I have now completed the second large piece of my Chanel-inspired V neck pullover, the front. It was quite a labor of love, but I do like the way it looks after blocking. Because of the mix of fair isle and slip stitch techniques, I found it necessary to block each individual column of colors with pins in order to keep them symmetrical:
You can see the pins, above, forming little indentations in the knitted fabric. Because this piece contains so many different yarns, I just kept the piece dry, pinned it, then put a wet towel on top of it to facililatate the blocking process.
It has been challenging to work with so many yarns at the same time. Normally, I avoid yarn combining, but I found it necessary in order to reproduce the unusual colors in this textile.
The mauve was particularly difficult to approximate, as when I used one mauve color by itself it looked to harsh and so I had to create my own color by combining several variegated yarns together. Compare the closeup of my actual knit here:
to the effect you get from using one solid mauve yarn, which you see in the top left section of the fair isle swatch:
The stark mauve, above, looks exaggerated and somehow too sweet in contrast with the grey and silver. Not the look I desired. However, I found that in order to get the water-color effect of the subtle mauve of my inspiration piece, I needed to combine 2 threads of Kidsilk spray yarn:
With one thread of Classic Elite silky alpaca lace
And one thread of Rowan shimmer
= 4 different yarns!!!!!
This means that on every other slip stitch pattern repeat, I am holding those four yarns together in one hand. And because I am creating contrasting colums of colors I must use another collection of colors in the other. This contrasting color block uses three yarns--Habu NS-28, Rowan Kidsilk Haze, and Rowan Shimmer:
This means that the knitting
process is pretty slow, because every 5 stitches of the slip stitch pattern, I
am trading a handful of yarns for another. But the back sides
of my pieces are a gorgeous kaleidoscope of different colored yarns:
If I hadn’t fallen so much in love with these unique colors I doubt I would have bothered with the hassle of yarn combining. But since this textile has been haunting me, I have pushed forward with the two main body pieces and have just started my first sleeve. On the way, I have discovered some things that may be useful to others who have ventured into the tricky terrain of yarn combining.
Tip #1: Separate your balls of yarn in an open space
Keep your balls of yarn separate if you are combining several yarns of different materials and thicknesses. If you try to wind different yarns into a ball together but they have different stretch because of their different fibres, you will end up with a mess. Do not put them in a bag either. Unfortunately, balls of yarn will roll around as the strands of yarn are pulling off them, and in a constricted space like a bag they are much more likely to tangle together as that happens.I found that it is easier to keep my balls separate but next to each other on one side of me on the sofa, lying loose, or in a wide, open box. Here you can see that the yarn strands are separate but are knitted together as one:
Tip #2: When your yarns first cross over each other, pull the junction down.
In my case, when I am executing the fair isle/slip stitch portion of my textile, I have one color block comprising 3 strands of yarn and another color block comprising 4 strands of yarn. When I first switch from one block to another, my 3 strands of yarn cross over my 4 strands of yarn for the first time. At this crossing, I loosen the junction and pull it down gently.
The lower this junction is, of the strands crossing over each other, the longer your separated strands are, which means you have more time to do your stranding work before the junction creates an inevitable snarl as some of the hairs on the little threads catch each other.
Tip #3: Pause regularly to unwind your color blocks from each other.
As you knit along in alternating colors, the strands that cross will become wound around each other:
This becomes less of a problem if you defer the yarn junction as mentioned in Tip 2 by gently separating your yarns after the first crossing and pulling that junction down. But I found that if I took one color block of all its strands at once and unwound it from the others every 2 rows, then I could keep the work moving smoothly and avoid a massive tangle which is a time-consuming disaster. Once I got used to it, the yarn unwinding went quickly and prevented a lot of frustration. I found that if I held all 3 balls of yarn in my hand together as one, I could very quickly separate them from the strands in the other color block.
Tip #4: Take frequent breaks to knit a simple project in one yarn
No matter how many tricks I have tried to use to simplify the process, I still find the process of colorwork with up to 7 strands of yarn at a time laborious. So I have been taking frequent breaks to liberate myself from the need for “yarn management” by knitting a fun accessory project in one yarn. I will be sharing some great easy accessory projects I have discovered through this in my next blog post.