Beginner Tip, Tutorial

Beginners Tip – How to Substitute Yarn.

When you are new to knitting finding the right yarn for a project may seem complicated. Especially if you are still unfamiliar with the jargon. With so many yarns and patterns now available, understanding how to substitute one yarn for another is very useful. It helps you planning ahead for future projects and gives you more options on where to source your materials. Talking to customers we realise that many of you struggle with this so we decided to write a simple step by step guide on how to match a yarn to a pattern.

This is something we’ve start talking about in one of our previous post. First we’re going to discuss some of the points already mentioned in this article before to go on developing on swatching and yardage calculation.

The first thing to look for is the yarn weight recommended by the pattern. For example if the pattern asks for a DK weight yarn you know you will have to look into the DK section of your shop/online store.
Here the term weight stands for the actual thickness of the thread. There are 7 main yarn weights which from thinner to thicker include: lace, 4ply, sport, DK, worsted/aran, chunky and super chunky. 4ply is also known as fingering and the terms worsted and aran can in some instances be substituted for one another. Although it is worth noting that some aran yarns can be slightly heavier than worsted.

To make things a little more confusing the terminology varies from one country to another. In Australia and New Zealand yarn weight are referred to as 2ply, 4ply, 5ply, 8ply, 10ply, 12ply and 14ply.

Once you’ve determined what yarn weight is required for your project you will need to look at the gauge of your pattern. The gauge – or tension – corresponds to the number of stitches and rows measured over a 4 inches square using a specific needle size. Gauge can usually be found on the yarn label. You will need to find a yarn with a gauge closely matching the one of your pattern.

For example Weekender by Andrea Mowry asks for a worsted weight yarn and has a gauge of 18 stitches and 27 rows in stockinette stitch using 5.5mm needles. De Rerum Natura Gilliatt has an average gauge of 18 stitches and 26 rows using needles in between 4 and 5mm. This is a very close match and therefore would be suitable for that project.

As we all knit with slightly different tension you should always swatch before casting on for a new project. A swatch is a 5×5 inches – or 12×12 cm – knitted square that is used to measure your own gauge. It needs to be done with the same needle size and stitch than the one recommended on your pattern. If your pattern is worked in the round you will need to swatch in the round as your tension will differ from when you knit ‘flat’. It is also very important to block your swatch before measuring your gauge. Depending on the yarn you’re using, the fibre might ‘grow’ after blocking and so you will end with a slightly different stitch count.

The purpose of swatching is to insure that your finished garment will have the right fit and measurements. If your gauge is tighter or looser that the one recommended on your pattern your finished project will end up being slightly smaller or slightly bigger. Now if you end up with a slightly different tension no need to panic. You will just need to go up or down a needle size to adjust your gauge. For example looking at the gauges of Gilliatt and The Weekender jumper, it is likely that the right tension could be reached on 4.5 mm or 5.00 mm needles instead of a 5.5mm.

Please note that some patterns are designed with non standard gauges that are either much tighter or much looser than what would be expected from the recommended yarn weight. In such instances you won’t able to match the gauge of the pattern with the gauge on the yarn label. If you find yourself in that situation the best thing to do is to choose a yarn of the same weight and swatch using the recommended needle sizes. Then adjust your gauge if necessary.

The yardage corresponds to how many meters of yarn is required to complete a project. It can be given in meters or yards. Most often both.
To calculate the quantity of yarn needed you simply need to divide the total yardage of the pattern by the yardage of one single ball of yarn. Let’s say we want to knit The Weekender in a size medium. The total yardage needed is 1130 yards or 1033 meters. Gilliatt has 250 meters per ball.
1033/250 = 4.132. You will therefore need 5 balls of Gilliattto complete that project.

Designers often recommend a slightly higher yardage than what is actually needed to complete the project. This ‘buffer’ insures that no one runs out of yarn before completing the pattern. Following that logic you might be able to get away knitting the Weekender in size medium with just 4 balls of Gilliatt. However to avoid any disappointment it is always preferable to buy the exact amount of yarn required in one purchase.

Of course there are other criteria to take into account when substituting one yarn for another. Like the drape, fibre and handle. As these elements have been extensively discussed in our previous post we will refer you to this article to learn more about them. If you have any questions regarding one of the notion discussed above please feel free to leave a comment in the section bellow.

Until Next Time… Happy Knitting!