Yarn substitution
December 3, 2010 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Yarn substitution: What information do I need to match on this yarn label when I am looking for a yarn to substitute for it?

I want to make this baby blanket. The pattern calls for you to use 5 skeins of this yarn. This brand isn't available at any of the craft stores where I live so I want to substitute a different brand.

Please explain to me as if I were a simpleton what I need to make match up between this yarn label and the yarn label of my substitute so that the blanket will turn out correctly.
posted by toodles to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
4.5 st per inch on a size 8 needle.
posted by bilabial at 12:35 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

The most important thing is the gauge of the crocheting - so that the proportions and size of the finished piece turn out as written. The pattern asks for a size D hook, but the yarn label itself specifies an H - so look for yarn that calls for an H hook. Then get a skein, make up a corner of the pattern with a D hook as per the pattern, and see if the sample size matches the pattern's, and adjust hook size accordingly. If that works out, go back and buy enough to finish your project, and you're away! Good luck :-)
posted by Cuppatea at 12:37 PM on December 3, 2010

Which might also be a pictogram of a little square with the number 18 at the top or bottom. The little box represents 4 inches.

If you want the blanket to be machine washable, you can look up the symbols for washing instructions since most yarns use the symbols.
posted by bilabial at 12:39 PM on December 3, 2010

Needle/hook size and gauge are what you want to be identical, or really close. Keeping the project in mind helps as well: in simple projects, for instance, number of rows per inch will not be decisive, so just number of stitches will be good enough. If you need to knit shapes, both number of stitches and rows will count a lot. As a workaround, I often check what yarns other knitters used for specific project on Ravelry.
posted by Jurate at 12:41 PM on December 3, 2010

As others have noted, you want to find a yarn with the same gauge In the case of a baby blanket you may want to make sure that the substitute yarn is also acrylic so that it is washable and not so scratchy for the baby.
posted by kaybdc at 12:43 PM on December 3, 2010

BABY'S ABC'S AFGHAN on Ravelry - 244 projects that used various yarns.
posted by Jurate at 12:44 PM on December 3, 2010

I find this chart to be helpful when I'm substituting yarns. The original yarn for your pattern is Medium weight, so looking for other yarns in this category (also known as worsted, afghan, or aran weight) should get you something that is similar.
posted by illenion at 12:44 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm not a crocheter, but I'm a knitter. When looking at the label these are the important things that stand out to me that you will want to find on the label of the yarn you choose:

type of fiber: 100% acrylic
yardage: this label is giving you multiple options based on the size skein the label is used on. let's say you find a yarn that comes in 4 oz skeins - you want something that gives you approximately (does not need to be exact, but close) 208 yards. look at the different options listed and compare with the yarn you find at the store.
hook: the label says "H-8 size" which is the recommended crochet hook size to use with the yarn - look for another yarn which lists the same recommended hook size.

Are you on Ravelry? Here is the Ravelry page for this pattern. On this page, if you click over on the right hand side under "About This Pattern" you can access 244 variations of this project that other people have done right here. The cool thing about that is you can see photos and read comments from people who have completed projects using this pattern, often with yarn substitutions, and you can see how it turned out.

Basically, Caron Simply Soft is a basic worsted weight acrylic yarn. It should be easy to find a substitution. This is also a blanket, which means it is not a clothing article that must be fit to size, so even a slight variation in yarn size and your stitch size should be absolutely fine and not make a huge difference.
posted by katy song at 12:45 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you're on Ravelry, there's a page with suggested yarns for that pattern. It includes Lion Brand Pound of Love, Baby Soft and Microspun, Red Heart Super Saver, Berrocco Comfort, and Bernat Satin, amongst others. But basically any worsted weight acrylic is going to substitute reasonably well.

If you're not on Ravelry, it's free to sign up, and there's no longer a waiting list so you can do so immediately.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:48 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, I wouldn't worry too much about gauge (stitches and rows per inch) for a project like a blanket - if it's off by a few inches, it won't really affect the project overall. If you were making a garment, however, that's a different story.
posted by illenion at 12:49 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

To add to my comment above about yardage, it doesn't matter how much yardage comes in each skein, but you just want to make sure you buy enough total yardage to equal what the pattern calls for even if it means buying +/- more skeins than the number of skeins the pattern calls for.

But the amount of yardage per oz (or gram) should be roughly the same to tell you that you have a similar weight yarn. Some yarns come in smaller balls vs larger skeins though.
posted by katy song at 12:51 PM on December 3, 2010

Not what you're asking, but in looking for a substitute yarn I would highly recommend wool--it is flame retardant whereas acrylic is most decidedly not, which I think is important especially in baby products.
posted by adrianna aria at 12:59 PM on December 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

Also, I wouldn't worry too much about gauge (stitches and rows per inch) for a project like a blanket - if it's off by a few inches, it won't really affect the project overall.

Just keep in mind that if your gauge is looser, you'll get a bigger blanket and need more yardage of the yarn, so if you decide to substitute something that isn't a close match, you might want to buy extra yarn just in case. Because nothing sucks more than spending weeks on a project and running out of yarn before you get it done.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:10 PM on December 3, 2010

I always go by the yardage/weight, rather than the recommended hook/needle size or the specified yarn weight (DK, worsted, whatever).

In the case of the Simply Soft, you have for example "208 yds/4oz." You would want to match that number (52 yards per ounce) as closely as possible.

Red Heart Super Saver solid colors is 364 yards/7oz, precisely 52 yards per ounce. A perfect substitute, assuming that your local craft stores carry that brand.

Basically, just bring a calculator to the yarn store and pick the acrylic yarn which comes closest to 52 yards per ounce.

A bigger problem is that the pattern just calls for "five skeins." As you can see from that Caron page, skeins of this yarn are put up in different weights. Five of which skeins?

According to Ravelry, this pattern requires 2,310 yards of the specified yarn.

Armed with those two numbers (52 yards per ounce; 2,310 yards total) you are ready to shop!

(And if you sign up for Ravelry, drop in on the Mefi group and let us know how it turns out!)
posted by ErikaB at 2:24 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thank you, thank you, thank you! You're all best answers for one reason or another.

Cuppatea - I hadn't even noticed that the pattern calls for a completely different size of hook than is mentioned on the label, thanks for that heads up.

illenion - That chart is great...I've found that a lot of the yarn brands I can find in my city use different terminology than what is shown in my one book on crochet, Crocheting for Dummies, so it'll be a big help knowing all the different ways to refer to the same bloody thing!

Although on preview, I can see how with ErikaB's method it won't matter whether something is called medium rather than worsted.

I have now joined Ravelry...it looks like it's going to be useful, inspiring, and a huge time suck for me. ;)

Thanks much everyone.
posted by toodles at 2:38 PM on December 3, 2010

The big, big thing I'd pay attention to is: see that thing that looks like a picture of a skein of yarn with the number "4" on it? A lot of yarn manufacturers are adopting that as a "universal system" for telling you what the weight of the yarn is (so you don't run into the "is 'medium' the same as 'worsted'" problem). I'd check that first -- any other yarn would be the same weight, or damn close, to the yarn you want, so you'd get near the same results.

You can be flexible on other things, I'd say -- you can use a different fiber depending on the care you want to give it (acryllic and cotton are machine-washable, and for a baby blanket that's always good), and yardage is easy to calculate; just multiply 5 by the number of yards in the yarn they're asking for and you get the total yardage, and that way when you find something else, just look how many yards THAT yarn is, divide the total yardage by that number and you'll know how much of the new yarn you need. (I do this all the time.)

The big thing, though, is that weight -- whether it's worsted (or "medium", or whatever) -- and that little "4" on there is a good way to confirm you've got the right one.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:32 PM on December 3, 2010

Well, I ended up getting a brand called 'Rio', made in Turkey. 100% acrylic.

The label doesn't contain any info re: gauge or crochet needle size.

There is a pictogram of knitting needles with the numbers 4-4,5.

The weight is ca 210 mt Net 100 g...which I think converts to 3.53 oz per 229.74 yards, or 65.08 yards per ounce, instead of 52. Crap. So...now I know to convert everything to metric before going to the yarn store.

How do y'all think this will turn out with this difference in the yarn weight?
posted by toodles at 11:43 AM on December 4, 2010

The knitting needles with the 4 next to it is...a little thinner in weight than what you were looking for, but may still work...does it have the picture of a SKEIN with a number on it? That's the best gauge.

Also, what type of Rio yarn is it? I'm trying to look it up on Yarndex -- which is another resource you may want to bookmark, actually; it's a database of lots of yarns out there, with information on the yardage, weight, and fiber content. I did a search for "Rio," but Rio brand has a lot of different kinds of yarn, so I'm not able to tell what the weight is from that alone...

But you're in luck in that this is a blanket, which means the worst that can happen if you follow the pattern with this yarn and it isn't quite right, you'll just have a smaller blanket. And if it looks too small, you can just nick down to the yarn store and get one more ball and add a little on to it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:40 PM on December 4, 2010

Yeah, no image with a skein on it, unfortunately.

Hmmm...it looks like the brand name actually may be Madame Tricote and "Rio" a type of yarn made by that brand. It doesn't seem to be in the yarn database, and neither are Tamm or El Gato which are some very popular brands down here.

I think that I basically have a sport weight rather than a worsted...from Ravelry I see that a few folks have made the pattern using Bernat Baby sport...when I run the numbers the yarn I have is about half way in between a worsted and the Bernat Baby sport, so hopefully it will end up making a reasonably sized baby blanket.

Thanks much for the help.
posted by toodles at 1:10 PM on December 4, 2010

Here's your yarn, Rio by Madame Tricote on Ravelry - whoever entered it into the database there is considering it a light worsted or DK weight. I'm sure it'll work out fine for your blanket - good luck!
posted by illenion at 7:23 PM on December 4, 2010

Oh, yeah, if it's that weight you'll be fine. It may just be an inch or so smaller on each side, but that's about the only change.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:09 AM on December 5, 2010

There are also entries on Ravelry for Tamm and El Gato...so cool! Now I can make myself up a cheat sheet before I have to go yarn shopping again so that I have a better chance of just being able to ask for exactly the brand & line I need....and hope it's in stock.

To give y'all an idea, the mercerias/craft stores are generally standing room only. Everything is kept behind the counter, or down the street in a bodega, so you have to take a number, wait your turn, and have a salesperson show you everything. Most of the yarn brands do not come with named weights, like "worsted" or whatever...so you start your shopping by telling the salesperson what kind of thing you're making and they'll bring out a yarn that they think is appropriate and then you go back and forth trying to find a weight lighter or heavier than what they show you (and you have to calculate it yourself, because they don't know), and by the time you find the yarn that you want to use, you generally discover that it's not available in a color you'd like to use, or there's a single skein, but maybe there will be more in in 2 weeks, etc, etc. Over an hour later you walk out with your purchase but you're pretty certain that your teenaged sales clerk wants to punch you in the face and then you get home and you discover that you still didn't get exactly the right yarn!

Thanks so much for all the help, I really appreciate it!
posted by toodles at 8:08 AM on December 5, 2010

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