October 28th, 2008

Substituting is Hard to Do

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I was really thrilled when this showed up at the shop last week:

There are two reasons – well make that three.  First, I love Storey Publishing’s series of One Skein books.  Secondly (and consider this the full disclosure portion of this post), there are several WEBS staffers (current and former) who have projects in the book, along with a couple of other industry friends.  Congratulations to you all.  Thirdly, I have a wee little projected included as well!

Just a sweet little baby hat, knit using a bulky yarn.  I chose to use Fibre Company’s Pemaquid.  It’s a yarn we’ve carried for awhile and I’ve always been enamored with it.  I selected it because I wanted to use a chunky yarn -I knew there would be lots of stunning lace projects and gorgeous socks and just wanted to be a little different.  The pattern itself is simple and I even incorporated some beads on the tassel.

While waiting for the book to come out, one of the worst things that can happen to someone who has used a yarn in a project that has been accepted for publication happened.  I found out the yarn was discontinued.  UGH!  How did I let this happen to me?  I own a yarn store!  I speak with the yarn vendors all the time!  I made the fatal error that sometimes happens to designers.  I fell for the yarn.  Head over heels, I-must-have-you- and-nobody-else-but-you, in love.  I just had to knit with it!

Rather than be practical and make a quick call or send an email to double check and say “Hey, Pemaquid’s solid for the next couple of seasons, right?” I let the yarn fumes get to me.  I basked in the glory of swatching, knitting a bit, frogging, knitting some more, etc., until the wee little hat was done.  For what it’s worth, the yarn did behave well during the process.  I was a little worried, given its content (60% baby alpaca/30% merino/10% soy) and the fact that it’s loosely spun,  that it might not hold up to the frogging, but it did so quite nicely.  So, there is my hat in the brand new book.  Now, I must find a substitute.

In considering what yarn to use, I had to start with gauge.  Pemaquid knit at 3 sts = 1″ on a #10.  I took a look at our Valley Yarns line and although Berkshire would knit to the gauge I need, I didn’t think the yarn was right for this project both in feel and quite honestly, as much as I love Berkshire, I wouldn’t classify it as luxury.

So, out to the store I went.  I stayed out of the warehouse because selecting a closeout would only compound the problem (although I do think there are a couple of nice options out there).  Now, for those of you who have shopped the store, you know we have a lot of yarn.  That’s true even for those of you who shop on-line with us.  I figured I’d have more options than I’d know what to do with.  Wrong – again!  Although we have quite a few 3-3.5 sts to the inch yarns, the second criteria I was using was feel.  How would the yarn feel on a little one’s head?  Nobody wants an uncomfortable baby!  Uncomfortable babies = unhappy babies.  Unhappy babies are no fun.

Here’s what I’ve got for choices at the moment:

1.  Ariosa from Classic Elite.

This yarn was actually one of the first ones that came to mind.  I knew without looking the gauge would be right and I knew it was super soft.  Ariosa is 90% extrafine merino/10% cashmere.  It has 87 yards and at 3.5 stitches to the inch, I’m confident I can get it to the gauge I need.  The only problem?  Ariosa has  pretty sophisticated color palette.  I was going to leave this one off the list, but kept coming back to it.  For the traditionalists among you, there’s the cream color and a few primaries.  For the rest of us, I’m pretty partial to the lime green.

2. & 3.  Next up are two similar yarns.  Misti Alpaca Baby Chunky and Plymouth Baby Alpaca Grande.

Both are 100% baby alpaca and both are spun similarly (to each other and Pemaquid).  Misti’s has 108 yards and knits at 3.5 sts = 1″.  Plymouth’s has 110 yards and knits at 3 sts = 1″.  The color palettes are different although I think both have nice options (both also have handpaint options if that’s the look you are interested in).  One other point to make with these two options is that I think you would be able to get two hats out of one skein – not 100% sure until I try it out, but that’s what my gut is telling me at the moment.

4.  Lastly, I had to consider the pinnacle of luxury –  cashmere.  Despite Steve’s diatribes about my cashmere stash (which is not nearly as extensive as he thinks it is) we actually don’t carry a lot of it in the store.  I also want it noted that I did not go with cashmere in the first place.  For me, the natural choice was Classic Elite’s Sinful:

Sinful is 100% cashmere and knits at 3.5 sts = 1″.  The palette is lovely and the yarn screams “make me into adorable heirloom quality baby items”.  This is the most expensive of all of the options shown.

So, what do you think?  Do I have a winner here?  Is there another yarn I’ve overlooked (it’s got to be one that I carry – only criteria).  Vote in the comments so I can get knitting!

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19 Responses to “Substituting is Hard to Do”

  1. marymac Says:

    Much as I love to pet the Sinful, I would probably go with Misti Alpaca for it’s resemblance to the original. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of these options, though!

  2. kathy Says:

    Good point marymac. I do wonder how a more tightly plied yarn will behave. Probably give the finished product a more formal look (as formal as a baby hat can be, that is).

  3. melissaknits Says:

    I’d be sinful, but then I don’t get much cashmere, so every little bit helps…

  4. cici Says:

    I would always choose cashmere if it is offered, how can you go wrong. Of course they are all good choices.

  5. mary Says:

    I would go with Ariosa. Even though it’s super soft, even baby alpaca can be pokey sometimes (I have sensitive skin), and cashmere is probably more than I want to spend on a baby gift for someone who I’m not sure will take care of it. Ariosa is really soft. Debbie Bliss Como is very similar to Ariosa and super soft as well.

  6. Carol Says:

    I think the Sinful would be gorgeous but way too expensive for a baby hat (too big a chance it gets lost or dirty). The Misti Alpaca would be gorgeous as would the Ariosa but the latter would give a slightly different look.
    Great hat BTW! How easy is it to size up??

  7. Kristi Says:

    Sinful is lovely, but I agree the price would keep me away from it. Also I have to wear a cashmere blend cause it itches me. I like all the others though – cause I would so make a baby a lime green hat! 🙂

  8. Mary Says:

    This is so timely. A friend and I went to a LYS yesterday looking for an appropriate yarn for Puff Daddy featured on Mason Dixon Knitting yesterday (I’m assuming you’ve heard of that!). Nothing they had in the correct gauge was soft enough – now we have a list of yarns to consider!

  9. kathy Says:

    I love the Sinful too but at $50/skein, it’s not in everyone’s budget. It’s part of the reason I didn’t select it for the original design.

    Mary – good call on the Como! I had forgotten about that one.

    Carol – I think it should be fairly simple to size up. The c/o is an even number of stitches and the pattern repeat is even numbers as well. Something to be said for symmetry. I can give you hand if you need it.

    Yeah Kristi! You and I shall deck all infants in lime green (maybe a little orange too?).

    Hey Mary – Puff Daddy is so great – it’s one of those patterns that just makes you smile 🙂 Misti Baby Alpaca Chunky is the yarn called for so Plymouth Alpaca Grande would be an easy sub. The others would work too and per Mary’s comment -take a look at Como too.


  10. Judy Says:

    Do mom’s really want baby items made from cashmere, merino, or alpaca? While I adore these yarns I just don’t see a mom hand washing or dry cleaning baby clothes! Maybe I’ve just been reading too many baby charity patterns which call for washable (usually non-wool) yarn. Not a criticism – I have no children so am clueless!

  11. kathy Says:

    Judy – you are not clueless! Machine washable items are definitely easier to deal with, no question about it. This hat could easily be done in a superwash wool or a cotton or even a machine-friendly acrylic. I opted for Pemaquid (and considering the options I’ve listed) simply because the theme of the book was luxury fibers. There is also something to be said for having a couple of things for babies that are super special and not necessarily for everyday.

    When our son Jackson was born, a friend in NYC sent me the most gorgeous pair of cashmere baby booties you have ever seen. They were bought at a fancy boutique and I can only imagine how much they cost (probably could have kept me in onsies until he was ready to be out of them!). They weren’t used a lot, but are still cherished keepsakes that I will give to Jackson when he has kids someday. So that was how I approached this particular project.

    If I were to do this in an easy care yarn, I’d probably start with Tornio Bulky. I like Berroco Comfort as well but the gauge isn’t right.

  12. Judy Says:

    After I posted I realized that I’d been a little too practical and that of course I’d love to have really nice items to put on my baby especially for special occasions. The idea of passing it down to them when they have kids was just something I had not considered. These gifts will be very special.

  13. kathy Says:

    I found out this afternoon that Comfort Bulky will be available in the next couple of months (our wishes have been granted) so we can be luxurious and practical – just need two hats 🙂

  14. Becky Says:

    Duchess by Classic Elite. I am knitting with princess now, her baby sister, and I love it! The hand once washed and block feels luxurious, and it is a nice blend of silk and viscose as well, so it will hold up nicely…Beautiful heathered colors as well:)

  15. Becky Says:

    Oops, it is a blend of viscose and nylon, angora and cash,and merino…sorry! Still amazing though…and price effective!

  16. kathy Says:

    Good suggestion Becky! How’d I miss Duchess? I have some in my stash at home.



  17. freestyle Says:

    Awesome stuff in here, I am totally impressed, I have learned knitting from my gradma, she’s a pro, I must say that.


  18. too big to fail Says:

    I will not hesitate to buy sinful if that is for my baby.. Quality is the issue here..

  19. ClubPenguinCheats Says:

    I agree the price would keep me away from it. Also I have to wear a cashmere blend cause it itches me. I like all the others though cause I would so make a baby a lime green hat!

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