The Simple Guide to Substituting Yarns

If you don’t fancy the yarn that is recommended in your pattern, it’s easy to swap it out for something else. And it’s a great feeling to be freed from the dictated boundaries of the printed pattern world!

Follow these easy steps for yarn substitution success every time:

1) Calculate

Sorry, yes there is a small amount of arithmetic involved for this! Start by having a read of your pattern about the recommended yarn that you’re trying to substitute – all the information you need should be in the materials section.

Take a note of how many balls you’ll need and how many metres of yarn is on each ball.

Multiply the total required number of balls by the number of metres on each to find the total number needed for this project – your magic number.

For instance, 8 balls of yarn to knit your size at 100m per ball would weigh in at a total ask of 800m for your finished item.

Nope, grams actually mean nothing here. Density of yarn fibres per metre is the only thing that will affect the number of grams, so stick with metres and you won’t run short.

2) Find an equivalent

Start by identifying a yarn you really like and make sure it’s pretty darn close to the thickness of the recommended yarn. Our reference chart will come in handy for this:

You need to make sure it will match the tension, so aim for a yarn with a recommended needle size that is no more than 0.5mm higher or lower than recommended on your new yarn’s label.

Bear in mind that yarn companies don’t always give totally precise needle size recommendations – if their yarn designer fancies the fibre for a loose and lofty fabric, they’ll up it a bit. So go with your gut.

3) Recalculate

Now that you’ve found the perfect yarn, check its meterage and divide your magic number by the length of the new ball. Say we find a new yarn that is actually 160m per 50g ball, but is the same thickness (yes meters per ball really do vary that much), our 800m total divided by this number reveals that you’ll only need to buy 5 in the new yarn to make your item.

This can often save you money so is worth doing if the yarn in your pattern is a tad on the pricey side.