31 Mar 2021

Seeing Double: #7 – Tips and Techniques using Doubled Yarns


Hebden Gilet Jacket by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

Over the last few blogposts, I have been extolling the virtues of using two ends of yarn held together to add extra qualities to your knitting and to maximise the potential for finding interesting yarn combinations for your next project. So in this last blogpost in the series, I want to touch on some tips and techniques for working with doubled yarns.

Working with two balls of yarn - Diagram by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

So let’s turn our attention to how we can work with two ends of yarn held together – and the answer is that there are a number of different ways. The first and most obvious is to take one end of yarn from two or more balls of yarn and hold them together as you form your stitches. 

This is a simple solution and works quite well except that the balls of yarn can get tangled together as you work. Each stitch either imparts a little extra twist into the yarn or takes a small amount out, depending on your style of knitting. This change in twist makes its way down each length of yarn leading to the ball and after a while you might see the two ends tightly coiled around each other.

You then need to stop, pin the yarn end onto the ball of yarn, then hang the two balls of yarn from the work and allow them to untwizzle. I actually quite like doing that so don't see it as a major inconvenience. It's quite satisfying seeing them untwisting!

You can reduce tangling to some extent by having each ball in a separate container, or working with both strands coming from the inside of each ball. That will at least prevent the balls from rolling all over the floor.



Alternatively, you can mount each ball on a yarn dispenser so that they rotate as you work. These devices are sometimes called "Lazy Susans" or "yarn spinners." Some of these have a central vertical pin to hold the cone or ball of yarn, while others mount the balls of yarn side-by-side as in the example above from the Letto Workshop on Etsy. Rotating the yarn ball allows the yarn to unroll from the outside to keep the threads separated.

Winding a centre-pull ball of yarn using a Nostepinde, Photo by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

A second way to work with two ends of yarn is to wind a centre-pull ball. This photo shows a ball I was winding using a Nostepinne, but there are a number of ways to make a centre-pull ball of yarn. 

Once you have this wound, you can then use one end of yarn from the inside and one from the outside. Some people say their knitting is not quite so even if they do this but I haven't actually seen that myself. Perhaps it depends how you wind your centre-pull ball. Whichever way you do it though, it is simple and there is only one ball to look after, but you might still need to stop and untwist the yarn ends from time to time.

One of the key advantages of this method is that it is really good for small projects where you really only need one ball of yarn, and you are less likely to end up with more remnants to add to your stash.

However, a slight disadvantage of this method is that you will come to the end of the ball more quickly. You will then have two old ends and two new ends all to be finished at the same point. With two separate balls of yarn the balls tend to end up being slightly different lengths so the joins are staggered.

Working with two colours wound together - Diagram by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

Then the third way is to take the two or more strands of yarn and wind them together into a meta-ball. This is a good method if the two yarns are the same or very similar in composition, so it works well for two different colours of the same yarn, for example. However, it is not such a good method for yarns with a different fibre composition as one yarn might stretch more than the other.

It also takes more preparation time and is hard to undo if you decide you want to use just one of the yarns on its own later. However, it is the simplest to knit with and is probably the best if you are going to start knitting a large rug or an art project with multiple ends of yarn!

Two yarn threads side-by-side, Diagram by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

One thing to note is that when you are working with two ends of yarn held together, every stitch on your needle will show as a pair of loops. Then when you come to work the next stitch, your needle will need to go through both loops as though it were a single, thicker yarn. 

The two strands of yarn will sit next to each other in each knitted stitch. This gives quite an interesting effect as you can see in the Hebden Gilet Jacket at the top of this post.

You do need to be careful that you don't inadvertently split the stitches apart when you are working or you will change the number of stitches on the needle. Of interest, you can use this as a technique for increasing the number of stitches, but you don't want to end up doing that by mistake.

In addition, you need to make sure that both of the yarn ends wrap the needle to create the new stitch every time. If you inadvertently only use one thread to form the stitch, then that will create a thinner stitch at that point because you now only have a single strand where you should have two. However, you will usually find that you will detect this fairly quickly as the yarn ends you are working with are now a different length, so that is usually quick to fix.

I hope you have enjoyed this blogpost series and that it will give you lots of inspiration for future projects! If you would like to return to the introduction to the series, then please click here. If you would like any more information about the patterns that I have featured in this series, then please visit the pattern store on my website.

I'll be back soon with updates on the knitting I am currently working on for spring and summer.

Until then - enjoy the lovely Spring weather!

Moira



Anna's Website: www.kikuknits.com


Photo credits: Many thanks to the Letto Workshop on Etsy for their photo of a wooden yarn holder.

24 Mar 2021

Seeing Double: #6 - Mix 'n Match Sets

 

Trevarren Placemat Set by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

If you have been following this "Seeing Double" series of blogposts, you will know that I am a fan of using two ends of yarn for all kinds of reasons – it can add warmth to your winter knitting, expand your range of yarn choices, and produce beautiful tonal effects. It also allows you to incorporate additional fibres into your work to add drape, texture and visibility. 

However, there is another really good reason to use doubled yarns, and that is to create sets of items – all perfectly co-ordinated because the same yarns have been used throughout.

Trevarren Placemat Set by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

This is what I have done in the Trevarren Placemat Set pictured above. The placemats and coasters have been worked using a single strand of yarn while the hot pads and central tablemat use two strands of yarn held together. 

The yarn is Paintbox Yarns Cotton Aran, which gives a lovely surface for the placemats and coasters even when used with just one strand of yarn. However, putting two strands together creates a sturdy hot pad that will protect your table top from hot, heavy casserole dishes.

In this set I have used the same colour throughout but of course you could bring in a range of colours for the placemats, then combine different colours for the tablemats to give a different look for the centre-of-table items.

Northstowe Beanie Hat by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

Here's another idea for knitting a set of items: thick hats, scarves or cowls worked with doubled yarns, then matching gloves, mittens and socks using a single strand of the same yarn.

Some years ago I found myself at the end of a long flight with no knitting yarn to hand. I know! Shudder... It came about because a full cup of airline tea had soaked into a large amount of cotton-yak yarn and if you want to read the whole sorry tale, then please click here

Needless to say, there are multiple reasons why I give thanks for having such a beautiful daughter (and I am of course only marginally biased) but that day it was because she is a knitter with a large and diverse yarn stash! She soon found me some suitable yarn and I started casting on for the cowl I was planning. The next day we visited a lovely yarn store in Faversham, Kent and found the yarn for the Northstowe Hat pictured above.

The yarn we found was a gorgeous DK wool mix by Coopworth Yarns called Socks Yeah DK and it worked beautifully with two ends of yarn held together. The Teversham Cowl  that I made first with this yarn was so soft and warm that I went on to make a headwarmer, then a whole range of hats including the Northstowe Hat for men and the Madingley Beanie Hat for ladies.

Druidstone Socks by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

I could, of course, have used a thicker yarn if I had found one, but I just loved the colours and feel of this yarn.  Working with two ends of the DK-weight proved to be an excellent choice, too. Not only did it make some super-warm items, but I could also mix the colours as in the Teversham Cowl I featured here

It also had another great advantage – that I could then use just a single strand of the yarn to make thinner items such as gloves and socks to give a wonderfully co-ordinated set of items. 

You can also use this idea to co-ordinate a glove and scarf set with different fibres as I was describing last time. So if, for example, you have a wonderfully fluffy mohair-and-wool scarf, you could then work a thin strand of mohair into the cuff of a glove to echo the soft look of the scarf. The glove "hand" would be in plain wool, but the trimmed cuff would tie the two items together. 

Alternatively, you could work a pair of mittens in a single plain colour with a two-colour cuff to match a thicker two-colour cowl or hat worked with doubled strands. 

As a side note, you can also use this same concept within a single item to reinforce a key area or to add extra padding. For example, you could work the sole of a knitted slipper with an extra strand of yarn to give a lovely cushy surface to walk on. 

 Fishermen's sweaters could have an extra-dense area at the elbows to save wear, or an additional strand could be added at the shoulders for warmth. The same is true for ski socks where a thicker boot cuff could be formed using a second strand of yarn to give extra cushioning and insulation.

Next time, I'll be back for the final blogpost in this series, where I will look at tips and techniques for working with doubled yarns. In the meantime, if you would like to read the introduction to the series, then please click here

Until then - keep safe and happy!

Moira


12 Mar 2021

Seeing Double: #5 – Mixing it up


Aelwen Baby Dress by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

Last week I had the fun of knitting a new Aelwen Baby Dress as I had decided to expand the pattern size range from the original baby sizes to now include little girls' dresses too. So I dug through my yarn stash and found a good quantity of the yarn I needed to knit a new dress. I do love summer pinafore dresses for little girls and this one has such a delightful drape and flow because the yarn is not just cotton but a cotton/rayon mix.

That combination illustrates just how different fibres mixed together can bring out the best qualities of each of them. Here the cotton base layer has provided strength and structure while the rayon has give a cool fluidity and sheen. It is a lovely fibre mix and just shows what can be achieved either by finding the perfect yarn or by using two or more thinner yarns at the same time.

So in today’s blogpost in the “Seeing Double” series I am going to look at some possibilities for combining fibres to add texture, drape, strength, visibility and other attributes to your next project.

Getting Ideas

Somertide Placemats by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

So what makes a good fibre combination? Well, one idea is to look at commercially available yarns and see how they have used fibres together. For example, the Somertide Placemats pictured above have been worked in a yarn called “Cotlin”, which is a combination of 40% linen with 60% cotton. Linen is an amazingly strong fibre and can produce wonderfully firm, resilient items. It is a good choice for placemats, shopping bags and rugs. However, it can be a little rough to work with and the end result can be harsh too.

Cotton is also quite strong but is a much softer fibre. The combination of the cotton with the linen retains the strength of the linen but makes the yarn much softer and easier to work.

However, there are three problems with relying on yarn companies to provide the right fibre mixes:

1 – that yarn may not be available in your locality,
2 – it might not be in the colour that you were wanting,
and shock, horror: 3 – it might have been discontinued….

I used to love the Rowan wool/cotton 4-ply. It was a perfect blend, with a lovely combination of cool summer cotton and warm merino wool. The mixture leant itself to Spring-time knitting, when winter is lifting but you still need a bit of warmth in the evenings. I was really sorry when it was discontinued, but the good news is that I know I can achieve a very similar result using a thin cotton yarn combined with a fine merino wool held together.

As I've said before: it’s good to have options – and there are definitely more choices for single-fibre yarns than there are for combinations.

Becoming a fibre critic

Flax Drying, Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina USA - photo by Tim Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

Looking at commercial mixtures is one way of finding good fibre combinations, but another is to think about the qualities of each fibre and, more importantly, their weaknesses. We have already touched on this when talking about some of the commercially available yarns, so to reprise:

Linen is a strong, resilient fibre but is hard on the hands to work and can give a rough surface. Adding a softer fibre such as cotton can make this easier to knit with. Alternatively, a fibre with extra drape such as bamboo could be added to make the final item less stiff and starchy.

Cotton is good for the summer but lacks warmth for the Spring and Autumn, so adding a touch of wool can give a good combination. Cotton is also quite a heavy fibre so wool adds lightness and body.

That probably gives you the idea and of course you can apply this “critical” approach to other fibres too by looking at their attributes and the reason you’d like to use the fibre. Then think about the negatives and see if a second (or third) fibre would give a better combination. For example:

Alpaca is beautifully soft and fluffy but items made from alpaca can stretch horribly. Adding wool to the mix can give a garment that retains its shape to a greater degree.

Wool is warm and the fibre of choice for winter but some breeds can be itchy to wear. Adding a softer breed such as merino can improve the “handle”, or you could add a baby alpaca yarn instead. This would not only give a softer result but also a beautiful “halo” to the finished item.

Cashmere or qiviut are both as warm as toast but sooooo expensive. Running them alongside a soft wool such as Blue-Faced Leicester or merino would make your project easier on the pocket while still benefiting from the luxury of the base yarn.

Adding a special feature

Reflective yarn, photo by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

Then there are situations where you would like to add an extra “something” to your knitting. Here are some options:

Visibility – Our daughter Anna lives in Sweden where the winter nights are long and dark. Having garments or even a pocket or an armband worked in a reflective yarn can mean the difference between being visible to oncoming cars or being a darker shadow on a dark road. You can embroider reflective yarn onto your knitting after the event as I mentioned in an earlier blogpost but another approach is to hold the reflective yarn alongside your current yarn to knit a high-vis hat or add a reflective band to a sweater.

Texting – It is difficult to text and keep your hands warm in the winter. Fingerless gloves are one possibility, but another is to incorporate a conductive yarn to the fingertips of your gloves so that you can text with fully covered fingers instead.

Elasticity – When I used to do a lot of machine knitting, I found it very difficult to get enough stretch into the machine-knit rib at the base of a sweater. One approach was to graft the garment onto a hand-knit rib, but another was to run a thin elastic yarn alongside the main yarn in the rib to give added stretchiness.

Texture – There is quite a fashion trend right now to add a thin strand of mohair or alpaca to your main yarn to give extra fluffiness and texture. This can be for the whole garment or just in bands to give a contrast between smooth and fluffy areas. The same would hold true for a bouclé yarn to run alongside a smoother one, or for a thick-and-thin yarn to give a country look to a sweater. There are also many other interesting yarns you could use to add texture to your work such as fur, ribbon or eyelash yarn for a retro look.

Shine – I mentioned above that both bamboo and rayon can add shine and drape to a cotton yarn, but there are some fun yarns in the shops which can really add “bling” to your finished item. For example, Plymouth Gold-Rush is available in a range of metallic colours such as copper or electric blue to add glitz to an evening dress or wrap.

Added elements – You can also choose to add beads, feathers and other items by using a smooth base yarn alongside one which has been spun with mini pom-poms, beads, sequins or other ancillary items. The shops are full of these fancy yarns or you could have fun hand-spinning some novelty yarns yourself. Again, these could be used in just one area by sometimes working with two smooth yarns and then occasionally replacing one of the strands with your novelty yarn for a fun change.

Changing Gauge – This is not strictly a fibre issue but you could create a gauge gradient by working heavier yarns at the bottom of an item and then gradually moving to lighter yarns towards the top. This is a great technique for items such as curtains and room dividers. However, if the fibres and colours also vary as you move through the piece that can create an interesting look.

Mentmore Socks by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

Longevity – A well-knit garment can last for many years, but there are always areas that are under stress. Socks are a great example, where the tops continue seemingly the same year after year, long after the heels and toes have worn through. To avoid this you can add a strand of a thin, strong yarn at the heel to provide a bit of support for the main yarn. This can be a wool with a longer staple length such as Blue-Faced Leicester but mohair, nettle yarn and silk also work well. I personally don’t like using silk because I feel sorry for the poor little moths, but I’m probably in a minority of one there when it comes to considering moths and knitting!

The Mentmore Socks pictured above were worked in a 100% merino wool yarn – beautifully soft but really not suitable for socks. However, the yarn was just too lovely to resist! I knew the heels wouldn’t last with merino alone, so I reinforced them with a 2nd strand of a laceweight yarn at the same time and I haven’t needed to darn them yet.

Yarn weights when combining fibres

Combining yarns – Diagram by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

In the third blogpost in this series, I touched upon how to choose yarns to use together and the weights you might expect when combining yarns. The same principles apply when making up a fibre combination to work with. So for a 50:50 cotton/linen mix, you could use two medium yarns together, one of linen and one of cotton or you could opt for four thinner yarns in the same proportion.

However, using different weights of yarns can open up further options. For example, one nice mixture is to combine wool with a little touch of cotton and linen. As you can see in the diagram above, this is easy to achieve using different weights of yarn, so a thicker wool yarn is balanced by thinner strands in the other fibres. The diagram shows a cotton, linen and wool combination, but the same ideas can be used for any fibre/texture mix.

Alpaca and wool hat, by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

That is what I have done in the hat photographed above. This combined a lovely soft alpaca DK yarn in a mid-brown tweedy colour with a deeper brown fingering weight yarn. The combination gave me the just the thickness I wanted, while adding to the complexity of colours and giving extra warmth and elasticity. I made that hat 18 years ago and it is still my go-to hat for excursions into snowy landscapes!

I hope that has given you lots of ideas for combining fibres for your next project and of course, you can also use these ideas with the colour notes from my last blogpost as the two strands of yarn might not only contribute different fibres to the mix but also different colours too. So you could plan a tweedy mix from different coloured bamboo and cotton yarns, or a heathery combination of very similar coloured merino and alpaca.

We are approaching the end of this current series of blogposts and next time I will be looking at how we can use the technique of working with two ends of yarn held together to produce sets of items.

Until then – keep happy & healthy!

Moira



Anna's Website: www.kikuknits.com

Photo credits: 
Many thanks to my husband, Tim Ravenscroft, for his photo of flax drying against an old split-rail fence in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, USA. If you'd like to see some more of his photos, please visit his Flickr site.


27 Feb 2021

Seeing Double: #4 – Blending colours with doubled yarns


Ocean Currents Rug by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

As knitters, we are used to working with colour using techniques such as Intarsia, Mosaic knitting or Fair-Isle stranding, and these are all wonderfully creative ways to enhance our knitting projects. However, have you thought about working with two or more strands of colour at the same time? If you haven’t, then you’re missing something – it’s like painting with yarns! By changing first one colour strand and then another you can create absolutely stunning gradients and shifts of tones and shades.

So in today's addition to the “Seeing Double” blogpost series, I want to explore some of the colour effects you can get when you mix different colours together just by using two or more yarns held together while you work.

Graduated Colours

Yarn for Ocean Currents Rug by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

The Ocean Currents Rug pictured at the top of the blogpost shows one of the beautiful effects that you can achieve by gradually changing the value of the colour. The rug uses five closely-related shades of blue and they have been worked together in the order of their “depth of shade”. This is a term used in dyeing to show how strong the colour will be, but can be translated into the simpler concept of dark vs light colours.

By arranging the yarns in the order of their depth of shade we can move from a darker combination to a lighter one. A smaller number of starting colours will give a sharper transition while a larger number of starting colours will allow a more subtle colour shift. 

Blending with two colours, Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

So if you have just two colours, say dark blue and light blue, you can get three different combinations by working with two strands at the same time:

1: Dark Blue + Dark Blue
2: Dark Blue + Light Blue
3: Light Blue + Light Blue

Now if you start with two very similarly toned colours then you will get a gentle transition from one to the other. You can also use this limited transition to move from one colour to another, say from a blue to a green via a lovely kingfisher blue-green in the middle.

Marled Colour Effects

Teversham Cowl by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

However, a completely different effect can be achieved by working with two highly contrasting yarns. In the Teversham Cowl above, a light colour has been teamed with a much deeper shade to give a wonderfully tweedy look. This is so popular in menswear right now – somehow encapsulating both a modern edge and a “classic” look at the same time. The solid shades have been used to provide edge details which also help to emphasise the central tweedy section.

This combination of dark and light yarns held together gives a “marled” or “marbled” effect as it resembles the colour veins that you often see in rock strata. Of interest, the two colours do not uniformly show in the mixture as they might in a plyed yarn. Instead, the colours emerge and disappear to give a lovely effect. 

Indeed, we can use this technique to bring “pops” of colour into the work, by teaming a colourful strand of yarn to run alongside a darker background shade. Hand-dyed yarns often look beautiful when used in this way as their natural variation of shades can give some wonderfully unexpected results.

Ombré Patterning

Blending with five colours, Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

However, for a really subtle shift of tones from dark to light, then you need to increase the number of starting colours. The diagram above shows how the same dark blue I used in the first diagram has now gone through a much gentler colour shift to get to the paler tone, giving a beautiful ombré effect.

You can see this patterning in the photo of the Ocean Currents Rug. There the five closely-matched shades show a gradual shifting from dark to light tones and back again, like waves on the sea shore.

Those particular yarns were handspun and the five “colours” were already blended during the spinning process to produce the starting shades. However, you don’t need to start with handspun yarns to achieve a beautiful effect. There are many commercial yarns such as Cascade 220 that come in a wide arrange of colours so you can select colours to tone together.

Grading from one colour to another

Transitions from blue to yellow using two ends of yarn held together, Diagram by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

Indeed, you can also use this effect to transition not just from dark to light but also from one colour to another. You can produce a wonderful colour shift or a whole rainbow effect just by arranging your colours in a pleasing way, then picking up first one yarn then another to work in an ever-changing fashion.

This idea is not only a creative technique to bring colour into your knitting but also a great way of using small remnants of yarns. You often see examples of this shift in colour in old-time knitting, when a small child’s sweater would be undone and the yarn reused in a larger project supplements by other shades.

Using Natural Colours

Rare Earth Rug by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

The same graduated effects can also be achieved with natural shades of whites, creams, greys, blacks and browns. In the Rare Earth Rug, the same sort of dark to light ombré appearance has been achieved using purely natural shades.

The rug again used five starting colours, but this time toning from a creamy-white to a deep brown-grey. I worked a set of matching cushions using single yarns to give pure colours, but in the rug the yarns were doubled up to give both a thicker result and also to allow the graduated shading from dark to light.

I am going to return to this idea of making matched sets of items using either single or doubled yarns in a later blogpost in this series.

Colour Value

Judging the colour value of yarns using greyscale, by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

Beyond the concept of transitioning from one colour to another is the idea of producing a heathery mix by holding two very similar yarns together. 

Heathered yarns offer a much softer look to the "marled" effect I mentioned before. They result from a mixture of two or more colours with a very similar “value”. Neither stands out as being much darker or lighter than the other, but just vary by their colour. For example, a soft loden green could be combined with a dusky brown to give a lovely country feel to the final combination.

You can tell if a yarn has a similar value to another one by taking a photo and then looking at it in greyscale or monotone. Many phones will allow you to do this transition really easily. The photo above shows the same yarns used for the Ocean Currents Rug, but this time in greyscale. The lighter shades show up as white, while the darker shades are in black. Used the lightest and darkest together would give a marled effect as they have the greatest difference in value, but for heathery yarns the middle colours would be best.

Heathered Mixtures

Edinburgh Shawl by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

In the second blogpost in this series I featured a shawl I had made that turned out to be magically warm – and this shows the beautiful heathery mixtures you can get from yarns which have a close colour value. The blue and mid-green layers almost seem to meld together.

Of course you can find many lovely heathered yarns in the shops, but how much more exciting it is to blend them yourself for a completely unique look. Selecting two or more thin yarns and blending them for yourself gives you a much greater choice over the exact shades used and the final effect.

Another interesting point is that when you are working with your own mixture of colours, you can select when to drop one colour and bring in another. This can give some wonderfully subtle colour banding and shading. You could, for example, have a band where a dusky brown background yarn has a blue colour held alongside, before shifting to another band with the second yarn in green. This would give a wonderfully subtle shift in colour as you work your scarf or sweater.

Again, this would be a very creative way of using small remnants of yarn to give interesting combinations – here a band of grey with burgundy and there another band with the same grey mixed with blue, for example.

Rescuing "surprise" colours

Changing colour appearance with a second strand of yarn, Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

We can also use this idea of combining colours to help rescue “surprise” yarns that the Postie has just delivered. I am sure I’m not the only person who has ordered a lovely dusky yellow from the internet only to have a bright mustard colour appear on the doorstep… It is certainly hard choosing colours in this way rather than in person!

However, you could run a soft yellow yarn alongside that unfortunate mustard shade to tone it down, or add an indigo blue to take the sting out of an overly bright green. You could also add a brighter more zingy orange colour to take a blah brown into an exciting combination colour. It is amazing what a second strand of yarn can do to change the look completely.

Working with two strands of yarn held together is also an excellent way to blend different dyelots. We knitters have many ways of hiding the slight differences in dyelots, but bringing them together at the same time is an excellent way to disguise any differences.

Next time . . .

I hope that gives you lots of inspiration for creating tonal, blended and tweed effects in your knitting! Next time in the series, I will be chatting about texture and using different combinations of fibres to extend the range of fibre combinations in your knitting world.

If you would like to go back back to the start of the series, then please click here.

Until next time – keep safe and happy!

Moira



8 Feb 2021

Seeing Double: #3 – It's good to have options!


Joules and Joulietta Hot Water Bottle Covers by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

I suppose I must be a creature of habit because I used the same title for a blogpost back in 2014! At that time I was referring to adding extra sizes to the Beckenham Scarf  knitting pattern. However, this time I am thinking about options for choosing yarn. It really is good to have alternative strategies when you go to your yarn store or dive into your stash to find the perfect yarn for your next project.

I mentioned this in my last blogpost when I was talking about a shawl I was making. I couldn't find the perfect weight of wool in my local yarn store but they had the exact colours I wanted in a thinner yarn. Working with two ends of this yarn held together gave me exactly what I wanted – and more besides, as the shawl ended up being much warmer than I had anticipated!

So in this third blogpost in the "Seeing Double" series, I would like to explore how we can put two or more ends of yarn together to expand our yarn choices.

Joules and Joulietta Hot Water Bottle Covers by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

As an example, here is a stripey hot water bottle cover that I have just finished. This is the small-sized cover from the Joules & Joulietta Hot Water Bottle Cover  pattern. The pattern actually uses just a single colour in a Worsted weight but I was keen to use up some of my stash yarns and make a striped version.

The dark blue colour was a remnant of Worsted weight hand-spun yarn from my Ocean Currents Rug  which I made over 10 years ago! However, I didn't have a good combination colour in the same weight.

So, I decided to look at thinner yarns and found a lovely soft lilac-blue sportweight yarn which gave a perfect colour combination. The next question was: would this be a good match for the thicker yarn if I used it doubled up? Fortunately, there's a nifty trick for checking that which I learnt during my spinning days...

Comparing Yarns by Looping Them Together

Comparing Yarn Sizes, by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

So to see if two yarns are going to be a good match when knitted at the same time you need to loop them together, give a little twist and then run your hand across the join. Spinners use this to make sure that they are spinning the same thickness of yarn consistently across a project, but here we are going to check if one thick yarn is about the same overall thickness as two thin ones, so:

Twist Test:
.   Take a single end of your thicker yarn and make a long loop.
.   Pass two ends of your thinner yarn together through the loop and then back on themselves.
.   Now gently twist the two yarns together along their length.
.   Run your fingers across the join and see if you feel a difference in the thickness. If you can, then they are not well matched. If it feels pretty even, then it looks as though you have made a good choice!

Needle Gauge Test:
.   Then to double check, thread two ends of the larger yarn into a space in your needle gauge so they just fit. 
.   Now take those out and try 4 ends of the thinner yarn. 
.   If they also fit comfortably in the same hole then the yarns are probably a good match.

I did exactly this and found that the two yarns went together perfectly even though they were different weights! I'm pleased to report that the bottle cover came out beautifully and I can see it being very useful now the weather has turned so much colder. I'm also pleased that I could finally use the last remnants of that hand-spun yarn!

Using a Yarn Chart

Now, of course, you don't always have the two yarns together when you are trying to make your choices. You may be shopping on the internet or not have the second yarn with you when you go to the yarn store. So it is useful to have a guide to show what you might expect when you work with two ends of yarn held together:

Yarn Chart by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

Comparing the Metreage or Yardage:

Between those three methods, you should get pretty close to finding a good combination of yarns to use together. However, there are a couple of other things you could try. One is to look at the metreage or yardage of the yarns.

We are so used to buying yarns by weight, eg a 50gm ball or a 100gm skein. However when we knit we are not knitting a set weight of yarn, we are knitting a length. So the important figure to look at when you are combining yarns is how many metres or yards your yarn is going to provide.

Yarn Diagram by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

For example, if you have a DK yarn with 150m: 50gm ball, then one ball will provide 150m of yarn to travel along the knitting path.

Now if you bring in another ball of the same type to run alongside it, then this second yarn will travel the very same knitting path. The path is wider but the same length. It's like two friends walking around a reservoir together. You each walk 2 km, just side-by-side.

So when you have finished knitting with both balls of yarn you will have knitted 150m in length and your knitting will weigh 100gm – ie about the same as if you had used an Aran weight yarn with 150m: 100gm.

The same principle applies to working with different sizes of yarns, for example if you wish to add a strand of fingering weight yarn to a DK yarn, then you might achieve something similar to a light-weight worsted. 

The Necessity to Swatch

Then once you think you have a good combination of yarns, it is really important to try them together in a swatch. Use a needle similar in size to your "Needle Gauge" check you did earlier, then one or two sizes either side and see how the yarns work together in practice. Even with all the above checks and calculations, there is nothing quite like a swatch to show how two or more yarns will work together.

Oh and it is a good idea to pre-wash your yarns too, so you're sure you won't get any surprises when you finish your completed project later! This is especially true if the yarns have a different fibre content. You can read more about how to pre-wash your yarn here.

Next time . . .

Next time, I will be looking at using two or more yarns together for some wonderful colour effects, so please join me then. If you would like to read the complete blogpost series please click here, then follow the links at the bottom of each page to read the next post.

Until next time, keep happy and smiling,

Moira

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