Saturday, February 18, 2012

Colorwork 3 - Onto the needles

The very good news in most colorwork is: you nearly always cast on in only one color.  In the event that the pattern asks you to do something else, it's is usually explained in detail.

Okay, so you've cast on, and I know you're casting on a swatch.  Congratulations on your wise choice.  Now, there are a few simple rules for all stranded (not intarsia, slip stitch or two strands held together) colorwork no matter what style you're going to use: keep both yarns working with even tension, tack as you go, and bring the "new" yarn from underneath.  Let's take 'em one at a time.

1. Keep both yarns working with even tension.  Some folks have a tendency to knit much tighter when they do colorwork.  Maybe they're trying to make sure there aren't any gaps between colors, but trust me, it doesn't work that way.  When you knit colorwork tightly, you end up with a strange, ripply, bumpy fabric that won't smooth out for anything.

When it is time to introduce the second yarn, pick it up and knit as if you were using the first yarn.  That is, don't change anything except colors!  Really.  The best practice for this is two knit two stitches with color A, and two stitches with color B for several rows until you don't have to think much about it.  Then, move on.

This brings us to the next tip:  (You'll need a colorwork pattern for this one)

Floats on the back of fabric
2. Tack as you go. After three stitches in a row of one color, if there are more stitches of the same color coming up, twist the two yarns together.  The first color you used, A, should make one wrap around the color you're using now, B. That's one tack. Now knit more stitches as directed, letting neither color "float" for more than 3 stitches without  tacking. Each tack should be twisted in the opposite direction from the one previous, keeping the two yarns from getting twisted up.

I know, that sounds like a lot, but it's not.  It just takes practice.  It's a bit like tying your shoes.  It takes a little while to get it, but once you have it, it becomes easy and second nature, and honestly, you can do it.
Colorwork front of fabric
Why tack?  Because long floats mess with your tension, making some stitches really loose, and others really tight.  Then, when you try to put on the garment, fingers and toes get caught up in these long floats, and that's really aggravating.  What should the floats look like?  The floats above are neat and beautiful, and most important, all exactly the same.  That allows the front of the fabric to look like the mitten at right.

I suggest you knit several rows this way without adding rule #3, just letting your hands become accustomed to these two skills.  Once you're really comfortable, go on to #3.

3. Bring the new color up from underneath.  The trick of that is to bring it up from underneath the original color every single time you change colors.  This means the original color is always going to come in from over the new color.  This, along with the tacking twist reversals, does a pretty good job of keeping the yarns from getting very twisted together.

What about the loose yarn ends?  You'll weave them in, just as you would any other end.  If you don't want the ends to show through to the front, make sure to weave them into their own colors.  In the mittens above, green was woven into green, and brown was woven into brown. 

Play with this swatch until you're happy with the work you're doing.  If you learn as you make a garment, often your work at the end of the garment will look quite different from the work you did in the beginning!  And, as you become more comfortable with colorwork your gauge will change.  That's all for now! Protected by Copyscape Online Plagiarism Checker


f1bercat said...

Thanks for the great tutorial! I also wanted to tell you that I have finished my first glove from the Gift Knits Club, and it is gorgeous. I've never tried a glove before, but it was easy, thanks to your clear design instructions. =)

Liz Marino said...

So share a pic with us! I'd love to see how it's going!

f1bercat said...

Can I link a photo here? If not, you can check out the progress on Ravelry (f1bercat) or my blog

For a first attempt at gloves, I think they are beautiful.