Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The yarn called for in the pattern is too expensive

yarn, substitution, pattern, expensive

How would you have responded?

The other day I got this email from a knitter that I've been thinking about quite a bit.

2-color sampler cowl, crochet
2-Color Sampler Cowl
The knitter started out by saying she liked my 2-Color Sampler Cowl and wanted to crochet it, but was disappointed that the yarn used was so expensive. For the sample I used Anzula For Better or Worsted, which retails for $32.50 per skein.

I was a little thrown off by the comment and it took me a little while to respond because, while I was flattered that she liked the pattern, I couldn't quite wrap my head around her disappointment at the time.

So, when I find a pattern I like, whether knit or crochet, while the yarn used is a selling point, I don't think it the definitive of whether I will make the pattern. Heck, I don't think I've ever used the yarn called for in the pattern. Have you? Maybe when I was a newbie. But definitely not now and not for a long time.
Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with knitting up a pattern in the same yarn and color as the sample in the magazines. The designer and the magazine had good reason to use that particular yarn. Maybe for the drape and shine the silk content provide or the sturdy, grabby nature of a rustic yarn for a steeked project. Whatever the decision, there was a reason for the yarn choice.

When I see one of my designs knitted up, I don't care what yarn is used. As long as the knitter is satisfied with their results. On Ravelry, there is a project for the 2-Color Sampler Cowl and the crocheter used Lion Brand Vanna's Choice and their project turned out fantastic.

KNitDesigns by Tian

I think that was what threw me off. This knitter was disappointed because the yarn was expensive. So what?!

When I design, the yarn used in the sample is a suggestion. I assume the knitters and crocheters would substitute for a comparable yarn in their own price range.  I've worked up pattern that called for cashmere with merino wool/acrylic blends, and wouldn't think less of the designer for using a lesser priced yarn. That's the beauty of the fiber arts, it's all about your own personal choices.

So, my response was diplomatic. While she didn't buy the pattern and might never buy any of my patterns, I am not The Knitting Police. I advised her that while the yarn is priced at $32.50 per skein, she could easily substitute for another yarn of a similar gauge and drape. I also have her a list of some staple, price conscious yarns she could use, even some acrylics.

Sunapee Shawl
When I first started crochet, I didn't know about LYS and fancy yarns. I was introduced to big box store yarns from Walmart then upgraded to Jo-Ann's Fabric. I know, fancy! But that's okay. It was a while before I discovered yarn shops, wool, and luxury blends, and Webs. Needless to say, my wallet is a lot lighter since those early days.

While I've had the great opportunity to crochet and knit with some fantastic yarns, I'm all for substituting yarns when needed. None if us should be selling our first-borns for yarn. Use the best yarn you can afford. I still go to Jo-Ann's Fabrics to pick up a few skeins, especially when I have a coupon. Don't judge. Their Paton sock yarn is awesome.

We are in an era where there is so much Internet shame. There's the constant out-doing the next guy, one upping your neighbors, and keeping up with the Jones.

This is our craft, our hobbies. Lets keep it fun and judgement free.

So now it's your turn. Leave a comment: Do you use the yarn listed in the pattern or do you go rogue and substitute?

Stitch On!


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  1. I think you responded well. I would have said something like that too. I try to use the yarn called for but not all the time. It depends on what I am making and whether or not I like the yarn. I do do a lot of substituting and just make sure the yarn is the same weight unless I want it smaller or lighter or larger and heavier. I only do a gauge swatch when knitting garments (I know, I'm bad! LOL!). When I look at patterns I look at the pattern and the yarn. I then think of them as two different things. Sometimes the reason I like a pattern is the yarn, some just the pattern and others both. You should judge the pattern on the yarn used and use what you like and love.

    1. Thank you Amber for your response. I really appreciate the support. You make a great point of looing at the pattern and the yarn as two different things. This is a great way to look at substituting yarn for a pattern; that they are not a single unit and can be mixed and match as needed.

  2. I agree with both of you. Tian & Amber. I do understand the lady's problem of expensive yarns, but that does not stop me from buying or downloading a pattern that uses it. Since I am still a beginner, I don't know how a different, less expensive yarn will "work" with the pattern; I just try to match size/weight, and buy yarn (yes, often at JoAnn's) as close to the colors of the sample shown. I think, in my case, that I should wait to buy an expensive yarn until I get my stitches, edges, etc. down. I would hate to mess up gorgeous yarn. As to buying one at $32.50, it would be hard on a fixed retirement income...I'd have so save my change until I had enough! If something is really special & important to me, I will wait until I can get it, preferably on sale!
    I am drooling over the yummy yarns I see on line ( have not been to a yarn shop...yet...!), and if I get better, I know I will want to try one of those, like the hand-dyed, soft looking ones!
    I have read (don't remember where) that sometimes washing and using fabric softener will help some yarns, but don't know if it means washing the skein first, or what you crocheted after it is finished. I have no idea if there is a "fix" for non-washable yarns.
    I can write and ask the pattern designer or ask on one of the boards &/or blogs on line, too, for suggestions of other suitable yarns.
    There are many helpful people out there, thank goodness!

    1. Thanks for your response daht. I've heard that too about washing yarns (acrylics like Red Heart Super Saver) before knitting or crocheting to soften it up - put in a mesh lingerie bag and wash in the washing machine. The yarn you choose depends on the project and the recipient. I wouldn't make a $65 cowl for my 11 year old son, but I might for my husband.

      Also, I wouldn't necessarily WAIT to buy expensive (aka quality) yarn. I think as along as you can afford it (you know, your kids won't go hungry, that kinda thing) to go enjoy the yarns available. Maybe start out with one skein of a handdyed yarn and see. You might find your stitches and edges look better with quality yarn, regardless of the price point.

      Stitch On!

      P.S. You haven't made it to a yarn shop yet? Well, you are in for a delight of all senses. I think my first time to Webs (, I walked out after a few minutes without buying anything because I was sooooo overwhelmed by the size of the store, all the colors, and the massive amount of yarns, and then there is the warehouse of yarn in the back, oh my :)