Do you struggle with how to find substitute yarn for your crochet projects? If you haven’t run into this yet, it’s a question you will ask at some point in your crafty journey. But don’t worry, I’ve done this often and have a few ways you can go about finding acceptable substitute yarns.
Why Do You Need to Find a Substitute Yarn?
There are so many reasons why you might find yourself in need of a substitute yarn. I can definitely say I’ve experienced most of these issues. And the pandemic hasn’t helped the situation because I feel like my big box stores are paring down the yarn lines they carry in stock.
- You found the perfect color, but it’s out of stock, and you don’t have time to wait
- Your preferred color choices are from different brands, but not every #4 weight yarn is the same
- The yarn isn’t available in your country
- Yarn is only available from an online store and you prefer to squish before you buy
- You don’t have enough time to wait for shipping
- You want a different fiber content (i.e., you have a wool allergy or want to use eco-friendly yarn)
- The yarn is discontinued
- You don’t like the recommended yarn and want something else
- You ran out of yarn in the middle of a project
- The recommended yarn is out of your budget
As I was writing this post, I kept thinking of more reasons, so I’ve probably missed something in the list above. But this is a post about what to do when you need a different type of yarn, so forgive me if I miss a reason or two! Feel free to share in the comments more reasons why you’ve had to find substitute yarns.
Where to Find Substitute Yarn for Crochet Projects
Option 1: Yarnsub
Yarnsub.com is one of my favorite places to find a huge list of alternate yarns in a matter of seconds. It’s a simple, yet powerful website where you type in the yarn you want alternatives for, and it will give you a list of substitute yarns in order of how closely related they are to your original yarn.
Once you have the list, you’ll see a few facts about their compatible features and how they differ. Things like the number of plies, gauge, and fiber content to help you decide if you want to explore the new suggestion. You can also see at a glance whether the substitutes are pricey and some suggestions for where to purchase them.
As of one my email subscribers described it, Yarnsub gives you a pretty good “apples to apples” comparison of the yarn, which is especially helpful when you need to find a nearly identical match.
I’ve found that popular brands like Lion Brand, Caron, Red Heart, etc. have many close substitutes, and are great when I like a certain yarn but it doesn’t have the color I’m looking for. Checking Yarnsub helps me hone in on a shortlist of the best alternatives.
But I’ve also used Yarnsub to find substitutes for online-only yarns like WeCrochet or discontinued yarns I’ve had in my stash for too long. I’m not the only one with some old skeins of yarn right?
What’s not available on Yarnsub? While this database is extensive (over 11,500 yarns!), you won’t find substitutes listed for those Indie yarn dyers and boutique brands. And, while they do recommend where to buy, I typically do a quick Google search for the manufacturer to see a complete list of where I can purchase the yarn.
Yarnsub is also a great resource for those who aren’t on our next option, Ravelry.
Option 2: Ravelry
If you have a Ravelry account or get a Ravelry account in the future, you can use this to source alternative yarns. It’s not going to be as scientific as Yarnsub because the database isn’t looking at the properties of the yarn itself. So if you need to find an exact match because you ran out of yarn or need to pair it with a discontinued yarn, Yarnsub is your better option for these instances.
First, Ravelry can be a great resource to see finished projects in alternative yarns used by other people. In order to do this, you must navigate to the pattern you want to make. Once on the pattern page, click on “projects” across the top.
In this section, you will see all the different people who have made this exact pattern as well as the yarn they used. Some projects include great notes about the project itself as well as how the yarn worked up. The individual projects usually include pictures so that you can see the difference in whether someone used a solid color, tweed, or variegated yarn. It’s helpful to guide you in the yarn direction you want to go.
Once you find the yarn you want, you don’t have to leave Ravelry to learn about it. By clicking on the yarn link itself you can be shown a plethora of information about the yarn – yardage, gauge, weight, care instructions, and so forth. There is also a place to see the various colorways that exist so that you can see if there is something you like or whether you need to keep searching.
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Option 3: Designer Recommendations
Another place to start your yarn substitution search is by checking to see if the designer has provided alternative yarns listed in the pattern.
When I use a boutique yarn from my local yarn store or an online-only brand for a design, I always try to list at least one substitute. You probably have your own favorite brands or a specific budget you are working with, so I want to be helpful and give you at least a few options.
The downside of using designer recommendations goes back to the fact that not all yarn in the same weight category is created the same. It would make things a lot easier if it was! So understand that while designers do make alternative recommendations, they may not be identical in gauge or density. This is where you can loop back to Yarnsub if you want to find a closely matched substitute.
Bonus Option: Local Yarn Store
Another place you can get help with substitute yarn options would be your local yarn store. Not your local Joann’s or Michaels, but your local yarn store that carries boutique and non-mainstream yarn brands.
Often you might find a yarn substitute on Yarnsub that you may not have heard of before or it’s just not a major brand like Lion Brand or Red Heart. Often these smaller brands can be found in your local yarn stores. Sometimes the manufacturer will list stores on their website that carry their yarn, but other times they don’t.
You could call or visit your local yarn store and ask if they carry that particular line and if they could order it for you. If not, they may be able to suggest an alternative for you. The owners of my local yarn store are extremely knowledgeable about different fiber contents and how yarns work up, so I know they’d be able to look at the original yarn and find a pretty close substitute.
Conclusion: How to Find Substitute Yarn
I hope this has helped you find a new place to look for alternative yarn the next time you need it. If you want to find an exact match, start with Yarnsub. Use Ravelry to see other yarns that people have used for the same pattern, and ask your local yarn store owners for their yarn recommendations too.
Don’t forget to share in the comments reasons why you’ve had to find substitute yarn and your favorite way to find an alternate option!