Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Substituting Yarns - February 2019 Program


Even if you’re using the same yarn called for in a pattern, you still MUST swatch!

·       We all knit differently, and that matters.

·       The needles you choose to use can make a difference.

·       Why knit a whole sweater that isn’t going to fit when all you need to do is knit a quick gauge swatch?

So, imagine HOW IMPORTANT it is to swatch when you’re using some other yarn!


First, let’s talk about gauge 

          It really is important.

          Taking accurate gauge is a must.

          Think of it as a first date with your new yarn . . . .

Knit that 4 x 4 swatch, hopefully with garter stitch borders, dunk it in warm water, press out excess water, pin to 4 x 4, let dry, and THEN take a truly much more accurate gauge.


Many patterns have you knit to X number of inches before starting waist shaping, or armhole, necklines, etc.  THIS IS ALL ASSUMING THAT YOU GOT THE EXACT ROW GAUGE THEY DID!

Row gauge can sometimes be a bit harder to get than stitch gauge.

Some tips for row gauge:

          Change the TYPE of needle you’re using – it can make a difference

          Throwing or picking can make a difference, not only in row but stitch gauge
Don’t measure for armholes, etc. – calculate row gauge from your perfectly blocked swatch

You’re getting 6 rows/”, pattern says 8”,  so you work 48 rows – FORGET the tape measure

Check out this great article by knitting instructor Patty Lyons on row gauge where she walks you through some SIMPLE arithmetic for problems with too few or too many rows

One time row gauge REALLY matters is if you’re knitting lace or cables, or some other pattern that needs to start and end on a particular row.

          Say, cables – we’re knitting a simple C4 pattern, crossing every 4th row

          And you’re working up to the shoulder, where the cross should just end

If your row gauge is off, you may need to knit a couple fewer or more rows so your cabling ends on the right row


Garter stitch, and Fair Isle knitting, can yield a fabric that is ‘squarer’ than standard stockinette

You can’t assume that if you got gauge on a stockinette swatch, it will translate to knitting in another stitch pattern


If your gauge is off, you need to change your needle size

·       LARGER needle makes BIGGER stitches, which are FEWER stitches per inch

·       smaller needle makes smaller stitches, which are MORE stitches per inch

KNITTING IN THE ROUND produces a different gauge than flat knitting, because you don’t PURL

          To SWATCH in the round
Cast on, but DON’T TURN YOUR WORK!  Instead, strand your yarn across the back, leaving it a bit loose, and the KNIT the next row

                     Keep this up until your swatch is finished
If you can afford to ‘waste’ the yarn, cut through the middle of the strands so your swatch can lay flat

Some yarns may not make up the fabric you are hoping for, even if you’re getting gauge
                    This is a NO GO – you won’t be happy with the finished product

Knit me a hat!
          I want a hat.  You have pink yarn that I LOVE, but no label – what size is it?? 

Who cares!
          Knit a swatch.  Measure my head.  Multiply st/” from swatch by inches around            my head.

          Subtract 10%ish for snug fit, cast on, and knit me that hat!


Oh, that it would be an easy thing to do!

SO many things must be taken into consideration:

          Yarn weight (size) – see CYC handout #2
                    This information gets you in the ball park, but you still need to SWATCH.

                    If you have to change needle size too much, will you like the fabric 

SECOND – Fiber content

                    Usually substitute with like fibers.

                              Cotton is heavier than wool – wont substitute well.

                              Slinky yarn, fuzzy yarn – will they work?

                              Consider a blend – can lighten 100% cottons, support a slinky yarn, 

THIRD – Yarn type
                    Textured – slubby, thick/thin, shiny, fuzzy – will they translate well?
                    Variegated – takes over piece, not good choice for laces, cables, textured stitches.

                    Consider drape of fabric compared to original fabric.

          Yarn Spin

                    Woolen spun – fibers are jumbled – makes a warmer, fluffier, ‘duller’ yarn.
                    Worsted spun – fibers are all aligned before spun – sleek, smooth, heavier yarn.

          GRIST – see link on links page

                    Grist refers to the density of the yarn.

                              Takes into consideration the type of fiber, type of spin, number of plies
                    Factors in both circumference and weight in a length of yarn

                              Two yarns that may say they are the same ‘size,’ and LOOK the same size, may                             not really BE the same size after all.


                    Can help you get to the weight of yarn you need, create a more sturdy fabric.

                              2 fingering = 1 sport
                              2 sport        = 1 worsted      
                              2 worsted   = 1 super bulky

These are NOT EXACT – SWATCH!!

FOURTH – Dye Lot

          You MUST have sufficient yardage of the SAME dye lot for the project.

                    This can be a problem with yarns you purchased years ago.

                    Odds are you will NOT be able to find more of the same dye lot now!
                    Your yarn will most likely have a different yardage/ball, so simple math is needed:

                              Pattern says 5 balls of X, each at 220 yds  =   1100 yds

                              Your yarn says 197 yds per ball 1100 yds/197 yds = 5.58 balls, or 6

                                                  And then one more just to be safe!

And, then, of course, SWATCH!!

You’ve found a sweater you just HAVE to knit.

                    It calls for X yarn
                    You MUST use the amazing Y yarn you have, but, it’s a different size (w

SWATCH your yarn for stitch and row gauge

                    You MUST wash and block this swatch to get ACCURATE information

          Then, decide:

                    Do you like the fabric?

                                                  NO                                                          YES

                                        Pick another yarn                                          Go for it! 

There’s real MATH involved here.

You figure the gauge YOU ARE getting (5st/”), multiply by the finished bust measurement of the sweater size you want to knit (43” = 193.5 total sts – or 97ish sts each front and back), and then find a size in the pattern that gets you closest to your answer.  It really is easier than it sounds.

Check out the following link for a great explanation of how to make this work.







Reading a Knitting Pattern - March 2019 Program

How to Read a Knit Pattern

Most new knitters complain that they don’t know how to read knitting patterns.  They’re just a bunch of gobbledygook and abbreviations!  Reading a pattern is like reading a recipe. 

We all learned “recipe speak,” and we can learn “pattern speak” too. 

  • For both a knitting pattern and a recipe, you have to understand the abbreviations and terms.  If you don’t know a t from a T, you’re going to be sorry when you take your muffins out of the oven.  Same goes for a k2tog or SSK.  What do sauté or 6 garter ridges mean?  

  • Look up these abbreviations and terms if you don’t understand them.  Usually, they are explained at the beginning of the pattern.  Some magazines put a “knitting school” toward the back, where the abbreviations are spelled out and some of the more complicated stitches are demonstrated.

  • If you can’t find what you need, get out your reference books, or Google the term, or try knit911.com.  If necessary, sit down with some yarn and needles and knit the special stitch(es) in a small swatch to be sure you get it. 

  • Don’t start the pattern until you understand it.  If all else fails, call a friend, or go to your local yarn shop and ask for help – THERE ARE NO STUPID QUESTIONS – we’ve all asked them before.

Read Through WHOLE Pattern First

  • Also like a recipe, you must read through your pattern from start to finish before you begin.  Have you ever started a recipe, made up the marinade for the chicken breasts, and then read, “marinade for 24 hours”? 

  • First, take a look at the information about skill level.  Most patterns say beginner or easy, intermediate, advanced or experienced – some have a scale showing skill level. BELIEVE THIS, and take heed. 

  • Then, as you read through the pattern, “visually knit” it.  Imagine what the pieces are going to look like as you go along.  If your pattern has multiple sizes [S (M,L,XL)], go through the WHOLE pattern and circle or highlight the numbers that pertain to your size.  This will save a lot of ripping out and cussing. 

  • Look at the schematics (drawings with size markings) at the end of the pattern. They show you how each piece is shaped, what the measurements are (will it fit you? – remember to add 2 to 4 inches of EASE to your personal measurements – the measurements on the schematic are actual).  Get an idea of how the pieces will be joined together, and what that means for the fit and drape of the garment.  Carefully study the picture(s) of the garment.
Get Ready!

Assemble all the tools you’ll need before you begin knitting.  Make sure you have enough yarn, the right needles for YOUR knitting style, a cable needle, or stitch markers.  A tapestry needle to weave in ends is a necessity.  A ruler to take gauge, a tape measure to measure you and the pieces, scissors, what else? 

Get Set!

  • First, you MUST SWATCH!!  Knitting a gauge swatch not only makes sure you’re on gauge so the garment will fit, but it lets you see the kind of fabric you’ll be creating.  You can decide if has the right drape, thickness/thinness, the “style” you had in mind.  Finding out that the answer to any of these questions is NO is a lot easier with a gauge swatch than after you’ve knit the back of your sweater.

  • You can also try any tricky pattern stitches, to see if you really CAN make them!


  • OK, you’ve swatched, all your tools are at the ready, and you understand the pattern.  Away you go!

  • I recommend that you knit the pattern exactly as it says to the first time.  There are usually reasons why the designer chose a particular stitch pattern or decrease or shaping element.  Once you’ve completed the garment, you can make any changes you think would work better/look better/you like better the next time you knit it.

  • You can lessen your load your first time, and consider knitting a baby/child’s sweater before you tackle an adult sweater.  It will go a bit faster, and they usually aren’t as picky as grown-ups!  Last, but not least, be prepared to be stumped, and then ASK FOR HELP!!  Remember, there are no stupid questions. 

Some Other Terms

Work even

This means to work the pattern as described over the total stitches on you needle without any increases or decreases or changes

Instructions inside parentheses (   )

You will often see, for example, (K2tog, YO) 3x in patterns.  This means that you complete whatever is inside the parentheses the number of times instructed.

60 (62, 64, 66) sts
Many patterns will tell you periodically, especially after increases or decreases, how many stitches you should have.  This information is usually follows a dash - .

This example means that for small size you should have 60 sts now, for medium you should have 62, for large . . .  Highlight the number corresponding to your size.

At the Same Time

How to keep track of what needs done as you’re knitting garment pieces that have more than one kind of shaping going on at the same time.

Your sweater front may need armhole shaping AND neckline shaping done at the same time.  Same with the sweater back.

Or, patterning may begin on a garment piece while shaping is being done as well.

To keep up with what needs done, here are two good ideas to keep you on the right path.

Make a Chart

Draw out a simple table.  Mark the rows of this table with ‘right side’ and ‘wrong side.’  Mark the columns with ‘armhole’ and ‘neckline’ or whatever works for you so you understand where you are.
Then write in the spaces what is to be done:

BO 5
BO 2
BO 5
BO 2
BO 1
Dec 1
BO 1
Dec 1

Use as many rows/columns as needed to help you get through the changes.

Draw a Diagram

If you’re more the visual kind, draw a simple picture of what needs to be done.  Then note what changes need to be made where, and tick them off as you finish them.

Understanding Ease
Excerpted from Knitwear Design Workshop: A Comprehensive Guide to Handknits by Shirley Paden

In order to move comfortably in a garment, there has to be some EASE, or extra width.
EASE is the difference between your body measurements and the garment measurements.  Schematics in patterns show FINISHED MEASUREMENTS, which means the actual measurement of each piece. 
When knitted and sewn up, these are the measurements your garment will have.  You need EASE if you want to bend your arm, or breathe, or wear a tank underneath.
·       Most designers allow about 2" of ease for a garment that will be worn over undergarments. This means that the garment measures about 2" more in circumference than the actual body measurements, or 1" (2.5 cm) across the front and 1” across the back.
·       Usually, an additional 1" to 2" are added to the standard ease amount for outerwear that is worn over clothing, for a total of 3 to 4 of ease.
·       Keep in mind that these are standards, and they may not correspond to the way you like your clothing to fit.

·       The amount of ease is a personal choice.
Compare your body measurements to a garment that fits well to get an idea of the amount of ease that's comfortable for you. Try on and measure several garments to determine your ease preferences.
You may like the way one garment fits in the bust, the way another fits in the sleeve and armhole, and the way a third fits at the neck. In each case, lay the garment out flat on a hard surface, measure the parts that you like, and then compare those measurements to your body measurements to determine the desired amount of ease.
Ease is also used as a design element. Additional ease is added to produce the billowing sleeves on a poet's coat or the roominess in the bust and armhole of a drop-shoulder pullover designed to have an unstructured, oversized fit.

Negative ease is used in the body of a garment designed to be form fitting (although the sleeves usually include ease to allow for arm movement). When designing with negative ease, be mindful of the elastic properties in the yarn and stitch pattern you select. Wool is more elastic than fibers such as cotton or raime.  Ribbing is more elastic than stockinette or garter stitch.
The fabric you will create can also effect EASE.  Garter stitch, ribbing, and many other stitch patterns are thicker than stockinette.  This extra thickness can take up EASE.
See the Knitty link below for a GREAT article on EASE.