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. 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 necessary.

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

  • You are allergic to the fiber within the 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 don’t have access to the original yarn
  • You have yarn in your stash that you’d like to use instead of the original yarn

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

What Should I Consider When Doing Yarn Substitutions?

Looking to get creative with your yarn choice? There are four main components in the decision to substitute one yarn for another. Swapping out yarns will change the weight, drape, care, and look of a project. Whether you want to mimic or completely modify the original design, consider these four components that Tayler of Wool Needles Hands on YouTube highlights:

  1. FIBER // Fibers perform differently, both within and between categories. Cellulose (plant), protein (animal), and acrylic fibers all have different characteristics when stitched. If you want to mimic the original design, use a yarn sub with fiber content as close to the original as possible.
  2. COLOR // Does the original pattern use a solid yarn, and you’re going with self-striping? Or maybe the original uses a color-blocked stripe pattern with tonal yarn, and you want to go with a zany speckled option. Adjusting the colors used will modify the overall aesthetic. It helps to make a swatch, which will give you an idea of how color will lay in your project.
  3. TEXTURE // With so many yarn options on the market, the texture of the yarn you’re swapping in becomes a major consideration. Worsted spun, woolen spun, thick-thin, boucle, mohair, chainette, and so on. Each option looks and performs differently in stitched fabric and will change the final mood and feel (touch) of the piece.
  4. DENSITY // This refers to how heavy a yarn is by weight. Fibers like silk and cotton, for example, are heavier by weight than wool or angora. Increasing or decreasing the density of the yarn compared to what was originally in the pattern will impact how much yarn you need, how heavy the final piece is, and what kind of drape it has. My simple yarn substitution method (explained below!) helps you achieve a density similar to the original pattern.

Watch Tayler’s video for a breakdown of what to consider in a yarn sub:

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 lots of 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 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 as a substitute is a yarn from my stash called K+C Element, 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 for me in this case, 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 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).

I’ve found the most accurate way to determine the gauge of a yarn held double is to calculate the new yardage. Let’s say I have a fingering weight yarn with 400 yards per 100 grams. If I held this yarn double, I would divide the yardage in half to get my new weight. 400 / 2 = 200 yards per 100 grams. This new weight falls in the worsted category – I can now use this information to determine if holding a yarn double will be a suitable substitution in my pattern. Read this blog post by Math for Knitters for a deeper dive on holding yarns together.

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 commercially available yarn, but it’s a great place to start. YarnSub.com also hosts a great collection of articles and recent books to browse.

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  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?

    • 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.

  11. AvatarJanice Guy (typo and registered as Janice Juy) says

    I’ve learned so much just by your lives. I am having such a hard time finding the Academy.
    And where I put my Code in.
    I wasn’t sure if Day 1 was Live, Day 2 (Tuesday) on Zoom? Which would be live.
    Please could someone just tell this old simpleton, who is so excited about this Academy and doesn’t want to miss anything, how to maneuver through this.
    tlycblog.com. Enter code ? Or not and where
    [email protected] enter code ? Or not and where
    Instagram codes
    YouTube codes
    I’m so sorry, but I’m so flustered.

    I truly thank you Toni, for bringing the love of crocheting back into my life. It has come at a time I so need it! I’ve watched so many tutorials, but none gave me the hope that I could actually become accomplished in this beautiful artistry. ❤️

    • Toni L.Toni L. says

      Hi darling. Let’s sort this out. Crochet Academy is email-based. You sign up via this link, and you are added to an email list. You receive emails daily with the lessons. There are no “live lessons” or codes to enter, just blog posts and pre-recorded videos. The Tuesday night Assemblies are just a chance to connect with one another and play some games. Does that make sense?

  12. AvatarSam says

    Thank you so much for the information on holding yarn double! Using the weight will make it so much easier to estimate!

  13. AvatarRoxie says

    Hi Toni. This is my second crochet academy and I am learning so much. Thank you for all the work and time you put into these blog posts and all of your YouTube videos.
    The yarn substitution blog has helped me understand so much. I have passed up making somethings I really wanted to try because I couldn’t find the yarn asked for in the pattern. Now I have the tools and knowledge to make informed choices and I don’t have to pass up making something just because I can’t find the yarn.
    You are amazing and I am so glad I stumbled across your YouTube channel last year.

  14. AvatarAnne Chimelis says

    Hi Toni,
    Thanks for this info and for the link for Taylor’s video. It’s so funny to me that all roads lead me back to TLYC 😉❤️ I stumbled across Taylor recently and even though she’s a knitter, I enjoy her rambles as she calls them. And here I see you are a colleague. This has happened several times already starting with Bella Coco. But I am always led back to my favorite maker.,.YOU! ❤️🤷🏻‍♀️

  15. AvatarMargaret says

    Hey Toni! I have been crocheting for almost three years now (started late in life) and it has become one of my favorite things to do. I have one word for Crochet Academy “Amazing”. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with the rest of us. I sometimes have a problem keeping the beginning and ending stitches uniform with the rest of the row. Any suggestions on how to control this?

    • Toni L.Toni L. says

      I’m so glad that you’re enjoying Crochet Academy 🙂 To help keep my edges straight, I like to put a stitch marker in the first and last stitch of the row. That helps me identify where the last stitch is to keep things even. Hope that helps!

  16. AvatarChiki says

    I to thank you so much for all these learning video and this was my favorite so far, I struggled and struggled on using my stash yarn with projects. This helps a lot to know what really works together thank you Toni

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