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Want a Bigger Garment? Use a Thicker Yarn!

June 28th, 2010

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Earlier this season, we released a new yarn that’s like a chunky-weight version of our popular Cotton-Ease. Like Cotton-Ease, Baby’s First is a cotton/acrylic blend made with many fine plies, which gives it great stitch definition, loftiness, and strength. And while it’s called Baby’s First, its sherbet colors are actually great for spring and summer garments for adults too.

Wanting to make something in this yarn, I decided I’d look at quick-to-crochet cardigans that I can layer with summer dresses, but looking at our Pattern Finder, the pattern that caught my eye was this kid’s Bebop Cardi (below), originally made in Vanna’s Choice, a worsted-weight yarn. While its largest size would actually work for a women’s XS, I figured I’d need a slightly bigger size.

Luckily, one great way to resize a pattern is to follow the directions exactly as written, but use a thicker yarn and a bigger hook! Now you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Sure, but how do you know what size your project is going to end up?” Well, as with almost all projects, gauge is going to come into play when it comes to determining size.

First I made a gauge swatch with the recommended size hook for Baby’s First, the K-hook. The pattern tells me that I need to make the whole swatch in double-crochets, so lucky for me, it’s very quick:

Normally, you’re trying to match the gauge in the pattern (in this case 3 inches to 9 stitches across), BUT since the whole point of this new yarn and hook size is to get a bigger swatch, my next move will be to figure out just how much bigger it is compared to the original swatch. I measure my 9 stitches and I get 3.75 inches or 1.25 times bigger than the original sweater (3.75 inches divided by the original 3 inches = 1.25). To get my projected bust measurement (the best way to size a sweater), I multiply the smallest bust measurement (29 inches) by that 1.25, and I get a  bust measurement of 36.25. That’s a little bigger than I’d like it to be, as I’d like the cardigan to be more fitted, so next I tried one size smaller, using a J-hook.

This gave me 3.5 inches over 9 stitches. It doesn’t sound like a big difference, but remember, over as many stitches as you have in a sweater, it adds up fast. With this hook, my swatch is 1.167 times bigger than the original gauge. This gives me a bust measurement of 33.83 inches. This is much closer to the 34 inch bust that I’d like to achieve. [Note: If you want to make this pattern as a women’s medium or large, get 3.5 inches per 9 stitches, and then you can expect to follow the medium or large directions of the pattern for a 35.6 inch bust and 38.5 inch bust respectively. Again, to get these measurements, I just multiplied the 1.167 by the original medium and large bust measurements. For slightly larger sizes, just do the same math with the K-hook measurements!]

The cardi worked up quickly (the pattern is only 17 rows, following the smallest directions), and here’s the finished product:

As with any project, it’s always best to wash it according to its care instructions after it’s finished (to get rid of any grime from working the yarn and to fluff it up), so into the washer and dryer it went! I also measured the circumference just to double-check that the size was right, and it was just under 34 inches–right on the money.

I’m really looking forward to wearing this cardigan all summer long!

And here’s the back:

Do you have any projects that you’ve modified to suit your needs? Tell us about them by leaving a comment!

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  • Grace

    Great job Zontee! The excellent color choice and bravo for using math to substitute yarns.

    Zontee says: Thanks, Grace!

  • pat

    Baby’s First is delightful. I finished my soon to arrive grandchild’s blanket in it and I love how it feels. It is easy to work with also. I am not good enough to work out enlarging a pattern. It would be great to see a pattern in the Lion Brand patterns for that lovely cardigan in a larger size, say small to 2x.

  • Lynda

    Thank you for this. It’s just the kind of article I’ve been searching for. Practical, useful, and so helpful. Please give us more of this kind of information.

  • <fb:name linked="false" useyou="false" uid="554135529">Rosalind González</fb:name>

    Thanks for sharing!!

    I’ll put this knowledge to good use! Nice math by the way. =D

  • Cathy S. H. S.

    You did a great job, and the top looks so nice on you! Thank you for showing us how to do this. :)

  • alicia

    Wonderful article! I had to look in the book Stitch Nation to find information similar to this. The only problem I had once I had figured out the math for substituting yarn was the hook size. This makes everything much, much clearer.

  • Jean Painter


  • Tracie

    Very nice. I made this in the smallest size, in Vanna’s Choice for my little girl and it fits me! I made her another one with a smaller hook and cotton-ease instead. She loves it but won’t wear it out of the house because she says it is “too special.”

    Zontee says: Hi Tracie, glad your daughter likes her cardi! Just for future reference, when trying to make the size specified in the pattern, be sure to check your gauge and match the gauge recommended in the pattern by changing the hook size up or down FIRST before making a garment; only by matching the gauge will you get the size specified in the pattern. Since everyone crochets/knits differently, we use the gauge as a jumping off point to make sure everyone’s working to the same dimensions.

  • Gini Shallenberger

    Thanks for the instructions! Can’t wait to try it. Your carid looks great.

  • Sandy

    Thank SO much for sharing this! I’ve wanted to make that top bigger for my niece but just didn’t have the time to sit down and figure out how… Your insight is extremely helpful!!! Now I can’t wait to start this (yet another) project. :)

  • <fb:name linked="false" useyou="false" uid="566040212">Debbie Scott Schermerhorn</fb:name>

    Very clever! I’m going to have to give this a try!

  • Oksana

    Thank you very much for very detailed information. I’m going to try this. Cardi looks great!!!

  • sharon

    So Cu-u-ute. I have changed size by using a different hook, which I learned because I crochet tight! I love the additional instruction on using bigger yarn since I have just “winged” it in the past. I am goin to make the cardi for my 29 year old daughter. She freezes at work & this will be perfect. Thanks

  • Kathleen Blease

    The little cardi is adorable, and I’m tempted to run to the store for yarn right now!

  • Kelly

    Great job, Zontee! I’ve been crocheting for years and this is something that I would love to try. I’ve never made a garment before… just scarves, ornaments, and recently some wristlets. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Zontee says: Hi Kelly, I think you’ll find this to be a great first crochet garment, since it’s fast and the construction’s straight forward. It’s less than 20 rows for an entire cardigan!

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  • Joyce Chew

    I love the construction concept!! I’m going to try this with straight double crochet.

  • threekids

    Could someone just give us the adults instructions written out for this cardi? I would love to make this!!

    • Mrssparrow

      Did you ever get this pattern in a larger size?

    • Mrssparrow

      Did you ever get this pattern in a larger size?

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  • Janeyknitting

    I’ve read that – with knitting – doubling one’s yarn (that is, using two strands instead of one, for example) only increases the tension or gauge by 70%.
    Is this true?

    • Anonymous

      In most cases, it’s true that double-stranding your yarn will not give you a gauge swatch that is twice as large. However, keep in mind that yarns vary so much and the needle or hook size you’re testing gauge with will affect the gauge significantly, so it could be possible with large enough needles or hook to create a gauge swatch that is twice as large as with one strand; it may just be very loose. If you’re looking to double yarn to emulate the gauge of another weight, check our <a href=""FAQ on this subject for some recommended starting points.

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  • Deccoknits

    Thanks so much for this article, it is exactly what I have been looking for!!! I’m a larger woman, and love lot’s of patterns, but quite a few of them aren’t written for larger sizes. I’m also sure this would work for knitting, too, since that’s what I love to do most. It would be nice to see a section here just dedicated to the mathematics of knitting and crocheting, as it is now, I have to search the various books I have and hope one of the authors has included them in their instructions. Just a thought!

    • Zontee

      Glad it helped, Deccoknits, and thanks for the suggestion!

  • Gamma22

    OK, this is actually about knitting, but yes, I have SO cheated and used a kid’s pattern to make an adult’s sweater.  I don’t know why designers use worsted weight yarn and size 7 needles (surely I’m not the only woman who can call up hot flashes on demand in February?  OK, maybe I am…) but I see no purpose in making something too hot to wear!  It takes a little tweaking, but you can actually use a larger needle with a smaller pattern size and actually end up with a wearable garment!  For instance, if the pattern for the chest measurement looks like this:  32 (34-36-38) with size 7 needles, I choose the measurement I want to make (38), but I want to use a size 9 needle.  I count down: 38 is for size 7, so 36 is for size 8 and 34 is for size 9.  Therefore, I follow the pattern for the 34 bust.

    And Deccoknits, you can even enlarge a pattern this way if you can’t find the larger size in a pattern you like – I’ve done it loads of times!

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