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!
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.
Jillian Moreno is hosting an informal sample-along on her blog and on Instagram under the hashtag #samplealong. I can't recommend her book Yarnitecture enough, and I even had the opportunity to take her Yarnitecture workshop several years ago.
During the workshop, we spent a whole day sampling different ways of spinning yarn. It was like a playdate for spinners! So often, we feel like we don't have time to play with our fiber before we get down to the business of spinning. We feel like we can't "waste" fiber, especially if it's something special. The irony is that if we take time to sample before starting a big project, we'll make better choices instead of diving headfirst into a project and then realizing that we should have done it differently. (But only after there's no turning back.)
The first step in the sample along is preparing your fiber. I've chosen to spin Monsoon Sunset in Polwarth. Last year, I spun Monsoon Sunset as a self-striping colorway for a cowl, but always wondered what it would look like spun up with different color manipulation techniques. This sample-along is the perfect opportunity to find out! Plus, I haven't spun Polwarth wool since I began spinning, so this is a great opportunity to try a different base.
An important step in choosing how you will spin your fiber is to look at the length of your color repeats. Jillian Moreno suggests trying to lay the fiber out like the dyer might have during the dyeing stage. Above you can see how I apply dye to get long color repeats in my fiber. This is one of the longest color repeats of all my fiber - so long I couldn't get it all in the frame!
This fiber is relatively fresh from the dyepot, so it hasn't had a chance to get too compacted. Plus, I work very hard to make sure my fiber doesn't felt at all during the dye process, so basically I just needed to unbraid it. If your fiber is a little compacted, this is a great post on how to gently open up a braid of fiber.
From there, it was time to divide the braid lengthwise into four long strips. Most braids weigh four ounces, but I dye 6-ounce braids to give plenty of opportunity to sample or spin a few extra yards. Each of my four sections weighs between 1.4 and 1.6 ounces, which I'm hoping will give me enough yarn to have a sample skein and a decent sized swatch of each sample style.
The spinning styles Jillian Moreno is sampling are:
Because of the way the colors repeat in this braid, "flipped" will result in a very similar yarn to "as it comes," so I'll be thinking of a different way to play with the color for that one. While we're supposed to spin our default yarn, the yarn that we spin when we sit down and don't think about what we're going to do, Jillian recommends a heavy-fingering or thicker yarn, which is slightly thicker than my default, so I'll be working with my Spinner's Multitool to keep a consistently thicker yarn.
Now that my fiber's ready to go, I just have to get my wheel ready!
Using the Fiber Sprite Spinner's Multitool: A Diz,Twist Angle Checker, and Wraps Per Inch Checker all in One
There are as many ways to spin a gorgeous yarn as there are people who spin. Sometimes, getting a consistent yarn is really important - especially if we're spinning lots of yarn for a big project.
There are lots of ways to make sure you're spinning a consistent yarn. One of my favorite ways is to use the Spinner's Multitool. It helps me prepare fiber, and then check my yarn as I'm spinning to make sure I'm getting the yarn I want.
The Spinner's Multitool functions as a diz, WPI (wraps per inch) tool, and twist angle. The Ultimate Multitool also has a small 2" ruler that can help you determine twists per inch. These are all factors that can help you spin a consistent yarn. They're also helpful if you're trying to replicate another yarn in your stash.
In this post, I'll walk you through all the ways you can use the Spinner's Multitool. In this video, I'm using the Ultimate Multitool. but if you're into something a little different, we also have a Sheep Shaped Spinner's Multitool, an Alpaca, a Bunny, and the Original. If you still have questions after watching the video, I've added some more information and closeup images to help.
Using the Spinner's Multitool as a Diz
Each Spinner's Multitool has several different holes. These are designed so you can diz fiber from a drumcarder, hand cards, a blending board, or hand combs.
In this video, I share how to diz fiber from hand combs. Remember, the bigger the hole you use, the thicker your top will be (or roving, if using a carded prep). But you might be surprised - even though those holes seem pretty small, a lot of fiber fits through them!
Dizzing fiber is a great way to prepare fiber for spinning. I find that hand-dizzed fiber is a real pleasure to spin. It is light and fluffy and fun to work with!
Learning to diz fiber can take some practice. The key is to not try to get too much fiber through the diz at one time, or else you'll get stuck and frustrated. When this happens, back off a little bit, draft the fiber gently, and then keep going. And remember to be patient with yourself! The results are well worth it.
Checking the WPI (Wraps Per Inch)
To check the WPI, or wraps per inch, simply lay the yarn along the grooves, and move it around until you find a good match. Here, I've determined that the yarn is about 18 wraps per inch. Remember to not pull tightly, as this can distort your reading.
Checking Your Twist Angle
In the first image, you will see some unspun fiber. It literally has no twist! So I've laid it parallel to the "zero" angle.
Here you can see a yarn that is Z twist, at a 30 degree angle. I've added a red dash to show how the angle of the twist lines up with the 30 degree angle.
Checking TPI (Twists Per Inch)
TPI, or twists per inch, is a term used by the textile industry, but not as often by handspinners. Sometimes spinners might also talk about "bumps per inch." It refers to how tightly a yarn is spun or plied. This impacts durability, drape, and how your yarn behaves overall.
To calculate TPI, count the number of visible "bumps" in an inch of your yarn, then divide by the number of plies. The Ultimate Multitool has 2 inches to measure over, so if you use that full area, you will need to divide by two again to get your average.
In the sample above, I marked above a bump with a red curve. I counted 10 bumps across 2 inches. I'll divide that by 2 to get 5, then divide by 2 again for the number of plies, to come up with 2.5 bumps per inch.
It's easiest to see TPI in plied yarn, so that's what I've shared here. Jill Wolcott has an excellent tutorial with a deep dive on TPI.
Here are some key things to remember when you're using your Spinner's Multitool:
Have you heard of making shade cards as a way to plan out colorwork projects? It's a technique I learned from weaving, but it's useful for knitting too. It's simple, easier, and faster than swatching, plus it doesn't mess up the yarn by getting it all crinkly. A win-win-win, if you ask me.
All you have to do is wrap yarn around an index card, like I've done in the photo above. Use more yarn for colors you plan to use more of, and less for accent colors. You can do this as blocks of color, or you could sprinkle the accent color across a background of your main color - whatever works for you.
There are two things I like about using this method instead of just piling balls of yarn together.* First it lets me play with relative quantities of each color. Second, I can try out many different color combinations and compare them to each other - something that's hard to do with yarn in the skein unless you have lots and lots of it.
And another thing: unlike swatching, which leaves your yarn all curly and could mess up your gauge if you re-use it without steam blocking, wrapping your yarn around an index card keeps it as nice as it was in the skein. This is also great for more delicate yarns that start to look fuzzy if they're ripped and re-knit.
Of course, swatching might still need to be a next step (especially if gauge is important). In the swatch above, I quickly scrapped my original color palette to add more depth on each end of the reds range. I found that there wasn't as much contrast between the pink and the red as I thought, and played around with different colors. But that's the beauty of it - I at least had a starting point that gave me a solid idea of what I was working with.
So there you have it! A super easy way to play with color combinations. How do you plan out the colors for your colorwork projects?
*Which I still love, and do as a first step. The color cards are the second.
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