Yarn Substitutions Advice from Kristin Omdahl

Yarn Substitutions Advice from Kristin Omdahl

I have published over 800 knit and crochet patterns and am on the final stages of editing my 21st pattern book right now. When I began my design career, I was at the forefront of adding crochet charts to books and I am very proud of being a part of the crochet chart revolution. I also have been passionate about offering generic yarn yardage in all my patterns along with specific yarns used because I want to empower as many people as possible to be creative.

For the last 8 years I cultivated a very unique collection of beautiful yarns that you could not easily find elsewhere.  My yarn collection showcased the incredible drape of the fabric, artistic color palettes, a wide range of fiber contents and yarn weights, and I always designed patterns to showcase the beauty of my yarns.

“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” ~ Marilyn Monroe

While I am sad to say goodbye to my beautiful yarns, it gives me a wonderful opportunity to share some of my wisdom, insights, and experience in yarn with you so you can substitute yarns with great success for any pattern, not just mine! Below you will see some very important factors to consider when substituting yarns for any project. And ultimately, it is YOUR CHOICE. It always has been. If you scroll to the bottom of this blog post chock full of very useful information, I will also give you my personal recommendations for substituting my discontinued yarns, including Be So Baby, Be So Brave, Be So Dazzling, Be So Easy, Be So Fine, Be So Fresh, Be So Serene, Be So Sporty, Be So Soulful, Be So Tender, and Be So Vivid Yarns.

Gauge:

The standard way to check gauge is to make a square of fabric about 4 in (10cm) wide by 4 in (10cm) tall (or a motif as indicated in the pattern for gauge with the suggested hook or needle size) and in the indicated stitch with the recommended yarn. Hand wash your swatch and lay it flat to dry before measuring. We make things that need to be laundered! How the yarn is affected by water is a huge component to the measurement of gauge. If you are making lace, this is even more important. If your measurements match the measurements of the pattern’s gauge, congratulations! If your swatch is larger than 4 in (10cm) square, try going down in hook or needle size. If your swatch is smaller than 4 in (10cm) square, try going up in hook or needle size. Our personal tension is unique when working with our hands. You may even find that your personal tension varies with your mood, comfort level with a pattern, the time of day, and more.

Depending on how the gauge is listed in the pattern, you might need to measure a stitch and row count, a pattern repeat, or a motif. Make sure to pay attention to this detail.

The listed hook size(s) in a pattern are a suggested starting point. Your own unique tension may require a different sized hook to achieve proper gauge and that is perfectly normal and ok!

Yarn Substitutions

Learning and understanding the standard yarn weight system is invaluable in case you choose to substitute a different yarn for the one referenced in a given pattern. Fiber content and personal tension (gauge) are also factors, but the first step in making a yarn substitution is learning about the yarn weights and what they mean. The symbols 0 – 7 are generally listed on a yarn label and that is a great way to substitute at a glance. Most yarn labels have this symbol listed, or the yarn company should be able to provide you with this information. 

Each pattern I design is listed with generic yardage of a specific yarn weight along with the specific yarn used in the project, per respective size. 

If you are substituting a yarn within the same yarn weight, often you can achieve the same or similar gauge as long as the fiber content is similar. 

Stick to a Similar Fiber Blend When Substituting Yarn

When you are substituting a yarn of a similar weight but different fiber content, the gauge may differ. I think you can get better results when substituting yarn when you stick close to the original fiber content. Was the blend mostly animal fiber (wool, alpaca, mohair)? Was the blend mostly cellulose plant fiber (cotton, bamboo, linen)? Perhaps it was mostly synthetic (acrylic, polyester)? Or maybe it was semi-synthetic (milk, milk cotton, AlgiKnit, SeaCell, Piña)?

When you substitute a yarn of a different weight, the gauge will most definitely differ. This can also affect the feel of the fabric. It can make the fabric looser or more dense. When you substitute a different weight yarn for a project, it is important to ask yourself a few questions when you observe your blocked gauge swatch. 

Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering a Yarn for Substitution

1. Do I like the drape and feel of this fabric? Will it work for the project I intend to make with it?

2. If the gauge is the same as the pattern intended, proceed. 

3. If the gauge is tighter than the pattern intended (swatch is too small), try making a swatch with a larger hook than suggested to achieve correct gauge. Then re-ask yourself question #1. If yes to #1, continue to #2.

4. If the gauge is looser than the pattern intended (swatch is too big), try making a swatch with a smaller hook than suggested to achieve correct gauge. Then re-ask yourself question #1. If yes to #1, continue to #2.

5. If the yarn you are substituting with gives you a completely different gauge and changing hook size is not practical to achieve gauge, it may make more sense to make a different size of the pattern. For example, let’s say the pattern will make a 20 in (50.8cm) circumference hat at 5 sts / 1 in (2.5cm), or 100 sts. And the same pattern will make an 18 in (45.7cm) circumference hat at 5 sts/1 in (2.5cm), or 80 sts. Then let’s say your yarn substitution swatch measures 4 sts / 1 in (2.5cm) after blocking. At 100 sts, your hat would be 25 in (63.5cm) or at 80 sts,  your hat would be 20 in (50.8cm) in circumference. So in this example, you could work the pattern in a smaller size to achieve the correct sizing with a different gauge.

How to Modify A Pattern

A pattern is like a recipe. The pattern gives you the fundamental concept of a project and you can follow along step by step to make the project exactly as written.

But if you strip down the components of a pattern, you have so many more options.

Gauge: Gauge is the measurement of the fabric that determines the size of what you are making. The goal is to match gauge of a pattern to ensure proper size and fit. Intentionally manipulating gauge can alter size, density to create drastically different projects. Making a motif with thin yarn and a tiny hook could make a pair of earrings whereas crocheting the same motif in much thicker yarn could make a pillow cover or even a baby afghan. Sized garments made with a motif fabric can also be modified through gauge. For example, when the squares are 4 in (10cm), 4.25 in (10.8cm), 4.5 in (11.4cm), 4.75 in (12cm) or 5 in (12.7cm), the joined motif fabric garment will be 36 in (91.4cm), 38.25 in (97.2cm), 40.5 in (102.9cm), 42.75 in (108.6cm) or 45 in (114.3cm) bust. Even quarter inch increments make a big difference once it is multiplied. 

Yarn weight: This chart gives you a few examples to get started on how you can broaden your pattern options when you double thinner yarns to create the texture and gauge of thicker yarns. Try tripling or quadrupling strands for even more possibilities. This is also a great way to explore colorwork, too.

Good Blocking Practices Improve Yarn Substitution Experiences, too!

Blocking

Blocking allows the fabric to relax and ensures proper shape, measurements and drape of the fabric. After time and wear, wash your garment and reblock it to return it to the original shape. Remember to pay close attention to fiber content. Wool must be handled gently when wet; avoid hot water and agitation so as not to full (or felt) the fibers. Avoid high heat for synthetic fibers (i.e. acrylic) because they will melt.

Wet Blocking

Gently submerge the fabric in lukewarm water with a bit of mild soap, like Be So Clean. Don’t agitate. Let it soak for twenty minutes or longer, to allow the liquid to absorb into the fibers well. It will float until the trapped air releases and water is completely absorbed. Gently rinse out the soap and any dirt particles the soap released from your fibers. Carefully expel the water from the fabric, pressing between two layers of towels, but do not wring or twist.

Lay the fabric out over a fresh, dry towel and roll it up to expel even more water. Pin the piece out to the specified dimensions on a blocking board, carpeted floor or a bed. If you are using a carpeted floor or a bed, be sure to cover the surface with dry towels first. Allow to dry. In humid climates, direct circulation of air (ceiling fan or floor oscillating fan) will help speed up the drying process. I prefer T-pins and blocking wires that are rust-proof because of the direct contact with water. Once dry, your project will maintain its blocked shape until re-steamed or washed.

Steam Blocking

Steam relaxes fibers gently and more subtly than the wet blocking method. It is more effective for finer weight yarns – the steaming creates lovely drape. Follow the directions for pinning under Wet Blocking (above). Then use a steamer, or an iron on the steam setting, to steam the entire piece. Be sure to keep the steamer or iron a few inches away from the surface of the garment to avoid damaging the fibers. Allow to dry. While steam blocking is nearly as effective as wet blocking, it takes a lot more time because you have to evenly steam every stitch. I prefer this method for smaller projects. Once dry, your project will maintain its blocked shape, until washed and re-steamed.

Mist Blocking

Place your item on a blocking surface, stretch to desired size and shape, and pin as needed. Lightly mist the surface with a spray bottle filled with water. Once dry, your project will maintain its blocked shape until re-misted or washed.

Drying

Laying flat to dry or using a drying rack is the best way to dry your projects. The high heat and agitation in a dryer will break down the fibers of your yarns over time. The dry time can vary based on temperature, humidity, and amount of circulating air. If you are drying indoors, place the project near a fan for a speedier dry time. If you are drying outdoors, monitor the weather! Avoid rain, very low temperatures, or high humidity.

Shaping

When you lay a project flat to dry, take a look at the shape and if needed, mold it back into the original shape If it is lace, you might want to reblock it with pins on a mat.

Kristin Omdahl’s Yarn Substitution Suggestions:

These are only some of my suggestions. Depending on drape, fiber content, color palette, and price, you may discover that there are other yarns to substitute that better meet YOUR needs.

As I discover more substitution suggestions, I will share them. As of today, March 27, 2022, here are some initial suggested yarn substitutions, including fiber content, yarn weight, yardage per ball, price, color options and where to purchase:

Amazon:

Fibra Natura Flax: 100% linen, sport weight yarn; 137 yds per 50gms; suggested needles size US 5 – 7. I think the drape, fiber and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Fresh yarn. This yarn retails for $9.45 per hank and comes in 31 colors.

Annie’s:

Scheepjes Cotton 8: 100% cotton, #1 fingering weight yarn; 186 yds per 50gm ball, suggested needle size US 1 – 2. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Fine, Be So Lush and Be So Toasty yarns. This yarn retails for $2.49 per ball and comes in 9 colors.

Scheepjes Organic: 100% organic cotton, #1 fingering weight yarn; 186 yds per 50gm ball, suggested needle size US 1 – 2. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Fine, Be So Lush and Be So Toasty yarns. This yarn retails for $3.99 per ball and comes in 16 colors.

Premier® Yarns Bamboo Fair: 60% Rayon from Bamboo, 40% Cotton #3 dk weight yarn; 273 yds per 100 gm ball; suggested needle size US5. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Baby yarn. This yarn retails for $6.49 and comes in 24 colors.

Lion Brand® Coboo®: 50% Cotton, 50% Rayon from Bamboo, #3 dk weight yarn; 232 yds per 100gm ball; suggested needle size US6. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Baby yarn. This yarn retails for $5.99 and comes in 8 colors.

Universal Yarn Bamboo Pop: 50% Cotton, 50% Bamboo #3 dk weight yarn; 292 yds per 100gm ball; suggested needle size US5. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Baby yarn. This yarn retails for $5.99 and comes in 3 colors.

Patons® Grace: 100% mercerized cotton, #3 dk weight yarn; 136 yds per 50gm ball; suggested needle size US5. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Baby yarn. This yarn retails for $5.99 and comes in 8 colors.

Hobbii Yarn:

Rainbow Cotton 8/8: 100% cotton, #3 dk weight yarn; 82 yds (72m) per 50g ball; suggested needle size US4-6. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Baby Yarn. This yarn retails for $2.60 and comes in 100 colors.

Rainbow Bamboo: 60% Bamboo Viscose, 40% Cotton, #2 sport weight yarn; 273 yds (250g) per 3.5oz (100g) ball; suggested needle size US 3 – 4. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Sporty, Be So Serene, Be So Soulful and Be So Fresh Yarns. This yarn retails for $9.80 and comes in 39 colors.

Soft Bamboo Fine: 70% Bamboo, 23% Cotton, 7% Acrylic, #1 fingering weight yarn; 197 yds (180m) per 50 gm ball; suggested needle size US 2 – 4. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Fine, Be So Lush and Be So Toasty yarns. This yarn retails for $5.99 and comes in 19 colors.

Soft Bamboo Double: 70% Bamboo, 23% Cotton, 7% Acrylic, #2 sport weight yarn; 126 yds (115m) per 50 gm ball; suggested needle size US 5 – 6. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Sporty, Be So Serene, Be So Soulful and Be So Fresh Yarns. This yarn retails for $5.99 and comes in 26 colors.

Tencel Bamboo Fine: 40% Tencel, 60% Bamboo, #1 fingering weight yarn; 210 yds (230m) per 50 gm ball; suggested needle size US 1 – 3. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Fine, Be So Lush and Be So Toasty yarns. This yarn retails for $6.49 per ball and comes in 24 colors.

Tencel Bamboo Double: 40% Tencel, 60% Bamboo, #2 sport weight yarn; 142 yds (130m) per 50g ball; suggested needle size US 3 – 6. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Sporty, Be So Serene, Be So Soulful and Be So Fresh Yarns. This yarn retails for $6.49 and comes in 20 colors.

Ice Yarns:

Cotton Bamboo Light Yarn: 60% bamboo / 40% cotton; 153 yds (140m) per 100 gm (3.5oz) ball. It comes in 29 colors. The suggested needle size is 3 – 4 mm (US 4 – US 6). I think the drape of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Baby yarn. It is labeled a #3 DK weight yarn. This yarn retails for $2.25/ball or $8.99 per 4 balls.

Bamboo Soft Fine Yarn: 50% bamboo / 50% acrylic; 328 yds (300m) per 100 gm (3.5oz) ball. It comes in 23 colors. The suggested needle size is 3mm (US4). I think the drape of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Sporty yarn. It is labeled a #2 sport weight yarn. This yarn retails for $2.75/ball or $10.99 per 4 balls.

Baby Bamboo Yarn: 50% bamboo / 50% acrylic; 120 yds (110m) per 50 gm (1.75oz) ball. It comes in 20 colors. The suggested needle size is 3 – 4 mm (US 4 – 6). I think the drape of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Sporty yarn, but the weight would be comparable to Be So Baby yarn. It is labeled a #3 DK weight yarn. This yarn retails for $0.99/ball or $7.99 per 8 balls.

Giza Cotton Yarn: 100% mercerized Giza cotton; 136 yds (125m) per 50 gas (1.75oz) ball. It comes in 47 colors. The suggested needle size is 3mm (US4). I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Sporty and Be So Serene yarns. It is labeled a #2 sport weight yarn. This yarn retails for $1.66/ball or $9.99 for 6 balls.

Linen: 50% linen, 50% viscose, #2 sport weight yarn; 195 yds (171m) per 1.75oz (50g) ball; suggested needle size US 3. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Fresh, Be So Serene and Be So Sporty yarns. This yarn retails for $1.50 per ball and comes in 9 colors.

Self-striping Yarns: Ice Yarns has lots of long, self-striping yarns to choose from. They range from sport weight to bulky weight with a variety of fiber contents, too. Mohair, wool, cotton, acrylic. So many choices!

Natural Cotton Chunky: #5 bulky weight 100% cotton yarn; 153 yds (140g) per 7oz (200g) ball; suggested needle size is US 10. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Easy Yarn. This yarn retails for $4.99 per ball and comes in 18 colors.

Jimmy Beans Wools:

Scheepjes Whirl Yarn: #1 fingering weight 60% cotton / 40% acrylic, self striping, ombre yarn; 1094 yds per 225gm ball that changes color only once per ball; it comes in 51 gradient color ways, suggested needle size is US 4 (3.25mm). It is labeled a #1 fingering weight yarn. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Fine or Be So Toasty yarn. One ball would be plenty to make any of my knit or crochet Be So Fine yarn shawl patterns. Each gradient cake retails for $29.99.

HiKoo Sueno Yarn: #2 sport weight 80% super wash wool / 20% bamboo; 225 yds per 100gm; needle size is US 3 – 7. It is labeled a #2 sport weight yarn. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Sporty, Be So Serene, and Be So Soulful yarn. It comes in 39 colors. Each hank retails for $17.25.

Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo DK Yarn: #3 dk weight 80% bamboo / 20% wool; 104 yds per 50 gm ball; needle size US6. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Baby yarn. It comes in 13 colors retails for $6.75 per ball.

Blue Sky Fibers Printed Organic Cotton Yarn: #4 worsted weight, certified organic cotton; 150 yds per 100 gm hank; needle size 7 – 9. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Bold, Be So Cozy and Be So Tender yarns. It comes in 8 colors and retails for $18.00 per hank.

Malabrigo Verano Yarn: #4 worsted weight, 100% Pima cotton; 205 yds per 100gm hank; needle size 5 – 6. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Bold, Be So Cozy and Be So Tender yarns. It comes in 32 colors and retails for $16.75 per hank.

Knit Picks:

Comfy Fingering: #1 fingering weight 75% Pima Cotton / 25% acrylic; 250 yds per 50gm skein; Suggested needle size US 1 – 3. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Fine and Be So Toasty yarn. It comes in 19 colors and retails for $3.99 per skein.

Shine Sport: #2 sport weight 60% Pima Cotton, 40% Modal natural beech wood fiber; 110 yds per 50 gm skein; suggested needle size US 3 – 5. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Sporty and Be So Luxe yarn. It comes in 30 colors and retails for $3.99 per skein.

CotLin: #3 Dk weight 70% Tanguis Cotton, 30% Linen; 123 yds per 50gm skein; suggested needle size US 5 – 7. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Baby yarn. It comes in 44 colors and retails for $4.99 per skein.

Shine Worsted: #4 worsted weight 60% Pima Cotton, 40% Modal natural beech wood fiber; 75 yds per 50 gm skein, suggested needle size US 6 – 9. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Bold, Be So Cozy and Be So Tender yarns. It comes in 30 colors and retails for $3.99 per skein.

Chroma Worsted: #4 worsted weight self-striping gradient 70% Superwash Wool, 30% Nylon; 198 yds per 100gm ball; suggested needle size US 6 – 9. I think the drape, weight and gradient coloring of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Vivid ayrn. It comes in 25 colors and retails for $11.99 per ball.

Billow: #5 bulky weight 100% Pima Cotton thick and thin textured yarn; 120yds per 100gms; suggested needle size US 10 – 11. I think the drape, texture and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Tender yarn. It comes in 18 colors and retails for $7.99 per hank.

Brava Bulky: #5 bulky weight 100% premium acrylic; 136 yds per 100 gms; suggested needle size US 10-11. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Easy yarn. It comes in 29 colors and retails for $3.49 per skein.

Lion Brand:

Pearl 5/2 Cotton Yarn: #1 fingering weight 100% cotton yarn; 2100 yds per 1lb cone. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Fine, Be So Lush and Be So Toasty Yarns. It comes in 47 colors and retails for $24.15 per 1lb cone.

A Star is Born: Oh Baby Yarn: #2 sport weight 100% organic cotton yarn; 180 yds per 50gm ball; suggested needle size US 3 – 4. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Sporty, Be So Serene and Be So Soulful Yarns. It comes in 12 colors and retails for $5.99 per ball.

LB Collection® Cotton Bamboo Yarn: #3 dk weight 52% Cotton, 48% Rayon from Bamboo; 245 yds per 100gm ball; suggested needle size US 6 – 8. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Baby Yarn. It comes in 6 colors and retails for $6.99 per ball.

Vanna’s Choice Yarn: #4 worsted weight, 100% acrylic yarn; 170 yds per 100gm ball; suggested needle size US 9 – 10. I think the drape and weight of this yarn wool be comparable to Be So Bold, Be So Brave, Be So Cozy, and Be So Vivid.

Mary Maxim:

Caron O’Go Yarn: #5 bulky weight 100% acrylic self striping yarn; 228 yds per 6.4 oz ring; suggested needle size US 10. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Easy yarn. And I think the color striping would be comparable to Be So Vivid Yarn, too.

Mary Maxim 1lb Crochet Cotton Cones: #2 sport weight 100% cotton yarn; 1200 yds per 16oz cone; suggested needle size US 5. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Sporty, Be So Luxe and Be So Serene yarns.

Red Heart It’s A Wrap: #1 fingering weight 50% cotton / 50% acrylic, self striping yarn; 1100 yds per 7oz cake; suggested needle size US US2. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would bel comparable to Be So Fine and Be So Toasty yarns. It comes in 5 colors and retails for $10.99 per cake.

Sirdar:

Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo DK; #3 Dk weight 80% bamboo / 20% wool; 104 yds per 50gm ball; Suggested needle size US6. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Baby yarn. It comes in 12 colors and retails for $6.50 per ball.

Sirdar Shawlie: #2 sport weight 80% acrylic / 10% alpaca / 10% wool; 450 yds per 100gm ball; suggested needle size US5. I think the drape and weight of this yarn would be comparable to Be So Sporty or Be So Serene yarn. It comes in 5 colors and retails for $11.50 per ball.

Note: The yarns listed above are linked with affiliate codes. It costs you absolutely nothing to click on the links, but I am able to receive a very small commission if you choose to purchase any of these yarn from the provided links.

Kristin Omdahl is the best-selling author of dozens of knit and crochet books; designer of almost 1000 knit and crochet patterns; producer of award-winning videos; and curator of gorgeous yarns and products. You can join Kristin LIVE 5 days a week for The Kristin Omdahl Show on YouTube and browse through thousands of tutorial videos there, too. Kristin donates a portion of every sale to help survivors of domestic violence. Learn more about Kristin’s charity, Project Kristin Cares HERE.

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xoxo,

 

 

 

26 thoughts on “Yarn Substitutions Advice from Kristin Omdahl

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  2. Grace Samblanet says:

    I agree with the others. This is a great detailed list of information about how to substitute yarns. I am definitely going to bookmark this to reference in the future {along with the zen videon playlist} for easy reference. You are amazing to think of everything you do and research and share it all. I appreciate it.

  3. colleenrasmussen72 says:

    Thank you for all your hours of work in finding yarn substitutions. I have used Valley Yarns Bamboo 5/2 yarn found on yarn.com several years ago, but it is still available. It is not as soft and vibrant colored as Be So Fine but could be a substitute.

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  5. Karen says:

    Thanks so much for all the helpful information–and for the quote from Marilyn Monroe. I may have that framed!

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  7. Wendy says:

    Thank you for the substitution list. One yarn I am a fan of but running out is Be So Airy and wondering what you recommend. Amazon has I think something similar but they advertise by mm thickness and there I get lost. Hope you are doing well.

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