I was attracted to Josh Bennett‘s Man’s Cable Cardigan and thought it might be a good way to use up some of my (vast) stash of “Prairie Silk.”
The more I studied this pattern, however, the less I liked it. I don’t like the fat button band in the front, and I thought the cable pattern a little bit boring. (Of course, I could always change all that.)
Nonetheless, I decided Bennett’s pattern would be my starting point for this exercise.
First Step: Can Brown Sheep’s “Prairie Silk” be substituted for Rowan/Westminster’s “Lima” (the yarn called for in Bennett’s pattern)? At a first – and superficial – glance, yes. They are both worsted weight yarns. Here are the weights and lengths of each skein along with the suggested gauges:
Prairie Silk: 50g/88y, 4.5 st = 1″ on US8
Lima: 50g/109y, 5 st. = 1″ on US9/UK5/MM5.5
It is easy to see why many knitters might stop here and simply “knit down” with the Prairie Silk. So I decided to go that route and went on to gauge swatching.
Granted, I tend to knit loose, but I couldn’t get the gauge for the pattern without going down several needle sizes. Even after washing and blocking, those swatches could have been sewn together and used for armor.
Here’s a picture of a swatch with Prairie Silk in two gauges that I liked, but this gauge was far larger than the one called for in the pattern.
Next Step: I used my app YarnPro which told me: “Avoid: The substitution yarn (Prairie Silk) is unworkably thicker than the original yarn (Lima).”
YarnPro is based on algorithms, and the answers the user receives are based on set numerical points in relation to the base numbers. That said, of course a knitter/crocheter can still knit/crochet down or up. The question is: Should she?
Third Step: Let’s look more closely at the yarns.
Yarn construction: You can see from the picture to the right (picsource), that it has a “chainette” construction – a type of hollow core tube.
As hinted at by this picture, it will knit up very light and lofty.
Prairie Silk (by the way, no longer made):
Fiber content: 72% wool, 18% mohair and 10% silk.
Fiber construction: Single ply.
If you enlarge this picture to the left (pic source), you will be able to see that Prairie Silk is a dense single ply yarn. The mohair gives it halo, the silk its shine, and the wool its weight.
Knit this up in Josh Bennett’s pattern and you have a (very) heavy and (very) warm sweater – one that will probably be able to let you walk through a downpour without getting too soaked and maybe even cross in front of dart players without worry about being skewered by a dart.
Two important questions await you:
Can you (i.e., is it possible to) substitute Prairie Silk for Lima in Bennett’s pattern? Yes.
Should you substitute Prairie Silk for Lima in Bennett’s pattern? I wouldn’t.