Feb 22, 2017

A Little Swatching

Remember when I said my primary goal for the year was to stay focused in order to finish projects that were already in progress? And remember when I also confessed I was battling an overwhelming temptation to indulge in some swatching?

Luckily, a thoughtful reader (thank you, Kat!) reminded me that tackling a swatch is in its own way a small FO, so it would be fair to say a little swatching has been going on. Let's take a peek behind the curtain.

From left to right, this snapshot of the studio work table shows:
Black swatches with contrasting bands (red, magenta, teal), which are stitch and gauge swatches for a design I'm itching to start. I'm convinced the concept will work, but it needs The Right Stitch.
A black swatch that appears to be speckled with red (you have to look closely to see the red), which was a test swatch for Tikkyn Flagstone.
Red swatches, testing a design concept that's been floating around in my portfolio for a couple years.
A purple and magenta swatch, which was a preliminary test for Lucben in bulky weight yarn.
Two purple swatches, which are stitch and gauge tests for an upcoming shawl/wrap.
Teal swatches, which reappear occasionally. I love the yarn and color, so periodically, I pull them out to re-evaluate their future. (I think I have an idea that might work, but let's face it, I've thought that before.)
Grey and cream swatches, which are Lucben samples to test gauge and calculate how yarn weight (worsted, sport) affects finished dimensions and yardage.
A blue feather and fan swatch, which is an oldy but goody. It periodically creeps out of the swatch drawer as a reminder certain classics are worth fresh attention.
A dark teal/blue swatch, which was a sample for another make your own gradients and ombres post. Unfortunately, the lake green and teal shades are so close in value, they're almost indistinguishable, especially in photos.
A light green swatch, which was another Lucben test to see how two closely related colors (pale green and mint) appeared when worked in alternating rows. (Answer: They blend imperceptibly to create a third color that's a mix of both.)
For what it's worth, there are a few more wandering around outside camera range, but this captures those in progress or under active consideration. The ones that are worth keeping will join their siblings in the swatch drawer, while others will be frogged to reclaim the yarn.

Swatching is both a process of discovery and elimination. As simple as they are, these 23 examples revealed many things, but a few key questions remain unanswered.

Perhaps just a little more swatching might be in order. What do you think?

Connecting with the linkups in the sidebar.

Feb 15, 2017

Ombres & Gradients: 5 Ways to Create Your Own

From fashion and decor to all things knitting related, ombres and gradients are a big color story right now. Packed with appeal and shading from light to dark or soft to bright, they add style and visual interest, so it's easy to understand their popularity.

The difference between ombres and gradients can be blurry, so recently I shared some simple definitions that distinguish one from the other. No matter what they're called, I'm a long-time fan, so they appear in many of my designs and personal projects.

For our purposes today, let's agree an ombre or gradient consists of at least three shades, which can be created using various techniques. With that as our starting point, let's look at five easy ways to build your own combinations.

1. Simple custom gradient.
  • Choose three or more colors in the same family.
  • Arrange them from dark to light or light to dark.
  • Work colors in sequence. (Color Check: three in each color family)
  • Or situate them on the diagonal. (Lucben Tidepool: five shades in one color family)



2. Three-color gradient. 
  • Choose two colors.
  • Work the first section with CC1 only.
  • Work the second section with CC1 and CC2.
  • Work the third section with CC2 only.


3. Four-color gradient.
  • Choose five shades in related color families. 
  • Pair them by value: dark with dark, medium with medium, and light with light.
  • Work the first section with CC1 and CC2.
  • Work the second section with CC2 and CC3.
  • Work the third section with CC3 and CC4.
  • Work the fourth section with CC4 and CC5.


4. Five-color gradient.
  • Choose three related colors.
  • Arrange them from dark to light or light to dark.
  • Work the first section with CC1 only.
  • Work the second section with CC1 and CC2.
  • Work the third section with CC2 only.
  • Work the fourth section with CC2 and CC3.
  • Work the fifth section with CC3 only.


5. Another 5-color gradient.
  • Choose six related colors.
  • Pair them by value: dark with dark, medium with medium, light with light.
  • Work the first section with two dark CCs.
  • Work the second section with one dark and one medium CC.
  • Work the third section with two medium CCs.
  • Work the fourth section with one medium and one light CC.
  • Work the fifth section with two light CCs.


Building your own ombres and gradients is a superb way to burn through stash, because suddenly leftovers, partials and awkward orphans and singletons can be combined in fresh and interesting ways. The key is to pick a strategy and swatch, swatch, swatch.

In knitting, there are many fast and easy ways to blend two colors. Try multi-stranding and simply carry one strand of each color. Consider working a basic garter or stockinette stitch, alternating colors every other row. Do the same, but substitute seed or double seed stitch to produce stippled stripes that blend closely related shades. Or choose something like the fluted rib stitch, which systematically weaves colors in and out.

The possibilities are endless, of course, and hopefully these strategies will inspire you to experiment. As time permits, I'll share additional techniques and examples to illustrate more ways to create your own custom gradients and ombres.

Just remember no matter which strategy you choose, the closer the colors are in tone and value, the more blended they'll appear in the finished fabric. Speaking of which, I'm off to play with different approaches to see if I can turn these yarns into a blue-green gradient:

For more examples, see:
Ombres & Gradients: What's the Difference? 
Ombres & Gradients: 5 More Ways to Create Your Own (coming soon)
Stashbusting Strategies (Part II)

For more color talk, click here.

Feb 12, 2017

WIPs | Grey Daze Mitts & Shawl

So far, this winter has been a temperature rollercoaster. Cold. Warm. Cold. Warm. Cold. In other respects, it's been remarkably consistent: Grey. Gloomy. Grey. Overcast. Grey.

Since I'm not a winter person, I happily welcome the comparatively warmer days, but knitting-wise it leads to a split personality. Some days, it's absolutely impossible to have too many warm, woolly knits on one's self, the needles or both. Other days, it's difficult to resist the lure of lighter-weight fibers and spring-like designs. 

At the warm and woolly end of the spectrum, I've been working on a cozy shawl and coordinating fingerless mitts.

The mitts are finished, ready to be blocked and worn. 

The shawl is worked sideways (tip to tip) and the second wing is underway, so it's a little more than halfway done.

I'd hoped to finish the shawl this week, but knitting time has been scarce so that didn't happen.

Grey Daze Shawl & Mitts
Pattern: Kintra Mitts
Pattern: Shawl (personal pattern)
Yarn: Amherst (Valley Yarns)
Colors: Burgundy, Natural, Thistle
Needle: US 10 (6 mm)
Mitts: ~100 yards
Shawl: ~370 yards

Spring is hovering on the distant horizon but it's as capricious as winter, so I'm highly motivated to finish this set, knowing there'll be plenty of opportunities to wear it in the coming weeks (or months).

Once the shawl is completed, the grey streak will come to a temporary halt. There's another predominantly grey project in the planning pipeline, but there are also concept swatches and colorful afghans loudly demanding attention. When projects are complaining at the top of their lungs (as these have been), undivided focus and quality knitting time are the only ways to restore order, soothe their hurt feelings, and silence that annoying, high-pitched whine.

What projects are clamoring for your attention?

To see the FO post, click here.

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