Yarn substitution is a bit of a fine art. Today we’ll look at how best to substitute yarn so that you can use Bella Cash, our yarn of the week in your favorite sport weight yarn pattern or find a really good pattern to match.
Yesterday I covered the pros and cons of knitting with Bella Cash, well, pros mostly. I did some clicking around looking for patterns to knit up with this luxurious yet affordable yarn. Bella Cash is a new yarn in the market and there really aren’t a lot of patterns for it yet. Ravelry doesn’t have it listed on their yarn database as of the date of writing this post — Bella Cash is that new! Universal Yarn does have 1 free hat pattern available.
It’s a remarkable pattern because it’s reversible. The Zig Zag lace stitch pattern looks great on both sides and you can even add buttons to both sides of the brim. It takes only 1 ball, making it a great way to try out Bella Cash.
But let’s say that you want more than a hat. You do a search for a #2 sport-weight yarn on Ravelry for an item that you want to knit and you find hundreds, if not thousands, of designs to choose from. Ravelry is great because most pattern listings give yardage and weight. You can also use the advanced search option to narrow your search down to fiber type, and needle size, and gauge, too.
These are all important factors when choosing which yarn you want to substitute with another. It’s so nice to have this information at our fingertips!
When I worked in a yarn store 30 years ago, all we had was the weight of the yarn in balls and the gauge in the pattern. We could find fiber content on the labels, but at that time only half of the companies listed yards or meters on the ball bands, and, if you didn’t have the distributor’s catalog, there was no way of knowing what yardage was. If a pattern called for 500 grams of worsted weight yarn, we would sell 500 grams of worsted weight yarn. We tried to convince the customers that an extra skein or ball was a good idea, because we knew yardage varied, but we had little to go by.
I’ve learned so much more since those days!
First, yards per ounce or meters per gram is a very important number in yarn substitution. Check that first! Always.
The next consideration is the fiber content. Different fibers have different mass. Man-made fibers are generally lighter than wool and cotton, but not necessarily other natural fibers. This will affect the weight and ultimately the yardage. Fiber content also affects drape and elasticity and memory. Will gravity pull on a nylon-wool blend as much as on a cotton-acrylic blend? Probably not. Try to get a similar ratio of the different kinds of fiber content.
The next thing to consider is twist. Does the original yarn have a single-ply, 2-ply, or 4-ply construction? Is the yarn tightly or loosely twisted? Is it dense or lofty? Each of these factors will affect how the stitches look—crisp and pronounced or fuzzy and blended—and how it drapes. Where possible, try to find a substitute that has similar twist and number of plies.
Color is, of course, somewhat important, but more in the case of ombre, variegated, or gradient yarns. Because Bella Cash all comes in solid colors, this consideration doesn’t apply here. I usually leave color out of the mix because it’s nearly impossible to find a decent match, even with solids.
Yarn thickness is another issue. Bella Cash has a range of suggested needle sizes and stitch gauges, so it’s apparent that the final look of the knit fabric will be very dependent on your knitting tension and needle choice.
As with any other project, it’s crucial to swatch to make sure you like the look of the fabric — if it’s close “enough” or really a good match. I recommend a 8″ x 8” or larger swatch however, as drape really is hard to render in a little 4″ x 4” block.
If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a great (new-to-me) website called Yarnsub.com. It has a remarkable collection of yarn substitution options. It not only compares yarns similarly to the way I mention above, it also provides a ball-park price comparison. The folks at Yarnsub.com also compare the put-ups of the different yarns, so you can avoid buying ten 50g skeins when you needed ten 100g skeins.
So until designers publish some yarn-specific patterns for Bella Cash, you can look it up on Yarnsub an find a close substitute. You can also look up Bella Cash on Ravelry and see what patterns people have made with it, or find designs that are specific to that yarn. Then you can check the gauge instructions, knit a test swatch, and you’re off to make a lovely knit out of a cashmere merino and nylon blend yarn, at a fraction of the cost of 100% cashmere.
In the coming days I’ll be learning more about different stitch patterns, and Bella Cash.
This is part 2 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 1: Bella Cash-merely affordable luxury yarn
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