Drumcarding Gradient Roving
Lately, I've been working on a project that makes use of a gradient. This is to be a sweater quantity with most of the yarn in the darkest color. I started with several piles of color - most of it the mauve/magenta color shown at the top of the first photo. Then I blended it into a gradient, adding darker and and darker values on one end, until I got to the almost-black-purple, and lighter and lighter values on the other end, until I got to the pale lilac-pink.
When I took the photo above, I realized there were a couple of places where I wanted to to smooth out the gradient, specifically at the lightest and darkest ends of the spectrum. So there are a couple more values in the gradient now! The fiber is mostly organic Polwarth, with a little bit of Merino and CVM in there too.
I used the diz in the Spinner's Ultimate Multitool to pull the roving off the drum carder. Now I'm using the WPI gauge to make sure I spin to about 28 wraps per inch. I'm doing this as a short forward draw, which is a little bit outside my comfort zone, so I make sure to check pretty frequently!
I'm starting with the darkest color. There's about 20 ounces of this, and then between 2-4 ounces of each of the other colors, so there should be plenty for the sweater I have in mind!
In my last post, I shared how to modify the size of a stranded colorwork motif. In this post, I'll share how to use it in a repeat with a simple mitten design.
In this pattern, the dark gray/black square represent no stitch. There are decreases in the pattern to form the mitten top which are not noted in the chart - this is to give clarity in the colors.
The set of five stitches at the left and right edges of the pattern form a border at the sides of the hand. They do not change, but as the decreases shape the top of the hand, they will slope inward.
The first step in setting up a pattern repeat is to simply repeat the pattern. Here, I'm using a variation on the pattern I shared in my last post.
Stacking the pattern on top of itself, we get two repeats of the rose. The outer corners at the top of the rose are cut off. This is fine, as long as the rose itself fits fully into the pattern. (If it didn't we'd need to go back and adjust.)
It seems like the white of the rose petals falls off the edge of the pattern. However, because the borders are edged in the background color, there will be a purple border around them.
Usually, when you repeat a large motif, there are places that end up with very long floats. The next step is to create new, smaller motifs to prevent these floats. Here, I've added a small cross and two dots between the motifs to prevent long floats. At the top, there is a lozenge shape to fill in the space. Your options at this step are limited only by the number of stitches you have and your imagination.
And that's really all there is to it!
How to Modify Colorwork Patterns
Have you ever fallen in love with a stitch pattern, but it's not quite the right size? In this post, I shared how to resize a cable pattern. Today, I'll share one approach to modifying the size and design of a stranded colorwork pattern.
This is a great technique to use if you're using handspun yarn that doesn't exactly match the gauge of a pattern, or if you need to substitute yarn. In this example, I'm sizing down, but it would be just as easy to make the stitch pattern larger with these same ideas.
In this example, I started with a 29-stitch-square repeat of a traditional Norwegian 8-petal rose. I liked this pattern, but needed a stitch pattern that would fit into a 25-stitch square.
The easiest, and most obvious choice in my situation was to remove the border of solid color stitches, which took me down to 27 stitches. I still needed to reduce 2 stitches on each side, and chose to start with the petals.
By drawing a petal that has one less row and one less column, I've reduced the size of the pattern. Expanded over the entire repeat, this will get me to the right number of rows and stitches.
At this point, it would be totally fine to draw out the rest of the pattern by hand. However, a little bit of copy/paste/rotate action saves a lot of work. This also helps to make sure that any inconsistencies get repeated (which is how patterns are made).
The next step is to fill in the outer petals. You'll notice that in the image on the left, the petals touch the outer edges. This isn't a problem if they touch a border that is the same color as the background. However, to make sure the pattern is clear, you can make the outer petals thinner, as in the image on the right.
Now it's time to fill in the corner patterns. Because there are fewer stitches to work with than in the original, this pattern must also be adjusted. There are lots of options - I've placed a different pattern in each corner to show the possibilities. Normally you will choose one pattern and repeat it in each corner.
At this point, the pattern is fully resized and you're free to use it in your pattern, or you can continue to play around with modifications.
Here I've updated all the corner patterns with my favorite design, modified the center of the rose to be a little less busy, and added dots at the center of each petal.
It's easy to play all day with modifying stitch patterns on graph paper or on the computer, but nothing beats a swatch! Because a knit stitch isn't exactly square, it's important to check your pattern in a swatch to make sure it will turn out the way you want it to.
After that, the next step is to place your new design into the pattern you want to use, which will be the topic of the next post.
WIP: Miss Rachel's Yoke
When Kate Davies first published the Miss Rachel's Yoke a couple of years ago, I knew I had to make it. I quickly bought the kit, intending to cast on right away.
Of course, life intervened, as it does, and by the time I was ready to knit there were a few roadblocks in my way:
But mostly, I was convinced I didn't have enough yarn. (Side note - I've decided always buy/spin more yarn/fiber than I think I need from here on out. I always end up picking the projects that require tons of yardage...)
Earlier this month, we had a snowy day that had followed a very gray week. It was one of those weekends where I can't think of a reason to leave the house, and I was downright grumpy. My husband, in an attempt to cheer me up, suggested a trip to the movie theater. The only problem was, I didn't have anything to knit - at least, nothing I could knit in the dark.
When I first learned to knit, I taught myself to knit without looking so that I could knit on the dark schoolbus, in dark cars riding home from dance lessons, and in the movie theater. Now, my "movie theater knitting" is always very basic. I can knit and purl in the same row if it's not a fancy pattern, but anything that might require a chart is out of the question. Usually I keep a sock on the needles for just such an occasion, but the socks I had going were too close to being done to entertain me for a whole two hours.
I dove into the stash to see what my options were, and the Miss Rachel kit jumped out at me. I figured that even if I didn't have enough yarn, at least I'd have something to knit in the movie theater. And though I'd originally meant to make it a cardigan, I've realized that I wear pullovers a bit more often than I did when I first bought the kit, so a pullover it was.
One benefit of waiting so long to cast on is that plenty of other Ravelers have had the chance to knit and write about this pattern, so I could let go of some of my anxiety about how it would turn out. Some standouts are:
Uncrossed has incorporated a great short-row detail into the yoke.
Ltnknitter, Agameda, and Lizoid have an interesting trick for hiding the jog.
Crochet-Julie made the darker version, and managed to do her modeled shots in front of a photograph of the shawl that inspired the design.
My project page is still in progress, but you can find it here.
Playing in the Mud
July means Tour de France. And while those batty bikers are spinning their wheels, silly spinners are spinning our wheels in Tour de Fleece - a loosely organized spinning challenge where the only ones we compete against are ourselves. We spin yarn while the bikers are riding, and rest while they rest. The idea is to challenge ourselves to something new, something big for us.
This is the first year I've participated, and my challenge is play. To play with yarns textures, colors, and techniques I haven't tried before. To make lots of instant-gratification skeins (aka mini skeins) with no attachment to what they will become. A three-week workshop of fun, if you will.
This week I spent some time playing in the mud. Not in the backyard, but on my spinning wheel.
I was playing with making the color “mud” – on purpose.
Lots of people will tell you that it’s a big no-no to mix complementary colors. They’ll tell you that mixing complementary colors will get you “mud,” and that you’ll be disappointed by it. But what “they” don’t tell you is that mud can be beautiful and fun. (Just ask any kid covered in real mud!)
A crash course in color theory:
That's really all there is to it!
The colors are often arranged in a color wheel, which is essentially the rainbow put into a circle: red, orange, yellow, blue, green, and purple. Colors opposite each other on the color wheel are considered complementary colors, or opposite from each other. These pairs are: red/green, blue/orange, and yellow/purple.
The nifty thing about complementary colors is that each pair contains all three of the primary colors: one as pure primary color, and the other as a mix of the other two primary colors.
For the complementary color pair of orange and blue, blue is the pure primary color, and orange is a mix of the primaries red and orange.
The colors look satisfying together because they are opposites. They balance each other out. Think of college colors or sports teams – strong, opposite colors makes a strong and yet cohesive statement. The Denver Broncos, University of Virginia Cavaliers, and New England Patriots all use blue and orange as their team colors. I could go on, but I’d rather spend time playing with yarn than talking about sports.
What happens when you mix complementary colors, like paint? As with all things, it depends. It depends on the intensity of the colors you mix, the proportions you mix them in, and how thoroughly you mix them. But the general consensus is that when you mix equal amounts and strengths of complementary colors, you’re likely to get “mud,” which is often brown, black, or a grayish color.
Mud is the color that dashes the hopes of many an aspiring dyer or artist. They combine two colors that look great side-by-side and are disappointed the two didn’t combine to make something equally bright and exciting.
Because all three primaries are represented in a mixture of complementary colors, they all tone each other down into a neutral. Sometimes this neutral is a dull, boring color. And sometimes it is rich, subtle, and intriguing. As someone who really loves neutral colors, this is a fun place to play. What happens when I add just a little bit of blue to orange? Or just a little bit of orange to blue?
That’s what I was thinking when I decided to play in the mud this week. I wanted to show that mud isn’t something to fear. It’s something to understand, and use when it suits us. It’s something to help us achieve those subtle, complex colors that make people do a double take. What color is that? I love your colors!
First, I started out with truly playing. I took a braid of blue that I dyed a while back. In truth, I really don’t love this color blue – it’s too flat, too plain, too cold. It’s not my color. For my orange, I took a braid of Lisa Souza’s BFL. My braid says the color is Deep Autumn, but it’s pretty darn close to her current color Aww-Tum. I randomly put the two onto my blending board as the spirit moved me, then made a handful of rolags and spun my heart out. I wound the singles into a center-pull ball and plied it into a two-ply from there. Here’s the result:
I had so much fun with that experiment, the next day I wanted to get a better handle on exactly what that color combination was that I loved so much. So this time, I had a little more of a controlled playtime. I wanted smallish samples, so I set my scale to grams. I made a gradient where each sample was 3-4 grams total. I started with 100% orange, then 90% orange/10% blue (this is my best guess, as that small of an amount didn’t register with my scale), 75% orange/25% blue, 67% orange/33% blue, 50% orange/50% blue, 33% orange/67% blue, 25% orange/75% blue, 10% orange/90% blue, and 100% blue. Maybe I got a little bit carried away!
Then I set about carding the colors together so they were well blended. Each color blend got its own rolag, and I found that 4 grams of fiber is about the max my handcards can comfortably hold.
After carding, it was time to spin. As Norman Kennedy says, “Good carding – your yarn’s half spun.” But my wheel was acting up – she’s a grouchy old lady who complains when her joints are out of whack. My fiber prep felt great and easy to spin, but treadling my wheel felt like walking through sand. (Or mud! 😊) It took me just about all of my spinning session to get the wheel adjusted just right to where I was actually moving.
I spun the gradient in order, then chain plied to keep the color progression from orange to blue. I found that my favorite colors in this gradient are on the orange side, though the 75% blue/25% orange mixture reminds me of a lovely oxidized copper.
Using the technique of mixing mud on purpose can be really useful in colorwork of all kinds – you can create deep and intriguing colors that blend and speak with each other. And I'm not just talking about stranded colorwork in knitting - there are interesting places for this technique in anything that uses fiber and color, including weaving, crochet, rug hooking, rug punching, embroidery, you name it!
If you’re using an orange and want a brown, why not make it yourself by blending your orange with a navy blue? You’ll get something that is much more related to your orange because it already contains your orange. You can create a whole range of complex and deep colors from just a basic few. (Though I'll never tell you that you shouldn't add a fun new color to your stash!)
Making mud on purpose isn’t just fun – it gives you a huge range of complex colors to play with. All you need is a tiny understanding of color theory and practice, practice, practice!
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