Substitutions for Particular Yarns

I've fallen in love with Rowan Magpie.  Unfortunately, Rowan discontinued it in 2004.  I'm trying to find a good replacement.  I've already spent WAY too much buying up as much as I could find on Ebay.

Does anyone have suggestions about how to find an appropriate substitute?  I could go to my LYS and snoop around but then I'm limited to what they carry.  I've tried looking for other yarns on-line with the same stitches per inch but have found that it's quite a bit more complicated than that.

I've even tried some generic internet searches to no avail.

Thanks for your help guys!

JPaul's picture is a great tool for searching out yarn substitutions.

And you're right, it's a bit more complicated than just matching stitches per inch, but that's a good starting point.  You should also consider the fiber content and yardage and the finished project.  You might be able to find an awesome eyelash yarn that knits at the stated gauge, but you would have a completely different hat.  It's a silly example, but it makes a point.  Is the yarn you are going to substitute appropriate for the project?  Would a 100% cotton yarn be a good substitute for a tight-fitting beanie that gets stretched over your head?  Probably not, simply because it lacks the necessary elasticity.  It would get stretched out in the first wearing - so much for tight-fitting.

That's not to say you can't or shouldn't substitute different fibers.  Just be aware that the fabric you produce will have different properties.

Also, check your yardage and make sure you buy enough for your project.  Yardage varies significantly from one yarn to another.  When you're substituting, get however many yards you need, not the number of skeins called for in the pattern.

Here's my last example and point: Cascade 220 and Magpie are both 100% wool, worsted weight yarns that knit up at about 4.5 to 5 sts per inch on  US7 needles.  They should be a pretty good match (which would be cool because Cascade 220 comes in about a thousand different colors, it's less than half the price of Magpie right now at WEBS, and you get more yarn (220 yds from Cascade compared to 153 yds from Magpie).  BUT WAIT, you get more yarn!  Well, if the fiber is the same and the gauge is the same, why do you get nearly 1 1/2 times as much yardage from Cascade 220?  I don't know.  Maybe the gauge is actually 4.5 sts per inch on US8 needles.  Maybe the Magpie is twisted more tightly so the yarn is denser.  But will it still work?  Won't the finished fabric be different!?  Can I still use it!?   Probably.  It's a stocking cap your knitting, not an atomic bomb.  I think you've got some room to be flexible.  Adjust your gauge if you need to or even (gulp) adjust the pattern.  You have the ability.  Give yourself permission.  The best way to find out, of course, is to try it.  Knit a swatch or in this case, why not knit the whole hat...knit two, they're small.

YarnGuy716's picture

I agree that Rowan Magpie was a great yarn. When it was discountinued my LYS had it all on sale and I bought about 25 or 30 hanks of it in a great Olive Green.

I started a cardigan for myself out of it, but lost the completed back and one front when my vehicle was broken into last June and the backpack that I used as a knitting bag was stolen. The trauma of lost knitting kept me from starting it and I just have too many WIPs to get to it now.

Aaronknits's picture

That sucks about your knitting bag!!!  I would be SUPER pissed too, if that happened to me.   Hopefully that was all that was in the bag and you didn't lose your wallet, checkbook, etc.  But think about disappointed the thief must've been when he goes through all the trouble to break into a vehicle and steal a backpack just to find it full of knitting.  I can't imagine too many theives would think that was a GOOD thing to find!!!

YarnGuy716's picture

I was actually more upset about losing the knitting back pack than having my vehicle broken into. I'm sure the thief was hoping for a CD player, lap top or iPod... and was really disappointed.