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A Colorama Question: Answers

This week I got a question from a Ravelry user about my Colorama Crescent Shawl knitting pattern. She wanted to know “how many balls of yarn” she would need to knit the shawl. It seemed like a simple enough question. However, the answer got fuzzy, fast!

Here is a photo of the shawl in 4 sizes. The edges of the shawls you can’t see in this shot, are lined up evenly. Each successive shawl is a larger size. Note that the sizes are larger in width only. Longer shawls just get in the way of using one’s hands, I’ve discovered the hard way!

So often people ask me “how many stitches do I cast on for a sock?” That answer involves the size of the yarn, the gauge of the individual knitter, and the foot size of the wearer. Of course, those 3 variations can indicate a need for more or less yarn, too.

Yarn is sold by weight. You typically can get a 50gm ball or a 100gm ball, though there are a few exceptions. For fingering (sock) weight yarn, you often get 220 yards in 50 grams (440 in 100gm) where with worsted (sweater) weight yarn you might get 110 yards for the same 50gm balls (220 in 100gm). Thinner yarn makes more but thinner fabric, compared to thicker ones. When you’re talking about a shawl, this thick/thin yarn issue plays out in important ways.

Here is how I responded to the writer:

The question of how much yarn is complicated with this shawl. I offer 4 sizes, as well as 2 yarn weights from light fingering to sport weight. Here is what I wrote in the pattern:

Sizes: Sprite (XS) / Princess (S) / Diva (M–L) / Goddess (XL–3X) All shawls shown measure 42-52” wingspan & 17-19” length, depending on yarn, gauge & blocking method. Bust appx. 36 (41/ 52/ 55)in., 91”(104/”132/ 140)cm.

MC (Main Color), solid-colored yarn. 100 (100-150, 150, 150) gm of sport weight
-OR- 100 (100, 100-150, 150) gm heavy fingering-weight/sockyarn.
CC (Contrast Color), slowly self-color-changing yarn. 100 (100-150, 150, 150) gm of sport weight
-OR- 100 (100, 100-150, 100-150) gm heavy fingering-weight/sockyarn.

Yarn Suggestions:
MC: Elsabeth Lavold Silky Wool, Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport, Cascade Epiphany, Harrisville New England Shetland, DROPS Alpaca, Isager Alpaca 2, Frog Tree Alpaca Sportweight, Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light
CC: Noro Silk Garden Sock, Marks & Kattens Fame Trend, Crystal Palace Mini Mochi, Schoppel-Wolle Zauberball, Kauni 8/2 Effektgarn, Aade Lõng Artistic 8/2.

Color Hint: “Matching” makes boring here. However, unlike stranded knitting, contrast need not be strong. It is best if none of the colors in your two yarns match, but small lengths of similar colors work (shawls 1 & 2 at left).

In this photo (shown above) (a)ll shawls are lined up on the edge you can’t see in the photo. The sizes are laid on top of each other to show how much larger around each consecutive size is.

The first shawl on the left (smallest) is Silky Wool/Kureyon Sock, the second is Heritage/Step, the third is Nature Spun Sport/Kauni, and the last is Drops Alpaca/Mini Mochi.

Of course, some balls of these yarns are 50gm and some are 100gm. As I recall, none took more than 100gm of any one yarn, so 200gm would be overkill unless you choose much more heavy/dense/thick yarns than I did.

I hope that is helpful. Happy knitting!

This may look like a lot of words about one particular question. However, the concept should be useful to many knitters no matter what project they make. If we use a different yarn or get a different number of stitches per inch (row or stitch gauge) than specified in the pattern, we may run out of yarn or buy too much.

In this society, we are so used to manufactured items and true/false tests that we forget that there may be “it depends” answers that don’t fit the picture we have in our minds. One response to this “problem” is to insist on the exact yarn that was specified in a commercial knitting pattern. However, even if you use the same yarn, and the same needle size the designer calls for, you may end up with the same number of stitches but a different number of rows per inch than specified.

Knitting is an artform, something which was learned for centuries by word of mouth, one person at a time, one on one. Yes, it is practical. Practical arts are called “crafts” in this society (the “Museum of American Craft” was just down the street from the Museum of Modern Art in New York City… now it’s called the Museum of Arts and Design – it held quilting, baskets, silversmithing, jewelry and textile work – I saw the Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting exhibit there in 2007).

I’m sharing more photos of Colorama Shawls… can you see why it’s a good thing to not lock ourselves in to what this mere designer could imagine? Look above at 5 of my knitting guild sisters who wear their own Colorama Shawl… some were gifts and some were knit for themselves.

And look at the one at right! Elizabeth knit it in one “double evolution” ball (560 yd/ 140gm) of Kabam yarn (fingering weight 60% Superwash Merino/30% Bamboo/10% Nylon) in “Circle” colorway from Twisted FiberArt. Twisted is an amazing company with incredibly perfect dye techniques. With that ball of yarn, one needs to knit just a few rows fewer to have enough yarn for the 2nd-largest shawl size (“Diva”).

Rock on with any creativity you have! Understand the nature of art and accommodate the possibility that answers may not be precise! Let’s hear it for individuality, yes?

(Edited 5/14 to add the question which prompted this post… thanks to Diana/Otterwise for prompting me to fix that. Also fixed wrong yardage for fingering weight yarn; thanks to Judi A. for catching that hiccup.)

2 Responses to “A Colorama Question: Answers”

  1. Judi Says:

    For fingering (sock) weight yarn, you can get 440 yards in 50 grams where with worsted (sweater) weight yarn you might get 110 yards for the same 50gm balls.

    Most fingering/sock weight yarn I have found is in the 200-230 yard range for 50 grams. At least those commercially sold as fingering/sock weight.

  2. Diana Troldahl Says:

    You didn’t actually tell us what the question was. Was it how much yarn it would take for the shawl in a different yarn?

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