Monday, January 19th, 2015

What to do when your yarn is discontinued

Screen Shot 2015 01 17 at 5.47.06 PM What to do when your yarn is discontinued

What yarn can I substitute in a knitting or crochet pattern?

I recently got a book called Knit Your Own Dog chock full of cute dogs to knit. I went through it oohing and aaahhhing over the dogs and finally picked a couple that I wanted to make. Yeah! Now to buy the yarn.

Fail! Major Fail!

The yarn recommended in the book was discontinued, just about every single one was unavailable. Yikes! What to do? Well the solution was complex, challenging and interesting enough to prompt a blog post. So here’s what to do when a yarn you want to buy simply isn’t available any longer.

1 First stop eBay

It might not be your favorite place to shop but sometimes eBay is your friend for discontinued yarn. Search by yarn manufacturer and type and browse the results. I found one of my discontinued woolen yarns here – but it was in the UK. Right now I am waiting to hear from the seller if they will ship to the US and what it will cost.

Pros: You can use Buy it now to snag your yarn. Generally inexpensive.

Cons: You don’t know where it has been (think pets, smokers and moth balls)

Screen Shot 2015 01 18 at 10.47.20 AM What to do when your yarn is discontinued

2 Find the Manufacturer’s recommended substitute yarn

If you can’t find the original yarn then you will need a substitute. At this point it will help to make a document. I use Word and make a list of the yarn(s) I need from the pattern. I note the weight or yardage or however it is measured and the yarn manufacturer, yarn name and all the color information. This means I have a single place to record all the information I need about the yarn that is no longer manufactured.

Turns out that most yarns can be substituted with a currently available yarn. That’s the good news. But how do you find the yarn to substitute it with? Turns out there are a couple of options.

First of all visit the website for your yarn manufacturer. I was looking for some Rowan wools so I went to – the manufacturer’s web site.
Screen Shot 2015 01 18 at 10.43.19 AM What to do when your yarn is discontinued


At that site you can click to search by yarn type – including Discontinued yarns. When you find your yarn there is plenty of good information here such as the mix in the yarn (wool, cashmere, nylon etc) and the weight and yardage. I either type this information into my document or take a quick screen shot to record these details. 

Screen Shot 2015 01 18 at 10.43.50 AM e1421607146374 What to do when your yarn is discontinued


Here too I found a color chart. This is gold! Grab it. You see one of my discontinued yarns was called Country 170 – yep! Country 170. Just what color do you think that is – blue, brown, green? There are two problems when you are looking for a discontinued yarn – the actual brand and yarn type to substitute it with and often also you will need to match the color. I want to knit an Afghan hound so I need afghan hound type colors – color is important so I need to know approximately what Country 170 looks like so I can match it in any substitute yarn I choose. For me that turned out to be a light brown – pretty important to get that right when knitting the dog – if I want a dog colored dog.

Screen Shot 2015 01 18 at 10.56.31 AM What to do when your yarn is discontinued

Now at I also found a yarn substitution chart – it is a downloadable PDF that lists the discontinued yarns and currently available yarns in groups – so you can see what can be substituted for what. This gives you some options to look at for replacing the missing yarn.

Screen Shot 2015 01 18 at 10.58.16 AM What to do when your yarn is discontinued

Not all other sites are so useful though! Needless to say, your options may not be this simple – so roll on the next option.

Pros: Depending on the manufacturer the info can be really useful. It is quick.

Cons: Not all manufacturers provide detailed help for discontinued yarns. Sometimes even good sites have out of date information. Yarn substitution recommendations are limited to the manufacturer’s own yarn types.

3 Yarn Substitution websites is dedicated to helping you find yarns to substitute for other yarns. You can search by brand and yarn type and this site shows you a comprehensive list of yarns you can substitute for the discontinued yarn. These are listed by % match so you can see if it is an excellent replacement or a pretty good one.

One downside of this site is that some of the recommended  yarns are themselves discontinued so you can go round in circles a bit (make that quite a bit).

If your discontinued yarn is listed here you will find plenty of replacement options and these won’t be limited to one manufacturer so there will be lots of scope to find a replacement. In addition the description of replacement yarns will tell you the amount of the new yarn to buy to match the original quantities which is really useful.


Pros: Really good information on discontinued yarns. Good info on possible yarns to substitute. Recommended yarns are rated by quality of match.

Cons: Many replacement suggestions are themselves discontinued. No color information.
Screen Shot 2015 01 18 at 10.44.26 AM What to do when your yarn is discontinued

You can also try the knitting and all things yarn site Search for your discontinued yarn to learn more about it. While Ravelry is good for yarn information it isn’t so good with color or recommended replacement option. There are generally lots of photos of the yarn but they are haphazardly arranged and they aren’t generally complete. Now if you go to you have to sign in to get to the wonderful information but if you use Google (eg. search for Ravelry and then the fiber name) you get to the site as a guest by passing the need to join up (although it is such a great site you will probably want to sign up).


Pros: Good information on discontinued yarns.

Cons: No really useful color information and no replacement yarn recommendations.

Screen Shot 2015 01 18 at 11.03.53 AM e1421607877566 What to do when your yarn is discontinued

Yarndex is a very thorough database of yarn information. Not only does it have valuable information about the yarn which is discontinued but it also has great color charts which are invaluable. One problem with the site, however, is the search tool. One of the yarns I wanted to find a substitute for was Rowan Tapestry – so I searched for Rowan Tapestry at Yarndex – the search turned up nothing. However, when I searched for Tapestry it was in the search results list. So, be aware, searching wider rather than narrower on this site might turn up better results.

In my opinion Yarndex is the first stop to make for color information which this site really scores on.


Pros: Great site for information on discontinued yarns. Great historical color information.

Cons: Site wide search is not great. No information on replacement yarns.

Screen Shot 2015 01 17 at 6.27.52 PM e1421608016959 What to do when your yarn is discontinued

4 Google is your friend

Google is a great resource once you know what yarns you are looking for to replace a discontinued yarn and it is also great for color swatches. For example typing “rowan tapestry color chart” and clicking Images will get you a range of color swatches – admittedly not all Rowan Tapestry wool but a quick look will turn up the one you want. Sometimes this is actually the easier way to find resources at Yarndex than using the site’s own search engine.

Google is also a great source of online sites which stock the type of wool/yarn you want to buy to substitute for the discontinued yarn.

5 Final thoughts

In my search for substitute yarns I have found some useful sites. Here they are:

Sweet Georgia Yarn Substitution things to think about when looking for a substitute yarn including texture, gauge and handle.

Lion Brand’s information on how to choose a substitute yarn.

Substituting Yarns

Field Guide to yarn substitution

Gauge and Yarn Substitutions

Craftsy – How to substitute yarn

Screen Shot 2015 01 18 at 10.42.04 AM1 What to do when your yarn is discontinued






Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Tree house doodle

treehouse Tree house doodle

Doodle a tree of houses

This is literally a tree house doodle, here I’ve drawn a series of my row houses up the trunk of a tree.

One of the nice things about houses that are stacked on top of each other is that you get to draw fun accents like stairs and ladders – because the designs are fanciful they don’t actually have to be serious so you can drape your stairs in loops and waves and your houses don’t have to be engineered to actually sit where they are – just sketch your houses and wrap the tree around them. In my drawing you’ll see a set of windows inside the tree making this a tree house as well.


Saturday, December 27th, 2014

Drawing – Log Cabins

cabins Drawing   Log Cabins

Drawing Log Cabins and wood houses

So, most of the time my drawings are pretty clean and they aren’t textured.  However I found a few photos on the web of wooden houses that looked like they were from Norway or one of the Scandinavian countries. I fell in love with the look so I had a shot at sketching them. I left the windows unshaded but everywhere that there are planks of wood, I drew lines.

The plus here is that old wooden houses tend to be a bit warped and uneven so that’s the effect I’ve achieved here – an old rickety style wooden house. Basically the shapes are simple – particularly those below – but the texture really sets them apart from my standard drawing style.

It’s good to mix things up a bit. Until you try a style you won’t know if you like it and if it’s something you want to include in your skill set.

I’m thinking that these might be cute rendered as sketches in Photoshop too – there’s a skill involved in creating pattern fills that are organic like this so they look hand drawn. But, for now, here are some wooden houses for you to enjoy and, perhaps draw yourself too.


cabins2 Drawing   Log Cabins


Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Mini Reverse Applique and Embroidered Cloud

cloud reverse applique embroidery 15 Mini Reverse Applique and Embroidered Cloud


Learn to make a cute reverse applique embroidery

Reverse applique is simple to do and lots of fun. Instead of stitching your shape on top of the fabric you will place it below and cut out a hole to view it through. Here’s how to do it:

Step 1

Draw your design – I used a simple hand drawn cloud and rain drops design. Make sure it will fit comfortably inside the embroidery frame.
cloud reverse applique embroidery 01 Mini Reverse Applique and Embroidered Cloud

Step 2

Cut out your pattern and tack it to the front of your main piece of fabric. Place your second (applique) piece of fabric behind the first – if there is a right and wrong side of your fabric, make sure both right sides are facing the same way! I used felt so this wasn’t an issue. Stitch around the shape leaving about 1/4 inch between the pattern edge and your stitch lines. These stitches will show on the final piece so do them neatly. Stitch through your main and applique fabric. I used couching stitches to run a thicker thread around the shape but you could use back stitch or even stem stitch.
cloud reverse applique embroidery 02 Mini Reverse Applique and Embroidered Cloud

Step 3
cloud reverse applique embroidery 03 Mini Reverse Applique and Embroidered Cloud

Step 4

Embroider any other elements – I added some rain drops using detached chain stitch.
cloud reverse applique embroidery 04 Mini Reverse Applique and Embroidered Cloud

Step 5

Admire your work so far.
cloud reverse applique embroidery 05 Mini Reverse Applique and Embroidered Cloud

Step 6

Using the paper template as a guide, very carefully cut the template shape out of the top fabric without cutting through the applique fabric. Take your time to cut neatly and carefully.
cloud reverse applique embroidery 06 Mini Reverse Applique and Embroidered Cloud

Step 7

Make sure your piece will still fit comfortably inside your frame.
cloud reverse applique embroidery 07 Mini Reverse Applique and Embroidered Cloud

Step 8

Using a suitable thread – I used Clover Silk, stitch around the cut edge sewing the edge to the applique below. Use any appropriate stitch such as a hem stitch or even blanket stitch.
cloud reverse applique embroidery 08 Mini Reverse Applique and Embroidered Cloud

Step 9

I used Blanket Stitch.
cloud reverse applique embroidery 09 Mini Reverse Applique and Embroidered Cloud

Step 10

Flip the piece over and trim the applique fabric close to the edge of the design.
cloud reverse applique embroidery 10 Mini Reverse Applique and Embroidered Cloud

Step 11

Place the finished piece inside your frame.
cloud reverse applique embroidery 11 Mini Reverse Applique and Embroidered Cloud

Step 12

Trim the front fabric to around 3/4 inch all round.
cloud reverse applique embroidery 12 Mini Reverse Applique and Embroidered Cloud

Step 13

Run a loose running stitch around the edge and pull firmly on both ends to gather the excess fabric. Knot the thread to hold the gathers in place. Make a template for the back of the frame and cut a piece of felt to size using the template.
cloud reverse applique embroidery 13 Mini Reverse Applique and Embroidered Cloud

Step 14

Tack the felt to the fabric all around to finish the back of the embroidery neatly.
cloud reverse applique embroidery 14 Mini Reverse Applique and Embroidered Cloud

Step 15

All done!
cloud reverse applique embroidery 15 Mini Reverse Applique and Embroidered Cloud

Step 16

Close up.
cloud reverse applique embroidery 16 Mini Reverse Applique and Embroidered Cloud

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

Drawing – Balloon House

balloon house Drawing   Balloon House

Thoughts on how to draw a flying house

I’ve been working on this drawing for a while by drawing houses flying in the air. One problem I had was actually making this feel real. Well, real is a bit of a misnomer here because you don’t see houses flying around too much. But I wanted to give the drawing the feel of being a house actually flying around. The secret is to put the house on an angle so it looks like it is flying – after all, if a house were attached to a ballon that is moving it would be dragging a bit behind and so it would be hanging off its rope.

As soon as my house was at an angle, the entire drawing came together. Adding the washing line and washing was a stroke of genius – I have a total love of laundry in real life and in drawing too. The birds and clouds also reinforce the suggestion the house is on the move!

I finished off with some Tombow markers to add some color. The sky was done with lots of water to get a washed out look. I like the Tombow markers because I can use them full strength and also mix them with water so I can get a second ‘color’ into the drawing and only use one pen.



Friday, December 12th, 2014

Mini Christmas Felt Embroidery

felt christmas holly embroidery applique felted Mini Christmas Felt Embroidery

Make this seasonal embroidery in just minutes

There is something to be said for personal gifts and I love to make things to give at Christmas. But when time is short it’s tempting to go out and buy something just because it is quick and easy. That’s why I love this project – it is simple and quick to make. In fact, once the holly is done, I can do the rest in a few minutes while watching a good movie after dinner!

To make this you will need a small embroidery frame – I get mine online – generally from Etsy and these are a tiny 3.5-4 inches tall and they are flexible so no screws. Inside them I use white or off white burlap – it’s inexpensive and much nicer that traditional embroidery fabric as it has a neat texture. Cut out the holly leaves  from green felt – if you use good wool felt the edges will stay nice and the whole thing is easier to sew. Make the holly berries using  a small amount of crimson felting wool and felt the wool into 3 balls. Mine look really plump in the photo but in reality they are flatter as that uses less wool and they sit better on the final piece. Using matching thread, sew the leaves to the burlap then attach the red berries. I finish off the back of my pieces with red felt cut to just smaller than the back of the embroidery. Trim the burlap to 3/4 inch all round, tuck it in and tack the felt over the top. It takes just minutes and it really makes the piece look much more professional.

So, there you have it – a simple holiday felt embroidery project.

felt christmas holly embroidery applique felted finishing technique Mini Christmas Felt Embroidery


Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

How to Draw a Deck Chair in 6 Steps

deck chair 6 steps How to Draw a Deck Chair in 6 Steps

Learn to draw a deck chair in 6 easy steps

In this latest installment of my step by step how to draw series you will learn how to draw a deck chair – in 6 easy steps. This was one of the hardest step by steps I have designed as there is just so much going on behind the seat of the chair!

Like all my step by steps, I design them so they don’t have any lines in them which get erased – so you can draw them with ink on paper direct and you don’t have to sketch them first.

When you are drawing this, I suggest you do the first few in pencil and ink them after – it’s a bit tricky to get the lines right so they look correct and that chair seat isn’t easy to make nice and loopy and still leave room for the chair hardware to appear behind it. I hope you enjoy this drawing design!


Friday, December 5th, 2014

Drawing – Hill Houses

hillhouses Drawing   Hill Houses

Doodling hill houses

Just one tiny, fanciful step beyond drawing row houses is stacking the houses up a hill. Drawing hill houses gives your doodles more dimension and opens up wonderful opportunities to add ladders and steps and antennae and lights. Stick to your basic house shape and add a few similar designs – keeping the overall style homogenous.

I love to add lights and ladders – it doesn’t matter that there are no doors to join them to – this is doodling at its most fun.



Sunday, November 30th, 2014

How to Draw Brogues in 6 Steps

brogues How to Draw Brogues in 6 Stepsshoes How to Draw Brogues in 6 Steps

Learn to draw awesome men’s shoes with this step by step drawing project

I think men’s brogues with their tiny holes and stitched leather uppers are such classy shoes. Here is how to draw a pair of brogues, step by step and in only 6 simple steps.

I hope you enjoy this post and please share and pin it to your hearts content!

Monday, November 24th, 2014

How to Draw a Sail Boat in 6 Steps

boat 6steps How to Draw a Sail Boat in 6 Steps

Learn to draw a Sailing boat step by step

Here is another of my simple step by step instructions for drawing a super cute sail boat. The step by steps can be drawn in ink direct on the paper as there is no need to do any erasing when drawing this sailing boat.


Page 1 of 28123451020Last »