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Contemplating Stripes

Easy-Knit Color Approach

As I take a look at the design of Hot Waves, the sock pattern I designed for Joy of Sox (book), I realize I used stripes to make them easier to knit. I often enjoy knitting two yarns on a single row, and am happy to do that for most of a project. I realize not all knitters are comfortable with that.

For this project, I wanted to keep the stranded colorwork (two or more yarns on the same row, sometimes called Fairisle) to a minimum. For one thing, I know that colorwork scares away some folks. For another, it takes a bit of paying attention to get stranded patterns to stretch enough for a heel to slide past. They must be knit with a more relaxed gauge, and that takes more focus than straight knitting.

I wanted to use several colors. The original idea was that “Hot Waves” were like a flame. The toe and top are pale but warm, the middle is deep red, and they are darker (plum) toward the middle and heel. I thought maybe the heel and top were the tips of a fire that started at the center. I know, I made that explanation a bit more poetic than it needed to be… but I digress.


Fibonacci Figured Out Stripe Widths for Me

I ended up using a two-way Fibonacci stripe sequence on the heel and toe, which are applied slightly differently in each spot. The Fibonacci sequence starts with:


Notice that each number is added to the number before it, to come up with the next number in the sequence. That is, 1+1 =2, 1+2 = 3, 2+3=8, and so on. You can take that pattern forward but the eye stops being able to see it at a certain point just because we are human.

For Artists, not Just Number Fans

The first time I heard about this sequence, I dismissed it as overly math-geeky or something. Liking it because it was a concept, did not interest me.

However, when I started learning more about it, I found that many things in nature grow naturally at this basic sequence. Shells, tree branches, other plants grow this way.

Because our eyes are used to this pattern in nature, our eyes tend to like other things with the same sequence. Therefore, some designers (of anything, not just clothing) use this pattern to make their designs eye-friendly.

My Own Fibonacci-Striped Designs

I have used this concept in many ways. My Topper-Down Hat, Sassy Summer Handbag and Road-Tested Legwarmers have at least one “view” which includes at least a small part of the sequence. I show a photo of the hat and handbag above. Below, the pink/purple version is knit in this sequence, where the blue/green/purple version is knit of self-striping Noro Kureyon yarn.

legwarmerstwotypes25featheredThe hat uses it in one direction only, alternating colors as the numbers proceed. The Handbag not only uses it for color changes, but is decreased at the same sequence, creating that very fun shape. The legwarmers start on one end with one color and another color on the other. Each color starts with a small stripe intruding in the solid, and growing toward the middle where the stripes are equal. I really like the two-way Fibonacci stripe.

The Joy of Sox Connection

For Hot Waves, I used two-way Fibonacci stripes on toe and heel. For the leg, I used more random stripes, but I used only stripes of widths within the sequence.

I also added just three different three-row “waves” of two-color knitting, to give it variety. That adds up to only 9 rows using two colors. This small amount of colorwork makes the eye notice… with very little time requiring extra attention from the knitter.

Knitting stripes in a tube (such as a sock) is very easy. You do not need to break the yarn as you work your way up.

hotwavesgreenfulllength450Finish a round in the first color. When it is time to switch, you just drop the yarn you were just using, to the left (counter-clockwise from the top). Then you reach underneath and pull up the new color (or just start knitting with that new color, leaving a 4-6″ end to sew in after the sock is done) from the bottom-right. That is also clockwise.

Make sure that you keep the tension a bit more firm at the beginning of the first row using a new color. Do not choke the yarn, let it breathe a bit, but do pay attention to not leaving extra yarn inside the sock when you change colors.

guitarsockcashmerino400(Photo here is a cuff of my Guitar Trim Socks, knit in subtle colors of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino yarn. This pattern also maximizes ease of knitting by using stripes along with stranded colorwork. It does not look very “stripey,” in my opinion, but there are only 9 rows of stranded knitting.)

The Contest-Entering Question of the Day

Do you think “Polo Shirt” when you think “stripes?” I used to think “I do not like stripes.” What I realize now is that I do not like equal-color stripes, particularly not placed horizontally on my torso. I am finding that I quite enjoy some other types of stripes.

Consider the very popular Lizard Ridge Afghan (click to view on Knitty). It uses changing colors and a different sort of “wave” pattern, to make a beautiful, but not sporty, striped blanket. Wonderful.

The sweater “Poppy” is another one using stripes in a non-traditional way. The body of the sweater is knit with vertical stripes, and the yoke and sleeves have self-striping yarn knit horizontally. It looks great on all sorts of body shapes and in all sorts of color combinations. Click for a “Poppy-Along” page showing ten different women wearing their own version of the sweater.

What unusual stripes do you notice? Do you like evenly-spaced stripes, Fibonacci stripes, wavy stripes, vertical stripes, pinstripes on a Corvette, purple stripe in your hair? Have you thought about stripes much at all before?

If you answer, you get one entry in the contest to win a Joy of Sox book (courtesy of Lark Books). If you answer plus send a link to a web page with a photo illustrating your answer, you get a second “bonus” entry.

Winners to be announced early next week.

8 Responses to “Contemplating Stripes”

  1. Diana Troldahl Says:

    I like stripes that travel from each other at varying widths and in slightly different angles.
    My doodles when I was a kid in school would start with an abstract shape, sometimes in the middle of the page, but more often off toward a corner. Then I would draw echoing stripes around the shape, and cover the page. I didn’t encircle the shape, I drew it as if it were a horizon point and my echoing stripes the sunset lines in the sky. Then I would make different stripes below, downward from the horizon line, like a furrowed field.
    I love the patterns of stripes in nature, especially when a striped leaf interacts with stripes of shadow. For me, the shadow play in a photograph is as important as the subject.
    Here is an example in a photo I took at the Matthei Botanical Gardens.

    And another taken in the backyard after an ice storm

    And here is a swatch I made one of my favorite stitch patterns, Maze, from one of Barbara G. Walker’s treasuries

  2. StaceyKnitsIt Says:

    I don’t think polo shirt when I think stripes. I mostly think of sweaters or socks. I like pin stripes with some larger medium stripes mixed. I prefer random stripes and sizes more than all the same size and even throughout. But I do like thin horizontal stripes throughtout. Here is a thin striped top. I would not want a collar on my top.

  3. ikkinlala Says:

    I just saw your Hot Waves pattern on Ravelry and realized that I hadn’t visited your blog for a while. It’s a great pattern – congratulations on getting it published!

    I haven’t thought about stripes much before. Polo shirts are not the first thing that comes to mind for me, which is good because even, wide, horizontal stripes are probably the kind I like least. I think I like really thin stripes best, and lately I’ve been intrigued by using them for illusion knitting.

  4. Jen Says:

    I have to admit that the first thing that came to me when reading this was the band The White Stripes, and the one video they made that was primarily red, white and black. Odd, I admit, but that’s what came to mind…

  5. Bevsyarncrazy Says:

    I have to admit that I have always thought that I don’t like stripes, especially polo stripes! But the wonderful examples you gave in your blog, don’t exactly “read” as stripes to me. Plus, I hadn’t seen the Fibonacci stripes before and there is something more pleasing about the way they are spaced. Now, I have to do some more reading on this.

    I am so glad that Otterwise recommended your blog to me as it really is opening my eyes to color possibilities. Thank you!

  6. Elizabeth Says:

    I’m not really too big on stripes and don’t think about them much. I have found, though, that I really like the way the diagonal stripes are coming along in the scarf I’m making for the shop:


    And of course, we can’t talk about stripes without looking at my socks, made from yarn that I dyed in Rae’s class:


  7. JaM Says:

    Simple stripes can make something unique. I often use stripes when I weave and I, too, like using numbers of Fibonacci series. I find it more challenging to knit stripes unless a self-striping yarn does it for me.

    Individual numbats, an endangered Australian species, can be identified by their stripes of reddish brown, white and dark brown/black. You chose numbat colours, ColorJoy, (except for white) for your Guitar Trim Socks. Have a look at a numbat’s stripes:


  8. Cathy Says:

    First of all, I think the Hot Waves pattern is fantastic!! I am intrigued by the concept of Fibonacci stripes. I first heard of that on an epsiode of Knitty Gritty. I just knit a mystery sock pattern that had single row striping in it and I ended up really liking it, so I would definitely knit striped socks again!

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