I’ve been a fan of Anne’s work for just about as long as I’ve been knitting. She has an aesthetic and style that really stands out, and it’s always easy to spot one of her designs! So when I heard she’d turned her talent to making yarns, I was excited to try them. I had great fun swatching four of the yarns up (click any of the pictures for bigger versions).
Anne’s new yarns, and my new book, seemed to offer a perfect opportunity for me to talk a bit about a subject of interest to most knitters, yarn substitutions! I’ve started over on Anne’s blog with a bit of discussion about yarn substitution in general. I’ll continue here with a few examples of what to do if the yarn you want to use requires you to do a bit of pattern tweaking to work out right.
So let’s say you’ve fallen desperately in love with a yarn (it happens) and also with a pattern (yup, that happens too), but you just can’t quite get the yarn and the pattern to play nicely together as written. What can you do? The answer, my friends, is math. Now bear with me, this is very easy math, and I’m going to make it easier by giving examples.
Let’s start with the Smerinthus ocellatus Socks.
In the book, this is knit with Achilles by Barking Dog Yarns (bottom). Here, I swatched with Anne’s Stone Soup Fingering (top).
The pattern calls for a gauge of 8 stitches per inch, but at that gauge, the Stone Soup Fingering doesn’t give a dense enough fabric to make sturdy socks. Socks really need to be tightly knit to hold up and feel comfortable. If I were making socks with this yarn, I’d likely want a gauge of closer to 9.5 stitches per inch. So what does that mean for the sizing?
Luckily, it’s easy to tweak the sizing of this sock! Let’s start with the numbers. As written, you cast on 56 [64, 72, 80] stitches, and that fits a foot of 7.5 [8.5, 9.5, 10.5] inches at 8 stitches per inch. If you’re shifting to 9.5 stitches per inch, you need to divide the stitch count by the gauge, then multiply by 1.1 to account for a bit of negative ease. So let’s do one example:
stitch count / new gauge * 1.1 = new size
72 stitches / 9.5 stitches per inch * 1.1 = 8.3 inches
If you go through the same calculation for other sizes, you’ll find that using the pattern exactly as written, but at a gauge of 9.5 stitches per inch, the sock will fit a foot of 6.5 [7.4, 8.3, 9.2] inches. And if you want a slightly bigger sock, you’ll see that the stitch pattern is 8 stitches wide, and it would be pretty simple to cast on 88 (or even 96!) stitches and make the sock bigger. You’ll have to do a little bit of tweaking when it comes to the heel and toe, but the patterns shows the method, and it would be pretty easy if you were used to sock math (not the thing to do for your first sock ever, but not really all that hard either).
So you can absolutely use a slightly thinner yarn, as long as you’re willing to cast on a few more stitches!
Let’s look at a similar example with the Delias eucharis Hat.
In the book, this is knit with Primo Worsted by The Plucky Knitter (bottom). Here, I swatched with Anne’s Romney DK (top).
The pattern calls for a gauge of 12 stitches over 2 inches in the ribbing at the hat’s brim. At that gauge, the Romney DK was a bit more open than I want for the hat. It’s lovely, but not quite dense enough to be as warm or provide the structure the hat was meant to have. I like it better at 14 stitches per inch for this pattern.
Once again, it’s really easy to adjust the pattern to fit your needs. It’s the same calculation as for the sock. The hat pattern as written calls for a cast on of 108 [120, 132, 144] stitches, and that fits a head of 19 [21, 23, 25] inches at a gauge of 12 stitches per 2 inches. If you’re shifting to 14 stitches per 2 inches, you’ll divide the stitch count by the gauge (14 stitches per 2 inches is 7 stitches per inch), then multiply by 1.1 to give a bit of negative ease. One more example:
stitch count / new gauge * 1.1 = new size
132 stitches / 7 stitches per inch * 1.1 = 20.8 inches
If you go through the same calculation for other sizes, you’ll find that using the pattern exactly as written, but at a gauge of 14 stitches per 2 inches, the hat will fit a head of 17 [18.9, 20.8, 22.7] inches. Just as with the sock, it’s easy to make even bigger sizes if you need to (I have a big head, I understand that sometimes it’s what you need). Just cast on 156 stitches and follow the directions as written. The only thing that will change is the number of stitches left at the end of your final round of decreases, and that’s not going to cause any problems.
So if you’ve got a yarn you love and a pattern you’ve just got to make, don’t let a slightly thinner or thicker yarn throw you off. Just do a bit of math (and it’s easy math, I promise) and there’s a very good chance you can have the piece you’re dreaming of!