03 January, 2007

The bad and the ugly

(Edited May 11, 2007)

For knitters who are new to color knitting, I thought I would share an experience from my distant knitting past. This is a sweater I made in 1992. It was not my first try at color knitting, but I guess it's the first one I finished. (I do remember some brown and orange legwarmers in the late 70's when I was in middle school. Probably a good thing they didn't get finished).



This is one of my favorite patterns, but I can't wear the sweater without embarassment, because I know that everybody can see that halfway through the body I learned a lesson. I didn't rip it out, because I really had no idea it would be so obvious.

You all have heard about how you always should keep the same color in front at all times. Or that you should always keep one color in the left and the other color in the right hand as you knit. This is where I learned it. Up until a little more than half way, I was keeping both colors in the left hand (I knit continental) and just picking one up at random. I did not pay any attention to the fact that sometimes the black was in front, other times the white. Then I realized (well, my mother showed me) that keeping the contrast color in the right hand, though slower, would make a much more even pattern. I started keeping the white always in my left and the black always in my right which automatically keeps the white always in front of the black.

Edited to add: I don't mean that my method is the only way, lots of knitters do this while holding both strands in the same hand. The main thing is that the yarns are always in the same position relative to each other. Usually I keep the color there is more of in the left, regardless of whether it's background or contrast. In this case, the white stitches will be more prominent than the black.

Edited to add: Note that with the way I knit, the white background color ends up being the more dominant/prominent color. Most knitters probably want the contrast color to be most prominent, but this works better for me.

Let's see the back of the sweater. See how half way up the diagonals go from fuzzy and irregular to crisp and even?



On the inside, it's also obvious:


The effect on the rose pattern panels is more subtle. But you will see, the minute you start thinking about the colors like this, your stitches and motifs will start to look very even.

Kris wrote about yarn dominance today. This is one of the side effects of that! I don't do this for the sake of the color dominance, but for the sake of keeping the pattern neat. For me it's more of a "color consistency".




It's very simple but it makes a big difference.


I learned so many lessons on this particular sweater, for example about picking up stitches for button bands and collar (they had to be redone), and how white could have obvious dye lots... (when I redid the button bands and collar of course I couldn't get the same lot). I also learned that some shapes might make me look like a football player....

Hope you enjoyed this visit to my hall of shame!

22 comments:

  1. My first knit was in 1989 and it is no-where near as good as that .It took me some-time before I tried fair-isle ( for my daughter) .I am a big Kaffe fan and I can't do as musg colour-work now as my eyes are not so good. I have started more freeform type but it is not as satisfying.

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  2. hege! that is disgraceful! omg i can't believe you did that!

    ha! the cardi is gorgeous nonetheless. wear it with pride, i say. thanks for showing the detailed pictures; very helpful for beginners like myself.

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  3. Thank you for sharing, now that you've learned your lesson...and now cranking out the 'incredibles'...I still say your first one is beautiful.

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  4. I am slogging through my first continental project after years of british style ... I have been keeping everything in my left hand too! A very insightful quick lesson that I will be making use of very soon ... Thanks!

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  5. It is still lovely! But it answers a question I had whether blocking would make a difference. Did you see Francoise's?

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  6. EXCELLENT point!! (And great sweater!) :-)

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  7. It's nothing to be ashamed of. Hopefully there'll always be new things to learn.

    By the way - I keep both colors in the left - one over my first finger and the other over first and second finger - that's my way to keep them separated and pick them up correct.

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  8. You know, my problem is that I never read anything before starting something new ... so I had no idea of keeping what colour to the right or left ... just random like you did. Now I would keep that in mind! Thanks for sharing ... your sweater is so lovely!

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  9. I have been catching up on your blog posts...those photos of the knitting belt are amazing! I never saw that before. It looks awkward but perhaps when you get into a rhythm it is much easier?

    I love your new sweater and shawl -- I want to get a copy of the Victorian Lace book too. The sweater you posted today looks good to my untrained eyes, but your point is well taken about the dominance issue. I'll remember to look up more about that when I do a stranded knitting project (not on the list for now, but never say never). Happy New Year!

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  10. Thanks for showing the importance of the dominant yarn. I've read about it before but seeing is believing. Anyway, I think your sweater is lovely nonetheless. Black and white is such a good idea for first time fair isle - I'm going to bear this in mind when I try fair isle.

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  11. It's still a gorgeous piece of wrok... and we all need those life size lessons to keep us learning an artform. Colour Dominance. It's my new motto...

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  12. It's still an amazing sweater to learn from and to complete. Be proud of that experience. Cute Pippi picture too, in your other post. :)

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  13. I have to say it's gorgeous nontheless - and a huge accomplishment. I'm dreaming of colorwork, but not sure I'm cut out for it :) thanks for the detail and sharing your learning experience!!

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  14. I cannot believe this sweater made your hall of shame. It would be on my best project ever list, but thanks for the advice.

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  15. Thanks, you know you'll be getting panicked emails from me if/when I ever decide to try stranded colourwork!
    A question - does it matter which colour dominates so long as it's consistent throughout?

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  16. Now, this is amazing - I wasn't aware on how much of a difference these different ways of colour knitting make! You know that my first attempts at colour knitting failed miserably - but at least now I know why: I didn't take the time to read a bit through the internet, through pages and entries like yours by knitters who have done their fair amount of colour work and share their learning process. If I would have taken the time to read more, I wouldn't have ended up being as frustrated as I was. So, thank you so much for sharing your learning experiences - I will print this out and keep it in mind when I cast on for my next try!
    I adore the sweater, by the way!

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  17. I love that sweater pattern. Do you think if you got it wet and gently tugged at it, both vertically and horizontally, it would help? Some of my not-so-good Fair Isle attempts were fixed by doing that.

    I did get Poetry in Stitches for Christmas, and Rowan's Vintage Knits, too! There are at least 5 things in PiS that I want to knit, and I'm working on Salina from VK right now.

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  18. ok ok ok...so the yarn dominance thing is important....but that sweater is gorgeous regardless of any yarn dominance issue.

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  19. I knit holding both yarns in my left hand. Did you find it really hard to start holding one in each hand? I don't think I have the patience but I guess that if you could do it, I should be able to, too.

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  20. Thank you so much for sharing the tip! I'm itching to start fair-isle (as soon I finish the lingering WIP that have been almost done for months!) and this is very good to know. I was just planning to hold both in one hand...now I know better. :)
    Dominance issues aside though, your sweater is beautiful and the change in the way the lines run looks more like an interesting design quirk rather than an error. i would certainly be awestruck to see anyone wearing such a wonderful creation. :)

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  21. i think it's lovely. no one will notice when you're wearing it, and if they do, you just tell them to get their face away from your torso. ... then blame the dry cleaners.

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  22. Thanks so much for this lesson! I am doing my first colorwork with a pair of mittens. It's good to see the rationale for the instructions to hold each yarn separately. I'm far from ambidextrous, so it's been a steep learning curve.

    Thanks also for showing something that had a 'mistake'. The honesty is refreshing, and it's also encouraging me to keep at it!

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