Skip to Main Content
Free Standard Shipping for orders over $60. View
  1. Community
  2. Stitch Life
  3. Why Do Some Colors Have Less Yardage?

Why Do Some Colors Have Less Yardage?


Ever changed the color of yarn for a pattern and run out? Or had an entire extra skein? The yardage, or how much yarn is in a ball or skein, is different between solid colors and multicolors of yarn. Read on to see why and how this happens and how you can mitigate any problems in your projects.

What counts as multicolored yarn?

First, what is a multicolored yarn? For the purpose of this article, it is any yarn that is not a single solid color. Mutlicolored yarns include variegated yarns, gradient/ombre yarns, self-striping yarns, flecked yarns, and heathered yarns.

3958 Antique
in E300 Super Saver
3958 Antique in E300 Super Saver
3944 Macaw
in E300 Super Saver
3944 Macaw in E300 Super Saver
3964 Anthracite
in E305 Super Saver Ombr©
3964 Anthracitein E305 Super Saver Ombr©
4970 Bright Stripe
in E300 Super Saver Stripes
4970 Bright Stripe in E300 Super Saver
4313 Aran Fleck
in E300 Super Saver
4313 Aran Fleck in E300 Super Saver
400 Grey Heather
in E300 Super Saver
400 Grey Heather in E300 Super Saver

Why is the yardage different between solid colors and multicolors?

When we spin a solid color yarn, we're able to use colored fiber which we purchase from the fiber suppliers. For example, if we want to spin purple yarn, we buy purple fiber.

Multicolor yarns require dyeing a base yarn in the colors we want to use. For certain types of multicolors, strands of different colors may be combined to create the new effect. All of these processes mean that multicolors are more expensive to manufacture.

Because the stores require the same pricing across product lines, we can therefore offer more ounces in the solid colors than we can in the multicolors for the same price. This is why the solid color skeins are larger.

How do I prevent issues with my patterns?

New Color in Same Color Effect

When choosing a yarn color that is different from the original color, look at the yarn that was originally used for the pattern. Are you choosing the same color effect? That is, if the pattern was originally written in a self-striping yarn, are you choosing another color in the same self-striping yarn? If it was originally written in a solid color, are you choosing another solid? If you're choosing a new colorway in the same type of yarn, no adjustments are needed. Buy the amount of yarn listed in the pattern, and get stitching!

New Color in Different Color Effect

If you're using a different color effect (or a different yarn entirely), you'll have to look a little more closely. You'll need to look at the yardage of the original color effect and the new color effect.

Yardage for a particular ball or skein of yarn can be found in a few different places. If you're in a store, look on the ball or skein band; the yardage will be listed there. (For more help, please read the article How to Read a Skein Band.) If you're looking at a Red Heart pattern, look in the bottom left-hand corner for newer patterns and at the end of the PDF for older patterns for the yardage for the particular yarns used in that pattern. If you're online, the yardage is listed on the individual yarn page on

To start, make sure you know which color effect the yarn was written in. If you're unsure, look at the pattern page on; if you scroll down there will be swatches of the various yarns, and you can look at the swatch and see what kind of color effect it has. Next, find the yardage for the color effect the pattern was written in, using one of the methods above.

Finally, find the color effect you want to change to, and find the yardage for the new color effect.

Compare both yardages. If the new one has more yardage per skein or ball than the original one, buying the same number of balls the pattern calls for will definitely make sure you have enough yarn, but you may have some left over. If you want to be more exact and don't want leftover yarn, you will need to calculate the overall yardage. If the new color effect has less yardage than the original color effect, you will also need to calculate yardage to see how much yarn you should buy.

Note: If the yarn is for something small that would only take a fraction of a skein or ball regardless of the yardage, such as doll clothes, a baby hat, or a small embellishment or embroidery on a larger pattern, then don't worry about calculating the yardage.

Calculating the Yardage

For this example, let's say you're knitting the Off-to-College Throw, which is made with 6 solid-color skeins of With Love: 4 skeins of 1801 Navy and 2 skeins of 1805 Bluebell. (This example is a knit pattern, but the exact same method is used for crochet patterns). You want to make the larger stripes Bluebell, and change the smaller stripes into 1938 Beachy, a multicolor.

Since the larger stripes are staying a solid color, you don't need to worry about them: they will stay as 4 skeins. We will need to calculate the yardage for the smaller stripes. Looking at the With Love page on, solid colors of With Love have 370 yards and multicolors have 230 yards. So, we multiple 370 yards x 2 balls = 740 yards used in the original pattern for the smaller stripes. Now we take the total yardage for the smaller stripes, 740 yards, and divide it by 230 yards, the yardage of one skein of multicolored yarn in With Love. 740 / 230 = 3.22 skeins. If you're working from your stash, you would need 3 full skeins and 1 partial skein of With Love in Beachy. If you're buying from a store, you'll buy 4 skeins of the Beachy, since partial skeins aren't sold in stores. If you're counting in whole skeins or balls, always round up so you know you won't run out of yarn.

The basic formula is [(yardage of one ball of original color effect) x (number of balls called for in the pattern)] / (yardage of one ball of new color effect) = number of new balls, rounded up to the nearest whole number.

While calculating yardage for a new color effect may seem difficult, if you follow the steps they are straightforward.

Sign up for the Red Heart Newsletter to receive the latest updates, offers, sales, and more.