Yarn Substitutions for Kniting and Crochet by Janice Jones, Published 05-15-2023
As a knitter and crocheter, you know that choosing the right yarn for your project is crucial. However, sometimes the yarn you want to use is not available or is too expensive.
That's where yarn substitution comes in. In this article, I will guide you through the process of yarn substitution and provide you with tips and resources to help you master it.
Yarn substitution is the process of replacing one yarn with another in a knitting or crocheting pattern. This can happen for various reasons, such as the original yarn being discontinued or unavailable, or the cost of the yarn being too high.
When substituting yarns, it is essential to consider several factors to ensure that your finished project looks and feels the way you intended it.
There are a number of reasons why one may want to make a yarn substitution.
One of the most critical factors to consider when substituting yarns is the weight and fiber content of the yarn.
Yarn weight refers to the thickness of the yarn, which is measured in categories such as lace, fingering, sport, worsted, and bulky. When substituting yarns, it is crucial to choose a yarn with the same weight as the original yarn. Otherwise, the finished project's size and drape may be different.
The fiber content of the yarn is also important to consider. For example, a wool yarn will have a different feel and drape compared to a cotton or acrylic yarn. If a pattern calls for a specific fiber, such as alpaca, and you cannot find it, you can substitute it with a similar fiber, such as wool or mohair.
According to Knitting Knowledge, texture refers to the physical characteristics of the yarn and will decribe qualities such as smoothness, softness, or fuzziness. It is how the yarn feels to the touch.
Texture can affect how easy it is to work with and even dictate what type of needles or hooks you will want to use. It also discusses ply.
Ply or ply count is the number of strands of fiber twisted together to create a strand of yarn. For example, if you see the term, 2-ply yarn, it refers to the fact that two strands of yarn were twisted together. Similarly, 4-ply means 4 strands were twisted together.
The higher the ply count, meaning the number of individual strands of fiber, the tighter the yarn which results in more stitch definition and texture. High ply yarns will be more durable.
The fewer the ply count, the less visible the stitches become. They will be softer, but not hold their shape as well. A yarn that contains a single strand of yarn may come apart because it is not twisted with another strand.
The ply count can be one-ply or single, but in most cases yarn will be made up of multiple plies. One thing that confused me as a beginner knitter was plies.
I thought that the number of plies determined the thickness of the yarn. Perhaps I got this notion because I learned to knit 50 years ago when ply did refer to the yarn weight. Nowadays, the Craft Yarn Council has standarized yarn weight and ply is not part of the definition. With that said, there are still countries in the world that rely on plies to describe yarn weight.
Don't make the same mistake as me. Ply, in the US and other countries, has nothing to do with thickness.
You can purchase two ply bulky yarn or four ply sports weight yarn.
To complicate things further, when individual strans are twisted together to form plies, they may be twisted in opposite directions.
If the yarn is twisted to the left, the twists will form an S shape. If the yarn is twisted to the right, the twists will slant to the right and is called a z twist.
Does twist matter? You may add or remove twists depending on how you knit. If you add twists, the yarn gets tighter, stronger and less likely to split.
If, on the other hand, you remove twists, your yarn slackens and the plies separate making it easier to split.
Most yarns are S twist yarns. Knitters who work either in English or continental style will add twist. But in crocheting, most of us will remove the twist from s twisted yarns.
If possible, chose a substitute yarn with a similar ply count and one whose plies have been twisted in a similar direction (s vs. z).
If the recommendation in the pattern calls for a smooth yarn, it's best to substitute with another smooth yarn. Wools, linens, cottons, and acrylics are all smooth. These types of yarns provide great stitch definition and are highly durable.
Opposite of smooth, the fuzzy yarns are more difficult to work with and even irritating to the skin. Fuzzy yarns are great for warm blankets, scarves and heavy sweaters. Examples of fuzzy yarns include mohair, angora, cashmere, alpaca and llama wool.
When substituting yarns, there are several factors to consider to ensure that your finished project looks and feels the way you intended it. Some of these factors include:
A yarn substitution chart is a useful tool that can help you choose a substitute yarn for your project. The chart lists different yarns and their weight, fiber content, and gauge.
You can use this information to find a substitute yarn that matches the original yarn's weight and fiber content.
To use a yarn substitution chart effectively, follow these steps:
When you make yarn substitutions it's important to purchase the amount of yarn suffient in a specific color and dye lot for the project you are making.
If you plan to make the project in the yarn specified in the pattern, there is no problem. The designer will tell you how much yarn to buy. (example: 5 balls).
If yarn substitutions are made, you must do a bit of math to make sure you purchase sufficient quantities so you don't run out. Here is an example:
I found an easy sweater I wanted to make. It called for Amerah, SWTC, 10 balls in vineyard. First of all, I had never heard of the yarn so I needed to research.
I discovered that this is a 100% silk yarn, provided in balls 1.75-oz (50-gram) containing approximately 97 yards.
I chose Lion Brand Coboo Natural Fiber Yarn 50% cotton and 50% bamboo, 3.5 oz, 232 yds.
The original pattern requires 970 yards (10 balls x 97 yds.)
The new yarn is 232 yds (970 divided by 232 - 4.18). I will purchase 5 balls of the new yarn to complete the project.
Substituting yarns can be a daunting task, but with these tips, you can ensure a successful substitution:
Here are some common yarn substitutions for knitting and crochet:
When substituting yarns, it is essential to consider the stitch pattern used in the original pattern. Some stitch patterns may require a specific fiber or texture to achieve the desired effect.
For example, a lace pattern may require a yarn with good stitch definition, while a cable pattern may require a yarn with good stitch memory.
Remember that having a good stitch definition means that each stitch is even, crisp and easy to see the shape of each individual stitch.
Stitch memory, on the other hand refers to the stitch's ability to retain it shape over time.
To substitute yarns for different stitch patterns, follow these steps:
Here are some resources and tools that can help you with yarn substitution:
Here are some frequently asked questions about yarn substitution:
Can I substitute a different weight yarn?
It is generally not recommended to substitute a different weight yarn as it can affect the finished project's size and drape.
Some will substitute yarns of a different weight to change the size of their finished item. This can be easier if the project is a simple scarf where the finished measurements are not that important. But if you are making a wearable, where size matters, it will require advanced skills and math that most crafters prefer not to do.
If you must substitute a different weight yarn, adjust the needle size or hook size to match the original yarn's gauge.
Can I substitute a different fiber yarn?
Yes, you can substitute a different fiber yarn, but consider the fiber's characteristics, such as drape and texture, when choosing a substitute yarn.
How do I know if my substitute yarn will work?
Always make a swatch with the substitute yarn to ensure that the gauge and drape are similar to the original yarn.
Yarn substitution can be intimidating, but with the right tools and tips, you can master it and unleash your creativity.
Remember to consider the weight and fiber content of the yarn and use a substitution chart to find a suitable substitute yarn. Always make a swatch with the substitute yarn and keep a record of the yarn you used for future reference.
With these tips and resources, you can confidently substitute yarns and create beautiful projects.