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Yarn Substitutions Made Easy

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Need to substitute the yarn used in a crochet or knitting pattern for something else? Yarn substitutions can be confusing for beginning crocheters, but this guide offers a quick and easy way to find the perfect swap for your next project!

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Quick guide to yarn substitutions in your crochet projects. How to substitute yarn in crochet projects. Yarn substitutions made easy.

What Are Yarn Substitutions?

If you are diving into a new pattern or project, but you can’t or don’t want to use the yarn recommended, you’ll need to make a substitution. Yarn substitutions are something I talk a lot about here on my blog. I’ve shared my strategy for yarn substitutions in a post about yarn weights and one about reading yarn labels. It’s such an important topic that I decided to give it its own post so you can reference it whenever you need to.

There are dozens of reasons to swap out the original yarn in a pattern. Here are just a few:

  • You are allergic to the fiber within original yarn
  • The original yarn is low stock or discontinued
  • You are looking for an alternative yarn that is easier to care for than the original yarn
  • You have yarn in your stash that you’d like to use instead of the original yarn

Regardless of your reason, it shouldn’t be so difficult to find a suitable yarn substitution when starting a new crochet project. Try my simple method and see if it works for you.

Yarn Substitutions, Simplified

When substituting yarns in a pattern, you are looking to match not only the size of the finished piece but often the texture and drape of the finished fabric. The most accurate way to substitute yarn in a pattern is to get a skein of the potential substitute and make a gauge swatch to compare to the gauge in the pattern. But this can be a lengthy and costly experiment. Thankfully, I have a simple method for finding a reasonable yarn substitute for crochet projects without spending time and money upfront. Here’s how to do it!

Step 1: Get the Specs from the Original yarn

Find the yardage and fiber content from the original yarn. You can often find the fiber content and yardage of the original yarn on the label, in the pattern itself, or from a quick Google search.

Quick guide to yarn substitutions in your crochet projects. How to substitute yarn in crochet projects. Yarn substitutions made easy.

For this example, let’s say the original yarn is Cascade 220 Superwash, which is a 100% superwash merino wool. This ball has 220 yards per 100 grams.

Step 2: Find a Yarn with Similar Specs

Search for yarns that come close to the original fiber content and yardage. Finding a yarn with similar yardage is the main priority. Similar yardage suggests that you’ll achieve a similar gauge and be close to the total yardage used. I try to stay within a +/-20% range with matching yardage. Matching the fiber content ensures the texture and drape of the final piece will be similar, but you can go off script here.

Quick guide to yarn substitutions in your crochet projects. How to substitute yarn in crochet projects. Yarn substitutions made easy.

The yarn I am considering for a substitute is a yarn from my stash called K+C Element, which is a cotton and acrylic blend with 204 yards per 100 grams. My +/-20% margin of yardage is 44 yards (Cascade 220 has 220 yards; 20% of 220 = 44 yards). 204 yards per 100 grams falls within my 20% margin, so this yarn is a good choice in terms of yardage. I know from the label that my substitute has a different fiber content so the fabric may perform differently, but that is ok, as my first priority is using yarn from my stash. Curious about yarn fibers? Discover 11 popular fibers in this post.

Step 3: Figure Out How Much Yarn You Need

Calculate how much of the substitute yarn is needed to complete the pattern. Now that we’ve found a suitable substitute, we’ll need to figure out how much of the new yarn we need to complete our pattern. If you have a pattern, it should list the exact yardage used. Try your best to match that yardage and pick up 1 extra ball of your substitute yarn just to be safe.

If your pattern does not list yardage and instead says something like “4 skeins Cascade 220 Superwash”, start by calculating that amount. 220 yards per skein x 4 skeins = 880 total yards. 880 yards / 102 yards per 50g ball of K+C Element = 8.62 skeins, which we’ll round up to 9 skeins. I’d purchase 10, again, just to be safe.

Holding Yarn Double

With the rise in popularity of yarn being held double in knitting and crochet patterns, you might be curious about how to use this strategy in your projects. Unfortunately, there is conflicting information about what weight holding two identical yarns together will produce. Some resources suggest that two identical weights held double will produce the next weight (for example – two strands of fingering make sport), while others suggest a heavier weight (for example – two strands of fingering make DK).

As with other yarn substitutions, making a gauge swatch with your preferred yarns is the most accurate way to determine the resulting yarn weight. If you’d like additional guidance on holding yarn double, try out my preferred resource – a blog post from Kristen Tolle of Orcas Island Knitting.

Plan B: YarnSub.com

When all else fails and you can’t seem to find a reasonable sub for your yarn, try YarnSub.comYarnSub is a database of over 10,000 yarns that tracks the features of yarns to suggest reasonable substitutes with the click of a mouse.

Visit: YarnSub.com

Suggestions on YarnSub.com are rated as an excellent match or a good match, and a comparison of the two yarns is listed so you can make an informed decision. Visit YarnSub.com and test the different yarns you typically use to see what substitutes are suggested. NOTE: Yarn Sub does not list every single yarn commercially available, but it’s a great place to start. YarnSub.com also hosts a great collection of articles and recent books for you to browse.

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Comments

  1. AvatarSandra says

    Hi Toni. Thank you for this and the recommended site to visit for the substitutions. I have a question. I made a wrap that I’m proud of bc I was able to do it by reading the pattern WITHOUT a tutorial 😂, but I don’t like it bc it didn’t come out as long as I wanted and after blocking, the “drape” was not there. I figured it’s bc the yarn was Hue + Me bulky. I want to make the wrap again using a yarn that’s not so stiff. I bought a worsted 4 weight hoping I bought enough but I’m concerned if that switch even makes sense. Do you have a recommendation?

  2. AvatarVickie says

    Hi Toni,
    I’m learning so much about crocheting from the academy. The one thing that I’m having trouble with is tension. I can’t seem to crochet without relaxing the tension as I go, making the fabric look like I’m increasing stitches, when it’s the tension making it larger. Any suggestions/help?
    Thanks,
    Vickie

    • Toni L.Toni L. says

      Great question, Vickie. There are lots of things that impact our tension, from the way our yarn feeds to how we hold the hook and even our posture and mood. I’ll be chatting about tension in tonight’s Zoom meeting and the replay will go out to Crochet Academy tomorrow (Wednesday).

  3. AvatarMiosoti says

    Thank you for the well needed info on yarn sub. That totally helps me to try to use the yarns in my stash. Though all these amazing indie dyers make it so difficult to not buy all the beautiful master piece they create. I just want it all. lol Btw you are an Amazing designer and teacher. love to just listen to your videos your voice is so soothing to the ears, especially after a day of screaming toddlers having fun.

  4. AvatarGloria Mc says

    Hi Toni. Thank you for this post on yarn substitutions. It is very informative. I’ve been on YarnSub.com, but didn’t even notice other resources they have.

  5. AvatarNancy Toomey says

    Today, another lesson about something I thought I knew about, but you give me more! A characteristic of an amazing teacher! Thanks Toni!

  6. AvatarValerie says

    Thanks! I had no clue that website even existed. Now with your suggestions, i can practice my yarn substitutions.

  7. AvatarFelis says

    This is very helpful post as most of the brands suggested by US designers aren’t even delivered by the brand’s sites to East Europe! Or even worse: brands aren’t familiar with the additional information that they have to submit and orders ended stuck at some customs house, becoming overpriced and huge headache source.

  8. AvatarOlivia says

    Thank you for this! I bought so much yarn when I began crocheting in March and my husband suggests that I use it up before I buy more :-). Yarn substitution has been tricky for me so I will use this information to use yarn in my stash for new projects! Thanks!!

  9. AvatarCaroline says

    Hi Toni,
    I’ve just recently discovered you and your YouTube channel and wow…what can I say, you’ve put the fire back in me to pick up a crochet hook after many years of absence. You’ve also inspired my daughter which excites both of us because we now have something to do together.
    I do have a question. I have all the material needed to make your Cuffed Cardi. Where can I find the pattern? I was hoping to have a bit done before Zoom this evening.
    Again thank you for doing all that you do. You are one hard-working woman.

    • Toni L.Toni L. says

      Hi Caroline – thanks so much for this message. It makes me especially happy to hear that crochet is strengthening your connection with your daughter 🙂 The pattern for the Toni Cuffed Cardi will be free on my blog and available to purchase on September 12th.

  10. AvatarEmmi says

    I’ve learned so much so far and i love your recommendations. thank you for introducing me to yarn sub I hope to use it alot in the future.

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