Yarn Similarities

Being a newbie, I am at a loss when it comes to choosing yarn sizes to match patterns. I finally found a sweater pattern that I think I can handle. It calls for Morehouse Merino Bulky which is:
Yarn Type:
100% Merino, bulky weight
115 yards per skein / approximately 4 oz.
Needle Sizes:
#13 to #17 / 2 to 2½ stitches = 1 inch
It's also very expensive at $17.80 per skein and I will need 8 or 9 skeins.
Morehouse Farm Bulky Yarn

Since I don't like to waste money, I thought I would go with a much more conservatively priced acrylic yarn just to see if I can make the thing. If I am successful, I may donated it to a charity and remake one as a gift using the better quality yarn. I found Brava Bulky Yarn on KnitPicks which is:
Weight: Bulky Weight Acrylic
Knitting Gauge: 3-3.75 sts = 1" on #10-11 needles
Amount: 136 yards/100 gram ball
Cost: $2.99/ball
Brava Bulky Yarn

SO, my dilemma is are these two yarns similar enough that I should get the same results?

I did find out that Lion Brand makes a Thick & Quick Wool-Ease Super Bulky yarn that gives me 9 sts using #13, so I can always fall back on that. I did a gauge swatch and it matches the pattern nicely. At least I had a skein of that at home so I could try it. It's between $8 and $10 per skein, so that drives up the price as well.

I guess it comes down to the number of stitches needed and the needle size that throws me off. Are 3-3.75/in on #10-11 needles the same or close enough to 2-2.5/in on #13?

I've always been a penny pincher and I don't like to buy the wrong things. So, any help you guys can offer, I would appreciate.

Thanks, guys!


rnaderjr's picture

Based on what you've listed above, I think you'll be fine with either of those alternate yarns for your selection. (I took a quick look at the yarn selections and think you've selected excellent alternates.) Both are in the realm of the original yarn recommended. The final look might be a bit different because of the acrylic versus the merino wool so it might not be as drapey, etc. depending on your pattern. Regardless of the yarn you use (even the merino), you'll want to do a 4" x 4" swatch to check your gauge to match the pattern requirements. That will dictate which needle size to use on the pattern you've selected.

Good luck.


CLABBERS's picture

You win the prize, Ray!
My wife and I bet that I would get an answer on this site before the KnitPicks.com folks. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and expertise. I agree that the acrylic might not drape as nicely as merino, but this is a new yarn for Knit Picks, and supposed to behave more like natural fibers than traditional acrylics. I've never made adjustments with needle sizes, so it will be interesting to see how that goes. I really want to branch out to things more wearable than scarves and hats and other flat household items, so I will have to learn to think differently and be more flexible with my stitching in order to meet stitch requirements and be flexible while knitting if things don't come out exactly as the pattern dictates in spots. Ah, improvisation!
Again, thanks for your help.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

I may go against the grain here but I think you should use the yarn you want, regardless of the fact whether it is acrylic or not. It is your knitting project. Not mine nor any other knitter's. I've knit long enough to remember that when acrylic yarns first came out, they were often of higher standards than what became the norm for "make it fast and cheap; more profit that way" business practices that came into being. I've knit a prototype baby sweater in an older acrylic yarn [probably mid 70s vintage] that had others asking me what brand wool I was using.

That said, I recommend that you get a ball of the Knit Picks yarn [maybe two, since it's not too pricey] and then swatch it up to see if it creates the fabric you want for your sweater. Also do that [if possible] for the other yarns under consideration. That way, you can compare and contrast all your options before making a final decision.

As I tell other knitters - Work with the best materials you can afford and create the finished item you want.

Lots of luck with the project. Luckily, you've received some great advice from the other responders to help you get where you want to go.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

HuskerChub's picture

You are on the right path, but remember the needle size makes no difference in determining if the yarn will work. It is the gauge that makes the determination! If you are able to get the correct number of stitches, then the garment will fit for the pattern as written. If it takes a US19 or a US13 to get gauge, it doesn't matter, unless the hand of the fabric is so limp you think you are wearing a dishrag...not a good look!

I agree with Ray, to a point. On yarn this thick I would never do a 4"x4" swatch. First of all this will knit so quickly that it will take only a small amount of time to knit a large 10"x10" swatch to determine if this is the yarn you want to use. At this size you can much more easily see the drape characteristics of the finished fabric. Also you need to take into consideration the this will be a heavy garment. This translates into a garment that can grow in length while shrinking in width, simply because of the fiber content. Once you have done your large swatch, I would block it as you normally would. Then was it as you plan to. Then let it hang for a couple of days to see if it is going to change shape. Remember that you will have even more weight in the sweater as it will be 2-2.5 times heavier than the swatch so if there is any change in length it will be amplified.

Now one last thought. When I am teaching and I hear someone say "I don't want to use good yarn the first time" I totally disagree with them! First of all, no mater what yarn you use, you will spend X hr's knitting the sweater. Many people will decide after knitting a sweater that they never want to do that pattern again for whatever reason. They are stuck with a plastic sweater (that I don't care how expensive or high quality NEVER looks/functions like wool) when they really wanted a wool one. If they totally hate the way the sweater looks, it may only be a function of the inferior yarn. Acrylic does not block the same as wool and small variances in stitch formation etc will not block out like in wool. And, if you don't like the sweater once finished, it doesn't fit or whatever, you can unravel the sweater and always reuse the yarn for another project. Don't get me wrong, acrylic has it's place...children's clothes, afghans, toys, novelty yarns, etc or if you absolutely cannot afford anything else but I'd go for the wool if it was me. Yes I'm a yarn snob and I'm getting off my soap box now LOL.

CLABBERS's picture

Thank you Shawn. Being a novice, I really appreciate all the information I can get. I hadn't thought of the heaviness of the yarn. It really is thick. As luck would have it, I have made a coffee table liner of the wool-ease, so I can use that as my test garment. I made an afghan out of the same yarn and while I never hung it, it kept it's shape as I had it draped all over me, rolled up on itself, flopping all over the place. I agree that wool would be the best thing to use in case that I do get the sweater correct. I have grown to enjoy the feel and behavior of good wool in my short time knitting. So, now I have to determine whether or not I risk a well-executed inexpensive failure in terms of shape and drape, or spend the money and hope for the best. Hmmmm. Life has so many uncertainties.
You have raised my awareness, and I thank you for that.

Well, I think that since you are attempting a sweater, I give you full cred. However I highly recommend knitting a test swatch first, and even though you plan on using acrylic, wash the swatch and and base your gauge on that.
Speaking from experience, no matter how in-expensive the yarn, after you have put in all the work to get to finished product, that little bit of work in your test gauge swatch will make all the difference.
Different brand of acrylic will behave differently. Some have more elasticity and some are more rigid. A pattern is a great way to start but the time and effort should go into determining your gauge first and foremost.
Sweaters are not particularly difficult to knit, but the time invested in the project is just too much to waste when a small amount of prep work and math with leave you with a finished product that will fit.

I also like to use a sweater, hoodie, or sweatshirt that fits well as a good gauge of fit. Sometimes patterned are written for folks Ina different parts of the world that generally have different body shapes. I am of course speaking generally.

So measure, measure, measure and check your gauge and measure again. If in doubt, rip it out and start again. Nothing is worse then getting to the final stages and realizing that your gut instinct was right and that your should have adjusted your gauge/pattern; I speak from experience (on more then one occasion).

All the best and happy knitting! good for you for going for a sweater, I find few people are willing to put in the time and effort.

See your on the Woolly Side.

Tallguy's picture

Very good advice. I have to agree with Husker that you are not wasting your time on a good quality yarn. You ARE wasting your time with a cheap plastic string. They are not the same, no matter how hard you try. You say you want to see if you can make the thing. Well, of course you can. I've seen some of your work, and you do know how to knit and purl, and you have pretty consistent tension. So what more is there?

To make a sweater, you just need to follow the directions. That's not very hard to do. But the sweater will NOT be the same if you use a very different yarn from what was used in the sample.

You want to use a different size yarn, but will make up for it with different sized needles? That is not going to work! You still need to use the same number of stitches.... but the sweater will not be the size you wanted. So are you ready to re-write the pattern with new numbers? And if that is the case, why even follow any pattern at all, since you are really starting from scratch -- different yarn, different needles, different number of stitches = new pattern!

Your time is worth something. At least, your employer seems to think so. Do you not think you are worth something? If you are going to "waste" all the time working on something that will be useless, don't you think it would be worth your time and effort to use better yarn and do this thing right? I can't afford to waste any time at all on "just a practice piece". I need to complete good quality items -- that is all that will remain after I am gone. I want to leave quality, not quantity!

The opinions expressed in the forgoing are solely those of the writer, who accepts full responsibility for any consequences. ymmv

ronhuber's picture


Design your own with any yarn, needle size, gauge, colour, texture, and style you want.
Also check out Elizabeth Zimmermann's books/

CLABBERS's picture

Thanks, Ron. I had not seen this before and it is something that I will explore. It looks like a great deal of thought went into creating it.

I agree with Tallguy. Get a nice yarn and forget the plastic strings. If you are concerned with cost, go and visit your Local Yarn Store and find a yarn that is less expensive and talk to the folks who run the store, see if athey can recommend a pattern to use with the yarn.
There are so many patterns on Ravelry.com that you can search for with specific yarns in mind as well.

DON'T Cheap out. Your time is worth EVERYTHING!

CLABBERS's picture

Thanks everyone for all the thought you put into this. The sensitive side of me feels as though I have just received a rather curious public flogging. The sensible side of me agrees with all the suggestions. It is safe to say that I will need to do some more research on all this.

scottly's picture

I don't want to beat a dead horse but one of the biggerst reasons I won't use acrylic is that's it's not blockable! Blocking has saved my work more times then I care to count. It will help with evening out your stitches, with sizing, lattering dissappears in most cases and it just gives the piece a more finished well crafted look - you won't get this with acrylic. For something as ambitous as a sweater I think you'll want to be able to block it.

Have a look at the site for WEBS (Yarn.com). They are always having sales and close-outs of really good quality fibres. I can recommend them.

CLABBERS's picture

Thanks Christine,
I know WEBS and have purchased from them. I like their cache of yarns.

CLABBERS's picture

I got a nice email from the folks at Knit Picks and they said that what I was looking for is a super bulky weight yarn, so that answers that question. I decided to do some cleaning of my professional books and yarn areas. To my surprise, I stumbled upon a few skeins of Fishermen's Wool...worsted weight, but not enough for a whole sweater. Then, I checked my ever-growing collection of patterns that I have acquired and found a nice simple vest that called for that yarn weight. As many of you suggested, I sat down and made a proper swatch, measured my stitches, and found I was spot on the pattern requirements. So, I read through the pattern, circled all the appropriate numbers for my size, and have about an inch of the ribbing done for the back side. I'm just going to take it slow and remain positive about understanding the pattern directions. Thanks again for all help and suggestion. I now have good wool between my fingers and a plan in my head. Wish me luck!

chipsir's picture

I mostly agree with Joe but there are very good points in all the comments. You should do what is most comfortable with you. That being said, I am sure the wool will turn out much more to your liking. As to what is compatable, I use the yardage per ounce as a good method of finding a starting point. Then swatch, swatch swatch lol. I am looking forward to see what you choose and how it knits up. Lots of pictures please.

CLABBERS's picture

Thanks Dennis. The Oak Tweed Fishermen's Wool will look nice and be forgiving at the same time.

Oak Tweed

I'm pretty consistent with my stitching now, but a little optical diversion doesn't hurt either. Thanks for the suggestions.