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

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