We’ve all been there – that spectacular new pattern just purchased, but all you have is SweetGeorgia Yarns in the stash (not a bad thing)! Or perhaps you purchased new yarn and want to use it for a pattern that calls for something else. This short tutorial will help you determine if and how you can substitute a different yarn than what was originally called for.
Know that an open mind helps you overcome a little bit of trial and error in the beginning. I remember when I knit a cardigan once without taking the time for a blocked swatch and only discovered, after the first washing, that angora blends grow. A LOT. In my early knitting years, I learned that bamboo makes mittens a slippery, floppy mess. These tips, hopefully, will help you avoid those particular mistakes!
First, find a yarn in the same weight category as what the pattern calls for. Those categories begin at lace and end at jumbo. The Craft Yarn Council has developed a simple standard to help you understand them. For example, worsted weight is a mid-range-thickness yarn and if the pattern calls for that, you could consider our Superwash Worsted.
Side note, though! Even if the yarn label suggests a specific gauge for that yarn doesn’t mean it isn’t suitable. Swatching and blocking is the only way to know for sure.
Different fibers have their own unique characteristics (such as bamboo being floppy and slick, or silk blooming significantly when wet). Try to choose a blend that closely mimics the original yarn used in the pattern. Our worsted blends are pretty interchangeable, but Bulletproof Sock tends to differ in drape and feel (for garments, especially) than our Tough Love Sock.
Swatch and Block
Once you’ve selected a yarn that is a good comparison, you’ll want to swatch, wash, and block. In fact, this is so important that I’m going to repeat it: SWATCH, WASH, and BLOCK YOUR YARN. Several reasons why:
- You want to ensure that the gauge matches the pattern or your piece will not fit.
- You can determine if you really like working with the yarn.
- You can see how the drape really looks.
- You can feel how the fabric is against your skin in its true, ready-to-wear form.
- You’ll know if you can handle the stitch pattern or not.
Once you’ve chosen your yarn, make sure you have enough of it! Yardage and physical weights vary between companies and yarn types. To figure out the difference, multiply the number of skeins used in the pattern by the number of yards in each skein. For example:
5 skeins x 220 yards per pattern skein = 1100 yards total.
Knowing that you need 1100 yards, you can then calculate, with a little division, how many skeins to buy in the new yarn:
1100 yards / 200 yard skein of new yarn = 5.5 skeins, so 6 skeins needed.