Find out when and how to substitute yarns for one another in a knitting or crochet project for the best results!
We’ve all been there, you find the cutest, most exciting knitting pattern or crochet pattern but you don’t have the exact yarn it calls for…
Maybe the suggested yarn is hard to find, discontinued, it’s super duper expensive, you really need to use some yarn in your stash before you buy more, or maybe the suggested yarn doesn’t come in a color you like. These are all totally valid reasons to want to substitute yarns.
So today we’re going to talk about when and how to substitute yarn in a knitting pattern or crochet pattern and still have your project turn out ok.
How to Substitute Yarn
- If you MUST substitute yarn, I love this site for recommendations. For example, I love to use fluffy white Bernat Pipsqueak yarn for some of my projects (it makes great clouds and bunny tails) but it can be hard to find. This site recommends similar yarns to the one you’re supposed to use.
- You can also look at the yarn’s page on Ravelry for recommendations and information on tons of different yarns.
- Use a yarn that is the same yarn weight for best results. Keep in mind there are subcategories and different names for yarn weights depending on where you live so it’s best to compare the actual weight of a skein in grams or ounces to its length in meters or yards to see if the two yarns are similar.
Yes, you can do some to make a different yarn weight work, but using a different weight yarn is really a headache. Unless you are super confident, just don’t do it.
- Use a yarn that is the same (or very similar) fiber content. For example, you could substitute alpaca for wool, but don’t substitute cotton. Different fibers have different characteristics including drape and stretch and, especially for garments, that can make a big difference.
- Make sure you have enough yarn. In fact, make sure you have MORE than enough. The suggested length or yardage may not be accurate if you are using a different yarn than suggested.
- MAKE A SWATCH. Seriously. No one really likes swatching. But if there’s one time not to skip it, it’s when you’re substituting yarn. Successful swatching techniques include:
- Most swatches measure the gauge over a 4 in. x 4 in. (or 10 cm x 10 cm) area but your swatch needs to be significantly bigger than that to get accurate measurements.
- Start with the recommended needle/hook size and go up or down from there.
- Swatch in the same conditions as the project (for example, in the round vs. flat, and using the same stitch patterns etc. )
- Measure the gauge before or after blocking depending on your pattern. For example, a sweater or lace shawl may measure the gauge after blocking but a hat may measure it without blocking.
- Look at your swatch not only for gauge, but also for how the stitches look, what the drape is like, how the knitted yarn feels etc.
When is it ok to substitute yarn?
- When you’re using the suggested yarn but in a different color.
- When the new yarn is the same weight and fiber content as the suggested yarn.
- When you’re using the same yarn weight and a similar fiber (for example wool vs. alpaca would be ok, wool vs. cotton would be a lot different because those fibers behave a lot differently than each other).
- When you’re knitting something where the finished size doesn’t matter. Making a standard scarf with a basic stitch? Go ahead and use different yarn and change the number of stitches or rows to make it the size you want.
- When the new yarn meets the gauge of the project. But make sure your swatch is the same exact conditions as the project. If it’s in the round, swatch in the round, if it’s a certain stitch, swatch in that stitch.
When is it not a good idea to substitute yarn?
- When the yarn you want to use is a dramatically different yarn weight. If the pattern calls for worsted yarn and you want to use fingering weight yarn…just don’t. It won’t be worth the headache!
- When the appearance is very different. If the project is an intricate lace or cable pattern that suggests a solid color yarn…don’t substitute super colorful speckled yarn, or fuzzy chenille yarn, even if it’s the same weight and fiber, you won’t be able to see the stitch patterns!
- When you have to use very different needle sizes to meet the gauge. Even if your gauge swatch is the same, if you have had to change the needle size dramatically from the recommended size, it will probably affect the appearance of the finished object and is not likely to be a successful project.
- When you’re not sure if you have enough. You don’t want to run out and have to play yarn chicken at the end. If you are getting this yarn out of your stash, you probably won’t be able to go back and buy more from the same dye lot if you happen to run out near the end.
Hopefully this helped! I’d love to hear your successful and disastrous yarn substitution stories friends!
If you liked this, you may also like some of my other posts…
- 8 Really Bad Crafting Habits We All Have (And How to Break Them) - February 22, 2024
- Plaid Double Brim Hat Knitting Pattern - February 20, 2024
- 5 Genius Tips to Make Craft Project Cleanup Less Painful - February 15, 2024