Monday, August 17, 2009

Yarn is yarn? Worsted is worsted?

Yarn is yarn, right? And cotton yarn is cotton yarn. And worsted weight yarn is worsted weight yarn. So if you have a pattern that uses cotton worsted weight yarn, you can just substitute another cotton worsted weight yarn in that pattern, and it should be okay. Right? Well, no. That's not right.
Let me tell you what a designer does when she or he thinks up a design. I'll tell you what I do, at least. If I can choose the yarn I want to use, I think of the design. Is it a tote? It needs a sturdy yarn. Is it a scarf? It needs a flowing yarn. Is it a sweater? It needs a yarn that will drape the way I want the sweater to drape, and that won't be so heavy it will stretch out of shape. Sometimes, the editor of the book or magazine will choose the yarn, and most of the time it's the right choice. When I get to choose the yarn, I can swatch with different yarns, and see which swatch works the best for the design. Now, when the pattern gets published, I often hear about people making the design using a different yarn. And I encourage that. To an extent. You have to be very careful when you change yarns, if you want to get the same feel, effect, etc., of the original design. I thought I would do a little experiment to show you what I mean.
I crocheted two swatches - one in Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece, the other in LionBrand Recycled Cotton. The Cotton Fleece label says the yarn is 80% cotton, 20% Merino wool. The skein weighs 3.5 oz, (100 grams), and has approximately 215 yards. The yarn weight is 3, which is a little lighter than worsted. They suggest you use a needle size 6, which is 4mm, and is comparable to a G-6, 4.00 hook. The Recycled Cotton, which is a new yarn that I was eager to try (and I like it tremendously), is 74% recycled cotton, 24% acrylic, and 2% other fiber. The skein weighs the same as the Cotton Fleece, 3.5 oz, 100 grams. But it has only 185 yards, because the yarn weight is 4, which is worsted weight. They suggest you use an I-9, 5.5mm hook with it. So - you can say these yarns are not really equivalent. Oh, yes, the gauge for the Cotton Fleece is 5 stitches per inch, or 20 stitches for 4 inches, using the recommended knitting needle. They don't give a crochet gauge. For the Recycled Cotton, the gauge is 13 sc, or 18 stitches (knitting) to 4 inches. You can see the gauge is not the same with these yarns.

I crocheted 2 swatches, one in each yarn. One right after another, so I was relaxed for both of them. (Gauge can change when you are tense, or relaxed, or pick up your crocheting at different times.) And, instead of using a G hook, or an I hook, I used the one in the middle of these two, an H hook.

I got interesting results. But first - which yarn do you think would be thicker? The #4 weight - worsted - or the #3 weight - light worsted or dk? You'd think the worsted would be a heavier yarn, right? Check this picture out.

The beige yarn is the #4 - Recycled Cotton. The turquoise is the #3, Cotton Fleece. The Cotton Fleece looks thicker than the Recycled Cotton, even though it's a #3, and the Recycled Cotton is a #4. Hmmm? Interesting.

Now, what about the swatches? Do you think one would be longer and wider than the other? Check this picture out.

They are both about the same size. If one is wider, it looks like the Cotton Fleece is a little wider than the Recycled Cotton. I used a larger hook than called for on the Cotton Fleece swatch, and it is at least as big, maybe bigger, than the Recycled Cotton swatch - on which I used a smaller hook than called for. And finally, I wish you could touch the swatches through your computer. When you want to crochet a fabric that drapes, one way to do it is to use a bigger hook than called for - which is what I did with the Cotton Fleece. And when you want to make a stiff fabric, you usually use a smaller hook. Which is what I did with the Recycled Cotton. So, the Cotton Fleece is nice and drapey; the Recycled Cotton is nice and stiff. I would definitely use the Recycled Cotton in a purse or tote, or something that I want to have some body. I would defiinitely use the Cotton Fleece in something that I want soft and flowing and drapey. Like a sweater. Plus, because the Cotton Fleece is so soft, I don't think it will stretch much when worn. However, the Recycled Cotton may.

So, what does this all mean? Well, when you substitute yarn in a design, be sure you substitute yarn that will give you the same look as the original; yarn that will behave the same as the original. That is so important! If you use a different yarn than one that's called for, but use the same hook size, you may end up with a tote that has no body, or a sweater that can stand up by itself! (It may even happen with a different size hook.)


Anonymous said...

I live in South Africa where there is no such thing as 'worsted' weight yarn and most of the foreign yarn brands (if we can get them) are very expensive. I tend to check the yardage required by a pattern and choose a local yarn accordingly.

BJinTX said...

Dear Anonymous,
How successful have you been at substituting yarn based on yardage? What other things do you look for to make a similar selection as the pattern. I've tried substituting in the US and sometimes I'm right on and sometimes I'm not! I enjoyed the blog BTW.

Marty Miller said...

When I substitute yarn, I look for a similar weight yarn made with the same fiber. If it's a worsted weight sweater in 100% cotton, I look for worsted weight, 100% cotton yarn. I will then figure out how many yards I need, by multiplying the number of skeins by the number of yards in each skein. And then I look at the yarn I want to use - find out how many yards in a skein, and divide that number by the number of total yards I'll need. That tells me how many skeins of the new yarn that I need. I always round up to the nearest skein, and often I buy one or two extra skeins, just to be safe.
Hope this helps,

Anonymous said...

Dear BJ. Anon here from South Africa. To answer your question, I've been mostly successful - it's a question of checking tension carefully also and making sure I have a similar fiber. I ALWAYS buy extra - there's nothing worse than running out, and there's nothing wrong with a little stash. :)

Island Beads said...

When a pattern calls for you to "dc2tog" (double crochet 2 together) How is it done?

Thank you

Marty Miller said...

dc2tog is a decrease stitch. You are going to be turning 2 dc stitches into one. This is how:
Yarn over, insert hook into next st or space, yo and draw hook through. YO and draw through 2 loops on hook. You have 2 loops left on hook. Then, yo again, insert hook into NEXT st or space, yo and draw hook through. YO and draw through 2 loops on hook. You'll have 4 loops on the hook. Then, yo and draw through all the loops on hook.
What you are doing is making a dc, but not finishing it. Then you make another dc, but don't finish it either. Then, you yo and draw through all loops at once, finishing the stitch.

Island Beads said...

Thanks again for your response.

Anonymous said...

Anonoymoua, I also live in SA. Which SA yarns do you use?

Alleycat61 said...

I so don't get this yard story :( use #3 or worsted or whatever. I don't even see those numbers etc on balls of wool. How do I know what they are talking about if they don't give a specific brand and collection name?

Marty Miller said...

Very often the numbers or words for the weight of the yarn are not on the yarn label. Then you can look on-line for the info. Many times it's available on the yarn company's web site. Or you can look at the gauge that's on the label, and figure out from the CYCA Standard Yarn Weight System (that's available on the CYCA website) what the weight of the yarn is. Sometimes it can be confusing, and you might just have to swatch with the yarn to see how it works up.