Help! My yarn is acrylic/discontinued/out-of-stock/expensive: How do I substitute my yarn?

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There are some big discussions going on in the yarny community right now around accessibility to yarn.

A lot of designers may have access to more “premium” yarns i.e. indie/hand dyed or higher quality fibre, that other makers may not be able to get their hands on. Does this mean they shouldn’t even attempt a pattern?

With a few quick tips I’ll show you why you don’t even need to use the yarn advertised and make your item exactly the way YOU want it.

There are a lot of barriers to yarn. This week, for example, I came across a sale at LoveCrafts and finally found a shade of pink yarn I LOVED for a project- let me tell you, over the past few weeks I’ve been buying and returning yarn from everywhere in the quest for the perfect pink.

By the time I went to buy the pink, the white yarn (that I also needed) in the same brand was SOLD OUT.

“No problem,” I thought, “I’ll just buy it from somewhere else!”

No can do. Turns out LoveCrafts had this yarn on sale as it was being discontinued. But rather than sacrifice my perfect shade of pink, I decided to find a yarn that would compliment my existing purchase.


1. YarnSub.com

YarnSub is my first stop for any kind of yarn substitutions. I sometimes find myself drooling over patterns by foreign designers and this helps me find an alternative that I can get in the UK.

YarnSub will match the weight, ply, yardage, even COLOUR of the yarn (going as far to say “solid” or other…). If you haven’t used it before, check it out! It’s a free resource that is definitely worth its weight in gold.


2. Ravelry

If it’s yarn for a specific pattern you’re looking for, check out it’s pattern page on Ravelry.

If it’s a popular pattern, you’ll find other users who may have attempted it in other yarns. Have a snoop through their project pages- you might even find helpful notes and tips that they might have made to make the pattern even better!

3. Read the yarn label

Not the physical one!

Most online yarn sellers will list the weight of the yarn in the listing. This isn’t a sure-fire way of getting the “perfect” yarn substitute but if fibre and ply aren’t a concern, this is a good way to make sure that your pattern will “fit” the requirements.

For example- don’t substitute a DK for an Aran weight unless you want your pattern to come out a lot bigger and vice versa.

Another tip is to look at the WPI (Wraps Per Inch) of the yarn- this will give you a more accurate weight reading.

4. Message the Designer

More often than not, designers are more than happy to help. They can offer names of alternative yarns- especially if they have carried out a test (mostly for paid patterns).


That’s how easy it is. But here are some added points:

  • You can substitute one fibre for another but make sure it fits your end requirement i.e. replacing cotton for acrylic in your summer top is going to ensure that you COOK in your top all summer long. Try replacing cotton for corn silk, or surprisingly, merino wool which has a cooling effect as well as being warm for winter garments.
  • You can hold certain yarns “double” if you can’t find the exact requirement. The usual rule of thumb is that two strands of a smaller weight equal one strand of the next weight up- I.e. 2 strands of 4ply are the equivalent of 1 strand of DK. This is not always accurate and should be used with caution, however.
  • Sometimes, depending on what you are making, you can use a thicker yarn and size a garment down from your usual, or if using smaller yarn you can increase your needle size to get gauge for your intended size. Again, not always accurate- always make a gauge swatch if you’re after something to be sized as required.

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