For me, a knitting project often begins with a skein of yarn. You probably know that feeling. In my house, that skein is almost always a variegated yarn.
This little gem resulted from a one-off lot of Sock. Every couple weeks I survey my little studio and discover that all my dye-mixing bottles have little dribs and drabs of leftover dye in them. Not enough dye for a whole new lot of a color way; way to much to toss. I use these to experiment and usually fascinating and happy results ensue.
I thought this skein and its sibling were particularly fine, and was quite relieved when they sat on the “Unique and Discontinued” shelf at Etsy for the better part of a year, unpurchased.
Variegated yarn, as most of us know, can be tricky. It looks great in the skein – often yarns are reskeined to mix the colors up, making them even more alluring. We take them home, we launch our knitting needles, and then discover that our breath-taking skein was never meant to be wound into balls and knit. Turns out it was a stash accessory, and not a garment-in-waiting.
It seemed like one of the best reasons to start a blog might be to alleviate the mystery and terror of variegated yarns.
When I first contemplate a multi-colored skein, I have an overwhelming urge to open it up.
With the skein untwisted and “open” I can see how long each section of color is. This assumes it hasn’t been reskeined (as in, rewound after dyeing specifically to shift the colors so, for example, you don’t have all the red bits next to each other). Looking at the length of color sections tells me several things:
- If each color section is really long – many inches long – there’s a serious risk of stripes in a narrow project, like a sock, sleeve, or mitten.
- If there is a dominant color, that’s going to, well, dominate things
- If there are no really bold colors, the ultimate result will be muted. There’s nothing to “pop.”
My quick and dirty description of this variegated yarn is that there are 5 or 6 identifiable colors, and color length is pretty short, hence:
- The Stripe Threat is “Yellow” (or low)
- Nothing can really dominate with so many colors – we should get muted but interesting
- There is a pink and a blue to liven things up, but nothing unseemly like construction orange to constrain wardrobe choices.
Like grandma used to say, “the proof is in the swatching.” The only way I know to understand the intricacies of a variegated yarn is to swatch; so yes, I swatch. That’s a post for a different day.