Yesterday, in my Ravelry group, a knitter posed a yarn sub question about the wonderful, new Dale “Flamingo” cardi from the new Dale “Urban Retro” Book #320. Sadly, only a handful of patterns from that awesome Norwegian original were translated into English. Dale’s US distributor is selling this pattern directly, in English, as an individual PDF, through Ravelry, right over…here.
Here is the knitter’s question:
I have just seen and fallen in love with this pattern
320-13 Flamingo from the Dale Garn 320 Urban Retro collection. Except it is in Alpakka and that yarn is too warm for me. Is there a light wool or even a wool-cotton blend you could recommend as a substitute? (The knitter lives in the Deep South of the US.)
Here is my reply:
Hmmm, that’s an interesting question. I love Dale Alpakka and quite a few folks around here are planning to do that sweater specifically because it’s an Alpakka sweater…well, and because it’s so very pretty, too. But seeing you live in the southern part of the US, I can totally understand why you wouldn’t usually want the warmth of alpaca. Sure, there are other, less-warm Dale options you could choose.
That sweater is knit at the Alpakka ball band gauge of 25 sts over 4” / 10cm. I know you asked for “light wool or even a wool-cotton blend”. (Technically, alpaca is a type of wool and it is lighter weight, and softer, than sheep’s wool, but boy, is it warm!) Given your locale and Dale’s array of choices, and thinking of the heat and humidity I’ve encountered in your area, the first thing that jumps to my mind is a 100% cotton version of that sweater. Dale Vipe and Dale Terne both have exactly the same 25 sts over 4” / 10cm ball band gauges. A spot-on gauge match is always a beautiful thing! I’d pick Vipe over Terne because it has a softer drape and a lovely, soft, mercerized sheen. I know, cotton is not what we usually think of for stranded sweaters. But, a couple of summers ago, I did a stranded, steeked top in Vipe which I just love. Of course, you must machine-reinforce any cotton (or wool/cotton blend) before cutting, but it’s easy to do with Vipe. Look at the dark grey / light grey steek photos on this article of mine – they were done in Vipe: https://twostrands.com/2015/12/21/top-10-tips-for-machine…
The next yarns that come to mind would be Lerke and Lille Lerke – they’re both beautiful, merino wool / egyptian cotton blends. Lerke is 52% merino, 48% cotton; Lille Lerke is 53% merino, 47% cotton. Either one is terrific for this type of sweater, but…neither one is a spot-on gauge match for this particular sweater. Substituting with a different gauge is a funny thing – it can be perfectly fine – sometimes, preferable – if you plan for it; but, it can also be disastrous, if you don’t work out the details.
In some cases, some folks might say that you could use smaller needles and knit the DK Lerke at a tighter gauge to come closer to the pattern’s sport weight gauge; but, I don’t get the idea that you want an extra-dense sweater, right? So, personally, I wouldn’t go that route, in your case. And, some might suggest that you could loosen up the fine gauge on the Lille Lerke, but I wouldn’t recommend that route, either, due to the colorwork – an extra-loose colorwork gauge allows floats to show through – not good!
Fortunately, a sweater like this is a pretty good candidate for a gauge change, since it has large, solid-colored areas, making it easy-peasy to knit to the correct length measurements for your usual size, no matter the gauge. Keep in mind, though, that your colorwork areas would lengthen slightly with a heavier yarn and shorten slightly with a lighter yarn.
Lerke is DK, with a gauge of 22 sts per inch. So, you might knit a pattern size or two smaller, to get the right stitch count / width, but knit to lengths of your usual size, and end up with something that should equal your desired measurements. The 3 extra stitches you’d be knitting beyond every 4” around on your sweater (comparing the pattern’s 25 sts per 4” vs. the yarn’s ball band gauge of 22 sts) would give you 3/22 = 13.6% more fabric in width. For example, on a pattern chest size of 40”, if you knit at the Lerke ball band gauge, you’d have a 45.4” finished chest.
If you used the finer-gauged Lille Lerke instead, the 3 fewer stitches in the pattern per 4” in width (the pattern figures 25 sts over 4”, but you’d need 28) would result in a sweater that’s 3/28, or 10.7% smaller. On a 40” pattern chest size, if you knit at the Lille Lerke ball band gauge, you’d end up with a 35.7” finished chest. So, with Lille Lerke, you’d use a size or two larger in the pattern for the stitch count, but, as in the Lerke case, you’d knit to the lengths described for your true size.
(See what I mean – a spot-on gauge match really is a beautiful thing! 😉 )
As for the regular wools, you have similar options to consider there, too, with an interesting twist. Dale Heilo and Falk, 100% traditional wool & 100% superwash wool, respectively, are currently labeled as DK yarns @ 22 sts per 4” / 10cm. But…for ages, the very same yarns at the very same contents, weights and yardages were labeled as sport weight yarns, to be knit at 24 sts per 4”. What changed was not the yarn, but the suggested drape. Look at any of the older Dale patterns (two or more years older) and you’ll see both Heilo and Falk were knit consistently at 24. Personally, for wintery wool sweaters that last for generations, I’ve always preferred the 24 sport weight gauge for both of those yarns. (Obviously, Dale, and current flimsy fabric fashion trends, disagree with me.) If you wanted a warm, wool version of that sweater, you could use either Heilo or Falk at the tried-and-true sport weight gauge of 24 sts over 4” and you’d already be pretty darn close to your targeted size – just a wee bit larger. But…in your steamy part of the country, I imagine you’d rather have a lighter weight wool sweater, if any, so if you go for either Heilo or Falk, use the ball band DK gauge and the same sort of substitution comparison that I did for DK weight Lerke to come up with your pattern size targets.