Avoid Knitting Disappointment—Choose the Right Yarn

comments (3) August 26th, 2008     

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Tina_Hilton Tina Hilton, contributor
Love it! no recommendations
Wish I would have checked the gauge!
The only thing that works with this potential yarn substitution is the color.
You can use a gauge tool or simply a ruler to accurately check gauge.
Wish I would have checked the gauge!

Wish I would have checked the gauge!

Photo: Chona Kasinger

There is nothing worse than finishing a sweater only to find that it is totally wrong. The size is way off, the cable stitches are not well defined, and you discover that instead of soft and drapey you have rough and stiffy! Even worse is when the recipient of your knitted gift secretly dislikes it.  You put in countless hours of time, effort and care into every project undertaken. To avoid the disappointment of a less than perfect outcome, invest the time before you cast on to carefully choose the right yarn for your project.

Some of us fall in love with a pattern in a book or magazine and march off to buy the exact yarn specified in the pattern. The designer has taken the time and effort to insure that the yarn chosen for the project is ideal in gauge, fiber content and overall suitability so we can expect to achieve very good results. On the other hand, many of us free spirited knitters approach a project in a more, let’s say, creative manner. First are the pattern lovers who are consumed with the latest styles and stack them up in the never ending project queue.  Next there are the yarn hoarders who lovingly stockpile skeins for just the right pattern to come along. When inspiration or necessity strikes, we pull out the patterns or yarn and begin the process of matching the right yarn with the best pattern often with less than careful consideration to the finished project. A few simple steps prior to committing the design to the fiber will pay off.

Always knit a gauge swatch before beginning a project. You need to achieve the same gauge as the pattern states of the size of your finished piece will be way off. Try adjusting the needle size either up to get fewer stitches per inch/row or down to get more per inch/row. Make the swatch bigger than the recommended 4” x 4” and make sure you knit it in the stitch the pattern calls for. This way you will get a good representation of the finished material your project will be made of and will be able to make a realistic decision on the yarn choice. If the pattern calls for DK weight and you are considering bulky weight, you can make a dozen swatches and it will never work out. When swapping out a different yarn other than what is called for in a pattern, try to keep the weight in a reasonable range unless you want to rewrite the entire pattern.

Keep in mind the yarn used for the project defines the style and purpose. Consider an elegant body skimming tank with delicate neckline stitch detailing made from a pricy silk yarn. To obtain the same look and feel of the silk consider the drape, stitch definition and overall appearance of the substitute. Pay careful attention to the properties of the substitute yarn you are considering. If you want to maintain that sexy sleek look, a mohair boucle will not do the trick. Try a rayon or bamboo yarn. Conversely, a bulky cable rich Aran worked in a solid colored stitch defining wool would not be the same animal if you choose a slippery, furry, variegated/striped or bumpy yarn. Knitting a baby blanket? Consider a couple of key issues before undertaking the project. Heirloom or daily blankie? Wool, cotton or acrylic? Machine wash, hand wash or dry clean? Organic or commercially processed?  It all matters.

The preplanning steps you take prior to beginning your next project will pay off in a big way. Remember, it is easier to knit it right the first time than ripping it out half way through the project or abandoning the disaster all together. Knitting is a fun and creative endeavor but it does ask us to be a bit more exacting and a little less impulsive than many of our personalities dictate. Gauge swatches are our best friends!


posted in: Yarn selection, gauge, project preparation

Comments (3)

wildenfunky writes: Thanks for this Tina!! A friend has asked my advice on knitting a jumper for her boyfriend for Christmas. She has never knitted a project like this before. The pattern calls for chunky knit yarn. She has double knit yarn. So I did a test square and came extremely close to what was required. The jumper is done completely in stocking stitch. Do you think this will work? The pattern also give quantities in yardage, not weight. Her Rustica yarn is in weight. How on earth do I convert that!! Many thanks for any help you can give me. Very interesting article. Thanks so much. Cheers, Ad
Posted: 8:07 am on October 14th
PoochPal writes: good advice. thank you for sharing helpful information and needed reminders.
Posted: 9:55 pm on September 3rd
luvin2craft writes: thank you for your tips i now have learnt to do tension square first after a few errors
Posted: 7:24 pm on August 26th
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