Handpainted yarns are seductive, lying there on the shelf,
still in their skeins, showing off all their luscious colours
so nonchalantly intertwined.
Yet how easy it is to become disappointed when actually using
them. Pooling of colours, unattractive striping, even flashing
of these same stripes can cause us to throw aside our projects
there are ways to overcome these challenges and to celebrate
the uniqueness of handpainted yarns.
I love them, both the yarns themselves and the challenges they
present. When I design with them, I take into consideration these
very problems. Choice of stitch pattern, especially those that
move the lines of fabric in differing directions, is critical.
There are some general rules to follow whenever using handpainted
or variegated yarns.
- Work with two, or even three, balls at the same time, and
intersperse the number of rows being knit by each. To break
up the colour sequence even more, work from the inside of the
ball from one and the outside of the ball from the other.
- If using only one skein for a project, I suggest that you
wind it into two separate balls. Then work alternately from
two balls, knitting two or more rows from one ball and then
switching to the other. Doing this randomly, rather than in
a set pattern, helps to break up the colours even more. Carry
the yarn not in use loosely up the side by catching it with
the yarn in use as you knit the first stitch.
If you have only one ball, take one end from the inside
of the ball and another end from the outside and use these
randomly, as just described.
- Avoid stockinette stitch altogether, except for small areas.
The flat, unchanging surface of stockinette is death to handpainteds
and brings out the worst in them. Garter Stitch, however, is
another story. Even throwing in a few rows of Garter Stitch
will make all the difference.
There may be times, though, when you will want to emphasize
those very characteristics that we have been trying to avoid.
When you want flashing and striping—as you can see in traditional
Norwegian flame yarn (flammegarn) stockings—as described
in Nancy Bush’s book, Folk Socks: The History & Techniques
of Handknitted Footwear (Interweave Press, 1994)--then just
let the yarn follow its own will.
Remember that every skein of handpainted yarn will be unique.
So every item you make from one will also be unique. Let’s
celebrate their individuality!