How To Read A Knitting Pattern: Substituting Yarn Fiber and Weight
To continue our discussion from last week's post on How To Read a Knitting Pattern - Size, Measurements, and Ease, let's talk about yarn!
It's the key ingredient in your recipe - make sure you choose it carefully.
Your pattern may suggest a yarn choice for you, but let's delve deeper into why it is suggested, and how a little extra knowledge can make a big difference.
Designers will give you the thickness and yardage of the yarn you need to use to make the garment.
They'll also tell you the exact yarn they used in the pattern photograph.
WARNING: The exact yarn used in the pattern is not always the best yarn to make your project out of.
Why? A few reasons. First, yarn companies often provide yarn for free to designers publishing projects in magazines, thereby limiting the designers' choices.
Also, the magazine itself will often dictate the exact yarn that must be used. This means the designer often does not have a choice about the yarn used.
Instead, they will probably make they garment for themselves later in their favorite yarn - one that may be prettier, softer, and even more suited to the pattern.
More suited to the pattern?
What do you mean? Okay - here is your crash course in selecting yarns.
My complete knitting course, "Become a Knitting Superstar!" contains a full description of how to chose the right yarn for your project, and teaches you about substituting yarn if you need to do so.
But basically: choose your yarn according to the desired look and function of the finished project.
Some are meant to be ethereal and light (eg. lace shawls).
Some projects look best with a shiny, bright yarn (think silk gloves).
Some look best in a rugged tweed (like a peacoat).
Some should be able to be washed repeatedly (like dishcloths).
If you use the wrong kind of yarn (and by that I mean the wrong fiber content or blend) your socks will come out saggy, your dishcloths will shrink, and your arm warmers will be itchy.
Pick The Right Thickness: Understanding Yarn Weight
The thickness of the yarn you choose is called its weight, and will be specified in the pattern. From thinnest to thickest, yarn weights are called:
Make Sure You Buy Enough Yarn: Understanding Yardage
Lastly, the designer will specify how much yarn you need for each size.
Again using parentheses, it will look like this: 1895(2045, 2200) yards.
For large projects, I recommend buying an extra ball or skein of yarn. You can always return it if you don't use it. Running out of yarn really sucks.
If you liked this article on understanding and substituting yarns, let me know by leaving a comment!