Substituting Yarn

Substituting yarn is the process of choosing a different yarn than the one recommended in your knitting pattern. There are a variety of reasons for why you might do this. The yarn the designer used might have been discontinued; the yarn the designer used may not appeal to you; you might have a yarn in your stash that you would like to use up; you might not be able to find the yarn in your local yarn shop, or any other reason you could imagine. The point is there are a great number of possibilities for why you might want to substitute yarn and knowing how to do so will serve you well in your knitting adventures.

There are a couple of keys to making a successful substitution:

  1. Choosing a yarn with equal or similar properties

  2. Choosing an equal stitch gauge

  3. Choosing an equal row gauge (of lesser importance in some situations)

  4. Choosing en equal yarn yardage (up to you as the knitter to decide whether you would like to use an entire skein of yarn or whether you are okay with having some leftover)

Yarn properties

Begin by taking a closer look at the yarn in the pattern. If you have access to the yarn but would still like to substitute you are at an advantage! In this case you might like to take the opportunity to explore the yarn in person so you can feel the yarn and look at it and test for things like drape, ply and pilling to name a few. However if you don’t have access to the yarn you can still make an informed and successful decision! There is a database of sorts at of yarn. Choose the subsection ‘yarn’ at the top of the homepage and input the name of the yarn in the pattern.

Take note of the recommended gauge, the fiber content and if you like the yardage.

Fiber content

The subject of fiber content is far too great an area to go into any specific detail here about the properties of individual fibers or combinations of fibers and how they affect clothing. If you are interested in being able to not just make a yarn substitution but a fiber substitution as well check out Clara Parks’ book “Yarn” to learn about fiber in detail. The unique properties of specific fibers are However in order to substitute a new yarn for the pattern’s yarn you’ll need to look for yarn that has the same fiber content in roughly the same amount. If there’s a combination of fibers you’ll want to make sure those are included in your substitution yarn as well.

Substituting yarn requires a few key elements.

  1. The gauge of both the yarn in the pattern and the yarn you’d like to use

  2. Key measurements in the pattern which I will elaborate on