This is kind of a strange choice for my first adult-sized sweater venture. You may not have noticed from this pattern photo, but this garment is constructed in a very non-traditional manner. Instead of the classic top-down or bottom-up (i.e. vertical) knit structure, this shirt is knit in one piece from the right sleeve to the left (i.e. horizontally). It is then seamed like a raglan shirt, from the hem of the sleeve to the armpit to the shirt hem. Stitches are then picked up along the bottom and a moss stitch hem is worked.
Due to the large size of the lace pattern repeats, there are large gaps between garment sizes so this shirt is best approached as an oversized top (in my opinion). My bust is currently measuring 36.5 inches (for non-knitters: knit garments such as sweaters/shirts/dresses are sized based on bust measurements), so I will be making the size 40 version of the pattern, thereby giving myself 3.5 inches of positive ease (extra room). Since I'm also on a diet and exercise plan, I expect this positive ease to increase by the time my garment is finished (at least one would hope).
Now let's talk about my yarn choice. The pattern calls for Valley Yarns Northfield, a 70% Merino/20% Baby Alpaca/10% Silk blend. However, I am really not looking for the kind of warmth that a merino-alpaca blend garment is going to offer in my summerwear. I want something much cooler, like cotton, but with a little strength to offer better wear. Enter my yarn substitution: the Queensland Llama Soft Cotton, an 80% Cotton/20% Llama blend.
Making yarn substitutions can be a tricky thing. Different fibers behave very differently when knitted into a fabric. Usually, your best bet is to use the same kind of fiber, if not the same yarn, that a pattern recommends. After all, that pattern was constructed with that fiber's profile in mind. However, since this isn't a very complicated piece, I think I'm willing to accept some of the changes I'm making. For example, cotton is heavier than wool in the same volume, causing a different drape. But, the seams running up the sides of the shirt really ought to help the garment keep its shape. Also, a cotton knit fabric won't be as stretchy as a wool knit. But, again, since this isn't a close-fitting garment I'm not concerned about impacting its wearability in that way.
But ultimately, the best thing you can do when choosing yarn (or beginning any project in which size matters to you), is to do a gauge swatch--a kind of test swatch. For non-knitters, gauge is a description of how many stitches (horizontal) or rows (vertical) make up a knitted fabric in, typically, a 4 inch x 4 inch patch. If the gauge of your swatch does not match what your pattern describes then you must change your knitting needle size (or sometimes material) to compensate. This is a lengthy topic that I am only briefly covering here. Suffice it to say, in this case, I knew I would probably need to go down in needle size because of my yarn substitution. I did a gauge swatch, wet blocked it, measured my rows and stitches, and prepared to cast-on because I had hit on the correct gauge right away (nice!).
Following the charted instructions (I much prefer charts), I've now completed the right sleeve (I've also measured it against my pattern's schematics to be sure I'm still working in the correct gauge)! Now I will cut the yarn (leaving a tail for weaving in later) and, using a crochet provisional cast-on (my favorite is Ysolda Teague's method), create more stitches on either side of the sleeve for the front and the back of the shirt. It's a pretty simple but interesting construction method and I'm excited to see how it goes. Promise I'll take pictures.