Sunday, June 15, 2008

Today we have the honor of hosting the Knit So Fine blog tour. The book is coauthored by Carol Sulcoski, Lisa Meyers and Laura Grutzeck. Our guest is Lisa Myers.

Thanks for having me visit, ladies!

So if you've been following the tour so far, you know that we've all been focusing on specific thin yarns and how we chose particular yarns for particular projects. Today, I want to wind up by talking about using different yarns -- about how knitters might go about choosing a yarn other than the one specified in the pattern.

This is something we touch on in the book: many knitters are taught that gauge is the only thing to consider when you want to substitute yarns, but gauge really isn't the whole story. One way to understand this is to think about a yarn like Rowan Kid Silk Haze, that Carol wrote about a few days ago. Kid Silk Haze is labeled for needle sizes from US 3 to US 8, and gauges from 18 to 25 sts per 4 inches. If you have a project that uses Kid Silk Haze at 18 or 20 sts to 4 inches, you might try to substitute a worsted-weight yarn, like Cascade 220 -- and your project might not be a disaster, but it certainly won't be light and floaty like the original.

You get a little closer if you replace another yarn with a similar fiber content. For instance, Kid Silk Haze is a blend of mohair and silk; Cascade 220 is all wool. But Schaefer Yarns Anne is a blend of mohair, wool, and nylon, so it's likely to be a more successful substitution. (And in fact, Anne is another one of the world's outstandingly versatile yarns, and for the same reason: it *looks* like a fine yarn, but if you knit it on a larger needle, the mohair has room to fluff out and fill the spaces, so that the fabric doesn't feel "stringy.")

Finally, you can really feel confident of your substitution if you find a yarn of similar fiber content and similar yardage per pound. (Yardage per pound, or ypp, is a way of measuring how fine or thick a yarn is spun.) Kid Silk Haze is 70% kid mohair and 30% silk, and it has 210 m (= +/- 221 yards) per 25-gm ball. K1C2's Douceur et Soie is 65% baby mohair and 35% silk, and is 225 yds per 25-gm ball. Anything Kid Silk Haze can do, Douceur et Soie can do -- you can interchange them freely.

Once you've established that the yarn you're considering will give you a similar fabric to the one in the pattern, common sense may suggest other questions. For instance, Claudia Handpaints Merino Fingering and Artyarns Ultramerino 4 both make very good substitutes for Koigu Premium Painter's Palette Merino -- 100% machine-washable merino, 175 to 191 yards per 50-gm skein, similar twist and ply structure -- but you may not want the handpainted, multi-color effect if you're making, say, Laura's Lattice Lace Pullover from our book. (Though it might be terrific in Carol's Anemone Beret.)

Sometimes, color effect may trump other considerations: Carol's Ribby Vest needs that tweedy effect that comes from three plies of yarn changing colors independently. In addition to Trekking, Fortissima Colori and Online Supersocke both offer that style of yarn, and that's going to be more important than matching the percentage of wool vs. nylon.

You can also substitute a different fiber of similar characteristics: Laura's Wrap Dress is made of a silk-blend sock yarn, but one of the bamboo blends would function in much the same way, with the bamboo providing the same drape as the silk does. On the other hand, you could move to a more typical sock yarn (wool/nylon, or even all wool) for something with a lighter, bouncier feel.

Of course, all these guidelines will only get you so far: the real test for yarn substitution is to swatch, swatch, swatch. You'll see some results that will surprise you, not because they behave exactly the way the original yarn did, but because they behave differently and reveal new potential in the design. Thanks, Suzy and Myra, for having me as a guest on your blog. And thanks to all of you who have been reading along all the way to this last stop on the Knit So Fine Blog Tour. I know I speak for Laura and Carol as well when I say that we look forward to seeing all the new and different ways our designs look when knitters start making their own choices to knit them up. (There's a Knitalong starting on Ravelry . . . hope to see you there!)


Kara Gott Warner said...

Thanks for such an informative interview on ways to substitute yarns other then those used in the projects. Good stuff!

You mention the knitalong on Rav. When does it start? What's it all about?

woolbearers said...

The KAL has begun and you can find it as the ravelry group "2008 Knit So Fine (Skinny Yarns) KAL"