“How do I know that the yarn I picked is going to work?”

–Jackie S.

Hi Jackie,

More often than not, we’ll pick a pattern and find that the yarn used is either hard to find, something we don’t like working with or just simply out of our budget. When this happens, we need a way to make sure that what we do pick will work.

To start, we need to look at the pattern. I will usually look up the suggested yarn and find out more about it. Sites like Ravelry.com are a great resource for this; simply type in the yarn you are looking up and it will tell you more about it than the pattern did.

We first want to note the weight of the yarn. Is it classified as a sport weight, a bulky or perhaps a worsted weight? Generally speaking, you’ll want to choose a yarn in the same weight class, so if your pattern calls for a bulky weight yarn, start looking for your substitute in yarns with this same classification. From here, choose a yarn you think will look great in the pattern.

Once you’ve found yarn you like, you’ll need to make sure that you have enough yards of yarn to make the pattern. Look at your pattern label and compare it to the original pattern. There are cases where the pattern will not tell you how many yards you need, so you’ll have to decide based on the weight. Keep in mind that different yarns are composed of different fibers and methods, so the weights will vary. In this case, always err on the side of having too much yarn because you never want to run out and have to scramble to find a matching dye lot down the line.

When you get home, make a gauge swatch. Check your gauge carefully because even though a yarn is labelled as a certain classification, there will be slight differences. Adjust your hook size and/or tension to ensure that you get the gauge listed on the pattern. Even though many of us dislike the gauge swatch part of the process, it’s especially important when you are substituting yarns as it will give you an idea of how the yarn handles the pattern: will it lay correctly, will the change in texture effect how the finished product looks? Now is the best chance to determine that you’ve possibly made the wrong choice and need to exchange your yarn.

Finally, take a second to look up your pattern on Ravelry as well. The members of the site may have put in the different yarn choices they have made, and may have even uploaded finished object pictures so you can see what it might look like.

When it comes to yarn, inspiration is endless and you’ll absolutely find the perfect one!  Have fun with it!

  • Kathleen B.

    As the number of people with allergies grows with every generation, it would be really nice to have a non-animal based choice given for any yarn that is animal based, ie wool, alpaca, cashmere. Thanks for the consideration from those of us who suffer with this problem.

  • It would be really nice and convenient if you could add the weight of yarn with each pattern instead of just the name of the yarn. ..thanks


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