It seems like every year around this time, knitters are anxious to prepare for the coming cold. Projects are added to knitting baskets, precious color ways are pulled from stashes and assigned projects. Trips to the yarn store become cozy visits and planning sessions, and our imaginations run wild.
Colorwork also starts to re-appear — tiny stitches form beautiful motifs to tell stories of changing seasons, organic life, and geometric harmony. At Knit Purl, we love to carry yarns that are so ideal for stranded knitting. The perfect stranded yarn is combed, wooly, and usually spun with a rustic hand. The small fibers that escape the strand grasp onto each other, holding the work together and helping to keep tension even. Colorwork knitting embraces several techniques that knitters can find daunting — carrying over multiple strands, keeping colors straight, and steeking.
Geilsk Thin Wool is one of our favorites. (It’s pictured above.) With a wide color palette, projects are only limited by the color pairings we dream up. Simple and timeless looks are achieved by mixing neutrals; trendy pops of color next to jewel tones create a richly varied fabric. Draw inspiration from any source to come up with the perfect color selection. The possibilities are endless!
For those new to color knitting, we suggest starting small. Mittens or hats are a great first-time colorwork project — the more simple the motif, the easier it will be. Patterns that embrace geometric themes are easy to follow and execute. Consider the Herringbone Mittens by Elli Stubenrauch, the Check Slouch hat by Triona Murphy, or the lovely Flying V’s Cowl by Lee Meredith. For more adventurous or whimsical knitting, Jane Dupuis of Spilly Jane has a lovely collection of patterns adorned with everything from ice cream cones to tiny gnomes.
Knitters who like a challenge find stranded knitting most rewarding in the yokes and bodies of garments. Colorwork knitting is more easily done in the round to maintain an even tension, so many cardigans and sweaters that feature stranded knitting also feature the time-honored skill of steeking.
Steeking — a simple word that strikes fear into even the most experienced knitters — is the act of cutting into knit fabric. But it isn’t as scary as it seems. There are so many informative resources available online with instructions for reinforcing steeks; a properly grabby yarn will yield a lovely piece in no time. Try it with the new Checks and Balances sweater from Knitty’s First Fall 2013 issue, or the Lloie Cardigan from Elizabeth Zimmermann’s collaboration with Meg Swansen. A great test of this technique is the smaller steeking of the adorable Where the Wild Sheep Roam cardigan from The Needle Lady.
Finished projects are sure to come with a few bits and bobs left over, but that’s never a bad thing! A collection of colorwork yarns only lends itself to more colorwork in the future. These small bits of yarn can be stored in mini-skeins nestled in jars or tiny balls that rattle about in wooden boxes. Our favorite way to store them — vintage wooden bobbins. Pick up a small collection on Etsy to display colors that can always be found when needed. For a great selection of colors, Knit Purl is always in full supply.