Change the Yarn- Tips for Yarn Substitutions

We have all done it, and sometimes it goes well, others it does not. I am talking about yarn substitution.

Honestly, I never really thought about the yarn I was substituting. I would find a yarn I loved then pick out a pattern I liked and just begin working up my stitches. I never looked at gauge, I never paid attention the fiber or even the weight of the yarn.

In some cases things worked out fine, in others I found myself with items smaller, or firmer, or just plain awkward looking. So I have learned, and it is time to share some insights.

First realize that the pattern you find was designed in a specific yarn. The way it looks in the photo is because of this specific yarn. Changing the yarn will change the effect, maybe the drape, maybe even the size.

Now what to compare to make the change.

Check the weight of the yarn. The weight is in essence the diameter of the strand of yarn, it can be assigned a number (from 0 lace-7 super chunky) or given a name such as lace, thread, sock, fingering, baby, sport, DK, worsted, Aran, chunky, craft, bulky, roving.  These numbers or names are assigned by the manufacture and finding matching yarns at least get you in the ball park that the yarns are similar.

However there are times that you pick up a yarn and it doesn’t have a weight listing by number of name, but it does have a knitting gauge listed. This gauge can help you make the weight comparison too. Yarns that have the same gauge, using the same size needles, will be also be compatible in weight. If the yarns are using the same size needles in the gauge but the stitch and row counts are not the same, the yarn with the higher number of stitches in the gauge will be thinner than the other.

Another way many compare the weight, is to compare the yard/meters and the ounces/grams of the skein. If a skein states that it is 400yrd/366m and 1.75oz/50g it would be compatible with a yarn of 425rds/388m and 1.75oz/50g, but not compatible with a yarn that was listed as 600yd/549m and 1.75oz/50g, as the latter yarn is much thinner. It is a comparison of yards/meters and comparison if ounces/grams that help you see if things are in the same ball park.

The next thing to consider when comparing yarns if the fiber content. In some cases it may not make much of a difference, but a few fibers act completely different from one another. For instance if you are substituting a wool yarn with a lot of bounce or springiness, with a 100% silk you fabric will not even resemble each other. The silk tends to have a lot of drape, it flows, and in comparison to the wool will be limper. Whereas the wool will have some stretch and spring back into place.

Yarns with similar fiber content will behave similarly, so use caution if the labels vary greatly.

Now that you have found a yarn to substitute, if you want to ensure that you will be happy with the outcome of your project, make a gauge swatch. If you make gauge and are happy with how the fabric feels and looks, make your project.

 

Tissue Paper Yarn Dyeing

Dyeing yarn with tissue paper? Yeah, it sounds a bit unusual, however I have been busy playing with all kinds of dyeing approaches this last week as I get ready for a class I am teaching in two weeks at the Crochet Guild of America’s Chainlink Conference.

I have been working with food coloring and Easter egg dyes, while dabbling with Kool Aid. I have been playing with multiple protein based fibers (yarns that are made from animal fibers, like wool, alpaca, silk, mohair, etc.), but it was trying to find something in my closet that sparked me in a little different direction.

I tend to be a person that doesn’t really throw much out, if I can find another purpose for it I will hold on to it to use it in the future, so tissue paper from gifts gets saved. When digging through the closet I found a stack of this saved tissue paper and I began to wonder….Can I dye with this?

The answer…YES!

I began by soaking the yarn in a bath of water and citric acid (1 teaspoon citric acid to 4 cups of water), you can use white vinegar instead of citric acid if you like (1/4 cup white vinegar to 4 cups of water), then I wrapped various pieces of colored tissue around the yarn. After covering the yarn with paper I placed it in a microwavable bowl and added some of the water/acid solution. I placed it in the microwave for 2 minutes, took it out and waited.

I have to wait after removing it from the microwave, frankly because I do not like to burn myself. After it cooled down a bit I removed the tissue paper and rinsed out the yarn. I was impressed. Some colors bonded to the yarn better than others, but that could be because I had some different quality papers. There was some white space, and different colors in different patches. Offering a bit of a kaleidoscope of possibilities.

I am continuing to play with this technique, and currently find a vast amount of ideas just bubbling to the surface. I am sure that by the time my workshop comes around in a few weeks I will have a very contagious attitude to share with my students!

More Than One Alpaca- Suri Yarn

Several years ago I learned to spin yarn, indirectly this lead to my now working in crochet. However I digress, during my time spinning I visited a local alpaca farm that sold fibers for spinning. The farm was filled with those cute little teddy bear like animals that I learned were a breed called Huacaya. I only thought that these were the standard alpaca, until the farm owner showed me a fleece of another breed of alpaca, one known as Suri.

The Suri fleece was smooth and silky and in ringlets like a young Shirley Temple. It only resembled the Huacaya in size and shape…the same body but very different fleeces. I was mesmerized by the Suri, probably because it is not commonly found in the United States, and I definitely get drawn to something a bit out of the ordinary.

Researching a bit about these different breeds I learned that almost all alpaca yarns found are created from Huacaya fleece. Huacaya is a much more common breed in the US, and the yarn is warm and soft, really an affordable luxury. The Suri is much less common, and until recently I had not found a commercially available yarn made of this fleece.

At a trade show this summer I found Salt River Mills, Simply Suri yarn. I admit it drew me in. I was fascinated to find a Suri yarn, it is produced by the North American Suri Company that purchases fleeces from breeders across North America and is helping to create a market for this fiber.

I have been playing with a skein lately and have enjoyed how it works up in the hand. I have been using Simply Suri, an 85% Suri, 15% wool yarn. It is very common for all alpaca yarns to have a blend with wool, as wool adds a bit of structural integrity to the yarn that alpaca by itself does not have.

I have found the yarn soft and smooth, with a nice sheen that makes me think of a silk blend. It is light and airy, but it is easy to feel that it is warm as well. It has nice drape and stitch definition. It is a three ply yarn with a soft twist, that lends itself to standard stitches, however I would not personally try to much textual stitches, like cables or popcorns as the yarn does not seem strong enough to give it a bold definition. I am currently envisioning a shawl….I hope to have the pattern available soon….but this yarn will definitely have me playing with it more in the future.

 

Patons Decore -Has Memory

There are times when I try to make a yarn do something it is not in the mood for. I had this experience with Patons Décor.

Décor is a fairly standard type of yarn, it is 75% acrylic and 25% wool, it typically does not felt, or shrink and the skeins are a typical 208 yard/190 meters of 3.5 ounces/ 100 grams, medium weight, set up in a ready to use pull skein. But what surprised me with this yarn is its ability to spring back into shape.

I really should not have been surprised in this, I guess I really wasn’t paying attention. Acrylic typically has a very strong memory, so strong that it is sometimes pointless to even attempt blocking. Some minor draw backs to acrylic is that it cannot take high heat well, so this should only be used in a low heat dryer and never be pressed or ironed. High heat caused acrylic to break down and it will lose its “life” or “body”. It is often referred to as “killing acrylic” or “the acrylic was killed”, and it does appeared to be killed and limp.

I have worked this yarn in an open lace approach and because of this strong memory of the acrylic yarn, it does not block to open up the stitches as well as I would have liked, or experienced with a yarn that has a higher wool content.

Even with that in mind, this is a good everyday yarn. It is pretty soft, and feels really nice

in the hand. It does a nice job of fluffing up and filling the stitch gaps, hence why it did not agree with me in lace work. I can easily use this yarn for afghans, blankets and throws. It would do well for pillows, and outerwear, like sweaters or cardigans. It has a nice array of colors and a nice durability, a nice go-to yarn.

A Memorable Name for A Memorable Yarn-Twizzlefoot

A funny name that you definitely remember, but when the yarn is beautiful and great to worth it, it is just an added bonus. I am referring to Twizzlefoot by Mountain Colors, a lovely fine weight yarn that works up really nice.

I don’t know where the name comes from but your find a couple of “foot” named yarns in Mountain Colors collection, and as you might imagine, it is yarn designed for socks. The fiber content is 53% Superwash Merino (fine soft wool from the Merino sheep that has been treated so that it does not felt), 17% Domestic wool (unknown, or unspecified breed of sheep wool, is warm and has all the properties of wool), 17% silk (added for strength, will also help with warmth and adds a nice sheen), and 13% nylon (added for strength). Basically this yarn is strong and can take a beating, if necessary, and still keep it shape.

This yarn is hand dyed so that really no two skeins are the same, and the available colors are gorgeous. It comes in a good size hank of 450 yards and 100 grams, if your happen to knit you can easily make up a great pair of socks. I however see this as shawl yarn. It could probably be a nice light weight sweater or camisole, but I enjoy the stretch and color pooling, but admire them in an accessory way.

It feels nice in the hand, like something that you actually want to create with. The fact that the fibers take the color differently adds a subtle shade to the overall effect, but to my surprise it does not quite present the way I would think it would in the stitch. When looking at the ball of yarn I would have thought that the little color differences in the twist would show in the work, but when I begin crocheting it completely blends in my eye.

This is a fun yarn, with an unforgettable name….