Last week I finished knitting a sweater for me. The design, The Jumble Sale Kimono for the Widow Mayhew’s Daughter by Andi Smith, is available in What (else) Would Madame Defarge Knit? or as an instant PDF from Ravelry. My completed sweater looks very different from the design, mostly due to the yarn choice I made. It is now my favourite sweater and I’ve worn it every day this week!
Why do yarn choices matter? The characteristics of a pattern’s suggested yarn are often an integral part of the design, contributing to drape or allowing a stitch pattern to shine. Not all yarns at the same weight are similar.
For more about yarn substitution I suggest the following resources:
- Clara Parkes book, The Knitter’s Book of Yarn for an excellent introduction to yarn construction and characteristics.
- Jill Wolcott recently wrote about Yarn Substitution as part of the Fall Shawl Together a collaborative project featuring great shawl-related content from various authors and designers.
- Back in 2003, Knitty published Jenna’s helpful article, a field guide to yarn substitutions.
- Liisa discusses how to break the rules with A Guide to Successful Yarn Substitution and includes a detailed example.
Back to my yarn substitution, I made my changes because I love grey and I already had quite a bit of this yarn in my stash, so there would be no fear of running out of yarn. Yes, it’s similar in weight to the suggested Fiber Optic Kashmir, and it was easy to match gauge, but that’s where the similarity ended. My yarn is 100% wool and doesn’t bloom much once it’s blocked. By contrast, the Kashmir is a yummy squishy blend of 80% superwash merino, 10% cashmere, and 10% nylon. The sample sweater is knit a beautiful light green colour, Sage Batik. With a darker yarn such as my charcoal grey, the beautiful cable and lace motif wouldn’t be as noticeable, I prefer understated details, so for me this was desirable. Combining the stitch pattern with my yarn, as I learned from my swatch (ok, the first sleeve) that the structure of the yarn didn’t provide a popping cable. I decided to forge ahead with the yarn despite this discovery. The rest of the sweater body came together and it was time to decide how I was going to finish dressing the sweater. The design calls for the same beautiful motif to be knitted and attached to both the bottom and the collar. I was concerned about using the motif for the bottom, this yarn loves to curl. I decided to instead finish that edge with a hem and faced it with a different colourway of the same yarn. This added structure means the sweater hangs straight and doesn’t curl, and the hidden hint of green makes me happy. The final decision I needed to make was about the collar. I really wanted to do a knitted-on brioche stitch collar, but knitting it on with the bulk of the entire sweater on my lap proved too unwieldy so I knitted on a simple 1×1 rib instead. I finished with a tubular bind-off another little detail that polishes my design changes. I wish I had knit a few extra stitches of ribbing as the collar is narrow, but it’s ok.
I love my new sweater and have reached for it with delight every day this week.