Sunday, January 13, 2019

Periodicity 1: Introduction

Photo © Cathy Weeks
Periodicity: Variegated Yarns
The Yarnie’s Dilemma: How to make a colorful silk purse out of a clown barf sow’s ear

I have a not-so secret obsession: I love variegated yarns.  I’m drawn to them, and I rarely resist their siren-call.

The problem?  They are hard to knit with.  They produce weird fabric that ranges from wonderfully colorful to really, really ugly - a strange, mottled mess that you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing.

And, it’s entirely subjective. Some people love the flickery wash of color, while others hate it. I know of knitters and crocheters who - as much as they love the look of the multi-colored skein of yarn - refuse to buy them because they don't love the fabric they produce.

And because I love the yarns so much, I decided to explore what works and what doesn’t, and did what many yarnies do, and started a thread of Ravelry (you'll need a Ravelry ID to click through): 

Many, many thanks to those knitters, crocheters, weavers and dyers who filled in the gaps in my knowledge. Thank you all for your considerable time and efforts.

Photo © Cathy Weeks

I hope to accomplish two things with this series:

  1. Help people figure out what to do with variegated yarns to create a fabric they will love.  In other words, help yarnies match a yarn to the right pattern.
  2. Encourage designers to specifically create patterns intended for variegated yarns that really emphasize and utilize the colorful nature of the yarn itself.

Before I get started, I should define some terms.

Yarnie: A person who works with yarn. I am a knitter but yarnies are all one fiber family, with spinners and dyers as the parents, and knitters, crocheters and weavers as the siblings who make fabric using the yarn produced by the parents. I tried to make this series as craft agnostic as possible, as many of the concepts apply across disciplines, though I suspect it will be of least use to weavers.

Variegated:  The dictionary will tell you it just means “multi-colored.”  But in this context, it means a multi-colored yarn that has relatively short sections of two or more colors that repeat in a predictable fashion.   It is not: "self-striping," tonal (two-toned), gradient, marled, tweed or speckled as its main attribute.  If you want to know more about these color types, see the colorful yarns appendix. Variegated yarns may include aspects of the above; gradients, marling, speckles may all be present in a variegated yarn.  And technically speaking, variegates do self-stripe, if the fabric is narrow enough (but more on that later).

A note on personal taste: As you read though this, you’ll almost certainly find yourself cringing at some of “good” items, and really liking some of the “bad” ones.  This is to be expected.  Just know that all photos used are either my own, or I had the permission of the person who made the item.  The purpose of this article is simply to show you what techniques are out there and allow you to chose which ones to use, to make the best of these lovely, difficult yarns.

Photo © Cathy Weeks

Want to keep reading? Back to TOC, or Periodicity 2: Pattern Recognition

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