Grist: A Secret Measurement for Substituting Yarn

July 25, 2018
Jillian Moreno is a font of fiber facts. Know your Ps and Qs of rams and ewes!

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67 Comments
  • Thank you. I have been knitting for over 50 years and have never heard about “grist”. It makes so much sense. Have saved and pinned the post for future reference,

  • Brilliant article—I used to work in my LYS, and I wish I had had this article when I was trying to explain to my co-workers why you can’t knit everything out of Cascade 220 even if you can find a needle size that will give you gauge!

    • This article and this particular comment have just helped me avoid a biiiig mistake! 🙂

  • Brilliant thank you!

  • Mystery Date! We spent hours opening and closing that door, though I don’t remember ever playing the game as intended.

  • Super helpful. Thank you. I am saving this one!

  • What a great article! Thank you so much the information will help me so much,

  • Jillian! You are my new hero! Thank you for supplying another piece to the yarn puzzle. Also, I have figured out that if my LYS owner is also a spinner I will get better answers.

  • I do this all the time but had no idea there was a word for it! Thanks! Now that I’ve learned something new, I wonder if I can call it a day and head home? (It’s not even 8am yet but I checked, just in case. Boss laughed. Back to work,)

  • Wow. Never heard of grist. This information is extremely useful since we all sub yarns all the time!

  • Thank you so very much for all that wonderful,useful info AND how to save the article. My little sister had the Mystery Date game – what a hoot to see that corny commercial again!

  • My mind has been blown. I never even thought that yarn substitution would affect the weight of the finished project (other than woolen v. worsted spun). Wow! Saving article!

  • This was so helpful. I feel like I have a place to start from with my stash and substitutions. I appreciate the article and visuals. thank you

  • Whoa! Clicked and saved! Thank you so much for this.

  • WOW! That’s all I can say!

  • Thank you!!! Just another piece of the puzzle I have been needing. So much to learn, so little time.

  • Thank you! This information is so very helpful!

  • This is so very helpful! My co-worker just recently came to me with two rolled balls of yarn (both 4-ply) without tags and asked if she could make a shawl with it. She doesn’t know the name of the yarn or anything other than she has 2 balls of yarn. I knew I would need to do something like this, but you took all the guess-work and fuss out of it and I’m actually excited to figure out the mystery yarn and will make it a dream mystery date for my co-worker!

  • Great info! I knew a little about finding the yardage for mystery yarns, but I never thought about the weight of the project . Something really good to consider!

  • Thank you for this very helpful information!! I knew that there must be some formula that would take away the ambiguity when substituting yarn. I have some lovely hand spun and dyed yarn that is neither here nor there; fingering, lace, ‘flace’ who knows? This will help enormously. Math saves everything.

  • Such helpful information, thank you!

  • Wow. I’m working on something with a substitute and eating up yarn too quick. Now I may know why!

  • Wow. I hope my mystery date of a cardigan turns out!!! I could do the math, but don’t want to look behind door #1 to find out. Lol.

  • Wow, who knew ? Thanks !

  • Thank you for the sound advice. Going to a friend’s house to have Knitting Day. Will bring along this article to share. So wise!!!

  • That looks like a great scale, mine definitely is not accurate to .001 ounces! What brand is it?

  • Instead of thinking of gristle – think of grist mill, used for grinding grain for meal or flour.

    Thanks for the information.

    • Exactly my thought. “Grist for the mill” to me means that it’s raw material (a dream, thoughts) that might be useful sometime.

  • I have never heard of yarn ‘grist’, but after too many years of hit-or-miss yarn subs (‘the swatch looks great, they’re both listed as fingering, it must work’), it dawned on me recently that weight of yarn had to be factored into a sub. (A ‘DUH’ moment. But a happy one, which saved my most recent sweater.)
    Even still, I hadn’t considered the weight of the finished project and I will want to calculate that too, if I don’t want to end up with a 12 pound sweater – which would be a dud date for sure. Another ‘DUH’ moment! Thank you!

  • Thank you!
    And thank you for showing how to save this article!
    Mystery Date, my sisters and I had tons of fun playing that game! Which is weird considering the diverse neighborhood I grew up in!

  • Such a great, useful article but…math are hard!!! And I don’t own a scale so I guess I’ll continue to play Mystery Date with my yarn subs 🙂 I will save the article, maybe my brain will engage after another cup of coffee

    • Check thrift shops for digital kitchen scales – very often under $10

    • “Math are hard” oh the giggles you supplied with that phase!! Thanks I needed that!!

  • Thank you!! Today I learned the difference between worsted-spun and woolen-spun yarns AND about grist. New knowledge to set me on the right path!

  • This is going to be super helpful with my oft-repeated (and occasionally followed) promise to knit from stash instead of buying new yarn for a project. I’m not quite at the “don’t buy green bananas” stage yet, but knitting from stash isn’t far behind.

  • thank you! very helpful info with useful examples.

  • Thank you so so much for your fantastic article. I crochet and am constantly subbing yarns. I usually just change up the hook size but your article sheds a whole new light on things. Thanks again.

  • Wow. Thank you! This info is going to help me so much (says someone who knit a REALLY HEAVY shawl last year).

  • I’ve used the expression “grist for the mill” my whole life, and frequently, and never once thought of associating “grist” with “gristle.” Yuck.
    That said…this is a fully-packed useful post, and I will read it multiple times, I’m sure! Thanks very much 🙂

  • Grist is just a complicated way of saying that when you substitute yarn you look for a one that knits to close to the same suggested gauge, is a fiber with similar properties, & has approximately the same yardage/ounce or gram as the yarn used in the original pattern. Takes a teensy bit of math if the two yarns aren’t in the same size put up, but most of the time you don’t even need a calculator.

  • Thank you for this wonderful explanation! I have knitted since God created sheep and love to substitute yarns out of my stash or from falling in love with a different yarn in a shop. Over the years I have come up with the concept of “not quite right-ness” of one yarn for another and therefore moving on to a different. one The factors included weight, tightness of ply or density, how it felt and looked in comparison to the original but I didn’t have a word for it. Now I do: GRIST. I can hardly wait to use it.

  • Wow…so helpful! Thank you.

  • I make dolls and other children’s toy pets . Would the product be good for these items

  • Brilliant post! Thank you!

  • This is life altering, thank you!

  • Thank you too much for this explanation. I’ll be sure to use the info when subbing yarns from other countries (inherited).

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you…funny that I had just noticed YPP recently and wondered what it meant!

  • Wow, thanks. Very informative. BTW, I loved the Mystery Date video!

  • I worked in a yarn store back in the – ahem – 80s, and we never would’ve swapped yarn out any other way. The term “grist”, though, is new to me.

  • Thanks for the great (re)statement and definition of grist. I had done this for awhile, after few really dud dates (cotton?), but you helped me to understand grist at SAFF. Good to have the information renewed.

  • Wow! Great info. I have numerous balls of yarn which I have weighed and label but I have on idea of how many yards I have. Any secret to find out without unwinding and measuring?

    • Take a look at Jillian’s last section above, with the pink tangle of yarn. She measured out 10 yards of it, weighed it, and from those 2 data points she was able to calculate how many yards were in the tangle.

  • Great article! I’m debating what to do with my unfinished shawl made with a substitute yarn … do I rip back and add stripes to make it not look like I ran out of yarn or try to find a colour match for 5 year old stash yarn? I’m saving this article article and going to use it for all future projects.

    • I love this striping strategy. It has the bonus of being a fun way to communicate with other knitters without words. They will see the stripes and know the score! Seriously though, I’ve seen it work really successfully.

      • Thanks Kay! Stripes it is!!

  • Another for my very long list entitled ” Helpful Things I Have learned from Ann & Kay” . Along with the concept, what a great name for it. GRIST!

  • Gosh, this is how I’ve always subbed yarn, but I didn’t know it had a name! In fact, I wasn’t even sure if it was considered a legitimate way to find a suitable sub – I just knew that it had always worked for me. I feel so smart now!

  • So helpful! Cheers!

  • Thank you, thank you!!

  • This was brilliant – the “girl, that date is a dud” is hilarious. I will definitely be using this math today to estimate yardage on a 1/4 skein I have. But I have a question about date #1. Why can’t she just compare the yardage and see that she will be short yardage for the project? I see how it works for date #2 and date #3 but not sure what extra it revealed for date 1 when the yardage, yarn type and gauge was known.

  • Thank you so much for this post! I had mystery yarn from Value Villige, The look and feel of yarn plus the Grist measurements, burn test, WPI, and guage swatch, etc. I have been able to figure out that it is most likely 100% fingering weight cotton with grist of 3.33 yards per gram equalling a total of 4,155.84 yards

  • Then, there’s the McMorran balance, an extremely clever, useful, and fun-to-play-with tool for measuring ypp. Maybe grist for a future article?

  • Brilliant! Thank you.

  • Hi Jillian. This is a fabulous resource for knitters. Thanks so much for sharing. I’ve included your post in our latest craft inspiration roundup. https://craftylikegranny.com/lifelong-learning-of-craft/ Cheers Jodie 🙂

  • Thank you for sharing such GREAT INFO!!
    HAPPY KNITTING AND SPINNING!

  • Huh. Who knew? That answers a lot of questions. Thank you!

  • Thank you so much! I have sweater quantities of a gorgeous Rowan tweed from the 90’s. But how much exactly? Now I can find out!