More Tips for Yarn Substitution
There is a great conversation going on in the comments on my e-newsletter this week!
Here are some more tips based on your questions and comments.
As several people mentioned, some types of alpaca stretch more than others, and will stretch more in certain stitches/patterns than in others as well. I really think the best way to tell would be to make the *gasp* dreaded swatch. Obviously I need to learn to take my own advice. In any case, I don't think an alpaca sweater is out of the question at all. It sounds positively scrumptious. But if you do swatch and find that it seems a bit stretchy, you might want to hold it alongside a strand of wool to help it hold its shape.
You might take a look at my Wraps Per Inch blog to get some ideas about finding similar products. If wraps per inch measurements aren't convenient to get, a bit of a shortcut is to look at the yards per ounce or the grams per meter. If those closely match, you're on the right track.
Acrylic, like any other fiber, comes in a whole range of quality. I agree that it is not the best yarn for adult garments, but I have seen some seriously fabulous things done with it as well. Acrylic blends can be a fantastic compromise of washable, budget, and quality. My personal favorite is Berroco Vintage. It is super soft, affordable, has great drape, and comes in fabulous colors.
As a fiber lover, I see wool allergies as tragic. You have my sincere sympathies. I am not allergic to wool, but I have a son who is allergic to wheat, dairy, egg, strawberries, and peanuts. I imagine finding yarn for you is much like finding food for him. It makes everything more challenging! Somehow, I manage to feed my son. Let me give you all some pointers on how to feed your yarn basket (or bin, or closet, or room…). I can't speak much for other publications, but in Interweave Crochet we give you all the information you need to select a substitute yarn. In the materials list for each pattern, when we list the yarn, we also give its stats. Here's an example of how it is written:
YARN Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Superwash Worsted (100% superwash wool; 200 yd [183 m]/3½ oz [100 g]; CYCA #4).
Here we have just about everything we need. We know that 200 yards of the yarn weighs 3½ ounces, and that it has a Craft Yarn Council of America measurement of #4, or worsted. According to the CYCA website, this means that this yarn has between 11 and 14 single crochet stitches in four inches. It has about 9 to 12 wraps per inch. In the back of our magazine, on the sources page where we picture all the yarns we used, we list the wraps per inch that I calculate for that particular yarn (yes, I sit on my office floor for hours, surrounded by scraps of yarn, wrapping each one around a ruler…it's pretty much my favorite day of the press cycle).
With that information, you can look at the measurements on yarns that you know are safe for you to use, and find one that is as close a match as possible. The last step, as always, is to make a gauge swatch to find the hook size you need to use that yarn with that pattern.
I hope this helps!