Tips For Substituting Yarn

If you knit on a regular basis, it is likely that you will either need or want to make yarn substitutions.

This might be because a yarn has been discontinued, or perhaps because you have purchased some yarn and can’t find a pattern that you love for that exact brand.

Substituting yarn is usually quite easy and will enable you to mix and match knitting patterns and various wools and yarns.

Read on to find out some tips which will point you in the right direction when you need to substitute some yarn.

Reasons for substituting yarn

Usually knitters will purchase a knitting pattern and the corresponding yarn at the same time. This is because we want to knit the exact same garment as shown in the pattern.

However, and indeed more and more these days, we may wish use a knitting pattern with a different yarn that that for which the knitting pattern was intended.

Here are the main reasons:

  • The knitting pattern is old or vintage and the yarn is no longer available.
  • The yarn recommended in the knitting pattern is not available in the country where you live.
  • You have some yarn that you want to use and no knitting pattern that fits it directly. This could be handspun yarn, yarn purchased in a charity shop, or basically just leftovers or yarn that you bought on impulse and now can’t find a corresponding pattern for it.

These are the main reasons that will lead you to look for a substitute yarn. We will now look at how to go about finding a suitable substitute.

Tips for finding a good yarn substitute

First of all, you will need to take note of the details of the yarn that is specified in the knitting pattern.

This will be the information that is printed on the wool ball band.

You can find this information by running a web search on the wool. This should lead to the wool manufacturer or to a website that sells this yarn or wool. Either way, the information will be available online.

Take note of the following information:

  • Knitting needle size.
  • Yarn content.
  • Yardage or meterage of the yarn

With this information gathered, all you need to do is find a similar yarn or wool that you can substitute with to enable you to successfully use your knitting pattern.

A wool ball label will give you all the necessary information for making a yarn substitution.

Knowing the knitting needle size will enable to you discover the yarn weight. In other words, is the yarn 4ply, aran, chunky, super chunky and so on. It is likely, for example that wool asking for a 4mm knitting needle will be double knitting/8 ply. A 6mm knitting needle requirement indicates a chunky/bulky yarn.

Now you need to check the ball band information of similar yarns that you like the look of. Either go to a wool shop, or an online yarn store, and seek out yarns in the same weight group. With your yarn information at hand, check the details of the possible substitutes and simply find something that looks close enough.

Your yarn substitute doesn’t have to be exactly the same – close enough will do. Once you have the new yarn, knit up a small swatch and check the tension against that given in the knitting pattern. A little too small? Use a bigger knitting needle. Too wide? Use a smaller needle.

With garments such as blankets and afghans tension doesn’t really exactly matter anyway. It is only with fitted garments that you need to pay close attention to a tension gauge.

Personally, I substitute yarns all the time, and as long as my substitutes are ‘close enough’ I just start knitting. Haven’t had a big knitting fail doing this. Or at least not yet!

Finding yarn substitutes for vintage knitting patterns

Knitting with vintage patterns is one area of the craft where substituting yarn is most likely a definite must. It is almost certain that the yarn specified in the knitting pattern has been discontinued and simply can’t be purchased any longer.

Never fear! Simply follow the exact same tips shown above.

I found this helpful chart which can help with substituting vintage yarns. I do however want to say that it is pretty long and it can be time consuming to use it. The yarns in this chart are also mostly American in origin.

It is definitely worth looking at this conversion chart however if you ever need pointing in the right direction when substituting vintage yarns.

Knitting with handspun yarn

If you read this article you will know that I love to knit with handspun yarns.

A skein of such a yarn is usually a one off and won’t come with a matching knitting pattern.

Hanspun yarn does however often come with a detailed label which is useful in yarn substitution. You can also ask the creator whether any yarn that you own or may wish to purchase will work with your knitting pattern.

Some handspun yarn – it came with a label showing full details, as with any regular ball of wool.

Handspun yarn is usually thick and thin in texture and can often be used successfully for knitting patterns even where the recommended needle size is totally different. The nature of the texture of handspun and art yarn means that the finished garment will not be ‘regular’ and you can really experiment here with your substitute wools.

And that’s it for our tips about substituting yarns. We hope you enjoyed it and have gained some useful information.

Thanks so much for visiting The Knitting Times today!

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