By Jill Wolcott of Jill Wolcott Knits
We all do it. We see a pattern and then choose the yarn, or we choose the yarn, then find a pattern that will work. We have also likely had some less than glorious outcomes. So how do you make a knowledgeable and appropriate yarn substitution?
I think most knitters substitute based on what is readily available to them. They may be looking for a yarn substitution from their stash, or from their favorite yarn purveyor, or they may be looking for a less expensive option.
Suitable Yarn Substitutions
I provide extensive gauge information in my patterns because I feel it is really important that the knitter get the same fabric I used in my original design. But that only works insofar as the yarn is the same as or nearly identical to the yarn I used. I don't begrudge anyone making a yarn substitution because every knitter needs to make the project they want to make, but without directly comparing to the original yarn, results will vary.
I focused on Remarkables for this post. It is a luscious piece, but the yarn used is quite unique and relatively expensive, so I was interested in what would happen with other yarns. The photo below is of my unblocked swatches. The top center is Air from Zealana, the original yarn. I knit all of these on the same needle. Hat Box got the bottom trim added which I didn't do in the others. Helix isn't pictured here because I had already blocked it.
If you can get gauge it will work, right? Obviously, you need to keep to the same general yarn weight, and choosing one sock yarn over another might not make a lot of difference, but there are different yarn structures (twist, ply) as well as fiber content differences. I look at yarn from a user's standpoint, without a lot of regard to subtleties of structure. All of the swatches are in sock-weight yarns. Satchel is a single ply and the rest of my yarns choices are plied. I usually compare weight and yardage too.
Air is a lace yarn, but in this application it is worked at a sock-weight gauge to take full advantage of its halo. Oy. See why substitutions can be tricky? If you don't know the original yarn it might mean that a bit of crucial information is missing from your equation.
Air is unique in large part because of its 40% brushtail possum fiber, which is blended with 40% cashmere and 20% mulberry silk. I'm sure Woolyarns could tell us much about its structure, but the possum fiber is the piece that I find makes it most unique from a user standpoint.