How to Find (or Substitute) Discontinued Yarn
You hope that it never happens, but it is possible that there may come a time when you find yourself coming up short-of yarn, that is. "Really, the trickiest thing that happens is if someone is halfway through a project, and a yarn gets discontinued and they run out of it. That's the hardest situation," says Whitney Van Nes, Vice President of Communications for Purl Soho. If you find yourself in this quandary and do not have enough yarn to complete a work in progress (or if you've used a particular yarn in the past and find yourself wishing upon your lucky stars that you could get more of it) there's a chance that you might be able to snag a skein or two, but you're going to have to work for it. With online help and some good old-fashioned sleuthing skills, you can either track down your precious discontinued yarn or be able to find a good replacement.
Let's start with the much-needed disclaimer: No one likes to run out of yarn mid-project. If you're working from a knitting pattern, Van Nes advices that you take heed of the recommended amount of yarn needed to complete a particular project. "Some people even go as far as to buy an extra," she says, "but typically, patterns give you a ten percent buffer of yarn so that even if for some reason you use more or your gauge is a little off, you should have enough with the recommended amount."
But we know that sometimes even the best-laid plans fall short, so you may find your yarn supply coming up short and need to shift gears into search mode. Don't know where to begin? Don't fret-we've got a three-point plan of action to help you get back to that passion project that you can't wait to finish.
Go Back to the Source
The first thing you should do is retrace your steps: Return to the store or website of your original yarn purchase and see if they have any more in stock. Even if the yarn has been discontinued by its manufacturer or vendor, they may still have some inventory available for purchase. Call or email the company to inquire about the yarn in question.
At Purl Soho, the team is committed to uniting knitters with their desired yarn, and even takes some extraordinary measures to do so. "If we discontinue selling a yarn that is still generally available on the market, we will always help customers find it," Van Nes explains, "but if we discontinue our own yard-a color or a collection-and the customer says, 'I've run out of yarn, I have two inches left and you don't sell the product anymore,' we email every single employee and we say, 'Do you have any more of this color in your stash? There's a customer here who needs it.' We really bend over backwards to try to dig up that last little skein." For coming to the rescue of a customer desperately seeking skeins, Purl Soho gifts obliging employees with a free skein of yarn in exchange.
Go to the Web
That said, if the original retailer or manufacturer of the desired yarn does not have any more inventory and is indeed out of stock, you have to seek it elsewhere. Etsy and eBay are two great sites to go to begin your search, or you can start a search by just typing "discontinued yarn" in your web browser to see what sites and services come up to assist you (for one, Discontinued Name Brand Yarn is a great resource).
Be warned: "You can try to chase down some remaining skeins of discontinued yarn, but if it's been discontinued for a long time, it's going to be hard to find." What's a long time, you ask? Van Nes says in the knitting world, this means a year or more. "If it's a very popular yarn that's been discontinued, you'll probably find some on the market for a while, especially at local yarn stores that haven't sold out of it yet," she explains, "but tiny little lots of yarn from more niche yarn companies are harder to find once it's been discontinued."
If you're serious about taking up a regular knitting practice or getting more organized with the one you already have in place, it might be a good idea to invest in a knitting journal in which you can record all your yarn purchases and relevant information. For future reference, make note of the following details: the date of purchase, the original source and price, item number, color number or name of yarn, its gauge, and number of yards in each skein or unit of yarn. (Additionally, be sure to jot down the company or store name, website or address, and customer service number or customer service email.)
Match a Substitution
If you're not so lucky and your yarn search takes you for a loop, you may have no choice but to substitute. You can find a yarn that matches very closely the color, texture, and gauge of your original yarn selection with a bit of inquiry and research. Because each particular yarn has its own unique dye lot (the color formula used to create the yarn's hues), don't expect to find an "exact" match to your original yarn in a replacement bundle-it's just not possible, but the good news is that you can get something extremely close to it.
"Knitting patterns are written with a particular yarn in mind," says Van Nes, "But it's a suggestion, it's a recommendation. You're free to use whatever yarn would work with the pattern, so we would address the question by first figuring out what was the fiber, what was the gauge, how many yards were in each skein, how does that yarn behave, and can we replicate that behavior with a different yarn." Other important questions to ask: What do you like about the yarn? Do you like that it was hand-dyed? Do you like that it was natural fiber? The answers to these questions can be very helpful in helping you find the perfect replacement yarn.
If you have no other choice but to introduce another yarn into a knitting pattern, it could be helpful to frame this particular scenario as an instance of the glass being half full, not half empty. Being forced to introduce a substitute yarn, whether it's a perfect match with the original or not, presents you with an opportunity to really go for it and showcase your aptitude or inclination for creativity. It allows for the perfect opportunity to craft something even more interesting and unique-a shawl with contrasting trim, a blanket with bright patchwork seams, or a felted knit piece. It can be fun to experiment with different colors and textures of yarn. So, if you find yourself in that situation, here's our advice to you-if you can't match it, mix things up.