Adapting Patterns 1 – Yarn Substitution

Adapting patterns can feel really scary when you’re new to it. So I’m going to run a series of posts taking you through various approaches to this. We’re going to start with yarn substitution.

Why Substitute Yarn?

Cost – some patterns call for very expensive luxury yarns, they don’t suit all pockets, unfortunately.

Availability – Not all yarns are stocked locally to where you live. You can decide to order online but if the yarn is not available in your home country this can prove costly

Discontinued Lines – some yarns are only around for a season or two. Vintage yarns are hard to come by unless you are a devotee of charity shops.

Personal Preference – you might have a favourite brand you choose to work with or dislike the feel of a particular fibre either when knitting or against the skin. You might even be allergic to certain fibres or dyes.

Colour Range – if you are knitting or crocheting something to match your decor or a special outfit, you might need to look at another brand to find the colours you need.

Rules about Substitution

1. Make sure the yarns are the same weight i.e swap double knit for double knit etc.

2. Check the tension on the new yarn – will it knit to the same tension as the recommended yarn? If not you will need to swatch and do some maths that we’ll come onto in the next post in the series – “Tension Headaches”.

3. Buy by meterage – not weight – Check the length of yarn on the original and substitute balls. You can look up yarn meterage for most brands on line.

For example:

Yarn A has 300m per 100g ball – I need 300g or 900m according to the pattern = 3balls

Yarn B has 290m per 100g ball – I need 900m so the following calculation will help me work out what I need:

Total length of yarn DIVIDED BY Meters / ball of yarn B

900/290 = 3.1 balls, so you will need to buy 4 balls of yarn

This calculation  can also help you work out if substituting a cheaper yarn will actually save you money – for example of Yarn A was £4.99 per 100g and Yarn B was £3.75 per ball

Then Yarn A would cost 3 x £4.99= £14.97

And Yarn B would cost 4 x £3.75=£15.00

Help from Apps

If the maths addles your brain, as it sometimes does mine, then you can download free apps such as Knitting Calc for your tablet or smartphone. Simply enter the length per ball of the recommended yarn plus the number of balls needed. Then enter the length per ball of the substituted yarn – the app will work out the number of balls you need. Knitting Calc is also useful for working out differences in tension…which is coming next week!