15 Oct Yarn subbing…Part 2
Welcome back to our discussion about substituting yarns! Monday we talked about what considerations go into choosing a substitute yarn and why knowing the fiber content and weight of the original yarn will help you choose a good substitute match.
Today we’ll look at texture and gauge. Texture is how the yarn looks – it is smooth, fuzzy, does it have nubbs or is it thick/thin? If the original yarn is smooth, you’ll want to look for another smooth yarn in order to have your project turn out as similar as possible to the original yarn. That isn’t to say that you can’t use a different texture ~ it all depends on what you want your project to look like.
Along with how smooth or rough the original yarn was, how many plies it had can make a difference in the overall look of the finished project. A single ply yarn looks and behaves differently from a yarn with several plies.
Then we have gauge…the bane of many knitters…but very important. The sizing for all designs is based on the project’s gauge ~ included items like scarves & shawls. Sometimes a pattern will tell you that gauge doesn’t matter, or matters very little (even some of my patterns)…but for your project to result in the same size as stated on the pattern…gauge is important. And the only way to know what the gauge will be for you is to SWATCH.
How do you know if a yarn you are considering as a substitute will produce the gauge you are looking for? By taking into consideration all the components of the original yarn we’ve talked about, and looking for a yarn that has the same components or is very close. There are a few ways to do this. One is to become familiar with different yarns by visiting your LYS – read labels, hold the yarn in your hand and talk with the shop staff. Another is to search online resources. Ravelry.com has great information for over 95,000 yarns, and there is a new website called yarnsub.com that is putting together a database of which yarns will substitute well for another.
Once you have narrowed down your choice, buy a single skein to test with. Knit a large swatch ~ little swatches lie…you can’t really tell how the finished gauge will be or how the fabric will drape with a little swatch. Knit a swatch that is 8×8 inches or bigger. Launder the swatch the same way you intend to launder the finished project.
Here’s a tip for a sampler swatch…using the smallest size needles you think will produce the required gauge, cast on 8″ worth of sts leaving a long tail ~ make knots in the tail equal to the needle size (US 6 = 6 knots), then work your swatch in your stitch pattern for about 6″, work two rows in garter stitch, work a row of eyelets with the number of eyelets matching the next needle size (US 7 = 7 eyelets), work another three rows of garter stitch, then change to the new needle size and continue swatching in the pattern stitch. Repeat the garter stitch with eyelet section, changing needles and continuing to swatch for as many needle sizes as you think you need to. Most of the time you’ll only need to test 3-4 needle sizes.
If your first choice for a substitute yarn is not all you hoped for ~ do some more research on which yarns match more closely to the original, and try again. Yes, that might involve buying another single skein of yarn to test…but since you want your project to come out great…consider that you are learning with each yarn you swatch…which makes the whole process easier the next time you want to substitute yarns.
Friday we’ll finish up this short series with figuring out how much of your new yarn you’ll need to buy (or check your stash to see if you have enough) for your project.
Happy Knitting ~ Jean