Friday, October 9, 2009
Yarn Mixing 101
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.