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Going off road

October 10 2012 – thisisknit

We've talked in the past about how to substitute yarns, concentrating on keeping the qualities as close as possible - DK for DK, Aran for Aran, and so on. But there are, as they say, no knitting police, and very often you can get the most gorgeous results by using a yarn very differently to how it was intended. For example, that majestic-looking Swallowtail shawl above is knitted in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. We're familiar with this for beautiful babies' and children's garments, but here it's used in a vivid colour (and the colour range is stunning) to make the most glorious lace. Knitted on 5.5mm needles and taking just four skeins of yarn, this is the cosiest shawl you can imagine. Here's another example of unexpected but amazing lace: this is a Luna Moth shawl (like Swallowtail, this pattern's a free download). It's knitted in Lamb's Pride Worsted, a wool and mohair single-ply yarn which is easy to work and wear. On 6.00mm needles, this knits up like lightning - just the thing to have in the drawer for a possible cold snap or for a last-minute warming gift. Both of the examples so far have been shawls, where exact size isn't really a consideration. If your stitches come out a little (or a lot) bigger or smaller than the original in the pattern, that's ok - knit a bit more for a bigger thing, do fewer repeats for a smaller one. But we've recently met a project where fit did matter, but where working the yarn at a much tighter tension than suggested worked superbly well. That's a pair of Bella's Mittens (yes, this one's free as well), worked in Debbie Bliss Paloma. Paloma is a delicious chained yarn that was introduced last winter and which has proved very popular, with its pattern book full of lovely relaxed garments. But earlier this year, a student in one of our beginners' classes made a hat in Paloma on much smaller needles than the 10.00mm recommended on the ball band and the resultant fabric was so delicious that we began to wonder what else you could do by dropping needle size.... This pair of mittens was the result, knitted on 5.5mm needles, and taking three skeins of yarn. The fit is perfect and the fabric is firm and supple, with cables that pop beautifully. These mittens have left for cold-weather service off the east coast of North America; we feel very confident that they'll keep their new owner warm as toast. We're sure that our readers and customers have lots and lots of projects like this, where going off-road resulted in delightful finished objects. Why not tell us about yours in the comments below? We'd love to hear about them!

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