Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Three Strand Colorwork

First, check out my stylish new sweater that I haven't taken off all weekend!

I am terrible at selfies.

Now, check out my new Craftsy and Etsy stores.

Finally, here's what I have been up to: Three Stranded Colorwork.  This is something that I really dreaded for a long time.  It just seems like there is so much potential for tragedy in the whole operation.  I mean, working with 3 strands of yarn at once?  Sounds like an accident waiting to happen.

But it's pretty.  So very pretty.  And so, last week I picked up the Lampwork Hat and Mitts kit that I got a few years ago from Knit Picks and had at it.

Not too shabby. Now on to the matching fingerless mitts.

Now, I may be knitting with 3 colors, but usually a row will only call for 2 of them.  So I have been exploring ways to control the yarn.

The thing that has always baffled me about stranded knitting is that there are so many different ways to do it.  But there are 2 methods I want to look closer at: 1. knitting with a color in each hand and 2. my way, in which you drop the yarn when you are not using it.

I finally tried the first one this week.  (There is a tutorial with lovely pictures here.)  I normally knit continental style, with the yarn feeding through my left hand, but I understand how English style (with yarn through the right) works, so I thought I would give it a chance.  And really, it was kinda neat.  It does keep your yarns from getting twisted, and the efficiency of motion in your hands is awesome compared to dropping the yarns.  However, I tend to knit with a pretty high tension; I am forever going up a needle size to get gauge; and I just could not get the yarn to feed through both hands with the same tension.  Actually, I had trouble getting the yarn to feed through my right hand at all.  I have really worked hard on loosening up a bit, and where my left hand has been trained, my right doesn't seem to have gotten the message.  (Kinda funny to be right-handed, and yet less able to control your right hand while knitting.)

I'm certain that if I just kept at it, this method would totally work for me.  All it would take is a little practice.

But I am stubborn and impatient.

So I just went back to my usual method.  I will assign a top color and a bottom color (and a middle color if needed) and then knit while keeping them oriented that way.  When I am not using a color, I simply lay it out of the way to the right, being careful to keep it in its place of top, middle, or bottom.

I found that this way gives me a looser tension than I normally have, which is great because that way I don't have stitches that are buried into the background.  Also, this keeps my floats (the yarn that goes across the back of the piece to the next stitch of that color) nice and loose.

I have also finally learned to tack my floats.  If you just wrap the yarn you aren't using around the back of the stitch, it turns out that you don't have to continually catch your finger/toe/etc. on the yarn left on the back of the piece.

And then I discovered that there was such a thing as color dominance.  This one blew my mind.  It turns out that which yarn is assigned to the top and which to the bottom makes a difference in the appearance of the finished piece. (Check out the link for a great picture to demonstrate.)  So I have decided that I will always have the darkest color at the bottom and then grade by darkest shade to lightest from bottom to top.

Finally, I finished the hat and have started my French Market Socks.  And I have to say, the choice of yarn for colorwork makes a difference too.  The hat was made in Knit Picks Wool of the Andes, a very nice South American smooth wool yarn.  I am making these socks in Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift, a Shetland wool yarn that has only a light twist and is a lot more "sticky" than the Wool of the Andes.  Turns out that Shetland is a very popular wool for colorwork and there's a reason for that.  The "stickiness" of the yarn makes tensioning a breeze.  Once a stitch is in place with the other stitches around it, it is not as likely as a smoother yarn to loosen up by itself.

Colors picked out by Shervie. Gotta love the twisted cast-on.

So, fairly long blog today, but it has been an enlightening week. 

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