Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Fashioning the Fab Four (Part 4): Yarn shopping!

It was a year ago, almost to the day, that I went shopping for yarn for the Fab Four Amigurumi. The original pattern was published in an American magazine and I knew that I would not be able to find the recommended American yarn locally. This meant that I would need to substitute a different yarn for the project.

On 16 March 2012, I was ready to buy. Where would I look first? My main priority was being able to find the right colours. Neutrals like black, white and grey are usually easy to find all year around. The trick would be to find a range of acrylic which has a nice neutral colour for the dolls' faces and hands.
My personal shopping choices were a general craft shop which is part of a large national chain, a large variety shop or to travel further afield to a specialist yarn and knitting supplier. I do like to see and handle the yarns before I buy so I prefer the opportunity to purchase in person. If I want rare, unusual, fancier or more expensive yarns, the only way to obtain them is to order them through a specialist yarn supplier or by mail or purchase online.
My main problems with ordering are the waits for delivery and being unable to see the product with my own eyes beforehand. Sometimes there are colour differences between the colour on a computer screen and the true dye colour. (Reputable suppliers will have accurate colour representation and/or supply sample cards/swatches of the yarns they carry.)
Because of MCTD* I don't have the energy to trek across town to a specialist yarn shop, and
I was in a hurry to get started on the Fab Four—my daughter's school music trip was at the end of June! (I wanted to use them to raise some money before then to pay for the fares)—so off I went to my nearest yarn supplier, the large general craft shop (part of a national chain), secure in the knowledge that they have a great range of acrylics in different yarn weights.
There! In a long, narrow aisle, in shelves ever so wide and high, full to the brim of acrylics in all sorts of colours, I spied a 12 ply acrylic—perfect! I found a black, a white, a grey… rummaged around the neighbouring shelving baskets… but nothing suitable for the skin colour.
"Can I find another skin colour in a different brand acrylic?" I wondered. Even if it was in a lighter yarn weight, I could possibly work it double stranded to match the 12 ply, although I prefer to not mix yarn brands in a project if it is something special like the Fab Four Amigurumi. Sometimes the slight variations in twist and texture can make a difference to the handling which can result in variations in the tension and look of the finished product; not always, just occasionally.
I forgot to mention that this particular shop is very popular and has a high turnover of stock due to the sales and specials which are on almost fortnightly. Depending on one's timing, there is either lots from which to choose, or nothing much, just the odd ball with no other matching dye lots and the shelves in disarray. On the day I was there, there were only a few balls of each dye lot left in the 12 ply.
I was getting discouraged, being forced to choose from a very pink colour or a very brown colour, neither had any 'neutral' tone about it. "Out of all those yarns in stock, aren't there any in a buff colour?" It just didn't seem to be on anyone's palette for the season.
Then, "Aha!" Hiding away in the back of a shelving basket, the perfect buff colour: yes, it's acrylic but only 8 ply, much thinner than 12 ply. Nearby were the other required neutrals—black, grey, white, all in 8 ply acrylic. Could I make the Fab Four Amigurumi in 8 ply instead?
"Of course, I will do that!" The decision was made. After all, it isn't a garment that needs to fit me precisely, merely dolls that could be any size they liked as long as they were in proportion to each other. I was sure that an adjustment of the hook size would achieve the desired results.
Here is a comparison between the yarn recommended by the pattern and the yarn I bought:
Recommended Yarn My substitution 
Red Heart Super Saver
Moda Vera Marvel Plain 8 ply 
100% acrylic
Made in the USA

100% acrylic
Made in Australia
Yarn weight category #4 Medium
USA: Worsted, Afghan, Aran
AUS/UK: 10–12 ply
Yarn weight category #3 Light
USA: DK, Light Worsted
AUS/UK: 8 ply
7 oz/198g per skein

100g per skein (3.5 oz)
364 yd/333m per skein

Approximately 283m per skein (309.5 yd)
Recommended knitting needles/gauge on yarn label: 17sts over 4"/10cm with 5 mm (USA size 8) needlesRecommended knitting needles/tension on yarn label: 22sts x 30 rows over 4"/10cm with 4 mm needles
Colour A: #334 Buff
1 skein x 364 yd/333m = 364yd/333m
Colour A: #1060 Flesh, Lot #777064
1 skein x 283m = 283m (309.5 yd)
(Looking at the pattern, I judged that 1 skein would suffice.)

Colour B: #312 Black
2 skeins x 364 yd/333m = 728yd/666m
Colour B: #1002 Black, Lot #777235
3 skeins x 283m = 849m (928.5yd)
(2 skeins were 619yd/566m, 100m less than recommended amount.)

Colour C: #311 White
1 skein x 364 yd/333m = 364yd/333m
Colour C: #1001 White, Lot # 777058
2 skeins x 283m = 566m (619yd)

Colour D: #341 Light Grey
1 skein x 364 yd/333m 364yd/333m
Colour D: #1022 Light Grey, Lot: #774479
2 skeins x 283m = 566m (619yd)

For more information about yarn substitution, please refer to my notes and links in Fashioning The Fab Four (Part 3): Read The Pattern. (Discussion starts under the heading "Materials: yarn requirements".)
My chosen yarn, "Marvel", was shorter per skein than the recommended "Super Saver". At the time of purchase, I had no idea how much of each skein would be used for the Amigurumi. I needed to allow for the pattern to need just about every centimetre of each skein listed.
One skein of Marvel (283m) might not be quite enough if the pattern used up the entire skein of Super Saver (333m). Therefore I bought extra skeins in the same dye lots for an ample supply. Any that don't get used in the amigurumi are bound to be helpful additions to "The Stash" because neutrals go with so many colour schemes and rarely go out of fashion.
My nearest yarn supplier carries a variety of yarns from well-known brands to 'no-name' generic labels. It's largest supply is of its own 'in-house brand'(of course) which provides a diverse range of fibres and blends. If I am looking for a basic, factory-produced yarn, I can usually find something suitable for the project at hand. (Forget designer, hand-painted artisan yarns though!)
The benefit of shopping in a general craft shop is that I can pick up other craft supplies at the same time. Instead of using white yarn or sewing thread for the guitar strings, I thought it would be good if the strings would have some tension in them so they can 'snap back' when plucked, just like a real guitar. Shirring elastic looked like just the thing to give the guitar strings some 'twang'!
The pattern recommended a 4 mm crochet hook (USA size G/6) to obtain the desired tension with the 12 ply yarn. If I am using a thinner yarn, I would need to find a crochet hook smaller than 4 mm diameter to achieve the same result. That would be okay—no worries—and I rushed home with my 8-ply acrylic eager to start swatching!
Do you have any tips on yarn substitutions? Any yarn shopping experiences to share? Please add them in a comment or email

*MCTD: Mixed Connective Tissue Disease. Discussion and links to further information can be found in the following blog posts:


No comments:

Post a Comment