How to Make Yarn Substitutions in Crochet Patterns

Image via Flickr by LollyKnit

You’ve found a crochet pattern you absolutely love and can’t wait to get started on. But the yarn the pattern calls for is either not available in stores near you or is too expensive. Can you substitute another yarn and get good results? Of course you can. Here’s how.

Preliminary Steps

You’ll need to determine the:

  • WEIGHT of the pattern yarn (e.g., worsted, DK, bulky).
  • FIBER CONTENT of the yarn (e.g., cotton, wool, acrylic)  and
  • Total number of YARDS required to complete the pattern.

Most patterns include this information in the “Materials Required” section at the beginning of the pattern. It can also be found on the yarn label. However, if the pattern or yarn label don’t tell you how many yards there are in one skein, you can probably find this information in a search on Ravelry.

Then simply multiply the number of yards in one skein times the number of skeins the pattern tells you to purchase to get the total yards required to complete the pattern.

Selecting Your Substitute Yarn

Choose a substitute yarn that matches the pattern yarn’s weight and fiber content as closely as possible. Once you’ve found your match, you’ll need to purchase the total number of yards required to complete the pattern. I always purchase a skein or two more just to be on the safe side. But don’t buy the yarn just yet.

Swatch!

You’ve probably found several yarns that could work as substitutes for the pattern yarn. Purchase one skein of each substitute yarn and one skein of the pattern yarn. Make an 8” by 8” swatch of the main stitch or stitch pattern in the substitute and pattern yarns.

You’re doing this for two reasons:

  1. To make sure you can match the gauge the pattern calls for
  2. To see what kind of fabric the yarn creates so you can determine if it matches as closely as possible the fabric the pattern yarn creates.

Gauge is especially critical if you are making a fitted garment, but not so much if you’re making an afghan or scarf where fitting isn’t essential. Try a different size hook if you’re having problems matching the pattern gauge. Smaller hooks will give you more stitches per inch while larger hooks will give you fewer stitches per inch.

A word of caution: The yarn you’re thinking about substituting may be thicker or thinner than the yarn the pattern calls for and still be categorized as the same weight. Even slightly thicker or thinner yarns may alter how the fabric performs.  It’s important therefore to find a substitute yarn that matches the weight and fiber content of the pattern yarn as closely as possible.

Time to Go Yarn Shopping

Now that you’ve found a substitute yarn that matches the pattern gauge and creates a fabric that performs like the fabric crocheted from the pattern yarn, go ahead and purchase your yarn. And remember to purchase a skein or two extra to ensure you don’t run out.

I typically will substitute another yarn when I’m working from a pattern. But if I’m familiar with the pattern yarn and it’s priced reasonably, I’ll purchase it.

What’s your preference: do you use the yarn the pattern calls for or do you prefer to use a substitute yarn? Let me know why in the comment section below.

I've been crocheting for over 40 years and blogging since 2004 - two of my favorite things in the world to do besides walking the beaches of windward Oahu, Hawaii.

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