Sunday, 29 May 2016

A Guide to Yarn Substitution for Knitting or Crochet

 photo used with kind permission from Marie Wallin:

I decided to crochet a top, but only using yarn from my stash, and I chose 'Aster', by Marie Wallin because it suits my style. It's a modern, simple shape – like a t-shirt -  and I may wear it over a dress or a blouse. 

I have some potential yarn in my stash for this, which is another reason for choosing it.

But 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.
So I've written this helpful blog post as a guide to help you choose an alternative yarn.

Step 1:
Check the materials section of your chosen pattern to identify:
  • what yarn has been used in the pattern
  • the hook or needle size
Step 2:
Look at the thickness of yarn recommended – is it:
  • lace weight (2ply)
  • 4ply (fingering)
  • sport weight (5ply)
  • double knitting (8ply/light worsted)
  • aran (10ply/worsted)
  • chunky (bulky)
  • super chunky (extra bulky)
Step 3:
Next, look at the fibre content of the recommended yarn. 
You will need to try matching the fibre content as much as possible so that your substitute yarn has the same drape and feel. 

However, if you're feeling adventurous, you could change the fibre content complete, but always knit or crochet a swatch to make sure the different fibre works with the stitch pattern (I've talked in more detail about tension squares in a previous blog post here).

For my Aster top, the recommended yarn is 4ply cotton. I like how the finished garment looks in the photos – the Rowan cotton used (Summerlite) looks soft and smooth with a matte finish, so I’m sticking with the recommended fibre.
Therefore I need a 4-ply cotton with a matte finish, rather than 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 I could choose a 4-ply weight pure wool to achieve this.

Once you’ve decided on the finish that you want, you can now look at yarn of the right weight and fibre in order to find options that match the tension provided.

Step 4:
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 where you can 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 to choose from. I use this amazing resource all the time. 
Once you’ve chosen your yarn, you can go ahead and make a tension square.

The pattern will tell you how many stitches or patterns repeats and rows should be in a defined measurement (usually 10 x 10cm) (I've talked in more detail about tension squares in a previous blog post here). 

Tip: 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.

If you work up your tension square and it matches the given tension and it feels/drapes in the right way, then you can go ahead and start making your project with your substituted yarn.

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

Friday, 27 May 2016

Yarn Review - Manos del Uruguay Marina

Last month, Rooster Yarns sent me a gorgeous sample of Manos Del Uruguay Marina yarn to review. For those of you who haven’t heard of Rooster Yarns – they’re a family run business based in Cheshire, UK, and they are distributers of their own brand of Rooster yarns and also Manos Del Uruguay yarns. You can see their full range of yarns here:

Manos Marina is a Manos del Uruguay yarn, which is produced by a Fair Trade, not for profit organisation aimed at providing jobs for women in rural areas in Uruguay. The women spin and dye the yarns and every skein includes the name of the artisan who made it. The wool is local and the dyes are made in small pots heated by wood or gas. It’s a sustainable process and means that the artisans are able to provide for their families without having to move to the larger cities.

You can read all about the Manos del Uruguay organisation here: Manos del Uruguay

About the Yarn:
Manos Marina is kettle dyed which means that the skein is laid out in a shallow dish filled with hot water and vinegar and dye is add to sections of yarn and left to simmer until the dye is dissolved and the water is clear. When you wind off the skein into a ball, you get a multi-coloured effect. Some skeins are tonal colors (different tones of the same colour) and others are multi-coloured.

My skein of Marina is shade:
Shantung N7165 and it’s a mix of colours ranging from the deepest purple, through to deep red, a rich teal, light teal, pink and peach.

photo credit: rooster yarns

The colours are rich and have great depth, and I enjoyed watching the colour change as I worked with it.
It’s fascinating how the colours change from blocks of colour on the skein to short strips of colour when you wind it off – to make it a variegated yarn.
As well as the gorgeous skein that I have, the colours are beautiful – I love the tonal colours – there’s a gorgeous skein of teal tones called Calypso and one of deep and rich reds called Sangre.

For Crochet – I used a 4.5mm hook with Marina, even though it’s a lace-weight yarn, I wanted to achieve a more open stitch. I’m testing out a new shawl design – aiming to achieve something very simple but lovely too. I know that many new crocheters are fearful of trying patterns that look over-complicated or fussy, so I’m aiming for something that they can create with confidence, using the simplest of stitches.

 I love the softness of the yarn and the drape created by using a larger hook. With the stitch I’ve used I love the way the colours pool together in small patches, rather than in lines– so it’s a very different pattern to the knitted sample which creates more traditional lines of colour that you get when knitting with variegated yarn. With knitting, you tend to notice more the colour changes – mainly because you have lots of stitches on your needles and you can see all the different colours across the stitches. For my knitted sample, I used 2.75mm needles (you can use between 2-4mm like all lace-weights). The knitted sample was beautifully soft too – and despite my fear of lace-weight yarns (they’re so very fine!!!) I enjoyed knitting with it too. I thought the colours in the crochet sample seem to have much more depth than the knitted sample, so overall I prefer my crochet sample, and as soon as the shawl is finished I’ll share it with you.

Fay who is co-presenter of The Crochet Circle Podcast, also prefers the colour distribution in her crochet sample.

See the full range of Manos Del Uruguay yarns here: Manos yarns
I hope you've enjoyed my yarn review and would love to hear your thoughts or experience of Manos del Uruguay yarns.

Happy crafting,
Lynne x

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Explaining Crochet Tension


Crochet Tension is something that I'm often asked about when I'm teaching crochet, so I thought it would be helpful to follow this up with a dedicated blog post. Tension can also be referred to as Gauge - particularly in US patterns.

Getting your tension right is just as important in crochet as it is for knitting and I hope my step-by-step guide helps you to achieve the perfect tension.

What is Tension (gauge)?
Crochet tension is the number of stitches and rows, using a particular stitch or stitch pattern, in a defined square of crochet fabric, usually 10x10cm (4x4in). It is determined by the size of hook and yarn you are using, and can even be influenced by the way you are sitting, or by your mood. So if you're feeling stressed for example, you're more likely to crochet tightly which can affect the size of your stitches.

Where will I find the information I need?
The tension required for a pattern will  usually be listed in the information section at the beginning, and you need to match it to make sure that your project turns out to the correct size. It's important to remember that every crocheter works to their own tension, so there's no guarantee that yours will match that of the pattern. This would mean that if you crocheted a jumper without checking your tension first, it could turn out too big or too small, and all those hours of crochet would be wasted.

It's essential therefore to check your tension before you start your project – otherwise your finished item may be too large or too small and you will have to unravel your work and start again. However, for some accessories, tension isn't crucial as it doesn't matter too much if a flower or a bag isn't quite the right size.

What do I do next?
First, you will need to crochet a square of crochet in the main stitch pattern being used. A tension square should be slightly larger than the area you are going to measure. So, for a 10x10cm (4x4in) square you should make a square measuring at least 15x15cm (6x6in). 

To make a square, make a foundation chain of the length required and then work in the specified stitch or pattern until your crochet piece measures the same height as the width (so that you have a square). 

Fasten off the yarn, then spray the square with water to dampen, and pin in out flat to dry (also known as blocking). Blocking the square will relax the stitches for more accurate measurements.

How do I measure my tension?
On a flat surface, with the right side facing you, and using a hard ruler or metal tape measure, measure 10cm (4in) across a row of stitches. Mark each end with a pin.

Next, measure 10cm against the vertical rows, and mark each end with a pin.

Now count the number of stitches (and half stitches) between the two sets of pins to obtain the number of stitches and rows within the 10cm square.

The tension of some patterns is measured by the number of pattern repeats in a 10cm (4in) square. In this case, count the number of repeats, not the number of stitches and rows.

What if my tension doesn't match the specified tension?

If you have too many stitches and rows then your tension is too tight (and your stitches are too small). Make a new tension square using a hook one size larger than recommended in the pattern. So if the pattern recommends a 4mm hook, try 4.5mm instead.

If you have too few stitches and rows then your tension is too loose (and your stitches are too big). Make a new tension square using a hook one size smaller than recommended in the pattern. So if the pattern recommends a 3.75mm hook, try using 3.5mm.

You may need to work up a few tension squares with different hook sizes until you ultimately achieve the correct tension to match your pattern.

The main thing now is to keep your tension square and label it so that you can use if for reference in the future - this is really useful if you use the same type of yarn regularly. 

I hope that helps you to work out your crochet tension.

Happy crafting,

Lynne xx