Sunday, January 13, 2019

Gradient yarn blending, and applying it to a pattern

So, there's this cool technique of yarn color blending where you knit with multiple strands, gradually shifting from one color to another.  Like this:

Photo © Cathy Weeks

The above hat was done by my husband Chris, after he read about the technique somewhere (he does that - reads about a nifty technique and then tries it out to see what it does.  His yarn play is great - I get to see how things work, without the time investment). And because neither he nor I can remember where he first read about it, I'll explain it here.

Gradient yarn blending is done by starting your project with multiple strands (2+) of the same color  yarn, then when it's time to start color-shifting, dropping a strand of the first color, while picking up a strand of a different color, and gradually shifting the proportions from the first yarn to the second.

If A=Aqua and B=Black, imagine the following:

AA (knit 10 rows with 2 strands of aqua)
AB (knit 10 rows with 1 strand of aqua, and 1 strand of black)
BB (knit 10 rows with 2 strands of black)

But, you can do it with more strands, for a more gradual transition:

AAA (knit 8 rows with 3 strands of aqua)
AAB (knit 8 rows with 2 strands of aqua and 1 strand of black)
ABB (knit 8 rows with 1 strand of aqua and 2 strands of black)
BBB (knit 8 rows with 3 strands of black).

The more strands, the more gradual the transition, but also the more bulky the yarn.  Chris did a FOUR strand transition, to make it more gradual yet. Instead of black, he used gray yarn. So:


In the top-down hat shown above, he did about 2" (5 cm) of each color.  So, he CO about 8 stitches in four strands of gray, and increased about 8 stitches every other round until it was about 24" (61 cm) around. When the hat was about 2" from the CO edge, he dropped one strand of gray, and added one strand of aqua, which meant that he was knitting with 75% gray yarn, and 25% aqua yarn. He did a yarn-color transition every 2" or so, finishing with 4 strands of the blue-green yarn, and a simple rolled-brim edge.

The method worked so well, he offered to make our daughter a hat (it's a good thing she loves hats). She said, “Yes…. in purples, and …. it needs to fit right. With ribbing, not that rolled brim.”

So, he found the purple, lavender, and more gray yarn (I'd appropriated the gray yarn that remained from his first gradient project, so he needed more), and I suggested he start with black as the starting point. Next, I went to my Ravelry favorites and filtered for bulky hats (I LOVE the advanced search features!) and showed him the hats made in bulky yarns that had caught my eye over the years. He narrowed it down to two possibilities, and let her pick the one she liked better.  It turned out to be the Into the Forest Hat pattern by Lisa Seifert:

© M. Sturtevant. Used with permission.

The result was THIS:

Photo © Cathy Weeks

Of my husband and me, I'm the more advanced knitter, but he's the more adventurous (and fearless) knitter, and it really paid off here. The only things I had to do with this hat (other than teaching him to knit years ago) was that I suggested he start with black as the starting color, provided some basic advice on needle size, and ... I sewed on the pom-pom for him.

It's a GORGEOUS hat.  I'm a little jealous that he made it, and not me.  But I'm not the only person who can knit a good hat in this family. :-)

Because there were 4 colors, there were 13 color combinations (B=Black, P=Purple, L=Lavender, and G= Gray). If you want to make that exact hat, you'd have to buy the pattern, then do the rounds in the following colors:

BBBB (Round 0/CO - Round 1)
BBBP (R2-4)
BBPP (R5-7)
BPPP (R8-10)
PPPP (R11-13)
PPPL (R14-16)
PPLL (R17-19)
PLLL (R20-22)
LLLL (R23-25)
LLLG (R26-28)
LLGG (R29-32)
LGGG (R33-39)
GGGG (R40-48)

Some general advice: 
  • Pick patterns that are intended for worsted through super bulky yarns.
  • If knitting with 2 strands of fingering, look at patterns for worsted yarns.
  • If knitting with 3 or 4 strands of fingering, look at patterns for bulky yarns.
  • If knitting with 3 or more strands of worsted, look at patterns for super bulky yarns.
  • If using other weights of yarn (lace, sport, or DK), you'll just have to knit some swatches, and determine your spi (stitches per inch) to figure out what yarn-weight patterns to look for.
  • Expect to knit in a lot of ends ends. Every time you shift colors, you'll weave in the end of the the color you dropped, and the end of the color you started. It gets old after awhile.
  • You do not need to divide each skein into four. Rather, wind into two cakes of approximately equal size, and knit from both ends of the cake.
  • When knitting from both ends, use the inner strands as much as possible to minimize tumbling, which causes the yarn strands to twist around each other.  So, start each strand from the inside of the cake first, and the outer strands last. And when it's time to drop stands, drop from the outside first, then the inside.
  • Another trick, is to have the balls of yarn laying on their sides, and instead of just yanking to free up slack, do two careful pulls. Pull the inner strand from the top of the cake, and pull the outer strand from the bottom.  That also prevents twisting.   Or just pull, and untwist when it's time to drop a yarn.  
  • You'll get the best results if you pick colors that are fairly close together.  Black to a medium-to-dark purple blends almost seamlessly, as does purple to lavender, and lavender to gray (this transition was the most obvious, actually).   

I've gotten a lot of comments on the pom-pom. Here's how you make it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Neither spam nor mean comments are allowed. I'm the sole judge of what constitutes either one, and any comment that I consider mean or spammy will be deleted without warning or response.