To know how to substitute yarn for crochet patterns is such a great skill to have. This skill has been something I’ve worked on perfecting over the years, because it’s not always straight forward. However through this post I’m going to share my best tips for you, including sites to visit & factors to consider.
Let’s dig into this topic:
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WHY DO I EVER NEED TO SUBSTITUTE YARN FOR CROCHET PATTERNS?
In most cases when you’re going to follow a crochet pattern, chances are that you’re not able to use the exact same yarn as suggested. Then you’ll need to know how to substitute yarn for crochet patterns.
Either the yarn isn’t available in your local yarn shop, you don’t have time to wait for international shipping or it’s simply a yarn that feels either to cheap or to expensive.
Another reason is simply that the yarn suggested for the pattern doesn’t have the right colors for you.
Finally, many times yarns also go out of production, even though the pattern you want to make don’t go out of style.
Because of all those reasons, I always work on learning about as many yarns as possible that substitutes well with my patterns. Because I know there are expensive yarns & cheap yarns, Norwegian yarns, US yarns, Indonesian yarns, high quality yarns & lower quality yarns, that all will look good using my patterns.
Help: If you’re reading this & have made a pattern from me substituting yarn, email me so I can feature your yarn substitute on my patterns website.
DECIDE WHAT’S YOUR GOAL WHEN YOU SUBSTITUTE YARN FOR CROCHET PATTERNS:
When substituting yarn for crochet or any pattern you’ve decided to make, chances are that you don’t always look for the same result. Because of that it’s important to start envisioning what your goal is & what your vision is before you decide on yarn.
If you’ve found a beautiful pattern that uses really thick wool, maybe you’d like it for summer. Or vice versa you’ve found a crochet pattern intended for summer, that you’d love to make for fall & winter.
So before you dive deeper into substituting yarn, think about this if you have a specific pattern in mind.
SUBSTITUTE FOR YARNS WITH THE SAME FIBER – GIVES THE MOST COMPARABLE RESULT:
Tip #1 is to think about the yarn fiber when you’re going to substitute yarn for crochet patterns.
It’s a known fact that if you substitute a yarn for a yarn with the same fiber, chances are high that your result will turn out the same.
- Animal fiber yarns.
- Yarns branded with wool (merino, alpaca, 100 % wool ect.)
- Yarns branded wool blend, which will be wool mixed with another material.
- Acrylic yarns.
- Plant fiber yarns
- Yarns branded with (Cotton, Linen, Bamboo ect.)
In that I mean that if you substitute a yarn with a fiber from the same of the 3 categories, you’ll most likely end up with a really close result as the original yarn intended for the pattern.
However that’s not the only thing to consider, so keep reading.
SUBSTITUTE FOR YARN WITH OTHER FIBER – INCREASES THE CHANCE FOR A DIFFERENT RESULT:
When substituting yarn for another fiber, chances are that you won’t get the same result as the original yarn intended for the pattern.
Changes can be simply that it doesn’t look the same. But most important, what might change is how the crocheted fabric acts.
Cotton yarns, especially mercerized cotton yarns are often really slippery, & the yarn will then “live” more in a finished product. It will slide back & forth, & shape depending on how you wear it (for garment) or how you use it.
On the other side you have wool yarns like alpaca that won’t slide in the same way. The fiber have a more rough surface. That will shape slower & will end up keeping the shape over time. The same goes for most animal yarns.
Conclusion: Same yarn fiber gives close to the same result, changing yarn fiber will most likely change the result.
SEARCH FOR YARN WITH THE SAME YARN WEIGHT:
When substituting yarn it’s also important to figure out if you’re going to make it in the same yarn weight. As my title tells you, I suggest you do. However it’s optional.
One of the biggest reasons why you should substitute for the same yarn weight, is that you don’t have to struggle to get the same gauge & you also don’t have to calculate sizes again (important for any wearable project).
Believe me, the gauge doesn’t always end up the same even though you find a yarn in the same yarn weight & uses the same hook. However if you substitute for a completely different yarn weight, you’re definitely up for a challenge.
On the other side you can substitute yarn for another yarn weight, & keep the same hook, however there’s no guarantee for the result. If you do change the yarn weight & choose a completely different yarn, your finished project will look like something different. It’s not anything wrong with that, if that’s what you’re going for.
However to get the same size, measurements & gauge the easy way is to use a yarn with the same yarn weight.
Conclusion: Same yarn weight is the easy way to go, different yarn weight gives you lot’s of math problems to solve.
SEARCH FOR YARN WITH THE SAME LENGTH IN METERS OR YARDS:
The next factor to consider is the yarn length in either meters or yards.
Because if you think about it like this:
A yarn with the same fiber, the same yarn weigh & also the same length in meters & yards, will probably give a very close to exact same result as the yarn intended for the pattern.
Next it will also help you when it comes to the amount of yarn you’ll need, because most likely you’ll need what the pattern suggests.
Because of that fact I do tend to look for a yarn with those features when looking for a substitute yarn. Especially if I’m looking for the same result.
However it’s important to think about this:
A yarn with the same fiber, the same yarn weight & also the same length in meters & yards, doesn’t always have the same thickness. Some might have more tight fibers others are looser. Well, that means that unfortunately you’re not a 100 % guaranteed the exact same result anyways.
Even though you consider that, this is the closest you’ll get to the same result & I’m good with that.
Conclusion: A yarn with the same fiber, the same yarn weigh & also the same length in meters & yards, will probably give a very close to exact same result.
WHERE TO SEARCH FOR YARNS WHEN YOU SUBSTITUTE YARN FOR CROCHET PATTERNS:
With the knowledge from the previous steps, I’m sure you’re ready to start substituting yarn. But now you’re not sure where to go. I’ll help you with that.
Whenever I need to substitute yarn I have 3 places I go to.
Yarnsub is a search engine that helps you find yarns that are close to the exact match. They have an enormous amounts of yarns listed in their search engine.
The result you’ll get when searching is how many % exact match the yarn is. The top of the results will give you yarns that are about 90-99 % match.
Then they’ll tell you if the texture is the same, if the gauge on the yarn matches, if the yarn fiber is the same, if the yarn qualities are the same (drape, warmth, elasticity & durability), how long the yarn balls are & how much 1 yarn ball weighs. Depending on how many factors matches, you’ll get the score.
What I find a challenge when searching on Yarnsub, is that I sometimes would like to substitute for a yarn with a close to exact match fiber, not the exact. Then the search won’t help me.
I wish that I could specify which of the factors where most important to me.
Conclusion: It works best if you need a yarn that matches exactly.
My next go to place when I’m going to substitute yarn for crochet patterns is Ravelry. On Ravelry you’ll find a really big library of yarns. For each yarn you’ll find information about yarn weight, yards & meters, unit weight & so on. Essentially everything that the yarn label will tell you.
What’s great is that on the yarn you’ll also find patterns that uses the yarn & projects that uses the yarn.
In that way you can dive into patterns that uses this yarn & find other patterns that suggest both this yarn & another similar yarn.
If another pattern suggests another yarn, it will most likely also work for the pattern you’re substituting yarn for.
Conclusion: You’ll need to be a detective, but you’ll find good yarn substitutes.
So this might be a little obvious, however a search on Google will also help you when you’re going to substitute yarn for crochet patterns.
A good old “yarn substitute for _______” will sometimes give you exactly what you’re looking for. However that’s not always the case.
Then I’ll start searching for “yarn fibre” + “yarn length (meter or yards)” + “yarn weight”. Then I’ll often end up with many great results.
The negative about this search is that I’m only getting results for yarns with the exact same length, & sometimes you’ll find a yarn that’s perfect, but it’s just 1 meter or yard longer or shorter.
Conclusion: Sometimes you’ll find an exact & perfect match, sometimes your search end up being too specific.
YOU’VE FOUND YOUR YARN TO SUBSTITUTE WITH – WHAT NOW?
After searching for a yarn to substitute yarn for crochet patterns through those 3 channels, it’s time to start making your crochet project? Right?
But not that fast.
First you’ll have to make a test square to make sure you get the same gauge as the pattern has listed for you.
The bigger your test square, the more exact result you’ll have.
Take measurements to see if your gauge matches.
If you don’t know how to work with gauge, read the resources below to learn more.
Resource: FREE Gauge Calculator
Resource: FREE Yarn Calculators
Adjust crochet hook size:
The next step is to adjust your crochet hook size. If the test square ends up to big, you might need to go down in crochet hook size. If you test square ends up to small, you might need to go up in crochet hook size.
After substituting the crochet hook size, remake the test square to see if it matches the gauge for the pattern.
The gauge doesn’t have to match, it’s up to you!
So you might think now that I don’t need to test the gauge or adjust the crochet hook size. You’re right.
Because if your goal wasn’t to get the exact match. These steps isn’t necessary.
However you’ll have to be aware that the sizing from the pattern won’t turn out the same. So you’d have to do some math to get the size you want or just wing it.
Resource: How to calculate yarn yardage easily
CALCULATE HOW MUCH YARN YOU’LL NEED OF THE SUBSTITUTED YARN:
After finding the yarn you wanted to substitute with & also either getting for not getting the exact gauge, you’ll need to make sure you buy the right amount of yarn.
You have the same result:
Most likely if you’ve chosen the same yarn fiber, the same yarn weight & the same length & then also managed to get a 100 % gauge match, you’ll just buy the same amount skeins that the pattern suggests.
You don’t have the same result:
However if those doesn’t match, you’ll have to do some math if you want to buy the exact correct amount of yarn. Essentially what you’ll need to figure out is the length or weight of 1 stitch & then add it up by the number of stitches for the pattern.
I know it might seem like a big task, however it get’s the work done. In those guides below there are workbooks where you can fill in all your numbers & calculate step by step.
Resource: FREE Yarn Yardage Calculator
Your yarn doesn’t have the same length:
If everything else matches, but the yarn you substituted with doesn’t have the same length in meters or yards, you’ll need to do an easy calculation.
If you just have the number of balls/skeins needed for your pattern. Multiply the length of that yarn with the number of balls/skeins listed to get the total length needed.
Then divide that total with the length of 1 ball/skein of your yarn to get the number of balls/skeins to buy.
SUMMARY FOR HOW TO SUBSTITUTE YARN FOR CROCHET PATTERNS:
- Decide on what goal you have for substituting (the same result or not).
- Consider yarn fiber.
- Consider yarn weight.
- Consider yarn ball/skein length (meters or yards)
- Search for yarns on Yarnsub, Ravelry &/or google.
- Make test square, check gauge & substitute crochet hook.
- Calculate how much yarn you’ll need with the substituted yarn
Let me know if you have any questions about substituting yarn in the comment section below.
Also please let me know if this guide about how to substitute yarn for crochet patterns helped you!