Ever downloaded a pattern and find that the yarn used in the sample photos isn't even available in your country? Or that it is but it is way out of your budget? Would you prefer to use up your stash and stick with something you have?
This is all easy to sort out with some simple yarn substitution.
Substituting based on the label:
Don't just go with the same weight- how many balls of your sub yarn do you need?
Say for example the yarn in the pattern asks for a brand of DK yarn that is 100m per 100g ball and the yarn that you're using is 200m per ball, you'll need 50% fewer balls of yarn. Some patterns will tell you the exact meterage/yardage and this makes it really easy to substitute.
How thick is it?
Don't be fooled by the label saying "DK". For a long time, Cygnet Boho Spirit was labellled as a DK even though it works up as a worsted. Their Truly wool rich DK is also on the thick side, so it's worth finding out for yourself before you jump into a pattern.
If you're trying to use up stash yarn and some balls are missing labels, you can also measure wpi (wraps per inch).
How do I measure wraps per inch?
Take a pencil or a standard pen and wrap your yarn around it several times. You need to wrap until you've done at least 2.5cm (1 inch). Take a measuring tape or a ruler and measure how many wraps you can fit in an inch.
I can fit 23 wraps to an inch on this pen. I can now look at the yarn chart above and see that my yarn belongs in the #1 category for "light fingering, 4ply". This is a great way to see how thick your yarn is if you've lost the label. I would therefore be able to use this yarn in a pattern that calls for light fingering or 4ply.
Whilst I do not expect anybody to go out and buy a ball of every potential yarn to swatch with, I do suggest that you do this if the yarn is all to hand i.e in your stash already. Not only will you get to see how it works up but you will also be able to see if you like it and if you think it will work with the project.
Always use the gauge/tension as your guide and you will not go wrong. People sometimes ask me "what yarn do you recommend?" for my patterns if they are in a country where the yarn is not available or if the recommended yarn is out of budget. My answer is always:
Whatever yarn gives the correct meterage.
Whatever yarn meets the gauge required.
If you are looking to buy new yarn for a project and don't know what would be a good substitute, you can always use yarnsub.com for extra help choosing.
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