Today is a little bit of Monday Mishaps and Technical Tuesday mixed together. A while back, when I was knitting quite a few Fair Isle sweaters, I was really into colour work. I’ve done mittens, sweaters and all manner of garments in Fair Isle. This also means I have made my fair share of disasters with colour work.
When you make a mistake in a colour work pattern, it is usually pretty obvious; there is a pixel the wrong colour, so to speak. I will drop the stitch and go down to fix it if I can, but there are times when you can’t just make an easy fix that way. There are times when you just have to rip it out and ripping out colour work is just not fun.
The first time I ripped out a couple rows for a Fair Isle sweater I got the multiple colours of yarn hopelessly tangled. You almost need one person to do the ripping and one person to do the balling. If you don’t, the mountain of fiber before you will turn into something monstrous or it will just take you forever to complete.
When doing this by yourself, I recommend ripping out an arm’s length of stitches, then balling them. If you do much more than that you’re bound to get criss crossed. I had to rip out part of Paul’s special request sweater and untangling the yarn was a nightmare, especially since there were so many. I think there were something like five colours in his sweater, they weren’t all happening at the same time but at the point I ripped it out there were more than two.
You don’t always have to totally rip out your colour work either, there is always a chance you can drop down and change the stitch colour. I wrote a previous post about that here.
This post ended up being a little shorter than I anticipated, so I will regale you with a story about two colour knitting. I have a knitting bowl for my yarn, it’s exactly what it sounds like; a bowl you put yarn into. When I am doing two colour knitting, I can only put one colour in the bowl because it is just not big enough to accommodate two. Usually this bowl is situated in the living room with all my other knitting paraphernalia; I do a lot of knitting on the couch in front of the TV. The cats usually wander by and demand I pet them a little bit, but not too much; can’t mess up the fur. I have three and two of them cuddle up with me while I knit, but the other one is much more aloof. She will usually sit at the end of the couch while I knit, or on the floor.
While I was knitting this sweater for Paul, she kept getting closer and closer. I thought she may have finally been getting over her antisocial behaviour, you know, trying to associate a little more. Then she casually popped up onto the coffee table, grabbed my ball of yarn in her mouth and started to run away with it. I can’t even express how funny this was in the moment; it was like she was a cartoon character. It was that perfectly laid out. I had to chase her down and get my yarn back, and she maintained this interest in the yarn for the rest of the project. I think the Eco Plus yarn from Cascade must have smelled especially sheepy to her sensitive nose.
Enter the two-colour knitted mittens. Now, I know what you’re thinking (No, I’m not actually psychic… but I can hazard a good guess).. “She’s rather bold to start knitting something so.. intense.” And yes.. I am *wink* … but I had a great friend at my side helping me along the way. She taught me to properly purl.. instead of adding on a stitch every time (oops!); she taught me how to catch my yarns across x number of stitches, and she lent me her set of 4mm double pointed needles. (while they have their place towards the end of my mittens and even for the thumb… I dislike the way they look at me).
I searched high and low through Ravelry to locate a nice mitten in a Norwegian style, as that was the look I was going for. I came across a free pattern for “Selbu Mittens” and immediately looked through all of the different colour palettes people had tried. I already knew my colour selection – a sparkly winter white contrasted with gorgeous evergreen. Michelle and I searched a local yarn supplier for the goods – with her help, I settled on Cascade 220 for the dark green and Sirdar Snuggly Pearls for the winter white. I originally bought two balls of the white (a slightly lighter weight yarn than the Cascades 220) and one skein of dark green. This was enough to do 5 full individual mittens, and I still have some leftover before starting the second mitten of the third pair.
That’s right…the third pair! I chose these two specific colours because they’re my wedding colours. My bridesmaids dresses are all dark “pine” green and our accent colour is glittery/sparkly white. It took what seemed like forever to finish the first pair. I followed the pattern exactly (with a bit of a change to the cuff) and boy was it intense. I am very proud of these mittens, even if they’re a bit wibbly here and there. I don’t knit every night..sometimes I’m just not in the right mindset. I might have –plans- to knit, but either I fall asleep, or I get distracted on pinterest or doing other crafty things. As such, this first pair of mittens did take me the better part of forever to complete.
Originally I had planned on making my bridesmaids (x3) all the same pair of mitten – the same exact pattern. But after creating the first pair and realising just how long it took me to finish them, I thought it might be a smart idea to create a slightly less daunting pattern. The first was a traditional Norwegian snowflake, the second, a more simplistic star pattern. It went quite well. Onto the third – the pair I’m half way through completing. This last pair will be for my MoH – I decided to create her pair with a pattern of hearts, dots and two little stars. It turned out better than I could’ve hoped for. I have yet to complete the thumb on the first mitten and I still have ends to weave in, but its lookin’ pretty fancy.
I used Excel to plan out the same number of stitches as the original mitten pattern and then used dark green to colour in a different design. This basically included counting out the main “square” of the pattern I had gotten from Ravelry and selecting those boxes on a new excel spread sheet. After outlining those boxes, I added the triangle of boxes that makes up the finger-area of the mitten and also counted out boxes where the thumb gusset is. Once I had selected and outline all the boxes, I changed the settings in excel to make all of the boxes more square like (as opposed to the rectangles you start with on a new spreadsheet).
I would definitely recommend saving at this point as “blank mitten pattern” so that you can use it for any and all future designs for this style of mitten. This came in handy for me because I needed to create two separate designs for my bridesmaids. I feel like this is a really great way to slowly work into creating your own patterns from scratch. You take what you learn from a pattern you love and try to change it up a little to fit your own style. Since I’m not selling these mittens, I don’t feel too nervous about using the same base as the original Ravelry pattern.
My plans for future wedding knitting include a pair of fiddlehead mittens for myself – I’ve chosen only three colours in keeping with my bridesmaids’ mittens. A soft winter white (slightly warmer), and a mellow sage green – still my wedding colours, but a bit less contrast involved. I chose periwinkle blue for the lining. If I don’t manage blue anywhere else, this can be my “something blue” for the wedding! I have no doubt that the pattern isn’t as crazy as it seems, given that Michelle wrote a wonderful post about it (“honourable mentions”). She mentions the pattern appears quite daunting, but turned out to be enjoyable to knit and a great learning experience. When it doubt… “googleit”
I’m hoping to have enough time for a secret project for my hubby-to-be using one of Michelle’s gorgeous jewel toned greens. I will have to fully research the pattern I’m considering and ask some intense questions before I commit myself. And I will likely have to knit it in secret so that the man-friend doesn’t know what I’m creating.
This rounds out my two part post on an introduction to two colour knitting…not concise at all! I hope to write again soon for Michelle’s blog before potentially starting up my own page to showcase new and exciting expressions of creativity.
As I have been saying over the past few weeks, it seems like winter in Canada has finally gotten up and gone! Naturally with the surge of hot weather, I am knitting garments appropriate to that level of heat… Mittens!
I’ve finished the rest of the hand for Shauna’s mittens and just need to start on the thumb and lining, I think I will wait to do the lining until I have the shells done for both mittens. That way I can block them together.
I am going to do a before and after photo of the mittens because there is a significant difference. I know a lot of people say lace is that way, it looks like hell, then you block it into something beautiful. Having never knit lace, all I have to go on is these mittens.
The very first time I knit this pattern, I was very upset. I thought I had my tension off and since the colours are carried behind the main colour, they were all scrunched up! I really thought I had messed them up. Of course, I immediately googled ‘Knitting flattening out stitches’. My search was filled with hundreds of things about blocking and I decided I should give that a try! I hear a lot of mixed reviews about blocking and the different methodologies from different schools of thought, but I’d be lying if it didn’t work like a charm. The mittens were prefect!
In my inexperience I didn’t take a picture of the mittens beforehand. I wanted to hide the evidence as soon as humanly possible. This time I am going to show everyone how much of a difference there is. I still don’t think it will be comparable to the first time, because I have a much better grasp on my tension, but it will still get my point across.
Aside from the mittens I am doing well on the Ombre Cardigan! I am really excited about it because this is going to be the softest cardigan anyone has ever seen. The lace I chose to use is Merino and Silk. I can’t wait to try it on! I also really like the Ombre Cardigan pattern because, as childish as it sounds, I can’t wait to get onto the next colour block. Right now I am still knitting with plain orange, but in an inch or an inch and a half, I get to change out one orange strand for one blue strand. I am measuring every half hour or so to see if I have the recommended amount of sweater before I make the swap.
The end of last week and this weekend I was horribly sick, so I did not manage a whole lot of knitting. I slept a LOT and am now dealing with some seriously spoiled cats! I swear, you give them all your attention for two days straight and they are completely unreasonable after!