I’m feeling very smug. I’ve just finished my latest knit and I love it.
The pullover is based on a Patricia Roberts pattern, Ovaltinie (Patricia Roberts Second Knitting Book p.72).
I had been gifted a beautiful set of gradient mini batts in the colours of a Blue Tit by the lovely Mrs Biker(team mate in Spinzilla). These had been sat in the work shop waiting for that special moment of inspiration. I tend to act on impulse and am quite happy to wait for said moments of inspiration no matter how long. I have materials stashed that I have had for my entire adult life, and I am sure that I am not alone in this habit. I have learnt that forcing things creatively doesn’t often lead to good results. I digress. In one of those moments I was rifling through my book stash and remembered this pattern. I wasn’t enamoured of the colours used, totally 80’s clashtastic, but appreciated the design. I wanted to see how the fair isle design would work with more subtle colours. Keeping in with the Blue Tit theme I paired the colour work with a soft grey to act as the base.
I began the project on April 9th and finished it today. 80 days. I could have gone around the world in that time.
I kept a visual diary of the process and thought you might appreciate it if I shared.
The batts were merino (hateful stuff but I worked through my ) and the grey was provided by the delightful Arabella who is a rare lady indeed, a beautiful black Romney. For speediness the fibre was spun long draw from carded batts. The original yarn is long gone, and I guessed the tension gauge of the yarn to be an old fashioned 3-ply or heavy lace weight. I think a good modern substitute would be Jamiesons & Smith Shetland Heritage. I rushed it, so it’s came out a bit thick and thin but meh! Who cares it usually averages out ok in the end.
I was also bit nervous that I would have enough of each of the colours as some of the skeins had more metrage than others. We will revisit this thought a bit later…
The pattern called for 1 main colour and 8 colours for the stranded colour work. I only had six plus the main. And this is what really slowed me up. Whilst I wanted a subtle pattern I wanted the pattern to be visible.
I first worked out a rough colour arrangement for each of the separate design bands. Once I was happy with them I checked out that the colour values would also work. I was a bit suspicious that the values were a bit samey and the pattern would be a lost.
Here is probably the best tip I can every give for colour work: I always find it really useful to render the original design image and my chosen coloured yarns into black and white/greyscale. Working with colour value, rather than colours themselves, may seem a bit abstract. But trust me, it really helps. Particularly if you are using subtle colour shifts.
This was a tip I had read about in Deb Menzes book Color in Spinning. There is also a wealth of resources out there. I recommend this excellent blog post by Jared Flood.
As you can see, I didn’t have a large range of colour values to work with. This was particularly noticeable with the blues and the dark green (top left). I did wonder about including black but chucked it out of the mix as it was too jarring. So, with fewer colours, little contrast and low range in colour value, I knew that this was going to be a complex challenge.
Even with the planning, some of my initial choices did not work out. There was lot of frogging and swearing. I reckon I knit a garment at least three times over by the time it’s done.
I also modified the pattern. I like a nice deep rib. I don’t like a deep armhole. And I wanted higher V neck – did not want boiling spuds if I wasn’t wearing a top underneath. And I only wanted one work through of the chart. Fortunately, the row tension of my hand spun was bang on so I did not have to mess around with the chart repeats.
I calculated that if I doubled the rib length and increased the main grey colour banding to 4 rows then the single chart repeat would fit. It didn’t. I was about 5 cms too short at the shoulders. To overcome this, I repeated the first four rows of the chart and accepted that there would be a bit of a deep band of grey at the shoulders. It gave a nice symmetry to the pattern and closed it well.
What else? The original was knitted in two pieces flat. I wanted to knit the main body in the round. Knitting stranded colour work in the round is so much easier when following charts. My brain has difficulty ‘seeing’ the pattern on the purl rows. I didn’t use steeks but maybe next time I might, not sure if this would save any time.
Also, remember at the start, I was a bit nervous that I didn’t have enough of a couple of the colours…Top tip: listen to your inner voice. Yup. I ran out of two of the colours…
Why do I always do this!
Luckily, two things. First I got the fronts finished and ran out on the back shoulder. Who cares about that – I can’t see it! Second, I had just bought in a lucky dip bag of mixed tops from Wingham Woolworks for a workshop I was running and it had a few colours that I could blend to get a sort of match as I only needed a teeny tiny bit. Result! Don’t you love it when the universe shines its happy face your way?
It took an age to knit. 80 days. I had forgotten how much you have to concentrate when knitting stranded colour work. Let your attention slip and its abstract pattern time where everything goes on the huh. Frogging and swearing. So, I haven’t got a clue what was on TV for the past 80 days. Which is cool as it means I have the perfect excuse to re-watch American Gods and season 2 of Preacher all over again.
I am having a break from stranded colour work for a while. Give me something simple.