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Archive for June 6th, 2008

Knit So Fine, Blog Tour

Friday, June 6th, 2008

blueyokesweater.jpgToday I am delighted to host the blog tour of the book Knit So Fine, by by Lisa R. Myers, Laura Grutzeck, and Carol J. Sulcoski. Carol and I discussed her Bohus-style-inspired sweater for this stop.

Historical Bohus knitting included a stranded-colorwork yoke. This sweater has the look from a distance, but is a quicker knit with lovely and simple color accents. It is an inspired concept, and it plays out very well in real life.

Color-Blending!

Of course, regular readers of this ColorJoy blog will know that my primary creative focus is color (expressed mostly through knitting but also in other areas). I have done a lot of knitting where I mix yarns or I hold two yarns together, usually two different colors if not two different yarn types entirely.

Carol’s Bohus-inspired sweater uses two strands of Jaggerspun Zephyr silk/wool laceweight yarn, held together. For the yoke, she changes one strand’s color at a time for subtle interest.

Two strands of silk/wool makes for a wonderful, drapey and comfortable fabric. With the silk content, it is warmer than other sweaters of the same (fingering/sockweight) gauge.

The Fabric Itself

With two strands worked together as one yarn, the fabric is much flatter than a fabric made of one fingering-weight yarn at the same gauge. I particularly love this specific attribute of knitting with two strands held together as one.

There is nothing like the drapey, somewhat “flatter” fabric you get when you knit with two strands, no matter what gauge you desire. The flatness and drape of a multi-stranded knitting fabric versus the same gauge using one strand, must not be underestimated. It looks more elegant, more finished. It also flatters all body shapes better, by its nature.

Not only that, but for the yoke she accented the garment by changing one yarn color at a time, creating a series of beautiful colors in a bit of a rainbow effect. I have employed this technique in my own designs, which is a subtle way to add color without a too-strong extreme stripe effect.

Carol says:

You may be familiar with Jaggerspun’s Zephyr for knitting lace shawls and scarves. It’s a laceweight yarn made of fifty percent wool and fifty percent silk. It comes in a rainbow of colors and can be purchased in cones or by the ounce. It’s very soft and drapey, and perfect for laceknitting. But Zephyr isn’t just a yarn for knitting lace. I’ve heard people talk about knitting very lightweight socks in it, and when double-stranded, it creates a lovely fingering-weight fabric, as shown in the Bohus sweater.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Bohus style of knitting. I love the book Poems of Color, which tells the story of this knitting movement, and the colorwork in these sweaters is truly magnificent. My yoke sweater is inspired by the Bohus movement, but made a bit more accessible in the way the yoke was knit. Instead of using charts and stranded stitchwork, carrying two and sometimes more different colors across a row, I simplified the colorwork dramatically by using two strands of Zephyr. You begin with two strands of the same color, then after a few rows switch one of the strands, then after a few more rows, switch to two strands of the new color, and so on. You get a great blending of colors with a more user-friendly technique.

Zephyr is the perfect yarn for this for many reasons: it comes in many lovely colors so you can have fun playing with different shades; and it’s so lightweight, that even when you knit two strands together, you don’t lose the softness or the drape. Plus the wool content gives it elasticity to counterbalance the silk. Because the sweater is lightweight, it will be wearable more seasons of the year than a heavier, all-wool sweater.

zephyrallcolors.jpg

Learning to Embrace Color

For me, often the yarns available are what creates my interest in a project. I think that many folks are afraid to choose colors. However, most of us have a sense that we enjoy blues and greens, or rosy tones, or brights (in my case).

I teach color-comfort classes, and often suggest that folks try an “analogous” color scheme first, as a way to try more colors at one time. Analogous colors are those near one another on the color wheel.

For example, those of us who remember the early 1970’s remember the blue/green/purple scheme and the red/orange/yellow scheme that were in every fashion magazine and many stores at that time. Both of these schemes used high-intensity colors in an analogous group.

I have a group of artistic friends who favor hand-dyed batik fabrics in indigo, purple, and turquoise. This is a softer version of the same concept. Carol used a blues-and-greens colorway for her sweater, using dark and light values of this small group of analogous colors. So many of us love the sea-and-sky color scheme, that it really worked well.

Carol continues:

When I was swatching for the sweater, I got a bunch of little samples of Zephyr, and laid them all out on a table in good light. I had a hard time committing to a color combination, though. I loved the many pink and rose shades, but I also felt the blue and gray and green ones calling to me. I hope to knit this sweater again for myself, and I’ll definitely choose a different color combination than the sample just for the fun of doing it again in an alternate colorway!

Here is one colorway that Carol considered before choosing the blue-green version:

zephyrcarolpinks.jpg

Carol then asks me:

Lynn, I bet you have already knit with Zephyr. What do you think of it?

I have dyed Zephyr a few times, but since I am not much of a lace knitter I did not use it until I knit my self-portrait. At that time, I could not find enough fingering-weight yarns in believable neutrals for my face.
My friend and colleague, Rae Blackledge of Rae’s Yarn Boutique in Lansing, Michigan, suggested that I use several strands of laceweight yarns held together to create more colors for shading. It really did the trick.

LynnH with her handknit self-portrait in 10,374 stitchesI did essentially what you did in the yoke of your sweater. However, I used four strands at a time of any number of brands of lace yarns, only one of which was Zephyr. (Click photo for larger image and the story behind the knitting of the piece.)

This yarn-combining allowed me great freedom in shading and gave me a vast variety of closely-related colors to work with. For example, I might use two strands of soft white with two taupe for a few stitches. Then I might use four of taupe, or three taupe and one white, ad infinitium.

It was not only a great solution for my subtle color-shading needs, but it gave me a much finer fabric in the final piece. I can not be more pleased with the result. Without the laceweights I may have had to hand-dye the yarns in order to get the shades I needed.

Future Plans: Laceweight Yarn for Garments

I have a *lot* of laceweight yarn left from the self-portrait project. I am not at all a lover of neutral tones in my wardrobe. Therefore, I’m considering overdyeing the neutrals and then holding them together to knit a tank top or tee.

I was grateful to get a skein of the Zephyr to swatch for this blog tour stop. I held two strands together and knit on size 2 US (2.75mm) needles. First I tried a basketweave/checkerboard in knits and purls. It has a nice sheen to it, and would drape well perhaps for a lightweight tee. Since this is a flatter relative of ribbing, it is a bit stretchy with a bit of body to it.

However, since my purl gauge is much tighter than my knit gauge, I got a basketweave that looked off-kilter even after blocking. (This is why I have test knitters for my published patterns… I have good ideas but my gauge-of-the-hour can fail me at times.)

zephyrbasketweave400.jpg

Then I tried a stockinette version of feather and fan stitch using the same two strands and same needles. This is definitely a winner. It drapes well, it has a satin-like finish to the blocked swatch. Some silk is a little warm to wear, and the small lacy holes would allow a bit of breathing for a garment (or scarf, or heirloom baby item).

zephyrfeatherandfanstockinette400.jpg

I typically knit socks more than anything else (160 pairs to date), thus fingering gauges are quite comfortable to me. At this time of year I start dreaming of tank tops. Often a new sockyarn will inspire me with ideas of tanks or tees.

However, this idea of holding a few strands of laceweight together is better yet… the fibers are even softer and more drapey, a better fabric overall.

Many Thanks!

I’m glad to have had the chance to be inspired by your book and this tour. Thank you, Carol!

June 7, tune in with Shannon Oakey/Knitgrrl for the next tour stop!