13 Aug 2009

Spiralling Away!!

Yarns for Mentmore Socks knitting pattern by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw designs

I have been thinking about spirals recently, and how they are important in knitting. Sometimes they can be a interesting, but they can also be a nuisance. For example, when we are trying to put bands of colour into a circular item such as a sweater or a bag, then we might see a “jog” at the colour join. 

At first this is surprising because we tend to think we are working horizontal bands of colours, forming stripes. However, what we are actually knitting is a series of spirals.

Knitting in Spirals, diagram by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw designs

So I have been thinking about this for a bit and looking at how this effect could actually be used to advantage. After a bit of experimenting I saw that if you use 3 different colours of yarn spaced evenly around as you work then different colours will appear as single-width stripes. 

Similarly if you use 2 balls of one colour and 1 ball of a contrast shade, you should see alternating thick and thin stripes. 

I had recently received some wonderful kettle-dyed yarns from Knit Picks, their Stroll Tonal yarn. The photo at the top shows 3 balls of this yarn and what is perhaps surprising is that they are all from the same dye-lot. 

They are all beautiful colours in themselves and with a wonderful depth and interest resulting from kettle-dyeing the yarn. However if I made a pair of socks, one with one ball, the 2nd with another and the 3rd ball being used as a back-up if I ran out of yarn along the way, then each sock would be very different. One would be a glorious dark burgundy colour, with hardly a lighter patch in it. The other would have bright sparks of colour almost verging on light pink. Basically the socks would not look like a matched pair.

Mentmore Socks by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw designs

So, I got to thinking about the technique of colour mixing within each spiral and how I could use this to meld the 3 differently-toned balls of yarn.

I worked a pair of socks using all 3 balls of yarn in the same round and found it did a great job of blending the colours from one ball to another to give a far more harmonious final result. It also considerably reduced the sometimes unattractive pooling and Zebra-striping effects that can sometimes happen with hand-dyed yarns. 

Of course there are still lighter-coloured stripes and highlighted stitches, but these are the feature of kettle-dyed yarns that we all find so attractive. 

I will post more details about this new pattern, the Mentmore Socks, next time but if you'd like to read more now then please click here

Happy Sock Knitting!


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