On January 1, I woke up feeling like I had the worst hangover ever. This was odd, since I hadn't partied, and had gone to bed early. It turned out that after nearly four years of dodging covid, and being fully vaccinated, it had finally caught me.
Once I was feeling a little bit better, but still isolating to keep my husband to keep from getting sick, I decided to start working on a destash sweater.
The plan is to do an allover stranded colorwork pattern using leftover handspun from two different sweaters.
First, I dumped all the yarn out on the floor and sorted out the yarn I planned to use. I weighed it to make sure I had enough for a sweater quantity, then sorted by color and value.
I didn't show this in the video, but it turned out to be really helpful - I used shipping tags to write down the sequence of each color, plus its weight. A lot of the colors are so close in value, that when they get jumbled in my knitting basket, it's hard to tell which is purple #3 or purple #4 - so noting that on a shipping tag attached to each ball of yarn was indispensable. I also noted the weight of each ball of yarn in grams so that I could weigh them as I knit, making sure to reserve enough for the sleeves AND body.
In the next video, I'll talk more about designing the stranded colorwork pattern for the new sweater, plus how I worked through the design of the sweater itself.
Knitting stranded colorwork is one of my favorite things. It uses both hands so it's interesting enough that it keeps my attention. But it also has a rhythm that keeps it from being too hard.
In the last few years, all the colorwork sweaters I've done have been from charts I developed myself, and often using my own handspun yarn. How did I get to that point? Or, more importantly, how could you get to the point where you're designing your own colorwork patterns?
Start with Someone Else's Patterns to Get the Hang of It
We all have to start somewhere, and working from other people's stranded colorwork patterns is the perfect place to start.
If yoked sweaters are your jam, notice how the increases & decreases are placed in the colorwork pattern. Often, this will be done in the "background" color to minimize distortion of the pattern. Keep that idea in your back pocket as you go forward in your design journey!
The KnitOvation Stitch Dictionary (reviewed in my last post) has some great resources if you want to plug different stitch patterns into an existing design.
Combine Multiple Patterns to Create Unique Combinations
Using one or more stitch dictionaries, combine multiple patterns. Think diamonds that shift in scale, or different kinds of flowers...essentially, pick a theme for your sweater, find a bunch of patterns that fit the theme, then arrange them in a way that makes you happy.
Experiment with charting all of them together so you'll get a sense of how they look next to each other. This might lead to:
Learn How to Resize, Center, and Move Motifs
You may need to modify the sizes of some patterns, or to move the starting point of a chart. Sometimes this means centering a motif on the front, back, or sides of the body, or it means avoiding awkward placement of motifs.
Reverse Engineer Other Stranded Colorwork Designs
Find a colorwork pattern you like, but don't have a chart for. See if you can chart it out!
Remember, at this point, you're still learning, so you shouldn't be trying to pass the design off as your own.
Find Inspiration for Your Own Patterns
Inspiration is all around, and once you've gotten the hang of stranded colorwork, you'll wonder how you can turn your favorite images, symbols, and shapes into colorwork patterns!
If you're struggling with this phase, I highly recommend Felicity Ford's Stranded Colorwork Sourcebook and Janine Bajus' The Joy of Color.
Chart Your Own Patterns with Dots on Graph Paper
Knit stitches aren't square - they're rectangular. The ratios of the rectangles depend on your gauge. If this bothers you at the charting stage, you can buy knitter's graph paper.
Usually, though, I just use regular graph paper and a simple trick - dots. A dot in the middle of each square for my pattern color is quick, and it approximates the visual effect of a knit stitch. This did take some getting used to, since I started my knitting journey thinking that a dot always represented a purl stitch in a knitting chart! I demonstrate this around the 4:22 mark in the video.
Remember to Consider Your Float Length!
Ah, floats. There's a lot to say about floats. How long should they be? How long is too long?
I'll admit, I let some of my floats get pretty long when the pattern absolutely demands it. And I don't trap floats, since this usually shows on the front side.
But as a rule of thumb, a float shouldn't be longer than an inch, or an inch and a half if you're feeling really daring. Remember to consider this when you're creating your designs - usually this translates to no more than 5 to 7 stitches one color in a row.
Consider Value Contrast When Selecting Yarns
A strong value contrast (dark and light) will help your patterns read well.
Take a picture with your phone, then converting it to black and white - if the two yarns look like they're the same shade of gray, you don't have much value contrast.
Low contrast can create subtle effects, but it will be harder to see while you're knitting, and the pattern will be less clear when you're done. High contrast patterns are easier to see.
Don't Forget to Swatch!
Swatching can help you refine your design. Often, I find that I'm overflowing with ideas, and I've designed two or even three sweaters worth of stitch patterns. Swatching helps me simplify & problem solve so that there's less ripping out once I'm actually working on my project!
Do you have a tried-and-true stitch pattern design formula? I'd love to hear about it!
Last month, I started designing myself a new stranded colorwork sweater. (More on that soon!) This usually means a flip through my stitch dictionaries. And since Andrea Rangel just published the KnitOvation Stitch Dictionary, I thought this was a great chance to review it.
KnitOvation picks up where Rangel's first book, AlterKnit, left off. Both books are a very high quality, and I see them as excellent companions to each other.
While KnitOvation has only 150 stitch patterns to AlterKnit's 200, but it makes up for this with a brighter, more cheerful color palette, plus an excellent section that walks the knitter through how their yarn might affect the stitch definition of a stranded colorwork pattern. To my delight, there's no right or wrong answer here. Want to do stranded colorwork with 2-ply? 3-ply? Mohair? Speckles? Tonal yarn? A specific sheep breed? Chances are, there's a swatch already in KnitOvation. Of course, your mileage may vary, but this is a great way to shortcut the swatching process.
The designs, too, are fun and funky. They range from "modern geometric" to graphics like crabs and dinosaurs. If stranded colorwork is interesting to you, I'd highly recommend both books.
We've spent the last 3 months talking about all kinds of things that could be warp. Here's a quick review!
And if you've missed anything, I've pulled everything into a convenient playlist for reference!
Yarn is pretty…and it’s expensive. Unless you’re always weaving the same exact yarns over and over again, you probably will end up with lots of odds and ends.
This can get carried to the extreme when you inherit someone else’s odds and ends, like I did when I bought my first loom almost ten years ago!
In this video, I talk about some of the pitfalls of mixed warps - differential shrinkage, and yarns that stretch different amounts are the two biggest issues I've encountered.
But mixed warps are a great way to use up those odds and ends, plus you end up with a unique fabric that no one else has!
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