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The ins and outs of substituting this for that

The ins and outs of substituting this for that


So, on to today’s post about substituting yarns. Last week, I explained about the different fibers and some of their characteristics. Because you’ve already read that post (right?), you can get a bit of a feel for why substituting yarns by weight of yarn (DK or fingering or worsted) is not going to always give you the results you expect.

The number one question to answer when substituting from a written pattern is “What is the original yarn called for in the design?” Further questions to answer:
o what weight (fingering, sport, worsted, heavy, bulky). The Craft Yarn Council has devised a weight system which most yarn companies try to use. That said, there is no requirement that yarn companies adhere to this system (it is completely voluntary) so the yarn label may not have this info included. If not, look at the suggested gauge (the needle size and sts/rows per inch) and that should give you a good estimate as to which “weight”

o novelty or classic type of yarn — look at the spin (is it loosely spun or a tight, smooth fiber); is it fluffy or nubby

o what fiber (protein, cellulose/plant, man-made or blend); remember, if it’s a blend, look at how much of each fiber – see last week’s post to get an idea of what the fiber blend will do.

o what gauge obtained by the designer – this will give you an idea of whether the designer is a loose knitter or a tight knitter, what drape will occur based simply on a loose gauge (or conversely, how stiff the fabric will be based on a tight gauge), and generally give you a feel for what YOUR swatch should feel like

If possible, feel the original yarn – if LYS has a swatch, even better as you want to know if the fabric obtained in the original design is close to the fabric you have obtained with your substitution.

Another aspect of the overall design and understanding how to substitute a yarn is to look at the design closely and answer the following questions:
o does the yarn need to be crisp to show stitch detail?

o does the yarn need to be soft to drape and flow?

o is the design primarily a stranded colorwork (necessitating a yarn with a bit of “catch” to allow the colors to blend nicely) or primarily a stitch-based design (requiring a well-spun yarn to show the stitch detail)?

o what is the “weight” of finished garment – for example, lots of cables will be heavy; if you use a heavy yarn, you’ll have a heavy, potentially droopy sweater for which the designer used a light, fluffy yarn to avoid this weight?

o does the garment have a seasonality of style – if this sweater is primarily for summer wear, you wouldn’t want to make it out of a fiber that doesn’t breathe or is just too warm?

What Now?
• Swatch …. Swatch … and swatch, again!
• Try different needle-sizes to get the right feel
• Adjust the pattern directions as needed if you can’t “get gauge” in a good feeling piece of fabric
• Make sure you wash the swatch and see what happens – the fiber may surprise you
• Test knit the stitch pattern or colorwork to see if your fiber choice will work

KNOWING THE FIBER YOU HAVE:
• again, check last week’s post for fiber information
• play with yarn to see what it will do – yes, this means swatching!
• if fibers are identical (ie, “merino wool”), than swatch and adjust pattern
• if fibers are completely different (ie, cotton instead of wool) make sure the properties/characteristics needed for the design are available with the new yarn; if not, choose a different pattern or a different yarn. Or design your own ….

ENJOY the adventure, keep notes and revel in the fiber choices!sig block

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