Substituting Yarn

 photo used with kind permission from Marie Wallin: www.mariewallin.com

As part of the Crochet Circle Podcast, Fay and I are both making a crochet garment to (hopefully) wear at Yarndale.

I found it quite difficult to find a nice crochet top that I really liked, and the only real option for me was something from Marie Wallin’s book called 'Filigree, collection three', which I bought recently. I love 'Aster' which is a cropped style top and uses quite a large mesh stitch, so it’s very open and will be worn over a camisole or t-shirt.

I’ve chosen this because it suits my style – quite a simple shape – like a t-shirt, and modern. I may wear it over a dress or a blouse, so in choosing my design I’m thinking ahead as to how I will wear it. I have some potental yarn in my stash for this, which is another reason for choosing it.

 
Then also as if by magic, through the door this week popped Inside Crochet with a fantastic jumper that I really like by designer Annelies Baes, called Lisa Sweater. I also have some potential yarn for this, so I'm now thinking I'll make 2 crochet garments.
 
photo credit: Inside Crochet  http://www.insidecrochet.co.uk/

Sometimes the yarn recommended in a knitting or crochet pattern may not be the yarn that you want to use. You may want to use up some left over yarn from your stash instead, or you may wish to use a different type of fibre.
 
I've written this blog post a guide to help you choose an alternative yarn.

Step 1:
Once you’ve chosen your pattern, check the materials section to identify what yarn has been used in the pattern and also the hook or needle size.
 
Step 2:
Look at the weight of yarn recommended – is it lace-weight/4-ply/DK/aran/chunky/super chunky?
 

 
For Aster, I need a  4-ply weight.

Next, look at the fibre cotton – is the recommended yarn wool/synthetic/cotton/bamboo/silk. If you want to match the fibres exactly then you already know what to look for.

For Aster, I’m looking at a 4-ply yarn that is 100% cotton. I like the finish of the garment I want to make – the Rowan cotton used (Summerlite) looks soft and smooth with a matte finish and will give a study, firm and slightly weighty garment on a 4-ply - so I’m sticking with the recommended fibre.
 
So I need a 4-ply cotton with a matt finish (so not the more shiny mercerised cottons that have been through a process to give them a slight sheen).

However, if I'd wanted the finish to be more light and airy – so I could change to a light mohair or if I wanted a more drapey finish I could change to a silk/bamboo/viscose based yarn. An animal fibre
would create a warmer garment or one with a fuzzier finish – in which case you could choose a 4-ply weight pure wool – but make sure that neither you or your recipient are allergic to animal fibres.

Once you’ve decided on the finish that you want, you can now look at yarn of the right weight and find options that match the tension provided (use the knitting tension on the ball band as a starting point).

Step 3:
You can then limit your search to those yarns that to suit your budget or you could start by mooching in your stash – or you could visit your local yarn shop. They’re usually really helpful and you can also squish the yarn and they often have tension squares or garment samples hanging up so you can see the stitch definition and finish, or feel the drape. You can also search online. There’s a great website called yarnsub where you can type in the recommended yarn and it gives you a list of alternatives. 
Once you’ve chosen your yarn, if it’s from your stash you can go ahead and make a tension square.


 
The pattern will tell you how many stitches or patterns repeats should be in a defined measurement (I've talked in more detail about tension squares in a previous blog post here). If you’re buying yarn – perhaps buy one ball first and make a tension square to make sure everything is working as it should, before buying lots of balls or skeins.

I hope that helps you to feel confident about substituting yarn and I'd love to hear from you if you have any more useful hints to add.

Happy crafting,
Lynne x

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