Knitting with Needles

Substituting Yarn In Knitting and Crochet Patterns by Alysa Dudley

How to Use a Different Yarn Without Ruining Your Project
Knitting and crochet patterns frequently call for a specific kind of yarn. There are many reasons to decide to use something different. You can't find that brand in your area, an alternative fiber better suits your needs, or you want to buy a less expensive yarn. Following are some tips for how to substitute yarn without ruining the finished item.

You've finally found a pattern that you want to make. With so many choices, simply choosing a pattern is an accomplishment! The next step is selecting a yarn. Because many patterns are commissioned by yarn companies, a particular brand and type of yarn are often recommended. The pattern is provided by the company in the hopes that you will buy their yarn.

For any number of reasons you want to make another choice. You like a color which isn't available in that brand of yarn. You can't find the specific brand in a store near you. Although you could buy the same yarn online, you want to see and touch it before you buy. If the person you are making the item for is allergic to wool, you can't buy a yarn with any wool in it. Perhaps the item is for someone who only wants a natural fiber. In addition, the recommended yarn may be expensive, and your budget doesn't allow you to spend quite so much.

One important thing to determine is the weight of the yarn you will be using. If you choose the wrong weight of yarn your product may be difficult to make and will not look like the picture. Use a weight that is smaller than the one the pattern calls for, and your item will look too lacy and may end up too small. A bulkier yarn will be difficult to work with on the needle or hook size indicated, and you may end up with a product larger than the one you expected.

Yarn comes in seven standard weights. The modern yarn industry has made it easy to find the weight of yarns by looking at the label on each skein. The Craft Yarn Council of America has developed a standard yarn weight system. The chart on this web page gives all kinds of details including guidelines for gauge and recommended needle and hook sizes.

On the yarn label you will find a symbol that looks like a skein of yarn with a number inside. The number in the middle of this symbol indicates the weight of the yarn. The weights range from very fine fingering weight (zero) to super bulky yarn (six).

In substituting yarn, the other attribute to keep in mind is the number of yards or meters in each skein. The pattern will generally indicate the number of ounces or grams in each skein as well as the number of yards or meters. Even within the same weight of yarn, there may be a difference in the number of yards or meters per ounce or gram. The length of the yarn is a measure of how much yarn you loop around the needle. To have enough yarn to finish the project, therefore, you need to have the same number of yards or meters.

It can be helpful to bring a calculator to the store with you. To figure out the total length of yarn called for, multiply the number of skeins in the pattern by the number of yards or meters in each skein. When you've chosen the yarn you want to use, take the total number of yards or meters needed for the pattern, and divide it by the length of the yarn in each skein which you are substituting to find out how many skeins you need to purchase.

Example: The pattern calls for 5 balls of a yarn with 174 yards in each skein.

1. Figure out the total number of yards needed to finish the pattern:

5 skeins x 174 yards each = 870 yards

You need a total of 870 yards of yarn for this item.

2. The yarn you want to use has 120 yards in each skein. Figure out the number of skeins of the new yarn you will need to complete the pattern:

870 total yards in pattern / 120 yards in each new skein = 7.25

Eight skeins of the new yarn will provide more than enough yarn to finish the pattern.

When figuring how many skeins you need, always round up if your calculations don't come out to an even number. Run out of yarn when you have almost completed your project and you'll be sad if you can't find the same color or type of yarn.

If one type of yarn is in meters and the other is in yards you may find the following conversions useful:

1 yard = 0.9144 meters
1 meter = 1.0936 yards

Enjoy working with the yarn you choose. Much time and love go into a handcrafted item, so make it out of a yarn that you love.

page created by Frances Osborne Austin TX