Adventures in Yarn Substitution

Modern Quilt Wrap

Yarn substitution. The very words strike anxiety into the hearts of knitters everywhere. The published photo is so beautiful, the yarn the designer used so utterly perfect in every way…but alas, the specified yarn is wool, and you're allergic to wool. Or the yarn called for would put too large a dent in your grocery money. Or you live in Australia, and the yarn is unavailable there. What to do? How can you find a substitute yarn that is perfect for you AND perfect for the pattern you've fallen in love with?

Sooner or later, every knitter is faced with the need to substitute yarns. The process can be painful and frustrating, or it can be exciting and creative, depending on how you approach it. So, given that so many of you wondered about substitutions for the Modern Quilt Wrap from our new book Folk Style, let's start there.

Ask yourself: What do you REALLY like about this scarf? Is it the color combination? If so, then look for yarns that have a lot of colors available, whether they are mohair, cotton, or merino. Does the fine fuzzy texture lure you in, but you want to make your own quilt-like color choices? Then you have a wider set of options: mohair, alpaca, merino blends might all do. Allergic to wool? A silk or bamboo yarn could be really beautiful.

Mag Kandis' Folk Style

The point is that in making substitutions, you are going to have to make compromises, because the only way you are going to get a scarf that looks exactly like the one in the Modern Quilt Wrap photo is to use the yarn Mags used. For example, that lovely color selection in a fine mohair/silk blend yarn is unique to Rowan KidSilk Haze, and it is highly unlikely you are going to find anything close to that combination in a similar yarn anywhere. (Now, watch: One of you is going to scour the Internet and prove me wrong. Go for it.)

Yarn Weight: As some of you noted, the weight designation for Kidsilk Haze varies depending on the source. My take on this: A fine mohair yarn can be tough to evaluate, because it has all those little fuzzy fingers sticking out of it (charmingly referred to as its "halo"). When the yarn is knitted, the fingers on one stitch push against the fingers of the neighboring stitch, and thus makes the yarn behave as though it were "fatter" than it is. I've got the Actual Sample Scarf right here on my lap, and the core of the fiber (without the halo) is close to a laceweight. But the halo gives the core extra bulk, causing the yarn to knit up more like a fingering, or even a DK, depending on needle size and gauge.

So what's the "correct weight" of yarn to substitute in this wrap? If you want to use a non-mohair, non-halo yarn, you will need to swatch (sorry! you knew swatching had to sneak in here somewhere) to discover a combination of needle size and yarn that gives you a drape that you like. Tip: To get the airy, lacy look of the original scarf in a non-mohair blend, try a fingering yarn and start with a needle size about two sizes bigger than that recommended on the label. If you like that look, great! If it's not open and airy enough for you, keep going up in needle size until you like what you see. (If the fabric is too open, go down a needle size.) Swatch until you love the fabric, then knit your heart out.

Will your scarf end up looking like a clone of the one Mags made? Probably not. Will your scarf be a gorgeous mirror of your own creative heart? You bet–and I cannot wait to see the photos of what you come up with!

You asked for it…The Yardage For Each Color

I wasn't sure if we at Interweave were going to be able to pull this particular rabbit out of our hat–but thanks to one of our miracle-working tech editors, the rabbit appears: The individual yardage amounts for each color used in the Modern Quilt Wrap. There were no notes from the original wrap, and figuring out the math was something no one here in the office had time to attempt. Enter the tech editor, Ms. L., who stayed up into the wee hours and worked out the numbers! We won't always be able to respond to these sorts of requests (especially not this fast!) because we just don't have the resources, but happily, this one time we can. Hooray for the amazing Ms. L.!

Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles? About 38 inches' worth of cables and twisted stitches for my Red Scarf, coming soon to Knitting Daily. Note that I am desperately trying NOT to cast on for the Modern Quilt Wrap. (Don't encourage me. Next on my needles is supposed to be a Husband Sweater for Christmas. Must. Stay. Strong.)

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