this simple formula:

Pattern Row Count = (Original Gauge Row Count * Pattern Measurement)/Original Gauge Measurement

I know math can be scary, so let’s walk through a quick example.

Here’s the pattern we’re modifying: Next Rows: Work in stockinette stitch until piece measures 3 inches/7.6cm.

The only gauge that matters for this math is the one on the original pattern, before we’ve changed the scale.

Here’s the Original Gauge Measurement and Row Count: 4 inches/10cm = 24 rows in stockinette stitch.

Pattern Row Count = (Original Gauge Row Count * Pattern Measurement)/Original Gauge Measurement

Pattern Row Count = (24 rows* 3 inches)/4 inches = 72/4 = 18 rows

When you work in the new gauge, you will work 18 rows instead of 3 inches for this portion of the pattern.     

That wasn’t so bad, was it? Now you’ve got everything in your toolbox to make toys whatever scale you like!

If you’re feeling inspired and want to make an army of sloths for yourself, click below to buy the pattern as an instant digital download!

More soon. Much love.