Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes (part 1)

September 7, 2007 at 2:40 pm Leave a comment

I am one of those people who can’t leave well enough alone when following a pattern. It even spills over in to my cooking and drives my mom nuts. I’ll take a recipe that is totally new to me, and change it up without testing it first. I have been pretty lucky and my changes are usually in grouping tasks together, performing a task in a slightly different manner to get the same result or modifying the seasoning.

This tendency to play with a pattern or recipe is very visible in my knitting. I have only used the specific yarn designated in a pattern a handful of times. I also make alterations to the pattern to get the garments to fit me better, or allow me to use my own handspun with a slightly different gauge. What I don’t get is the fear some people have about substituting yarns. I have seen people who have to use not only the exact yarn, but the same color as the model. This is fine if the look of the finished garment is exactly how you want it. For example my sister wants me to make her the new Caroline sweater from Louet in that exact colorway and yarn, but that is because she loves it exactly as shown.

I have developed a simple guideline/corollary to follow when substituting a yarn in a pattern.

The more alike the yarn the easier the substitution.

For example I made the Chinese Sweater from the Fall 2003 Interweave Knits. The pattern calls for Lamb’s Pride and Nature Spun Sport by Brown Sheep. While I really like these yarns I would have had to order it by mail didn’t like the colors I could get. I chose to substitute Araucania Nature Wool and Elsebeth Lavold’s Silky Wool in the pattern. These yarns worked well as a substitute because the fiber contents were essentially the same as the called for yarn, and the color variation in the hand dyed and tweedy yarns, was acceptable or even desirable.



I also substituted Knit Picks Shine Worsted for the Berroco Touche in the Alexander Romper. The gauge listed on the ball bands was pretty much the same (there’s a range on the Shine) and the fiber content of cotton and modal was almost identical.


I however would not substitute the Shine Worsted in for the Lamb’s Pride in the Chinese sweater even though they have the same gauge because the different fiber contents act in a very different manner.

General rules for substitution using this corollary:

  1. Compare the gauge on the ball bands. Do not use the pattern gauge!
  2. Compare the fiber makeup.
  3. Compare the construction.
  4. Compare the colors. Solid vs. variegated.

I’m working up some samples to demonstrate these rules for a future post

Entry filed under: knitting, ravelry, Techniques, Yarn.

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