Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Do this & you'll never run out of yarn again.

Yet another customer wrote to me to say she had run out of such-and-such yarn. Did I have any of that color? She needs it for a project she is working on.

[banging my head against a wall]

WHY does it have to be that same color and same dye lot? Because she started with Famous Brand Boring Beige #111 and by golly, she needs to finish with Famous Brand Boring Beige #111 even though the results are going to be just as predictably boring as any of us can imagine.

I'm not trying to tell knitters or crocheters what to do, but honestly, if you please, please, please just CONSIDER this piece of advice, you will never have this problem again.

  • Look at your project and figure out how much yarn you need.
  • Find three or four color-coordinated yarns in the gauge you think you will need--keeping in mind that you will have to test that gauge and/or use a different size needle.
  • Buy a little more yardage than you estimated.
Now, it just so happens that I sell yarn at Life's an Expedition on Etsy in harmonizing color families. I have a huge selection in my own home, so running out of yarn is inconceivable to me. But if you get a whole gaggle of color-related yarn, you can use whichever yarns you liked best, add a pocket later, change the collar, whatever, and likely still have some leftover. Save the leftovers for a hat or something.

Today, I am wearing a brown sweater that I knitted from a vast assortment of brown yarns that I sell. Many of them were close in color or from the same color family, but many were not. They were just brown. And I could gaze at this sweater all day. I am gazing at it now as my fingers slip off the keys and my words are starting tu[om siffers as a resi;t/

Do you think it was hard to make this? My knitting skills are pretty basic. I never learned to do intarsia, cables, entrelac or any of that stuff. I just use straight garter stitch or stockinette or maybe if I'm in a really fancy mood, I will do a seed stitch. I knit while I watch TV and I scarcely look at what I am doing. And no one has sweaters that look like mine.  My sweaters are amazing.  I have the most creative sweaters in my neighborhood. And I never run out of whatever yarn I was using, because I use a wild hodgepodge of yarn from ONE COLOR FAMILY and make sure I have extra.

If I did not have extras--this doesn't happen, but if it did--I wouldn't hesitate to shift to another yarn that sort of harmonizes and just repeat that yarn somewhere else on the project. What is wrong with having a sweater with contrasting collar, cuffs, pockets? That is tame compared to some of my projects, where I make the sleeves different colors and the front and the back are different lengths. Or the hem deliberately slopes to the left.

You CAN get wild and funky, people. But if that is not your taste, that's okay. I know some people like classic, traditional clothing. But please, at least contemplate knitting outside the dull beige box. Please. You will never run out of yarn again, but more than that, it will be good for your soul!

dj runnels
Life's an Expedition on Etsy sells wildly creative yarn, craft supplies and finished goods.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Yarn Mixing 101

Originally posted on eBay:

Everyone asks me how I blend my yarns. I normally reply that I use a pitchfork, bacon grease and 3D glasses. But after a few slaps to the head, I behave and give more intelligent advice. This guide will be about switching yarns while knitting. I realize some of you will read this and say, "Duh!" but I would not be writing this if I had not been asked for advice. Others are having trouble with the concept so if you know all of this already, try to sit still and be quiet. Or run out and get Starbucks for all of us.

The easiest way to explain what I do is to have you try a swatch. This should only take 20 minutes. Even less if you've been drinking Starbucks. Choose three worsted weight yarns that look completely different in terms of color. Yeah. We're going to make an ugly swatch so you can see what it is you did and how you did it. Next select a needle size that is about a size larger than the yarn calls for. Designate your colors A, B and C.

Cast on 12 stitches with A.

Row 1: knit across. In fact, knit all the odd rows.

Row 2: purl across. You will purl across all the even rows.

Row 3: knit across.

Row 4: Leave A hanging there. Make a slip knot with a three-inch "tail" with B. Purl across working the tail into your knitting. It will be bulkier than the other rows. I'll address that in a minute.

Row 5: knit across with B.

Row 6: purl across holding A and B together.

Row 7: knit across with B only.

Row 8: leave B hanging. Make a slip knot with a three-inch "tail" with C. Purl across working the tail into your work. It will be bulkier here, too. And now you will have strands hanging all over creation.

Row 9: knit across with A.

Row 10: purl across with B.

Row 11: knit across with C.

Keep going until you feel you are getting the hang of it. At any time, if A, B and C are creating a humongous tangle, cut one off at the seam and tie a knot that won't show when you sew the seams together which is sort of the beginner method. OR create a slit knot and work the tail into your knitting. The more distinct your colors are and the more often you switch at the end of a row, the more striped your results will be. The more you alternate between A, B, C and D and E and however many yarns you have, plus the more SIMILAR your colors are and the more you work the tails into your work, the more blended the effects will be.

But before you start making a coat the size of a Buick, please do this: measure your gauge. I asked you to use slightly larger needles to allow for those bulky double-yarn rows. How did they turn out? If you're using worsted weight yarn and you're getting 4 stitches to the inch on every row, that's great. If some rows are wider than others, you will likely need to swap needle sizes now and then as you work...unless you like the results you are getting. Also look at the color changes that started on knit rows versus the color changes that started on purl rows. If you always swap colors on a purl row, you'll have a nicer look on the "right" side of the piece. But if you don't mind the dotted lines or if you're doing straight knit on both sides, then don't worry about what everyone says you "should" do. Rely on what you like. It's your work. You go, girl.

This is not the only way to blend yarns. It is one way and it is intended to simplify the mystery for beginners who are nervous about this sort of thing. If you feel encouraged by this swatch test, try it again with yarns similar in color and texture and you will like your results much better. If you're familiar with the yarn in my store, THIS, my darlings, is what it is all about. This is why I create yarns in color families and this is how I knit every day of my life. I haven't made a solid-color anything in over a decade. This is what the rest of us have been doing with yarn-mixing, or at least one way of doing it. Good luck. Experiment. There is much more to knitting than following concise directions and I hope you enjoy this great adventure that awaits you. Stephanie, I wrote this for you and in honor of your grandmother.

Life's an Expedition on Etsy is loaded to the gills with more examples of how to mix yarns.
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