Substituting yarns when knitting from a pattern: How to make the switch

This week I’m knitting with Universal Yarn Magnolia, which is a super fine weight yarn that blends modal with cashmere to create soft knitted garments perfect for spring and summer.

Yesterday, I made the Cherries on Top T-shirt designed for Magnolia. Today, I’m making a lightweight cardigan using Magnolia in Citrus Leaf and Key Lime. However, the pattern for the cardigan was designed for wool fiber. That means I’m substituting a cellulose-based fiber for a protein-based fiber. This takes some careful consideration before proceeding as the two fibers behave very differently.

Universal Yarn Magnolia in Key Lime and Citrus Leaf are my color choices for the Paulie cardigan.

That’s why the swatching exercise on Day 2 is so important. It’s not just about determining the needle size but also the quality of the fabric. Is the drape of the fabric appropriate for the application? If you don’t take the time to test that out on a 4” swatch, you may go to a lot of effort and end up disappointed with the results. Based on the results I achieved through swatching, I elected to use a US 3 [3.25mm] needle as I not only achieved gauge, but I was very satisfied with the drape of the fabric. It’ll be different than a wool fabric, but I’m good with that.

The pattern I’ve chosen is called Paulie, which is available from Ravelry. It’s designed by Isabell Kraemer, who happens to be one of my favorite designers. Her designs are stylish and very wearable, and best of all, this is a free pattern. This particular pattern has been on my ‘must make’ list for some time, and now I get the chance to make it.

This pattern is worked from the top down. The sleeve stitches are put on hold, then picked up and worked down in the round. The button band and collar are picked up and worked in one piece by using short rows and finished off with a 3-stitch I-cord edging. No seams to sew, only ends to weave in and buttons to attach.

Paulie cardigan by Isabell Kraemer, courtesy of Ravelry

I didn’t intend to alter this pattern from the original design but made an exception on how I used the two colors. I used 3 skeins of Citrus Leaf as the Main Color (MC) and 1 skein of Key Lime as the Contrasting Color (CC) and decided to alternate the two colors on the garter stitch sections on the shoulder, hem, and cuffs.

From my swatching exercise, I discovered how the two colors complemented each other – the Key Lime brought out the blue tones of the Citrus Leaf, and the Citrus Leaf brought out the yellow tones of the Key Lime. When alternated in the garter section, it seemed to almost create a new color.

One more note before we get started. I mentioned that I used a US 3 [3.25mm] needle to knit this sweater. The designer’s gauge was achieved using a US 2½ [3.0mm] on wool. Since wool knits up differently from modal, it’s extremely important that you swatch to determine the needle size appropriate for the way you knit when substituting the type of yarn.

I cast on the appropriate number of stitches for my size and placed the stitch markers according to the pattern instructions which had a stitch marker beside each increase. I found this a little cumbersome, so I switched to using a single marker to denote the raglan from the front and/or back. In other words, I only used 4 small markers and knew to do my increase 1 stitch before and/or after the marker. I found this more manageable. By the way, a good way to remember Make 1 Left (M1L) vs. Make 1 Right (M1R) is this – Right of the marker = M1R; Left of the Marker = M1L.

I only deviated from the pattern instructions in a couple of minor ways, mainly due to alternating the colors in the garter stitch hem. I wanted to start and end this section using Citrus Leaf (MC). The pattern calls for 20 rows meaning that if I started with Citrus Leaf, I’d end with Key Lime. I opted for 18 rows instead and cast off in Citrus Leaf using the 2-stitch I-cord method I used on the T-shirt yesterday. I really like this cast-off method for certain applications.

I also deviated from the pattern when it came to sleeve length. I like my sleeves to be either above my elbow, or down to my wrists. I’m not really a fan of midway in between. I opted to make them longer by making one additional sleeve decrease, knitting to my desired length, then working the cuff section in the same manner as the hem. I can always push long sleeves up, but you can’t pull ¾ length sleeves down. If I decide later that I prefer to have short sleeves, I can always rip them back and rework the cuff. That’s a lot easier to do and less visible than to add on later.

I kept the button band and collar in Citrus Leaf for two reasons: 1) the use of short rows on the collar would not look right if the colors were alternated, and 2) the accent color on the I-cord edge really highlights the two colors.

It’s a good idea to choose your buttons before knitting the buttonhole band to make sure they’re sized correctly for each other. I made the band first, then I went shopping for the buttons. The buttons are proportionately sized for the sweater, but the buttonholes are a little tight. Remember, this sweater was designed for wool, which has more elasticity to it than modal. I don’t intend to wear it buttoned up, but I can with a little effort. If I’d had them in advance, I could have adjusted the size of the buttonholes. One other note, the button band and collar consumed almost a full skein of Magnolia so I suggest you start with a full skein if you don’t want any joins in this section.

The Paulie cardigan is complete with buttons and made with Magnolia yarn in Citrus Leaf and Key Lime.

After weaving in the ends and sewing on the buttons, the Paulie cardigan is complete. I love the way the two colors of Citrus Leaf and Key Lime complement each other. The I-cord edge on the button bands and collar is a wonderful accent, and the drape of the fabric is gorgeous.

As much as I love the front, the back of the cardigan is also beautiful.

Back view of the Paulie cardigan. The Citrus Leaf and Key Lime colors complement each other perfectly.

I’m really pleased with how this turned out. This yarn substitution worked in the end, but not without doing my swatch homework first.

Tomorrow brings a totally different application. I’m using my knitter’s loom and all three colors of Universal Yarn Magnolia together to make a soft and light summer wrap. I hope to see you then. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

This is part 4 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 3: Knit this super cute T-shirt with the NEW Magnolia yarn (free pattern)

Go to part 5: Weaving with Magnolia is as beautiful as knitting with it (It’s a wrap!)

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