it saves us from ourselves

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yesterday was evening class, and i just brought along my sock to work on. which turned out to be good, because i went from this

to this! the yarn is a pleasure to work with; it’s not supersoft (which i don’t think i’d like for
socks . . .); it feels sturdy, but not scratchy.

and to stick with the green theme, here is a little bit of Feather Stole

the alpaca is lovely, and i think it shows off the pattern well. this yarn felt a litle thinner, so i am knitting it with one needle size smaller and i added a repeat to compensate (just to see what the difference is and whether i like it . . . ever the explorer)

we had a great discussion in class the other night. it started with some talk about anatomical toe shaping for socks (i know; i guess we just ran out of good gossip). and of course my pointy feet had to be dragged out for a few laughs (not to worry, they are quite used to it).

(the one on the right is the true shape; the one on the left is partially masked by toe shaping that is not quite form-fitting enough. sigh. but it does show you what good camouflaging can do).
all joking aside, that led to a discussion of customizing things in our knitting. that is, changes we make to suit our size and shape, or our knitting preferences. which brought us to the grand topic of “Mistakes We Make When We Think We Are Being Clever, or Just Trying Something Out”

now, on wednesday evening, i have a core group of people who just take the same class over and over while working their way through ever-more-challenging projects. they are getting to the point where they are starting to ask questions. not like “do i have to do a gauge swatch” or “WHAT does SSK mean, again?“.
no-no-no-no!—they are starting to ask questions such as “if i want to resize this motif to be a larger scale, what would i do” or “i want to make a lace scarf with this bulky brushed alpaca; what stitch should i use?” or “why does this variegated yarn look terrible in a lace pattern, but this other one doesn’t?

(it’s just one person’s opinion about what looks good and what doesn’t—not necessarily my own!)

“don’t ask those questions,” i said, as beads of sweat formed on my upper lip, “just don’t even go there; especially you, with the alpaca brush!”
and we began talking about just WHY people should do continue with class for a lifetime an extended time without stopping.

and debbie r said “well, it saves us from ourselves!”

well now, that gave me the shakes, cuz, i think that means that i am the captain of that ship. and if so, it is me who is going to have to keep everyone from drowning when they dive right in to a project that is above their head. and i am afraid that i have encouraged this along the way, never dreaming that they too, would eventually decide to march to their own proverbial drummers right in the middle of some sweater or (i shudder to think) lace doo-dad.

now my big decisions are almost always intuitive, so i have to really sit and analyze them in order to explain how i come to them. once i have that flash of inspiration, of course i drag out the tools of the trade and add technical know-how. teaching it all to someone else, though—hmm, that will be a big step for me!

but this week i have the opportunity to observe my process a bit more. i’m working on three or four new lace designs, all inspired by yarn. well, in large part by yarn, and then there are other contributing forces. i don’t even know for sure what each of these designs will result in. triangle shawl, rectangle stole, scarf, or blouse? right now, i am just playing with swatches and ideas, which, in itself, will help hone the decision-making process. there are so many factors to consider—if i tried to tackle them all at once, i would go mad! so usually, i just start with daydreaming and whittle away at the design from there.

but i think i can answer one question today at least, the one about the variegated yarn. i like variegated yarns for long repetitive projects, like stoles and shawls. put quite simply, they keep me entertained. but not every variegated yarn is meant to be knit into lace.
i’m looking at my yarn, and i see i have several variegated ones that are subtle or nearly-solid:

these are almost totally dyed in similar tones and from the same color families. there is little contrast between light and dark or from one hue to the next—they harmonize. the subtlety of the color changes may accentuate some variations in lace patterns, but in general, they will not mask the lacy quality of the fabric, or lend a strong element of movement. variegateds like these could be used for almost any lace pattern, and will contribute visual interest and texture, as well as provide something to keep the knitter engaged. a knitted example might be this:

this shawl is knit from just such a yarn, but it’s very delicate quality still stands up to it.

i also have several yarns that are a little “noisier” or, more accurately, there is more contrast between the colors within them. none of them have super-hi contrast, though, because the
tones remain similar.

this type of variegated needs to be used a little more carefully when thinking about lace. if the lace pattern is very delicate or has straight horizontal lines, the more complex variegation could interfere or overwhelm the pattern. however, some lace patterns have naturally sinuous horizontal lines, and i find that this type of variegated yarn does a bang-up job of accentuating those voluptuous curves with movement, while not overwhelming the fabric. the key is the tonality—while the colors vary widely, the tones are very close; there is not much difference between dark and light. and that provides the continuity that saves the piece.

this piece actually has all the same colors as that rainbow swatch up top, but its many colors are toned-down so much that they begin to harmonize.
and here we have an example for which the exact reverse is also successful; the colors are similar, but the tones are dissimilar. the lace pattern is accentuated without being hidden.

of course, all that said, i am about to experiment with breaking the rules. i’ll keep you updated.

now that fuschia yarn came just today, and when i saw it, i had to run outside and take some pictures too. and an interesting point was made. remember the picture above? that was taken indoors in natural light near a window. then this one was taken outdoors in natural light

surrounded by sunlight, those colors just roar! then, i put it in the grass, which is several times greener than usual from all the rain we’ve had. now green is opposite to reds/pinks on the color wheel, and therefore in direct contrast to it, so i’m expecting it to pop, but i did not expect this. are you ready for your eyes to bleed?

just remember this progression of scenes next time you are choosing “something bright” for a project. some time, i will write about color relativity. its a fascinating topic. for now, go rest your baby blues.

7 thoughts on “it saves us from ourselves

  1. Hi Anne: Just had to pop you a quick comment to tell you what a GREAT post this is! Your discussion of the use of handpainted and/or variegated yarns for laceknitting is awesome!!! You’ve obviously thought this through and experimented a ton 🙂 I, personally, just tend to think simply: The more intricate the lace pattern, the subtler your color variations must be … but you’ve said that and so much more here. Really useful and thought-provoking info. Awesome job!

    Keep up the great posts (and congrats on your internet community attention!). – Deb aka Fearless Fibers

  2. Great post about variegated and lace! I’m always amazed when someone puts a ton of work into something “fancy” when you can’t even see the “fancy” part. The socks are coming along nicely too!

  3. Awesome post, I’m always horrified when I see lace in really busy yarns. Oh and you have the same shape of feet as me.

  4. You say eyes are burning…

    I say “That’s fan-TAS-tic! OMG I want it!”

    … I’m a hot pink kinda gal though 😉

  5. I was thinking the same thing…at least we know she doesn’t need any Anne for a gift. She seems to have her own secret stash and she even has PINK, my personal favorite!

  6. Oh, I’m just dying (not with colors) over so many views of that beautiful Shaeffer Anne! My favorite yarn! Can you believe I have 2 projects, both in Shaeffer Anne, and I still covet more…just to have…Drool…

    I find myself prefering almost-solid yarns myself for just about everything, but I usually seek out lacy or textured patterns. I know they will look good when almost solid.

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