a variety of yarnsYarn Swapping
Part 4: Textural and Aesthetic Considerations

Beyond gauge, yardage, and accurate swatches, you must always keep in mind: Does your substitute yarn match the overall look and feel of the original one?

For example, if your original pattern uses a smooth yarn to highlight the pattern's elaborate stitchwork, you want to stick with a similarly smooth substitute.

Likewise, if the original yarn has any special texture, you'll want to respect this. Examples of textured yarns include bouclé, slubby, thick-and-thin, furry, eyelash, or other novelty yarns. Depending on the pattern, even brushed mohair could fall into this category.

If your pattern calls for such yarns, pay extra attention to finding a similar-textured replacement. It will make a difference.

Different Spins
Even seemingly simple yarns can produce different surface textures, drapes, and stitch definitions depending on how they are spun. The subjects of twist, ply, and fibers make up the heart of my book, The Knitter's Book of Yarn.

In This Article

Bottom line: The more plies you add to a yarn, the more rounded it becomes and the greater definition it gives to your stitches. Yarns made up of many plied strands plied together, such as Alchemy Monarch or Prism Merino 12, tend to produce the most spongy fabrics with bright, clear stitches. Yarns with four and even three plies still render your stitches with fullness and clarity.

But when you get down to just two plies, things change. The ply shadows deepen, and your stitches take on a slightly wobbly, cobblestoned look. Pure stockinette in a two-ply yarn—especially one whose plies are tightly twisted almost perpendicular to the direction of the fibers—will not be the same as it is in a smooth three- or four-ply yarn.

Fiber Composition
Matching fiber types is only important if you're working with yarns whose fibers play an integral part in their overall aesthetic. Angora, brushed mohair, and baby alpaca are prime examples of fibers that produce a fuzzy effect, while silk, bamboo, and Tencel are all about drape and sheen. Even among the same fibers, if they are spun woolen (as is the wool in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter), they will create a blurrier fabric than would a smooth worsted-spun wool (such as Elsa Wool Company's worsted-spun Cormo).

Even in this realm, however, you have leeway in choosing the precise fiber combination. For example, if your pattern calls for a pricey pure Angora yarn, you can substitute a less-expensive angora/wool blend and still achieve a similar visual effect.