The joy of working with mohair, and thoughts on substituting yarn when you don't want to.
Hello everyone! It's Claire here from Flossi, and I'm so happy to be joining Rachel, not only here on the blog, but for the launch of a new cardigan pattern we've collaborated on that will be released on Tuesday 18th. Joanie is a dropped-sleeve, v-neck cardigan of cosy goodness, and a lot of that cosiness is due to the yarn we chose.
When Rachel and I were discussing the pattern, I jumped at the chance to work with Biches & Buches Le Petit Lambswool and Le Petit Mohair & Silk. Their yarns are so beautiful and work gloriously on their own, but when you combine them, you get such a special fabric. It's light as a cloud and so soft and warm. It also comes in a stunning array of colours, and for Joanie, we chose Candy for the Lambswool and Grey/Beige for the Mohair/Silk.
As with most of the knitting trends, I was more than fashionably late to the 'holding double with mohair' party, but once I got here, I didn't want to leave. If you've never tried it or wondered what 'holding double' means, you hold two strands of yarn at the same time and knit with them as if they are one. You can do this with any yarn, and even combine more than two if you wish. Over the past few years, this technique has become really popular for using with mohair, and it's a trend that isn't going anywhere soon. It adds a gorgeous halo to the fabric, and as you are combining two different yarns yourself, the colour options are endless and allow you to get really creative!
But what if you don't want to use mohair?
While I'm a huge fan of the mohair trend and holding yarns double, there are a few reasons why you may not want to use it, or simply are unable to use it. In these cases, it can be frustrating to see a pattern you would like to make, but be unsure of what yarn to use because the pattern is suggesting this technique. Let's take a look at some reasons why holding yarn double with mohair may not be an option, and some alternatives!
As lovely as mohair is, it can often be not so lovely to wear if you are allergic to it. One solution is to use an alternative fibre such as alpaca. There has been an increase in lace weight, brushed alpaca yarns appearing that work well as an alternative to mohair yarn, and a great example is Kaos Organic Brushed Alpaca.
If animal fibres in general cause you issues though, don't be afraid to try out your prefered plant-based or synthetic fibres too. While you may not get the same look as the original sample, that doesn't mean it won't be just as nice, and probably even more so, if it means you are comfortable and wearing something that you love!
Mohair is a beautiful, luxury fibre, so understandably, it can come with a higher price tag than some other yarns. While it's lovely to indulge in projects that you know you are going to wear for years to come, the truth is it often just isn't financially possible.
One option is to look at an alternative fibre to mohair. As we have already mentioned, there are some fantastic lace-weight brushed alpaca yarns, which often come at a lower price point, which may make more sense for your yarn budget.
But, even if you use a more budget-friendly alternative to the mohair, the truth is it's always going to be more costly to hold two yarns double because you are essentially purchasing two lots of yarn for your project. If this has held you back from knitting certain patterns in the past, then please don't let it, because you can totally knit patterns written for two yarns held double with one single strand!
If you are hoping to achieve the same look as the original sample, but only using a single strand, look for yarns that combine the fibres used in the original yarn. It doesn't have to be an exact match, but something close that will give you a similar fabric. For example, Joanie is a combination of lambswool, mohair and silk. It's the 'toothiness' of the lambswool that gives it the structure, and it’s the light airy texture of the mohair that gives it its gorgeous halo. Kelbourne Woolens Andorra is 60% Merino wool, 20% Highland wool and 20% mohair, so this would be a great alternative option for Joanie.
Of course, you may not be too worried about creating the same look for your finished project, so in this case, you'd be less concerned about the fibre content, and more focused on finding a yarn that will give you gauge. This leads us to...
How to know what weight to choose when using a single-strand yarn
This is the part that knitters often struggle with; What weight of yarn should you choose when using a single strand of yarn instead of two?
When you hold a yarn double, the length of the yarn you are using doesn't change, but the overall weight does. So if you are looking to use a single strand of yarn in place of a double strand, the important thing to look at is how many grams there are compared to the yardage when the two yarns are combined.
For example, if you are holding two fingering weight yarns double that are 420 yds per 100g, the length of the yarn isn't going to change, because both of the yarns are being knit at the same time, but the weight of the yarn doubles:
100g x 2 = 200g per 420 yds
We now know how many yards there are in 200g, but it's more helpful to work out the yardage to 100g, so we simply divide the yardage in half to get our answer:
420 / 2 = 210 yds per 100g
So now we know we need to find a yarn with a yardage of around 210 yds in 100g, which falls into a worsted weight category.
Working with two different weights of yarn
When you are working with two different weight yarns it can be a little more complicated, but the same rules apply! You need to work out how many grams there are between the two yarns over the same distance of yarn. Let's do a quick hypothetical example:
You have your fingering weight yarn that is 420 yds in 100g, but this time you are holding it double with a lace weight yarn that is 210 yds in 25g. I always find it easier to work out the yardage to the nearest 100g, so let's start by working out how many yards are in 100g of the lace-weight yarn:
100g / 25g = 4 (so we have to multiply the yardage by 4 to find out how many yards are in 100g)
210 yds x 4 = 840 yds in 100g
So we now know that in 100g, the fingering weight has 420 yards and the lace weight had 840 yards. We now need to work out how many grams of yarn there are over the same distance, so let's see how many 100g skeins of the fingering weight yarn we need to match the yardage of the lace weight yarn:
840 (the lace weight) / 420 = 2 100g skeins of the fingering weight yarn
So to match the same yardage, we now know we need 200g of the fingering weight yarn and 100g of the lace weight yarn:
200g + 100g = 300g per 840 yds
Now let's work it out per 100g:
840 yds / 3 = 280 yds per 100g
We now have our yarn weight for the single strand of yarn we need to replace the two held double!
Alternate yarn for Joanie
If you are interested in knitting the Joanie cardigan but would like a few yarn options to choose from, then you are in luck! Below are some gorgeous yarns that you could use (available right here at Tangled Yarn!), with options for holding yarns double, and for using a single strand. That's right, I've done all the maths so you don't have to!
I hope you have found this post helpful! If you have any questions at all, or are struggling to decide on your yarn for a project, remember you can always reach out to Rachel for help! And if you have any questions about Joanie, please feel free to get in touch at email@example.com.
Claire has been self-publishing patterns since 2016, she has also had patterns published by Making Stories and Laine. you can find Claire's designs on her wesbite www.flossiknits.com and she has a YouTube Channel where you can follow what Claire has been making.