How to substitute yarn

Don’t we know that all? You buy this super great pattern, but you don’t have exactly THE yarn the pattern calls for. Or maybe you’re purchased new yarn and want to knit a pattern that uses a different yarn. This tutorial shows you in 4 steps, if and how you substitute a yarn.

At the beginning of my knitting career, I haven’t known what is a swatch, or that the different yarn weights have an effect on the knitted garment. My first hat ended accordingly in a disaster. Save your time to avoid this mistakes. I want to show you what it takes to find a suitable yarn substitution.

how to substitute yarn in 4 steps

1. Yarn weight

First, you pick a replacement yarn that has the same weight. On needle sizes & yarn weights, you see the table, how the weights are classified. The categories of Craft Yarn Council (America) begin at “Lace” and end at “Jumbo”. Depending on yarn manufacturers the weights are differently called.

>>> ADVICE: Compare the yardage with the original and substituted yarn.

Side note: Just because on the yarn label a different gauge swatch is, it doesn’t mean that this yarn doesn’t work as a substitute. A swatch and the blocking of the swatch are the only way to be sure.

2. Fiber content

Different fibers have their own unique characteristics. For example, bamboo is smooth and floppy; wool is elastic; angora is fluffy; silk shines, is slippery and lose its shape. At Fibers & their characteristics, I explain the attributes to each fiber.

Try to choose a blend that closely comes to the original yarn used in the pattern.

3. Make a swatch

If you have chosen a replacement yarn that comes close to the original yarn, you are doing a swatch, block and wash it. It’s really important! Treat the swatch how you would do with the finished knitted piece. Why is it important?

  • You want to make sure that the gauge matches the pattern – or the piece will not fit.
  • You can determine whether you like knitting with the replaced yarn.
  • You see how the drape really looks.
  • You can feel how the fabric is on your skin.
  • You know, if you get along with the stitch pattern.

4. Calculate the yardage

Once you have chosen your yarn, you want to also make sure that you have enough of your substituted yarn! The yardages and weights of the balls vary by manufacturer and yarn types.

To determine the need, multiply the number of balls (or skeins/ hanks) in the pattern with the length of each ball (or skeins/ hanks) together. Example:

5 balls x 220m (yardage of the pattern ball) = 1100m total yardage

If you know the total yardage, you can find out how many balls of the new yarn you need to buy: divide the total yardage by the ball yardage of the substituted yarn. Example:

1100m / 200m (yardage of the substituted ball) = 5.5 balls >>> 6 balls are needed.

2 Responses

  1. Corinne
    | Reply

    Very helpful, thank you! I like to use the following link to find a similar yarn:

    And this article explains the different weights of yarns really well:

    • donnarossa
      | Reply

      I already listed the yarnsub link in my resources. And an article about the different yarn weights will follow :-)

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