I talked about yarn in the first part of this How To in the Materials section. However, there will come a time when you will not have or be able to get the yarn that is called for in a pattern. Not to fear! There are substitutions that can be made. Thankfully yarn substitutions are much easier than baking substitutions. hehe
So, where to start. When you get your pattern you will find that there is a section of important details such as gauge, needles, and a yarn section. Those yarn details is what you need. It will likely list the name, weight, fiber details and amount you need of that particular yarn. The first step to take is to do a search for that yarn. You can do this through a site like Ravelry, which I mentioned in the last post, or you can just do a general search online to find it. The important thing to look for is the Knitting Gauge. This will give you all the important information on exactly what that yarn weighs. You see, the problem with yarn designations like Fingering or Worsted is that all of these are ranges. That means they will vary in actually weight (the width of the yarn) by potentially a lot, which will make your project not work as you would have hoped.
As you can see from the above photo from the Knit Picks website, I have circled the yarn weight. This happens to be their Wool of the Andes Tweed, which is a worsted weight. They give you the details on how many stitches you should get per inch if you on a particular range of needles. So, in this yarn you should get 4.5 stitches per inch if you knit on size US 6 needles. This range is the important detail that you want. You can now go through your options for worsted weight yarns to find something with a similar range listed.
Another important detail is the fiber content that is listed. This yarn has a high wool content, which will mean that when you block it (which I will cover in a later post) it will grow. That means the yarn will expand in size. Your pattern will tell you what gauge is needed to get the desired look they have listed, and that is almost always after blocking. If you chose a yarn that is not the same fiber content, which is most likely to be the case, you will want to knit a swatch and then wet block it. You can take your measurements of how many stitches and rows per 4 inches you have to make sure you match the pattern.
The next detail to look at is the number of yards/meters. The yarn listed on your pattern will tell you how many skeins you need of the yarn they suggest. Simply multiply the number of skeins for your size by the yards/meters listed for the suggested yarn. Then you can divide that by the number of yarns in your chosen yarn to get the number of skeins you need of that yarn.
As you work through a few things, you will begin to notice the differences that come up with the different yarns. Some yarns just don’t bounce back like other yarns. Wools definitely bounce back nicely after washing. Yarns like cotton will tend to stretch and won’t really shrink back up when you wash it (making sure to wash it based on the directions the yarn gives you). That is why fibers like cotton, silk and linen are not recommended for socks. They will just end up droopy and saggy.
I really hope that this helps you with coming up with yarn substitutions. It does require a bit of research as you are looking for a yarn you like, but it’s very worth it. I skipped this when I was starting out and just went by the weight, thinking all worsted weights were the same. I was very wrong. It wasn’t the end of the world, but trying to figure out gauge does get more complicated. If you do find a yarn you just love, that doesn’t match the yarn gauge, you do have the option of doing swatches to get to the gauge your pattern calls for. It could mean you go up or down a few needle sizes, but you can still achieve the desired look. The next post in this series will be all about gauge, so you’ll be able to do those calculations for yourself. 😀
Thanks for reading!!