yarn weights
Taking up crochet can both be rewarding and frustrating at times. Although your basic necessities are only the hook and yarn, it can be really annong if you cannot find the exact kind of yarn the pattern you want calls for. Sometimes it also happens too that you don’t like the type of yarn indicated in the pattern and you just simply want to change it. If either of these two situations happen, there is no reason to fret. Substitution of yarn is absolutely possible and the key to doing so is to understand the different kinds of yarns so you’ll be properly guided to substitute right!

What is Yarn Fiber?

There are several fabrics used for yarn. It can come from natural fibers such as wool, fleece and cashmere. It may also take on the form of synthetic fibers using materials such as nylon, acrylic and polyester. Yarns can also be of the blended kind, which is a combination of both synthetic and natural fibers. This kind of yarn is normally cheaper and can be a good substitute for natural fiber yarns especially for beginners. When the yarn label reads blended cotton, this means that the yarn is not purely cotton. Normally, it is also stated what was blended or combined into the cotton to make the yarn.

Understanding Yarn Weight

No matter the fiber of the yarn though, yarn is classified by their “yarn weight”. This however does not pertain to how heavy the yarn is on a weighing scale but rather to the thickness of the yarn itself. In more technical terms, this refers to the diameter of the yarn.

There are seven weight categories for yarn and it begins from 0-6, with 0 being the thinnest kind of yarn and 6 referring to the bulkiest kind. Yarn with a weight classification of 0 can make about 33 – 40 stitches on a four-inch gauge. This kind of yarn is used for lace crocheting. If you’re planning to make socks or baby items, you can use number 1 yarn, which can create approximately 21 to 33 stitches on a 4-inch gauge. Fine yarn or number 2 yarn can create approximately 16 to 20 stitches in a 4-inch gauge and is commonly used for lighter sweaters and other baby items. The next weight category for yarn is number 3, which is the light yarn commonly called DK or light worsted. This is used to crochet sweaters, lightweight scarves, clothes and other garments. Yarn of this weight category can make 12 up to 16 stitches. Number 4 yarns can stitch approximately 11 to 14 stitches on a 4-inch gauge. This kind of yarn is commonly used for outdoor garments and sweaters. Bulky or number 5 yarns can stitch only 8 to 11 stitches. This kind of yarn is most often used for jackets, rugs and blankets. Last but not least is number 6 or super bulky yarn. It is otherwise known as roving yarn and is most often used for heavy blankets and thick rugs.

Needless to say, the hook you will have to use will depend on the weight of the yarn you are going to use for the project. However, if you wish to substitute the yarn your pattern calls for, you may also need to substitute the recommended hook size.

Substituting Heavier Weighted Yarns with Two Lighter Weight Yarns

Did you know that it is possible to substitute a heavier weighted yarn with two lighter weight yarns? For example, if the pattern requires the use of a number 3 or light worsted yarn, it is perfectly acceptable to combine 2 strands of yarn with a weight classification of 1.

Although it is indeed possible, it is not entirely all that easy to do. Before you proceed with actually creating your project, you must have to work a gauge swatch to make sure you get the correct gauge as required by your pattern.

By crochet definition, gauge is the number of stitches you need to do per inch and the rows per inch your pattern indicates you need to be able to complete the project the way it is intended to look. Although it is indicated in the pattern what yarn weight and hook size you need to use, often the correct gauge is still not achieved due to your own individual style when crocheting. Reality is, people crochet differently. Others crochet loosely while others crochet too tightly.

One useful tip to determine whether you can do this substitution is to add the two yarns’ suggested gauge and divide by 3. The result will be the suggested gauge of the two yarns when they have been combined. If the suggested gauge is close to the gauge required by the pattern you chose, proceed with creating your own four-inch swatch to determine whether it could actually work. There will be times when you will need to change the hook you are using if you could not achieve the proper gauge you need. Since you will be using two yarns, you may need a larger hook than what is required by the pattern. Another thing you will have to remember is to double the yardage required by the pattern since you will be combining two strands of yarn. Then when you have achieved the right gauge, you can begin your actual crocheting.

In the end, combining two lighter strands of yarn to achieve the desired weight of yarn required by a pattern is not easy. When substituting yarns, always remember that practice is key. Even if you don’t use the tip that requires you to compute, your best guidance will be the gauge indicated by your pattern. It is very trial and error in nature, but creating the perfect swatch before actually starting your project will save you a lot of disappointment and heartbreak when you see that your finished project looks the way it is intended to by the designer. Ultimately, you will need a lot of patience and persistence during the first few stages of the process before you can finally achieve the right gauge. What is most important is that you don’t run out of patience throughout the substitution process!