A Heilo substitute?

In the past year or so since Dale Garn and/or their US distributor suddenly dropped all of us Dale retailers, many of you have asked me what substitute I’d recommend for Heilo, Dale’s beloved, traditional Norwegian sport / DK weight wool yarn.  Such an easy question!! Actually, no – for me, it’s been a tough one I’ve dreaded. If I had tons of extra time to research and experiment with some of the many possibilities, maybe I’d have something concrete to report.  But, between life’s hurdles and the many extra hours that have been taken up by trying to work out color substitutes for customers as my (deeply-discounted) Dale inventory shrinks ever smaller, I haven’t had the chance.  And I feel it’s not fair to officially choose any of the contenders I’m somewhat familiar with until I have some hard evidence on the needles.  Anyway…

Today, yet again, another sweet customer has asked me about Heilo substitutes:

Hi Mary Ann. I don’t know if you remember me but I’ve bought Dale of Norway Heilo yarn from you for several projects. I just found out that Heilo has been discontinued. I’m ready to knit another Dale of Norway pattern sweater, and I’m wondering what yarn you use as a substitution? I did one sweater and Faulk and I did not like it. I hope you have some good suggestions! I hope you and your family are doing well. Thanks!

So, for what it’s worth, here’s my reply – I hope it helps you in your search:

Lots of folks have been asking me your same question – what substitute would I recommend for Heilo?  I know it sounds like a simple question, but for me, at least at the moment, it’s a tough one!. 
I always loved the old, traditional Norwegian Heilo yarn, but I didn’t offer it because I thought it was the only decent yarn of its gauge in the world – I thought it was the optimal choice for the type of designs I was creating at the time.  I used to knit a lot of ski sweaters and accessories.  Now that Heilo is no longer an option, I’m not looking for less-optimal substitutes for ski sweaters; I’m designing different types of projects that work best with other high-quality wool yarns that I love and can stand by.  I wish I had extra time to do both that and go on an epic search for the perfect Heilo substitute; unfortunately, a great deal of my time and energy is spent lately on clearing out my remaining Dale inventory. I know that leaves my adult-size-Norwegian-ski-sweater-knitting customers in the dark, and I’m sorry about that. I know I could quickly stock all sorts of “substitutes” to sell – smooth, worsted-spun 100% wool yarns of the same gauge – there are tons of ’em! But, I’d need to love them, and I just haven’t found ski sweater substitutes I love…yet. For my purposes, while I do LOVE Jamieson’s Shetland wool for many things, including sweaters, I can’t honestly say it’s what I’d want most for a Norwegian ski sweater. Their DK weight knits up at the same gauge as Heilo and it’s exceptionally good quality wool, so it would certainly be a contender – but, the resulting fabric is lighter (although still quite warm) and therefore, it has a different drape. Due to the difference in wool types, there could be more of a blur to some complicated motifs, too.  I have three skiing sons who really warrant washable sweaters; if they told me they had to have new, specifically Norwegian ski sweaters with complicated motifs, while I’d miss my old Heilo, I might use the (now-Chinese) Falk you’re not so fond of, just to get the same look…or not.
Of course, I’ve knit with several so-called “substitutes”.  Years ago, I designed and originally knit this hat for Vogue Knitting in Heilo.  I loved it in Heilo!  (Second photo down on Ravelry, on Son #1.) But, at the time, Dale was not interested in advertising in VK.  (Well, that was a dumb move!)  So, the editors had me reknit the hat in Cascade 220 Sport (not because Cascade 200 Sport is better; simply because it’s 100% wool at the same gauge and Cascade is one of their frequent advertising customers. Yes, my dear, sadly, money is an all-too-frequent motivator for yarn selection, especially in magazines.)
There’s an ocean of difference, to us knitters, anyway, between ersatz substitutes and perfect replacements.  I just haven’t found the perfect Heilo replacement yet for ME, and I have a million other things on my plate, aside from Norwegian ski sweaters, so I’m knitting other things for them. Perhaps a useless answer for you, I realize, and I apologize for that.  But, at least it’s honest, and I’m hoping some of the info below will be more helpful to you.      
People like Heilo for different reasons.  Some people love the idea of a “traditional” wool and eschew the notion of a chemically bathed, superwash wool.  Some people love it because it felts extremely well; some people hope their knitting will never felt.  Some people love it because they feel it’s relatively inexpensive for a high quality wool; some people would gladly flock to cheaper substitutes instead.  Some people love it because they think every aspect of it is still made in Norway; sadly, from what I gather, that’s no longer the case.  Some people used it for ages because it had a wide array of colors; sadly, that, too, is no longer the case.  Some people use it because it’s durable; some of those same people would not want some of the equally durable substitutes that might be way more expensive, way more harsh, or only available in very few colors. In the end, while there are countless same-gauge, 100% wool substitutes out there, for each knitter, there may only be one possible substitute…or two…or ten, for you.  Given all the options and preferences, it’s impossible for me to say which yarn best suits each knitter.  
Fortunately, there are some attributes of Heilo that are easy to compare to other yarns you might like and Ravelry is a far better assistant for you in that search than I am.  For instance, Heilo gives great stitch definition, but that’s one of those things that’s readily apparent in photos, so if you search through Ravelry projects that use Heilo (here’s a link to their ever-popular Lillehammer sweater: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/184—lillehammer-1994/people )  you’ll be able to see many different substitutes that people have chosen, in action, and you can compare their results to the Heilo results.  After you scroll through a few different Dale of Norway / Dale Garn projects on Ravelry (here’s a link to a bunch of them: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/search#sort=best&query=Dale of Norway %2F Dale Garn ) and make note of appealing projects using substitutes for Heilo, I think you’ll be able to come up with a far better substitute suggestion that suits your own preferences than I, or anyone else, could.  
Of course, narrowing down your choices will probably take come experimenting.  I’d suggest starting out with yarn for a small project, like a ski hat – one with the same types of motifs you’d use in the sweaters you’re hoping to do.  Hopefully, you’ll have some fun along the way!  
Best wishes, 
Mary Ann



About twostrands

Knitting designer, retailer and instructor specializing in Fair Isle, Norwegian and Textured charted knitting design. Began Kidsknits.com in 2002. In 2018, shuttered Kidsknits and began MaryAnnStephens.com.
This entry was posted in Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs, New From Dale of Norway, Norwegian Knitting, Special Sales, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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