06 July 2012

Throwing caution to the wind

I've been threatening to do this post for awhile, but talking to my group at Knit Night yesterday really solidified my resolve.

A quick perusal of my finished objects on Ravelry shows me that I've knitted one project in the pattern's suggested yarn. (It's Caliper, for those of you playing the home game) I love the finished samples in a pattern, and I appreciate the time and effort required to choose a yarn that compliments the design. That's awesome.
I also appreciate the issues that some people, especially beginner knitters, have with gauge. One of the best ways to get a great product is to follow the pattern instructions exactly. The result is more likely to resemble the sample.

But I find that tracking down the exact yarn for a pattern doesn't work with my impulsive desires. Sometimes, a suggested yarn line doesn't have a flattering color. Perhaps I'd rather use superwash, or something with a smaller halo, or something with a twist for durability, instead of the delicate singles specified. Maybe (and this is usually the case), I want to use stash yarn.

The first step toward throwing caution to the wind is simple: subbing similar yarn. Something of a similar weight and fiber is guaranteed to end up alright.

Next is to stay in the same weight family. You have to consider the implications of the fiber types, and number of plies; the fabrics can drape differently. In my experience, the "silkier" a yarn is, the drapier the fabric will be.

Then, you get bolder. I've found that sport, worsted, DK, and fingering weight yarns tend to swap out reasonably well. Fingering yarn held double is supposed to equal worsted, so it's a likelier match than just subbing one for the other directly, but as long as the fabric's openness isn't of ultimate importance, it doesn't seem to make a bad product. Using a bulky weight on a lace shawl is probably a bad idea, but the sport weight that I subbed for the suggested DK in my Texelle had no effect on the project.
Now, my frequent subbing does come at a price. Sometimes things look funky. I usually whip out a ruler and try to determine if I'm close to gauge. If I'm not, I may have to frog the few inches of the project that I've finished. Gauge swatches? Baaah, I just go for it. I figure no one's grading me based on accuracy.

I'd love to hear your favorite stories of subbed yarns- good and bad. And links to the project pages!

- YX

(Get some free yarn for all of your yarn subbing needs here!)

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