Two handknit cabled hats, in shades of cream and green wool, nestle among leaves and rocks.

Choosing a Yarn for the Towline Hat

I recently released my Towline Hat pattern as an individual download. The original hat was knit in handspun yarn, and since not everyone can (or wants to) spin their own yarn, I thought I’d give you a few tips on choosing a commercially-spun yarn for your project.

The yarn I spun for this project isn’t likely to match any millspun yarn exactly – that’s the nature of handspun yarn. But it has a few characteristics I think are important for a successful cable project.

What To Look For In a Yarn

To start with, I recommend using a 3- or 4- ply yarn for this project. The roundness of multiple plies makes the cables pop. I rarely spin a yarn with more than 3 plies, because for my purposed 3 is usually enough to give me a nice round yarn. I added extra twist in plying my handspun to make it extra round and bouncy. Commercially, however, 4-ply yarns are more common, and that will work perfectly.

I also recommend choosing a wool or wool-blend yarn for this project, one with some bounce. Tunis wool is a medium-staple wool with some spring, which, again, helps to make the cables stand out.

Choosing a Commercially-Spun Yarn

For my handspun version (the cream version in the image above), I was working from roving, which is a woolen preparation, and I also spun it with a woolen draft. So I chose to use a woolen-spun commercial yarn as well. You can substitute a worsted-spun yarn, but the result will be somewhat different. Worsted-spun yarn is smoother and has less air, so your cables will have a smoother surface and be denser overall. If you want to see the difference, check out my Golden Hour hat and cowl, which is knit in Valley Yarns Valley Superwash, a smooth worsted-spun yarn.

My handspun always tends to be a bit denser that a similar-weight millspun yarn. In other words, the grist – or yards per pound – is lower than the commerical yarns I chose. It’s always a good idea to try and match the grist when substituting yarn, but that was difficult in this case. Brooklyn Tweed Ranch 02 (above, left), while not the same grist, has a similarly dense feel to my handspun yarn. Brooklyn Tweed Tones (above, right) while it knits to the same gauge, results in a lighter weight fabric. If you want a lighter weight hat that is still lofty and warm, or you live in a warmer climate, Tones is a good choice. In fact, the Tones sample is the one I wear most often here in Central North Carolina; I save my handspun version for our colder, snowy days.

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