Apr 27, 2015

Yarn Yammer: Substituting Yarns

So you have found a great pattern but you don’t have the yarn that is called for; you should just give up right?

Forgetaboutit!

 

There are many reasons why you might need to use a different yarn. Perhaps that yarn is no longer available. Maybe the cost of the yarn is too high, or you are working on shrinking your stash, and you’ve decided to pull from it for an alternative.

Some knitters don’t think twice about switching yarns, but some of us break into a cold sweat just thinking about it.

Today, I will try to help those of you in the later group to feel a bit more comfortable about making yarn substitutions!

There are four basic questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. Does my yarn match the gauge recommended in the pattern?
  2. Will my fabric turn out like it’s supposed to?
  3. Do I have enough?
  4. Is this the right type of yarn for what I am making?

 

 

Does my yarn match the gauge recommended in the pattern?

When you begin searching for substitute yarn, you’ll want to start with the yarn label. Check out the label of the specified yarn, if you can. If not, you can always do a little research online to find this information. First check the yarn manufacturers site, if the information is not there sites like Ravelry.com and Yarndex.com often have the manufacturers gauge information for current and discontinued yarns.

Most yarn manufacturers list the gauge on the label as if it were worked in stockinet stitch. So, if your pattern gives gauge information for stockinet stitch, it’s easy to figure out whether your choice will work by comparing the gauge of the listed yarn with your yarn’s given gauge. If not you will have to make up a swatch using the listed stitch pattern that is specified with the gauge listing in your pattern.

I cannot emphasize enough though the value of actually knitting up a swatch, and washing and blocking it to get an actual gauge comparison! (I know.. it’s a pain, but it saves a lot of pain too!)

Big changes to the gauge of your yarn will affect the finished knitted fabric. This leads to the next issue:

 

Will my fabric turn out like it’s supposed to?

 

Take some time to think about the finished garment. Should it drape softly like a shawl?  Is it stiffer like a knitted basket? There is nothing more frustrating than coming out with a sweater that stands up by itself, when it was actually supposed to drape gracefully around the wearer!

If there is texture knit into the fabric like cables, or moss stitch etc, will the yarn hide this? A textured yarn like a boucle or a fuzzy yarn, can obscure patterns like cables and the like. Also variegated yarns can do this as well.

If you have knit a gauge swatch in pattern, you will be able to determine if any of these issues plague your substitute yarn choice. If you haven’t, keep these things in mind when choosing your yarn. (and *cough* make a swatch!)

Now that you have the right gauge:

How much yarn will I need?

Now, it’s time for some math! (I know.. I’m a teacher.. there’s always math homework!)

Once you’ve found what you think is a spectacular yarn substitute, you will need to make sure you have enough! You will want to compare the length, not the weight, of the yarn called for in the pattern. Length is a more accurate measure than weight since yarns made with different materials have different densities, even though they may be the same length. (There I threw in some science too!)

So again look at your label, and your listed yarn requirements in you pattern.

If the pattern calls for 10 balls of yarn with a yardage of 120 yards, then you’ll need a total of 10 x 120 = 1200 yards.

Please make sure you are comparing the same measurements as well. Many yarn labels, and patterns list the yarn length in meters rather than yards. So check this carefully, and you can always use an online measurement conversion calculator to help you out!

You wouldn’t want to come up short!

So you have the right gauge and you have enough yarn but:

Is this the right type of yarn for what I am making?

Think about the stitches and techniques used in the project. Is it lace? Are there cables? Some yarns are rather stiff and hard to work into these types of stitch patterns. For example cotton, and some 100% acrylic yarns can be rather in-elastic and hard to work with, causing you all kinds of troubles! You wouldn’t want to break a peg!

What is the end use of the item? Using the wrong fiber, can cause you troubles in the long run here too! You won’t want to use wool for a summer garment. You will want to us cotton or some other absorbent yarn for making a dishcloth, towel or soaker!

Also take a moment to think about whether a certain yarn was called for, for its specific qualities. For example a designer may have called for a self-striping yarn to highlight a particular stitch pattern, like mitered squares or entrelac. So think about the overall finished look of the pattern and how your chosen yarn substitute will add or detract to the intent of the design’s aesthetic.

 

If you follow these steps, I am sure you will make some great yarn substitutions.

1 Comment

  • Thanks for this information. I am looking forward to your next instalment on this issue.of yarn substitution.

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Apr 24, 2015

A Fledgling Knitter: Assumptions, Thoughts, and Lessons

In the month since my last post, I have done a lot of different things with loom knitting. I have learned to match my needle gauge with my loom gauge, I have written a pattern, and I have been humbled by busting through a few of my assumptions about the projects that are possible on the loom.

First off, I have played around a little bit with the different gauges I can create when knitting on the loom. Step one, back to basics: I needed to learn the difference between a true knit stitch and simply a loop over stitch. I thought I knew all about that (plays into the assumptions I need to learn not to have), and was simply hooking my bottom loops over the yarn on the pegs. I think this is because I used to do spool knitting when I was a child and that’s kind of what I remembered about how it worked… well, apparently I didn’t remember as much as I thought. I was not picking up the loop underneath with the tool and then removing the previous loop to replace it with my new loop. This meant that I was having some really painfully tight swatches that were disheartening and frustrating. Well, if I had just read the directions I would have realized I wasn’t doing a true knit stitch. I didn’t take a photo of this stage because I was so frustrated that I just ripped the whole thing out! After switching to real knit stitches (insert hook under the bottom loop, pick up the top loop and remove both from the peg, replacing the new loop on the peg), what a difference! It still looked tight to me on the loom, but I think that was because I was expecting it to look the same as it does on needles, which it wouldn’t until it’s removed from the loom.

Adrian 1

This little mistake/learning opportunity led to my second lesson of the month. After this realization, I took the time to do some comparison gauge swatches to calibrate my own opinion about the capabilities of the loom. I am so glad I did this. I will admit: I originally assumed that the only projects that were possible on the loom were large bulky projects. I have been pleasantly surprised to find out that this simply isn’t true. For those of you that don’t needle knit, this part might be boring, but for others… I learned that I have a whole new range of projects that I can expect to be able to work on the loom! With a little effort I can convert lots of needle-knitting patterns to loom patterns!

To try and match my needle gauge to my loom gauge, I did two swatches to match the loom to the needles. For this I was working on the 18” All-in-One loom with dk weight, single-ply yarn. Since this creates a standard gauge, I needed to do the loom swatch first and then find a needle size to match. Each yarn and each pattern act a little differently, but since I had no real idea what gauge the loom is spitting out and I still think in terms of needle sizes, I wanted a comparison. One great thing I noticed is the even quality and neat stitches that are possible with the loom. (Note: these swatches have not been blocked, so they look a little sad) Because you are only working from the knit side doing the stockinette stitch, this keeps the stitches very even. When working on the needles, because I was working back and forth in stockinette, the rows that I was purling have stitches ever so slightly looser, creating a less even fabric. I’m confident this would even out with blocking, but it’s a good comparison of the types of stitches that are possible on the loom. (The photo on the left, from the loom, has e-wrap stitches at the bottom before the knit stitches start.)

Adrian 2

Finally for this month, I decided to jump in with both feet and write a loom knitting pattern. My dear friend Isela helped teach me how to convert a pattern into loom knitting terms. Although increases and decreases are not as easy to do on a loom; that certainly doesn’t mean you have to avoid shaped items! The chubby bunny was born last month and I think he came out quite cute. I tried to avoid all increases and decreases as much as possible and instead used sewing methods and cinching methods to turn simple straightforward panels into a round, plump, loving bunny! I would love to hear your feedback on my first pattern. ? This can be found under the free patterns tab.

Once again, I found all sorts of new lessons while adventuring into loom knitting. Thanks for reading! I am now starting my first fully loom knitted item with a purpose, so I will hopefully have that finished for you next month. I’ll keep it a secret until it’s done. Stay tuned!

1 Comment

  • I loved reading your article! I too had the same assumptions. Thanks for clarifying those assumptions. Now I have a newfound excitement for trying out some other loom projects!

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