Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Uh oh! Not enough yarn!

A lesson in stitch substitution
I've wanted to make the Lorelei Pullover by Dora Ohrenstein since I got Dora's book The New Tunisian Crochet: Contemporary Designs from Time-Honored Traditions. Dora is one of my favorite designers. Her books are more than just pattern books. They're full of great information, and I highly recommend all of them. In fact, it's from her books and online classes that I learned to do what I'm about to talk about. For more on Dora, see her Crochet Insider web site

I thought I had a suitable yarn for Lorelei. It's a silk/cotton/cashmere blend by Artisanal Yarns that I picked up at last year's Knit and Crochet Show. I checked the pattern and found it required 1410 yards of laceweight. Uh oh. I only have 1000 yards. Well, cobnuts! Maybe it really doesn't take 1410 yards.* Maybe I should just go for it and hope the amount of yardage listed is a mistake. Danger! Danger! Do not do this! Ok, scratch that thought. What are my options? The first thing that came to mind was to skip down to the local yarn shop and buy 1400 yards of yarn for this pattern. Tempting. Oh.So.Tempting. And I am easily tempted. But I've made a vow to work from stash. For a while anyway. Yes, I'm going to The Knit and Crochet Show in a couple weeks. Yes, there's going to be a yarn market, but I won't think about that. (Quit laughing! I can hear you!) 

But back to my problem. I really wanted to use the silk blend yarn. I thought it would make a great summer top. I also still wanted to make something like the Lorelei - a simple drop sleeved pullover. Maybe I could use a different stitch pattern that would require less yarn. So I started leafing through stitch dictionaries looking for prospects. The first one I found was the Stone Trellis stitch in Robyn Chachula's Crochet Stitches Visual Encyclopedia.

Not bad. It's a very pretty stitch, and I like the way it works in this yarn. But I wanted to give myself options so I also swatched another one. This is stitch number 17 from Dora's Tunisian book.

This isn't a flashy stitch, but I really like it. The photo doesn't do it justice. It's mesh-like appearance will also resemble the original Lorelei more than the Stone Trellis would. But do I have enough yarn? 

The first step in finding out is to block my swatch and measure its dimensions after blocking. So I lightly blocked the swatch by spritzing it with water and and giving it a gentle stretch to even the stitches then letting it dry. Then I measured it and found it came to 5 in x 4.5 in. Next we need to do a bit a math. Yes, the dreaded "M" word. Don't run away! I'm talking basic arithmetic not high level calculus. I need to find out how many square inches are in my swatch and how many square inches will be in the finished pullover. The first part is simple. I just need to multiply the dimensions of the swatch.

5 in x 4.5 in = 22.5 sq in

Now, how many of these swatches do I need to make the pullover? I want to stick with the approximate shape of the Lorelei so from the schematics in the pattern, I can calculate the number of square inches in the pullover. This is simple for this pattern because there's no shaping. It's all rectangles. I multiplied the length and width of each rectangle that makes up the pullover (sleeves, front, back) to calculate the square inches of each like I did with my swatch. Then I added these amounts together to get the total square inches for the finished pullover. It came to 1118 sq in. How many swatches will I need?

1118 sq in / 22.5 sq in per swatch = 50 swatches (rounded to the nearest whole number)

But how will this tell me if I have enough yarn? I could unravel the swatch and measure the number of yards in it then multiply by 50. Ugh. No thanks. There's an easier way. Or in this case an easier weigh! Simply weigh the swatch. Since yarn labels give us the weight of the skein as well as the yardage, I can use the weight of the swatch to determine if I'll have enough yarn. My swatch weighed 4 g.

4 g per swatch x 50 swatches = 200 g of yarn needed

I have 5 skeins of yarn at 50 g each so 250 g total. YES! I have enough yarn! I even have extra so I can customize my pullover if I want. I can make it longer or make the sleeves longer. If I didn't have quite enough yarn, I could make either or both of those measurements shorter. But it's always better to have more yarn than you think you'll need. Trust me. Things happen. Maybe that will be the subject of another blog post. In the meantime, here's the first half of my pullover.

I still want to make the Lorelei, but I'll need to buy yarn. And there is that yarn market at the Knit and Crochet Show coming up...

*After writing this post, I contacted Dora. She graciously calculated the amount of yarn used in the size small of the Lorelei. It came out to around 1000 yards. The pattern lists 3 skeins of yarn at 470 yards each for the small, but apparently, not much of that third skein is used.


  1. Wow! You've made great progress on that sweater. I got a bit of Artisanal Yarns at CGOA too last year - such beautiful stuff. It was so fascinating to watch them ply it right there.

    Yes, Math is indeed the dreaded "M" word. Weighing is definitely the quickest method to calculate potential yardage, as long as you have a good fine-weight scale. Another method I've used is to unravel/measure a very small portion of a swatch, calculate total stitches needed and then multiply as needed. Kind of roundabout but it does work in the absence of a scale. :)

    1. We're lucky enough to have a really good scale that we bought for keeping track of our parrot's weight. Nothing but the best for my husband's baby! Thanks for the tip on an alternative method. That might come in handy if I'm not at home.

  2. Great write up, my sister! Very clear explanation to calculate the amount of yarn.
    And you know I was not so great in math. Even I understood this! I like the
    weighing option, especially. Can't wait to see the finished sweater so please
    post a photo when you have a chance. That first stitch (from Robyn's book) is also very, very pretty and I'd love to see what you would make in that. It looks kind of like a tulip. And, of COURSE, you should buy some yarn at the knit/crochet show!


    1. Ahem, I beg to disagree. You are too good at math. It's just that you were always BETTER in all your other classes. :-)


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