YARN SUBBING - How to Substitute Yarn

Chantal MiyagishimaComment

YARN SUBBING - How to Substitute Yarn


Let’s talk yarn subs!
Have you ever been nervous to knit a pattern, because you can’t find the same yarn available, or maybe it’s out of budget for that project at the moment?

As a designer I know that everyone has a different amount of income that they can spend on a pattern, let alone the yarn to make it, so I figured I would give some tips on how to make a pattern work in your favour. I know I’ve learnt a bunch through osmosis, and still have a lot to learn, but maybe we can all help and teach each other a thing or two!


What is yarn subbing?

Yarn subbing is where you find a similar weight yarn that can be substituted as a replacement of the yarn that the pattern calls for originally. This is great for anyone who has wool allergies, a different yarn budget, or just wants to use up their yarn in their stash.

How to do it:

1) Take a look at what weight the pattern calls for. All yarn is categorized by a number. Size 1 being fingering weight (really thin), all the way to 7 - which is jumbo (really thick).

2) Just like finding a pair of jeans, not all number sizes are equivalent. After being assigned a number, yarns are then broken down into sub-categories. Example; size 4 yarn can also be called a worsted, light worsted, heavy worsted, or aran (heavy worsted).

When comparing two different yarns (especially when shopping online), take a look at the yardage. If each ball is 100 grams, but yarn A is 145 yards, and yarn B is 120 yards, it goes to prove that yarn B is slightly thicker, since more “wool” has been taken from the 100 grams to spread over a smaller yardage. In the case of the 145 yards, the yarn has been spun thinner, meaning that the 100 grams of wool goes farther. Even though those 25 yards don’t seem like much, it could be the difference of your piece having more drape or not, running out of yarn, or your piece not fitting.

This is also great for when you’re looking for something close to your favourite yarn but in store or online. Chances are there’s at least one brand that you like the thickness and the feel of, so you can compare from it. Check the yardage and grams of your favourite yarn balls label, and see if the one you’re looking at in store or online is comparable or similar.
3) Do a gauge swatch. Even if you use the yarn exactly proposed as in the pattern, doesn’t mean that it’ll be perfect for the pattern due to how you knit or crochet. Everyone’s tension is different, so you may have to play around with different types of yarn. You could use a totally different size of yarn that’s already in your stash, as long as you’re gauge swatch and tension matches what’s in the pattern!

With this info in your arsenal, you can now find similar weight yarn (due to the math conversion in #2) to find a similar yarn sub, at any price point you may like.

Want to learn about Gauge swatches? Read my other blog post here right after you finish this one!


Also check out:, as it’s a great site to plunk in what the pattern calls for, and it poops out suggestions to use instead!