Tip of the week: Yarn substitution
Aug 03, 2021
If you want to easily replace a yarn in a pattern there are 4 easy steps to success.
If you want to easily replace a yarn in a pattern there are 4 easy steps to success.
I'd like you to take a look at your yarn stash and read some labels. Quite often when we start a project we just discard the labels or leave then to languish in the bottom of the project bag, but they have a lot to say.
What the yarn is made of: The more you knit the more you learn about how different fibres behave so the fibre content listed can give you clues about how the yarn will be to knit with and what sort of fabric it might make.
Recommended needle size and tension: This doesn't mean that you must use these needles or that this is the tension that you will get in a particular pattern. Rather it is the average tension the manufacturer has found for that yarn on that size of needle. But this does give you clues to what range of needles this yarn will work best with.
The amount and length of the yarn in the ball or skein: Labels will often tell you how many metres there are in the ball as well as the weight. Some patterns will tell you how many metres of yarns are used in a project, so this can be very useful.
Washing instructions: Very useful - if I am giving a knitted item to a non-knitter I will often include a yarn label so they have official washing instructions.
Lace seems to be what most knitters associate with blocking. It generally requires a particular blocking method and some tools to get the best results.
A lace project rarely looks that great when it comes off the needles – it’s usually a bit scrunched up rather than looking floaty and ethereal.
To turn it into the finished item you will need something to pin your shawl out on, a lot of pins and if possible some blocking wires.
A lot of people use foam matts as the base for their blocking and I recommend T-pins – these a more robust than sewing pins and easy to see as you adjust your piece.
Collect your pins, wires, matts, measuring tape etc before you do anything else – juggling wet knitting while you look for the measuring tape isn’t that much fun.
Blocking wires are often the item that make people nervous. They are simply flexible wire rods that you can thread through your knitting. The main type are straight and unsurprisingly very helpful when you want to block one or more straight edge – thread them through your straight edge and then use a few pins to place each edge. You can also find finer wires that naturally sit in a curve.
The first step in the wet blocking process is to get your piece wet. Soak it in warm water – and no rinse wool wash if you want – for at least 15 minutes.
Once your knitting has soaked, lay a towel on a flat surface. Gently lift the knitting out of the water – let water drain off but DO NOT wring it out. Gently put your knitting on the towel keeping it as flat as possible. Roll the towel to create a knitting swiss roll and then gently squeeze it to draw the water out of your lace. You will end up with a damp but not dripping piece of knitting where the fibres have been thoroughly wetted through.
Then you are ready to lay out your knitting on your blocking surface. I generally start by threading the wires through the straight edges and pinning those in place then I work on curves, the points on edges etc.
Be warned this is one of my hobby horses.
I often hear or read: “I have never blocked my knitting.”
Quite frankly I don’t believe this.
I don’t believe that there is anyone who has neither reshaped a damp piece of knitting nor ever washed a knitted item.
The problem is a common misconception that “blocking” always involves wires, pins and extreme stretching.
In fact, blocking is a general term for getting your knitted pieces wet – by soaking, steaming, spraying with water or covering with wet cloths – and then shaping it. The shaping could be a small adjustment to get straight edges or persuade you stocking stitch to unroll, or it could be a more aggressive process to open up a lace pattern.
There are lots of good reasons to block and they are all about getting a great finish to your project:
There are several ways to block:
Personally, I tend towards steam or wet blocking because of the fibres and projects I choose.
How you block will depend on various factors:
But, and this is important, blocking will even out stitches, it will NOT make your item fit if you’ve knitted the wrong size (well not without causing other problems).
If you are not sure what the best way to block your piece is, test various approaches on tension squares or extra swatches - may be that will convert some tension square refuseniks!
I found myself in an interesting chat about so-called yarn bombing on Twitter this week prompted by Louise Scollay of the Knit British podcast. It started with whether we were comfortable with the use of "bombing" to describe activities where people decorate a space with knitted and crocheted items often as a unsanctioned "flash" event, but the discussion has prompted me to think harder about the whole phenomenon.
I have a specific reason from finding the term yarn bombing uncomfortable. Bombing is an unredeemably negative term for someone who grew up in Belfast in the 70s and 80s and who has experienced being in a bomb explosion. (If you are having trouble getting past the last sentence, I have written a little note about reacting to that statement at the bottom of this post but for now I want to focus on the topic**).
Bomb is a negative word. On the other hand, yarn is a very positive aspect of my life. Not only is it central to my working and creative life, but I have used knitting, crochet and braidmaking to help me with pain and anxiety.
My personal distaste for putting the two words together may not be enough to argue for the term yarn bombing to be done away with but thinking about it brought me to some wider issues with the term and to some extent the activity.
If you think about the word bombing, it suggests an out of control and destructive event. Event the common alternative yarn storming has a destructive element. Surely this is not the message we want to get across with a collaborative creative happening.
What it does do is sum up the problematic side of yarn bombing activities. Major reasons that some people feel negative towards it is that yarn bombing can seem random and have a poor environmental impact. Explosions of knitting and crochet without a discernible purpose or theme, that are just left resulting in limp rags of indestructible acrylic yarn hanging from trees.
We should think carefully before we take on the urban environment with yarn and needles
When done well, a community yarn art event can be life enhancing - bringing connections to those who participate and enjoyment to those who experience results. But part of that process should be planning and responsibility from those undertaking the knitting and installation. To me that means a clear reason for the event and a plan for removing the pieces when they no longer serve the purpose or begin to look less attractive, enjoyable or useful.
With this in mind. I am proposing using new term "yarnstallation". The idea is to move away from negative language to a word that links with craft with art and which I hope conveys a more planned and responsible approach. Perhaps then as a community we could talk about how we approach yarnstallations to ensure they are seen as positive happenings that benefit communities and how to avoid accusations of polluting the environment.
**I find that people struggle with how to react if I mention that I have been in a bomb. The thing is, it is part of what makes me me. It happened. I am fortunate that I avoided much more serious injury, but I do have long term physical and mental health issues as a result (not always obvious). If I am telling you in a calm way (as here) to explain or give context, please take it calmly in the way it has been offered but don't prod for specific details. If I think it relevant or I am comfortable to do so I will share more but I may not want to, please respect that. At times, as here it is relevant to share that it happened but the details have nothing to do with the point I am making above.
The other time someone might find out about this, is if something triggers an anxiety attack or flashback - in which case take the information as background to helping me through the episode.
This used to be an active blog with plenty of updates about projects, making, yarns etc - and then it wasn't.
Part of the reason might have been the amount of blog content I was writing elsewhere, but the main reason was that life happened.
2015 was a tough year. It is one that I will always associate mainly with grief and physical pain.
Which isn't to say that there weren't any highs. There were opportunities to take on new projects that draw on a range of my skills, I won two competitions for knitting design, chances to visit new places and great times with family and friends.
My wining design for Knitting magazine
But grieving and dealing with pain used up a lot of energy and as much as I am by nature a battler, I ran out of steam. So much so that for a while I was finding it hard to pursue opportunities and even to set fingers to keyboard. My head was still buzzing with ideas but I wasn't always getting them out there.
As result I entered 2016 needing some change and the first quarter of the year has been focused on achieving that.
Some of that has been physical. The start of the year featured a lot of physio and rehab exercise which means I'm in less pain and am more active. Last week I attended my first fencing session in nearly a year. Getting back to those particular pointy sticks was energising and gave me a boost for other activities.
But mainly the change is about my work focus. I have stopped working on something that I was no longer enjoying and which was perhaps stopping me chasing other opportunities - and already I'm replacing that lost income from new projects and expanding existing one.
Although I've laughed at the Japanese idea of decluttering by holding each object in your hand and only keeping those that give you a feeling of joy - it would probably take a life time to go through my clutter - I have been doing something similar mentally in terms of work and goals.
Part of this process is giving time to (and keeping that time) for doing what makes me feel positive lifewise as well as workwise, which means:
Even writing this has made me feel positive so I'm looking forward with new energy and new plans. Roll on the remainder of 2016 and beyond.
I took a trip to the Unravel yarn show on Friday. I like this show because, as a friend visiting for the first time put it: "There are good things all over"
It is a show featuring smaller companies with interesting designs, fibres and colours. So you can always find something new and come away feeling inspired which is exactly what I needed.
Unusually for me, I didn't go to the show with a plan or a shopping list - I really was looking for inspiration and just to enjoy the yarn and the patterns plus catching up with friends and contacts from the yarnie world. Even more so when I eventually arrived after a saga of cancelled and delayed trains.
And it didn't disappoint. I had some lovely chats and catch ups with friends old and new. An indie dyer previously only known to me as the "Buzz Lighyear lady" - she understood why - now has a name and I'm looking forward to meeting her at future shows.
And yes I did shop, treating myself to some skeins I fell in love with and nabbing a couple of bargains - all 4-ply.
I was barely through the door of the show when I spotted the subtle green and russet skein of Silkie Merino (50/50 silk/merino) by Ling of Whimzy (the Buzz Lightyear lady) who has a creative eye for colour combinations. The yarn is destined to be a crescent shawlette - quite possible with a Victorian lace edging like this one
There are no firm plans for the other yarns yet, but when I took the yarns out to photograph I put the Titus (I couldn't leave with out a skein in that intense colour) next to the purple Knitglobal sock and was taken aback by how much I like them together.
And the Dusted Dreams - well I've been fascinated to see how the colours knit up - just need to decide if it is for socks or a beanie and mitts combo...
I go through phases with variegated yarns - sometimes I love multi-coloured combinations and seeing how the colours fall in the fabric - and sometimes I only want to work in solid colours.
Recently I've been falling for a lot of variegated skeins and sorting through them for some planned projects, I was reminded of the importance of winding the yarn in to balls or cakes before you make final decisions.
Depending on how the yarn has been skeined, winding it into a ball can change your perception of how the colours may play out in your project.
In the first set of pictures (all yarns from The Knitting Goddess), there isn't a major difference between the skeins and the balls.
However, in the second set there are major differences in the before and afters.
If anything the colours in the top yarn - Handmaiden Fine Yarn Sea Lace - blend more in the ball than on the skein. Whereas in yarns two - Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock - and three - Third Vault Yarns Tesseract - the wound yarn gives a very different idea of the relationship between the colours and helps me understand how they might play out in a project.
Swatching could also help you see how the colours relate but remember changing the number of stitches will change how the colours fall.
Looking at these last two balls, I'm thinking of quite lacy patterns with air to separate the striking colours such as in these patterns.
A little while ago I wrote about designing a square to be included the Yarn Stories blanket in support of the Knitting and Crochet Guild archive.
Just as I put the post up, I heard that my square was to be included in the blanket and that there was going to be a public vote to choose a winning square from the 10 designs chosen.
My square was knitted up in the Yarn Stories Iced Teal colourway - a colour that I happen to love, so I was very pleased - and featured on various social media platforms inviting people to vote.
Well, my square topped the poll so this week I popped along to the Yarn Stories stand at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace to see the blanket...
... and have my picture taken with it. As you can see I was a bit flushed with success.
I'm feeling very chuffed and grateful for people's votes - and looking forward to a big package coming my way very soon.
And here you can see all the squares and the very talented designers.
The Knitting and Crochet Guild holds a bigger archive of knitting and crochet patterns, items and hooks and needles than the Victoria and Albert Museum, with items dating back to 1836.
Such a valuable resource needs protecting and maintaining, so a few weeks ago I was delighted to come across a competition run by Yarn Stories to create a blanket pattern that would raise money to support the archive.
The first stage of the competition was to create a 15cm square in DK yarn inspired of images of items in the archive.
I'd recently be working on a design for a vintage-style hat and mittens with a diamond cable and eyelet pattern.
The pattern was a single cable column but looking at the archive pictures I thought of it again and realised that a double version would make an interesting square which in turn could act as a swatch for a scarf that could in the future be added to the Birdie pattern set.
Then I look for some colourful yarn to make the square - the Yarn Stories range uses some vibrant colours, so I choose this orange and created by square.
In the last few days I heard that my square will be one of 10 designs that make up the final blanket. It is great that it will help support this valuable archive and I'm really looking forward to seeing it in the chosen yarn alongside the other squares.
It is also exciting that there will be a public vote to choose a winner from the 10 squares - as soon as I know more I'll share it here and lots of other places.
I had to share the incredibly useful Clever Crafter's Guide to Wool from agricultural suppliers Clippers Ireland.
Especially like the graphic on number of sheep required per knitting project.